The Tenino Motorcycle Drill team will show off their coordinated maneuvers about 15 minutes before the Oregon Trail Days parade on July 24.
The team started in Tenino almost four decades ago, after a group of motorcycle enthusiasts decided they wanted to add something extra to the festivities, said long-time member Chad Bowman. They got together, began practicing, and the legacy continues to this day.
“We’ll be leading (the parade which starts at 11 a.m.),” Bowman said. “We usually go out about 15 minutes early. It helps us, and we usually put on a pretty good show if we’ve got nobody pushing us down the parade route. It takes a lot of effort from everybody on the team by the time you’re practiced up.”
He said the group travels back and forth against the parade flow sometimes, making it a bit of “a cluster” if they were placed in the middle of the lineup. The roadies would also create a large blank spot along the route if they were among the other attractions, with not enough room to maneuver.
“We do stuff like figure eights and we have one that’s called a dosey doe, where we swing around like we’re dancing,” Bowman said. “So we’re doing it all on our Harleys. It’s all big-frame, big-engine Harleys, made in America.”
The group recently conducted its annual fundraiser as well. Proceeds from the event, and the $200 to $400 show fee the team sometimes charges local municipalities, go toward youth scholarships.
In a typical year, the group does about two shows a month, ranging from local events in places like Tenino, Rainier, Yelm, Olympia and Tumwater, but they also showcase their skills in extra-regional events like the Port Townsend Roadies Festival.
It’s fitting that the group’s legacy continues on in its birthplace.
“I’ve been a resident of Tenino for damn near 50 years and we’ve been a part of the Oregon Trail Days every year for about 36 years,” Bowman said. “They want us back this year and we’ve got a bunch of new faces in the drill team and so we’ve been practicing up and we’ll do another show for them.”
Every week on Thursday, the nine team members show up underneath the tower at the Olympia Regional Airport and painstakingly practice their maneuvers.
“It takes quite a lot of effort,” Bowman said, stressing the importance of members attending practice. “A new member will come in and practice for the first year and practice up until they’re ready, until the rest of the team feels like they’re ready to do a show, and then they’ll start performing after that. We’ll give them our logo patch for the uniform, and after that it’s pretty much two (shows) a month.”
Ron Slade, the team captain, said the group has enveloped the personal lives of its members.
“Because we spend so much time practicing, and time doing the shows, our wives — or other halves — are all involved, too, so we are like a large family,” Slade said.
“It is like a family,” he said. “We trust each other because we’re riding in those parades inches away from each other, so we have kind of a close relationship. Sometimes too close.”
That’s because of the danger any given show could pose.
“When we’ve got those big bikes and you’re only inches away from each other, if one guy in the middle decides he can’t keep it upright or has trouble maneuvering, then it causes a … chain reaction through the group,” Bowman said. “Knock on wood, we haven’t had any real catastrophes in all the years.”
The group will start its show at around 10:45 a.m. on July 25. The parade, which will travel along Sussex Avenue and Main Street, will follow the drill team’s performance at 11 a.m.