They came 8,000 strong, roaring up to the California state Capitol Sunday on their behemoth Harley-Davidsons with stuffed teddy bears, puppy dogs and bunny rabbits lashed to the handlebars.
By the time Modified Motorcyle Association's annual Toy Run ended with a round of thanks from the Salvation Army and a prayer, a mountain of toys, canned goods and other holiday offerings for the needy towered 5 feet high on a big sheet of canvas in front of the Capitol.Thousands of the big bikes were parked three deep on each side of the street in front of the statehouse, leaving room only for a narrow stream of motorcycles to roll through in single file.
When cars clogged a neighboring intersection, a wavy-haired biker clad in blue jeans and a heavy black jacket strode into the street to direct traffic.
Milling on streets, sidewalks and the Capitol grounds were men and women sporting black leather chaps and matching jackets, some bearing such slogans as "Born Free." Knotted red kerchiefs held back flowing hair, sometimes turning gray.
"It's one of the most exhilarating experiences of the Christmas season," Salvation Army Capt. Hal Smith said of the Toy Run, the eighth in Sacramento. "Their generosity is terrific."
The motorcycle Toy Runs began 14 years ago in Los Angeles. The biggest continue to be in Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento, but smaller runs have cropped up elsewhere in recent years, Smith said.