A new path: Rally goer looks to mentor younger bikers

Published 12:01 am Sunday, August 17, 2014

For 10 years Rally on the River in Ironton has been bringing thousands to the city once known as “little Chicago.”

Those people vary in age and represent many different walks of life. There is one group, however, that is a lot more prevalent during Rally weekend than any other — bikers.

Bikers have a unique place among the sub-cultures in America. The term immediately conjures up images of renegade outlaws such as those portrayed on the popular TV show “Sons of Anarchy.” We’ve seen the type, big burly men, usually with long hair and gratuitous amounts of facial hair, tattoos covering their limbs, wearing leather vest displaying their club affiliation proudly on a patch for all to see.

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Then there is Richard “Dick” Jakes, a 54-year-old native of Bargersville, Ind. On the surface Jakes looks exactly the way one imagines him to. He’s about 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 264 pounds. He has long greying hair and a matching beard. He has more tattoos than one could count and he was sporting the quintessential leather vest when I ran across him at a makeshift campground across from Frogtown, USA.

“I got my first one at 17,” Jakes said of his tattoos. “My cousin wanted to be a tattoo artist and needed someone to practice on so I was his guinea pig.”

Jakes has been to motorcycle rallies all over the country and this year marks his third stop at Rally on the River.

“I’ve been to them all, my man,” he said. “Daytona, Sturgis, you name it I’ve been there. They get wild, I get wild.”

But, not nearly has much as he used to he admits.

“No, I’ve mellowed out a lot” Jakes said. “I used to go to these things to have the three Fs; fun, fight, and I can’t say the last one in your newspaper.”

But, that’s before a brush with death put a new perspective on life. Nearly 15 years ago at a rally in Jackson, Miss., Jakes was stabbed three times and left for dead. The altercation occurred because Jakes had inadvertently bumped into another rally goer.

“I bumped into him and he puffed out his chest,” Jakes said. “He was trying to be a tough guy. Back then I thought I was the toughest guy on the planet so I started getting mouthy.”

Next thing Jakes knew he was in an all-out brawl with the man and two of his friends. It was a fight that nearly cost him his life.

“You see this here?” Jakes asked, pulling up his shirt to show me a large scare on the left side of his chest along the rib cage. “When they cut me here they ruptured one of my lungs. I really thought I was going to die.”

Jakes realized his wild ways and tough-guy persona was catching up to him so he decided to make a lifestyle change.

“I gave myself to God,” he said. “I told him if he pulled me through that I’d put all of that behind me and be a different man.”

Some habits are hard to break, however, and Jakes will be the first to tell you that he isn’t entirely docile now.

“I still get rowdy,” Jakes said. “But, it’s a different kind of rowdy. It’s a much more positive energy. I quit drinking, I quit smoking and I don’t come to these things looking for fights any more.”

Instead, he comes looking for people in whom he sees a lot of his old self.

“I try to mentor these younger guys,” he said. “I try to teach them that partying is all good and well; everyone likes to have a little fun. But there is a dark path to it if you let it get out of control.”