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Welcome to official blog of the Florida West Coast Motorcycle Club. An American Motorcycle Association Historic Club (No. 165), we are a family oriented riding and social club with a history back to 1936. Our motto is "Ride and Have Fun". Learn more about us or how to join our club.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don: One of 23,952 vets at Pinellas County’s Bay Pines National Cemetery

Editor's note: I went on Scott Tillesen's ride to Bay Pines yesterday for the annual Memorial Day ceremonies. It reminded me about a story I wrote for the HOG newsletter after going with Scott on a similar ride in 2009. Here it is again.



On Memorial Day, I visited my old friend, Don.

     I had searched for Don on the Internet a number of times, but I never could find him. The last I heard, he was working as a reporter for the Bradenton Herald, but that was back in the 1970s – so long ago that no one at the newspaper had any memory of him. It was like he had sort of evaporated.

   Then one day I tried something different on Google. Instead of searching for “Donald McSheffrey,” I tried a search for “McSheffrey, Donald.” And there he was – buried in Plot 55 45-10 at Bay Pines National Cemetery, right here in Pinellas County.

* * *

     On Jan. 6, 1968, I started my first newspaper reporting job at the Holyoke (Mass.) Transcript-Telegram. After getting the tour of the building and meeting the other staff members, I was handed over to Don; he was the Transcript’s police reporter, and I was going to be handling his beat on his days off.
     Soon we were walking through the cold January air to the Holyoke police station, where Don introduced me around. He showed me the booking sheet, introduced me to the right people, and explained how to get information from the cops without getting in their way.
     I was 21; I never really knew how old Don was. His perennially red eyes and the broken blood vessels in his cheeks made it hard to tell. To me, he was a veteran newsman who knew his way around. To him, I was young and teachable. In spite of the difference in our ages, we became buddies.
     We drank too much and had a hell of a time.
     One day, sparks from a passing freight train set off a grass fire in town, and Don and I went to cover it. The fire had spread up a steep embankment and we couldn’t see whether it was endangering the houses that lined the road above us. We decided to climb the embankment and have a look.
     The climb nearly killed us. By the time we got to the top we were so out of breath we couldn’t even speak, so we collapsed in the tall grass, gasping for air. Almost immediately, water started pouring on us, and I picked my head up to see where it was coming from. A woman had come out of her back door and was soaking the tall grass – and us — with a garden hose, and we were too breathless to yell at her to stop. So we just lay in the grass, wet, gasping and laughing our butts off

*  *  *

   As well as I got to know Don, he wouldn’t tell me much about himself. I knew that he had two little girls, and I knew that his wife was dead. Other than that, he said little – he wouldn’t even tell me where he lived.
     It wasn’t long before I heard the story from some of our co-workers, but I knew Don for several months before he told me about it himself. We were sitting in a bar one night, half-drunk, when he said, “It’s time I told you about it.”
     Don and his wife had befriended a man who worked as a writer for a national news magazine. Don said he looked up to the guy, who was very successful and talented. Don and this man drank a lot of beer together. I knew from my own experience that if you knew Don, you were going to be drinking a lot of beer.
     One day the man stopped by the McSheffrey apartment when Don wasn’t home. Don’s wife invited him inside and offered him a glass of iced tea. They went into the kitchen, and Mrs. McSheffrey turned toward the refrigerator. When she did, the man grabbed a knife from the kitchen counter and stabbed her repeatedly. She fell to the floor and died.
     Don came home that night and found her. The two babies were still in their cribs, unhurt. The police found the man sitting on a doorstep a block away, where he had been sitting since the murder. He told them that he had always wanted to stab a woman to death, but that he had always managed to fend off the urge and figured it would never actually happen.

*  *  *

     About a year after I joined the Transcript, Don decided to quit and move to Florida. He got a job at the Bradenton Herald, and he said he was pleased that there was a bar just a few steps from the newspaper’s front door. He had already met the owner/bartender, who he said was a nice guy.
     We promised to stay in touch, but we didn’t.

*  *  *

  Don is one of 23,952 veterans buried at Bay Pines National Cemetery in mid-Pinellas County
     There isn’t much to learn from Don’s gravestone. He was born in 1934, which solved a small mystery – he was 34 when I met him. He died in 1990, which would have made him 56 years old.  I wonder if the alcohol got him, but I guess I’ll never know. I wonder if his daughters live close enough to visit his grave.
     The gravestone also noted that he served in the Air Force, and was an Airman 2nd Class. I remember that he talked about that a little. I think he served in Korea as an airplane mechanic, and I seem to remember that he said he liked the military.
    Standing by Don’s grave on Memorial Day, small American flags flutter next to each grave stone for as far as you can see. Besides Don’s, there are 23,951 of them at Bay Pines.
     Each one of those stones represents a person who lived and breathed and served in the U.S. military. And there is a story to tell about each one of them.

Monday, May 20, 2013

It All Goes To The Dogs -- wrapup

     To understand how this It All Goes To The Dogs bike show got its start, you have to go back to the old HOG Chapter days and the Leigh Nolan Poker Run.

    The Leigh Nolan Poker Run was the FBACC’s signature event for around 10 years. Named after Charlie and Judy Nolan’s late daughter, it sought to raise money for a number of local charities, notably UPARC, the Upper Pinellas Association of Retarded Citizens. Leigh Nolan was born with spina bifida, and she was a UPARC client until she died in her mid-20s.
    The Leigh Nolan Poker Run became a staple event among Pinellas County motorcyclists and it raised a fair amount of money over the years. After a decade, however, the event sort of ran out of gas. It got to be more of a chore than a pleasure, and after a while it was decided that the event had run its course and needed to come to an end.
     Then, of course, we lost FBACC altogether. The second-generation Florida West Coast Motorcycle Club rose from its ashes, but we still didn’t have a signature event that we could look forward to putting on every year.
     Our first thought was to develop another poker run. We talked about it and started planning a poker run event, but a number of things made us realize that a poker run might be too ambitious. We were going to do a poker run to remember area police dogs, a number of whom are buried in the pet cemetery behind the old Fletcher’s store. But we decided the heavy road construction on US19 might make that idea too dangerous; plus, we felt that the huge volunteer requirements for a five-stop poker run might spread us too thin.
     So… what to do?
     A number of discussions and brainstorming sessions led us to the idea of a ride-in bike show. We liked the idea of a single location, and we felt the planning and management requirements would be more suitable for our group.
     Our developing relationship with Sea Dog Brew Pub on US19 at Enterprise gave us a place to put on the bike show, and our relationships with Cycle Springs, Attorney Fran Haasch and others meant that we had a good array of sponsors ready to join forces with us.
     We also had a number of members who were eager to pitch in, and our new activities director, Matt Knapik, was ready to take on the leadership challenge.
     So that’s the background. Now, let’s take a look at how the It All Goes to the Dogs Ride-In Bike Show actually took place this past weekend.
   The idea was to put a bunch of motorcycles on display in a number of different categories, and let anybody and everybody who came by vote on their favorites. While we would have been happy to display show-quality bikes, we really wanted to have regular bikers display their regular rides. We had some very cool bikes that showed up, but the overall turnout was weighted toward bikes that people obviously rode on a regular basis. In all, 37 bikes were entered in Cruiser, Touring, Sport, Custom
     In addition to the trophies we handed out in these categories, we also had awards for Best in Show and Best Represented Club.
   Any fundraiser needs recipients for the funds that get raised. From the start, we had interest in    having dog-related organizations benefit from our efforts. Dunedin Doggie Rescue, Southeastern Guide Dogs and Florida Great Pyranees Club agreed to be our fund recipients, and all three attended the event and brought dogs along for the ride.
      When the day was over, we had raised $529, and had a great time doing it. We had a few minor glitches, but surprisingly few for a first-time event. Next year, we’ll probably focus more attention on attracting a bigger crowd, which shouldn’t be too hard now that we have a successful event behind us.
     Also, there was one side benefit that we really hadn’t expected; we signed up five new FWCMC members, most of whom have been long-time members of local (but not Pinellas County) HOG chapters.
     FWCMC won the Best Represented Club trophy – no big surprise there. But we were delighted to have participation from two other area clubs, Goodfellows MC and Florida Gulf Coast HOG.
      Many, many people deserve thanks for all they did to make this event a success. Special thanks to our exhibitors, our sponsors, and to Sea Dog for opening their doors and their parking lot to us. See you next year!

  • Cruiser
    1st Terry Marshang
           2nd Jim Barbe
  • Touring
           1st Jerry Lindley
           2nd Ray Garci
  • Trike
           1st Louie Cobra Napol
           2nd Dick Pritchard
  • Custom       
           1st Joe Simpson
           2nd Arville Bell
  • Sport
           1st Maureen Scharibone
  • Best in Show
           Arville Bell

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sea Dog's First Bike Night

Tonight was a local hangout's kick off of their weekly bike night. Sea Dog Brewing Company in
Clearwater is now hosting bike night every Tuesday. It was a rough start, at the start of our ride to Sea Dogs, a member's battery died at the meeting location.
Click image to view full size

Arriving at Sea Dog Brew Co.
Luckily a quick call had a tow truck on the way. Leaving Steve Fowler at the coffee shop waiting on the tow truck, I took off for Sea Dog's. I arrived
around 7:30pm and the parking lot was filling up. Cycle Springs Power Sports had their big trailer. Fran Haasch and Jim's Harley-Davidson were set up with tents among a number of other vendors.

On the inside patio, I got a chance to speak with Mike Dacoste the events manager at Sea Dog. Mike is a friend of the club, and is an integral part of our upcoming It All Goes To The Dogs ride-in bike show benefitting local charities. The band was rocking and the patio was full of bikers enjoying the event.

FWCMC Spot at the Sea Dog Brew Co. bar
Mike took me over to the bar and showed me the display of Florida West Coast Motorcycle Club's plaque's and promotional material behind the bar. It was nice to see our "stuff" on display.

As I made my way outside, I ran into club members Danny Buckley and Terry Marschang. By this time the parking lot was packed. We agreed that for the first night this weekly bike show was a success.
Terry and the Fireball Girl
I'm looking to forward to ongoing success at this weekly event for North Pinellas bikers looking to have a good time at a great brew pub.