So you want to open a rumblin' tumblin' motorcycle club on sleepy 'n' serene Piedmont Avenue. You can either a) make nice with the neighbors by fixing up a ramshackle building or b) be a cop. It helps to do both. When they first saw us, recalls Randy Aldo Rivera, treasurer of Oakland's Los Carnales/La Familia Motorcycle Club, they thought `outlaws.' After we told them who we were and what we're about, they baked us cake.
Rivera is referring to his group's initial meeting with the Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League about a year ago. The club was looking for a home base -- they'd been meeting at the Starbucks parking lot in Pleasant Hill for years -- when they found a rundown shack at the end of Piedmont owned by Chapel of the Chimes. The group's thirty-plus members comprise local peace officers -- that's the Los Carnales part -- and their family members -- that's the La Familia part. After Chimes donated the shack, Rivera and his crew laid down some gravel out front, added a coat of paint, and snazzed up the place to resemble something mom could be proud of.
Being a biker means you know what you want to ride, but don't always know where you want to go -- that's the allure of the open road, dude. But for a quickie hour-long loop, secretary Jeff Road Kill Kassow suggests heading through the Caldecott Tunnel, out Highway 24 to Lafayette, through Moraga, up through Canyon Road, and back to Skyline Boulevard. You can do that one by yourself, he says. It's a nice ride.
Rivera says about half the members purchased their bikes from Bob Dron, Oakland's premier Harley-Davidson dealer (200 Hegenberger Rd., Oakland). And for leather gear and custom bikes, they turn to Arlen Ness, located in Dublin (6050 Dublin Blvd.).
Los Carnales/La Familia also hosts annual fund-raisers for the families of fallen peace officers. And each year, the group rides in the annual Sacramento Police Memorial Ride, which consists of five thousand bikers winding their way along Highway 50. This year's ride is on Saturday, July 24.
On a recent ride out to the Delta, the gang stopped in Locke, a small town founded by Chinese immigrants. Pulling into Al the Wop's (13936 Main St.) -- Rivera recommends the steak sandwich -- some of the local customers were overwhelmed by their leather-clad visitors. I remember one woman saying `Where's the cops when you need them?' Kassow says, and I was thinking, `These are the cops. There are more of us than you think.'