Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

10th Annual Mule Run

Written by  October 31, 2004

Most people would freak out if a few hundred bikers rode into their backyard, but not Dane Robertson of Kearney, Missouri. Each September, Dane sets up a stage on his back deck, puts up a few tents for food and t-shirt sales, pulls in a refrigerated trailer full of keg beer with taps on both sides, then sits back and watches the bikes roll in.

Saturday, September 11, 2004 was a beautiful day for the 10th Annual Mule Run.
We pulled into Dane’s backyard shortly before 6 p.m. to the sounds of Firebox, jammin’ on stage. The place was already beginning to fill up and there were rows of bikes parked in the grass. Several tents were lined up along the hillside and I noticed the new Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A.) camper was setup on the hill overlooking the festivities. A hundred yards or so down the hill, a huge stack of tree limbs and stumps lay neatly stacked, ready for that night’s ceremonial bonfire.

I asked Dane where all the firewood came from and he said that during the months leading up to each year’s event, people from all over town are invited to bring their dead tree limbs to his place and toss them in the pile. Most of this year’s wood came from tree limbs that were broken during the recent ice and wind storms. He said a few years ago, he used to allow any type of wooden objects to be thrown in, but once the word got out that everyone could toss their old furniture and other items into the pile, it got a little out of hand, so he now limits it to only tree limbs and brush.

This year’s well organized event included a ceremony to remember those who lost their lives on that tragic day three years ago; better known as 9-11. As part of the 9-11 remembrance ceremony, a color guard performed, Taps was played, and everyone stood at attention as The National Anthem was played over a loudspeaker. Following the National Anthem a few recorded Emergency 911 calls were played, which brought back even more memories of that heartbreaking day.

As more and more bikes began rolling in and filling the vacant spots in the yard, we figured we’d better get in the food line while there was still some left. The BBQ looked mouthwatering, and Dane’s staff was more than helpful. Once we’d filled our plates, we found a nice place to sit, while I made a trip to the beer trailer. Friends and former Mule Run patrons, John and Carol Diaz, who live only a mile or two up the road from Dane, had suggested earlier that we bring our own “larger” beer containers because the cups that come with the kegs are quite small, and the beer lines can be quite long. We obviously forgot our beer containers, which resulted in several trips to the trailer, but with three taps on each side of the trailer, the lines weren’t bad at all. Next year, we’ll remember to bring bigger mugs.

Just before Stone Breeze took the stage, an announcement was made that David Mann, the Norman Rockwell of motorcycling and Kansas City resident had died earlier that day. A quiet hush fell over the crowd as everyone took a few minutes to remember this great man. Knowing that Dave wouldn’t want to squelch a great biker party, as soon as Stone Breeze fired up, everyone was partying again, just as Dave would have done in his younger years had he been here with us.

I asked Dane how the Mule Run got started, and he said that one day back in 1989, he and a buddy were sitting on his back deck, and decided to throw a biker party. They kicked around some ideas and decided to call it the Mule Run, because the Missouri Mule is the official Missouri state animal. After living in Missouri for more than 20 years, I didn’t know that. Personally, I think a stallion would be a much better state animal, but I guess a mule is OK.

Growing up on a small farm in Kansas, I knew a mule is what you get when you cross a mare (female horse) and a jack (male donkey), but I’d never thought of naming a biker event after one; but thankfully, Dale did. For those of you who want to give your last brain cell a little workout, he’s some Missouri Mule 101. If you don’t give a damn about history, or have the attention span of a two year old, feel free to skip ahead to the next paragraph, but don’t come wining to me if you loose a bet because you didn’t take time to read this. After its introduction to the state in the 1820s, the mule quickly became popular with farmers and settlers because of its hardy nature. Missouri mules pulled pioneer wagons to the Wild West during the 19th century and played a crucial role in moving troops and supplies in World Wars I and II. For decades, Missouri was the nation's premier mule producer. I’m not sure who the nation’s premier mule producer is now, but I know an awful lot of Jackasses in Johnson County, so I’m guessing it might be Kansas. Just kidding…NOT!

I don’t claim to be a particularly bright feller, but after digesting the mule story, with the help of my fingers and toes, I came to the conclusion that if the first Mule Run was in 1989, this year should be the 14th annual Mule Run rather than the 10th Annual. Dale confirmed that my math was correct, and explained that this year’s event is the 10th Annual Mule Run because it has been a public event for only ten years, even though it has been taking place unofficially for 14.

All of a sudden, I heard this big whoosh, and out of the darkness came this huge flume of fire. As the bonfire continued to grow, hordes of people made their way down the hill like fireflies to a light. The heat was intense, and everyone was glad they heeded the earlier PA announcements to move their bikes way back from the bonfire area. This was by far the largest bonfire I’ve ever seen. Its flame reached several hundred feet into the air, and I’m sure it could be seen from miles around. If you tried to roast a marshmallow or hotdog on this fire, you’d cook your own weenie!

As the night wore on, we hung out near the fire listening to the sound of the crackling wood, while the headliner; Blue 88 took the stage and awed the crowd. I would have liked to have stayed there all night, but it was getting late, and the fire was putting us to sleep. We finally managed to get ourselves up off the ground and made our way to the bike for a short ride to John and Carol’s house so we could get up early the next morning and head over to the Kansas Speedway for the 10th Annual Bikers for Babies® Ride. Ahhh…so many events to cover, so little sleep!

A special thanks to Dane Robertson and crew for another great Mule Run. Make sure to watch our Local Rides, Rallies & Events Calendar for the 11th Annual Mule Run, which I guarantee, you won’t want to miss!

Story and Photos by Mike Schweder