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Bikers of faith

Deep Christian faith and a deep love for rumbling, roaring motorcycles at first seem like two viewpoints that don't mix.

But faith and bikers intersected on Saturday, May 16, at the Preston Baptist Church's grassy back stoop, where Valley pastors led a dedication for dozens of leather-clad riders.

Dressed in black leathers, Robert Cleveland of North Bend dismounted from his custom chopper to join the group. Cleveland said he and his wife Therese were seeking a church where other people ride motorcycles.

"A lot of us came from hard backgrounds," he said. "We've turned out lives around, and now we're following the right paths. Instead of being gangster bikers, we ride with clean hearts and good intentions.

"But we still like to bring a little piece of our past," Cleveland added.

Pastors Roy Peacock of Preston Baptist, Tom Kemp of Transport for Christ, Pete Battjes of North Bend Community Church, Lee Hartman of Fall City United Methodist Church and Jake Gere of New Life Christian Center hosted a hot dog "burn" and prayer session.

"We circle up and we pray for the bikers, for their biking season," Peacock said. "They ask for safety as they go."

The prayer calls on the bikers to a blessing to others on the road, and to see God in all that they do.

This year, about 100 bikers took part in the dedication, which is in its sixth offing in the Valley. Entertainer Grant Goodeve, "Northwest Backroads" TV host and former cast member of "Eight is Enough," sang for the occasion.

Peacock said the event has drawn motorcyclists of every stripe.

"We've had some really hard-core bikers, really hardened, not sensitive to spiritual things," he said. Some are bikers actively involved in Christian ministry. Others are just regular guys with 9-to-5 jobs with a need for speed.

The dedication gives bikers a way to meet "church people," and vice versa, Peacock said. It's a way to connect, for both side "to realize they're real people."

That way, both bikers and churchgoers learn more about a group that they might not otherwise get to meet.

Love of the road

Following the event, Cleveland attended church at Preston Baptist on Sunday.

"There was a lot of good fellowship going on," he said.

A Vietnam War veteran who spend decades adrift due to alcohol and heroin, Cleveland turned his life around at the Union Gospel Mission, and ended up attending college on a scholarship.

His love of motorcycles began at a young age. His brother Dan was a mechanic in a Harley Davidson shop, and his family loved cycles.

"I always thought I wanted to ride a Harley," Cleveland said. But, "No Harley rider will ever let you ride their Harley."

The only way to try out the motorcycle, it seems, is by buying one yourself.

A few years ago, Cleveland decided to ease job stress by getting a chopper.

"When I'm riding that Harley, I don't think anything about work," he said. "I'm thinking about safety. I always have a great time."

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