Third annual Back Roads Motorcycle Ride roars through Blount

Auction winner Betsy Cunningham takes off with Dixie Iron Riders member Johnny Osbourne.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Auction winner Betsy Cunningham takes off with Dixie Iron Riders member Johnny Osbourne.

She didn’t lose control, and she didn’t wreck.

Michelle Hankes had more to be thankful for than good weather and a strong turnout at the third annual United Way of Blount County Back Roads Motorcycle Ride.

The president and CEO of the United Way of Blount County counted her blessings Sunday afternoon following the 80-mile ride. She made it about 60 miles before the rear shock on her scooter came loose and the back of the motorcycle dropped down suddenly.

She had just gotten to the bottom of Foothills Parkway and was headed toward East Lamar Alexander Parkway when the mishap occurred.

“It was scary. It popped like a flat tire and the control went out,” Hankes said.

The shock wasn’t bolted completely, dropped down and was sitting on the differential.

“We were coming off Foothills Parkway. Of the 80 miles, I had gone 50 to 60 miles,” Hankes said.

The new scooter was to be raffled off at the end of the ride during a live auction at Courtyard Grille. Instead, emergency personnel shadowing the ride put it in the back of their truck. Hankes’ father, Harold Weltzin, ended up buying the scooter, which could be repaired fairly easily, for Michelle. “It’s her birthday present, Christmas present and anniversary present,” he said.

Hankes said the Back Roads Motorcycle Ride, which had about 80 motorcycles, was a success. Final totals aren’t in yet, but co-chair Jim Ford said preliminary figures look better than last year, with approximately $13,000 as net this year.

“The ride has grown because of the volunteers who pull this together,” Hankes said.

Deborah Whaley, owner of Courtyard Grille, said they were honored to host the United Way of Blount County Back Roads Motorcycle Ride.

“We’re just glad to give back to the community. We’ve been here 23 years, and the community has been good to us,” she said. “United Way is such a great organization in Blount County.”

Clara and Kenny Rogers enjoyed hearing their nephew John Titlow perform during the event. “I’m Johnathan’s aunt. He’s come a long way, and I think they’re good,” she said.

Jason Green of Halls rode in his first Back Roads Motorcycle Ride. “I liked it. It was well organized, and everything went smoothly,” he said.

Several women in the community road on bikes behind members of the Dixie Iron Riders Motorcycle Riding Organization. Several of the Dixie Iron let United Way auction off the Back Roads ride with them over the past few weeks. The riders escort charity rides to ensure safety. Dustin Cole, vice president of the Dixie Iron Riders, said he enjoyed participating. “My passenger had never been on the Foothills Parkway, and she had never been on a motorcycle ride. I had as good a time as she did,” he said.

Katherine Caputo said this was her first time riding on a motorcycle. She rode behind Mike Snyder. “I met him, and five minutes later we were gone. It was great,” she said.

Fundraisers coming up for United Way include:

Corn Maze Dayz at Maple Lane Farms: $1 of each ticket donated to United Way. Saturdays, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22. 10 a.m. To 7 p.m.

Dine Out Days: Thursday, Oct. 27, at Gracies. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Gas Day: At KenJo, On The Run, E-Z Stop, Marathon and IGA stations. Friday, Oct. 28, 6 a.m. To 6 p.m.

Dine Out Day: Saturday, Nov. 12, at Aubrey’s in Maryville, 11 a.m. to close.

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