Riding in the new year

January 1, 2013
In the foreground, from left, Alex “Bolt” Newman, Terry Tackett and Bill Horner are mounted on their bikes Tuesday awaiting the start of the annual Washington Area Polar Bear Ride. - Linda Metz / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

For 15 years, avid area motorcyclists have braved chilling temperatures and snowy roads to ring in the new year with the annual Washington Area Polar Bear Ride.

At times, over the years, there have been nearly 200 people – riders and passengers – who have withstood the not-so-perfect conditions to ride sometimes for hours Jan. 1. The exact route of the ride is never determined until the day of the event.

On Tuesday, however, only a few brave souls dared to make this year’s ride that was dedicated to Chuck Beatty of Claysville, who recently passed away.

“He was a hard-core biker,” said Bill Horner, who coordinated this year’s Polar Bear Ride and greeted all who gathered early Tuesday morning at Steel City Harley Davidson on Route 19 in South Strabane Township.

Horner was one of the few determined to venture out on a motorcycle Tuesday with temperatures in the mid-twenties, although the first ride Jan. 1, 1998, was made in temperatures only in the teens. Others, all bike owners, drove to the Steel City shop in their cars and trucks to exchanged holiday wishes with their colleagues.

“I figured none of you would ride,” said Don Yanuzo of Finleyville, who traditionally has not been intimidated by weather conditions and has made the annual ride with his wife, Sandy, on their three-wheeler.

In fact, Yanuzo proudly said that two years ago, they withstood six inches of snow to make the ride. This year, however, Yanuzo said he was concerned about slick roads.

Also venturing to make Tuesday’s ride was Alex “Bolt” Newman of Washington. He said he agreed with Yanuzo that the weather was not an issue as much as the potential for icy conditions.

Horner and Newman were joined by Terry Tackett and Debbie Phillippi, both of McDonald, and two other bikers before beginning their yearly trek at noon.

All were dressed in layers of clothing with scarves covering their faces.

“You mostly feel the cold on your face,” said Phillippi who was a passenger on the back of Tackett’s bike.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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