The onset of COVID-19 presented unique challenges for the Chaiway Riders in April and May. At a time when Chicago’s winter chill gives way to spring warmth, we normally would start our 2020 riding season with Sunday group breakfasts, followed by Sunday day trips throughout northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Where to have breakfast? Is anything open? How can we have a group breakfast and be safe from COVID-19? If we gather members together for a Sunday ride, where will we stop for lunch? Will the restaurant be practicing “safe service”? Will the club have liability if one of its members contracts COVID-19 during a club breakfast/ride?
As the pandemic took hold in early March, the Chicago club, Chaiway Riders, made the decision to cancel all Sunday morning breakfasts. This decision greatly impacted our desire to develop organized rides in order to maintain social distancing protocols. However, we also wanted to “give back” to the Jewish community in some manner. After seeing numerous fire trucks come through my neighborhood to help kids celebrate birthdays, graduations, etc., we decided to do “motorcycle mitzvah rides” to help the Jewish community celebrate Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, birthdays, etc.
We contacted various synagogues in the area and coordinated “drive-by’s” for the community members, ranging from an 8 year old birthday party to a 74 birthday celebration. We even joined a parade to welcome new clergy to our community. The number of bikes ranged from 3 to 15, depending on the day and time. (The attached photo is shows members of the Chaiway Riders gathering for a birthday drive-by.) The feedback from the families was tremendous, with many of them sending donations to the synagogues that helped coordinate the activity.
All in all, it was an excellent way for our club to give back to the community, get the Chaiway Riders name out to the Jewish community and gave us a destination/purpose to ride. It was a win/win/win program!
As time progressed, we started meeting for Sunday breakfast outside of a Panera Bread, carrying the food and drinks to our bikes (parked in a socially distanced way), kibitzing, then going on short rides. When our preferred restaurant/deli re-opened for breakfast, we found that most of our members preferred the relative safety of eating at outside tables. In many cases, our rides have involved outdoor dining, rather than face the unknown risks of restaurants on the ride route. As an example, several of our club members recently took a scenic ride halfway across Illinois for a Sunday picnic in a state park that featured a 40 foot statue of Chief Blackhawk.
It’s a new normal, but we’re finding a way to keep the club active and to provide opportunities for our members during this difficult period.