In the Andes, guinea pigs have a festival devoted to them, which includes contests for the biggest, fastest and best-dressed furry friend. A Hamster fest has yet to be founded, unless you’re thinking of the motorcycle group?!
The Hamsters’ Motorcycle Club (HMC) is an elite and somewhat secret group of motorcycle riders. Charter members were Arlen Ness, Dave Perewitz, Donnie Smith, Ed Kerr, Jim Leahy, Barry Cooney and Steve Allington. A who’s who of the motorcycle industry! It began in 1978 at Daytona Bike Week. As the story goes Jim “Jimmy” Leahy and others were in the Mystic Sea Hotel. They were taking a nap and when they woke up no one was around. No money, no food and peeved about being ditched Jimmy started calling them Hamsters. He drew pictures of Hamsters on a bunch of paper plates and wrote Hamsters M/C on each of them. Before placing them on doors he personalized the names of the charter members. The idea was it would aggravate his posse, but instead they all laughed about it and the name stuck. Jimmy went and had black shirts with white letters made up that said Hamsters M/C. Later the MC was dropped and they call themselves enthusiasts.
The rodent stuck as the mascot which graces bright yellow t-shirts. The club is selective about new members, but it includes blue collar workers to doctors. You don’t just join the club. You must ride with the group 6-7 years and then you’ll receive an invitation to join. There are now 240 members with chapters as far away as Italy, England and Japan. These days the Hamsters are about as opposite you can get from the outlaw bad guy clubs.
It takes three things to become a Hamsters member:
- Owning a custom bike
- Riding a custom bike to South Dakota’s Sturgis rally with the group, at least two years in a row
- Receiving an invitation to join by another member
The Hamsters have ridden to Sturgis for 25 consecutive years and never followed the same route. The Spearfish Holiday Inn has served as the Hamsters’ headquarters for several years although approximately 20+ Hamsters purchased townhouses behind the hotel known as Hamster Hill Lane. The annual dues are $100 and Hamsters who don’t attend at least one function each year are voted out. Some years there are no new members allowed into the club. Some years there are as many as seven. The average is two.
The Hamsters are famous for a lot things, but two notable items I wanted to bring to your attention is the Hulett Ham-n-Jam in the land of no overpasses (Wyoming on the way to Devil’s Tower) and their generosity and major fundraising for charitable functions. Many of the Hamsters are world-renowned motorcycle and motorcycle parts builders who donate items to be auctioned off at charity events. The group’s generosity and ability to raise funds/donations is staggering.
I would be negligent if I didn’t also mention the high profile and weird coincidence of Bruce Rossmeyer (Daytona H-D) and Clifton “Click” Baldwin (Carolina H-D). Both Harley-Davidson dealer owners, both on the way to the Sturgis Rally riding from dealer meetings, both members of the Hamsters Motorcycle Club/Group, both in deadly motorcycle accidents (Wyoming and Montana respectively) while passing a vehicle turning left on a two lane country highway. Both passed away one year apart, neither were wearing helmets and both accidents were reportedly misjudgments. It’s truly sad and a tremendous loss for the communities and families.
I’m reminded of the prophetic Marvin Gaye song “Brother, brother, brother…there’s far too many of you dying…” Let’s hope for better days ahead…
Photo of courtesy of Hamsters.