STARgazing

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Chris Myers

Why would the STAR Touring and Riding Association hold its annual rally in Roanoke, Virginia? Well, aside from the fact that the city is scenic, friendly and located alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway, with terrific riding in any direction, Roanoke also happens to be known as the Star City.

High above Roanoke, atop Mill Mountain, there is an 88-foot tall, illuminated star visible for miles after dark. And I suppose if you are organizing a rally in honor of Yamaha's Star line of cruising and touring machines, that big beacon could certainly be perceived as a sign. Also consider, Roanoke is part of the Shenandoah Valley and shenandoah means 'daughter of the stars.' Coincidence? I think not. The folks that organized the annual STAR Days Rally didn't miss a trick and I'm sure these facts didn't get by them either.

Some background first: STAR Touring and Riding Association is a family-oriented riding organization that holds an annual rally for their members to come together and celebrate all things Yamaha Star. This year's event ran from Tuesday, July 20, through Friday, the 23rd.

The organization was created seven years ago to serve aficionados of the Yamaha Star line of motorcycles. Members typically ride Star Ventures, V Stars, Road Stars, Road Star Warriors and Royal Stars, but riders of all brands of motorcycles are welcome both at the rally and in the club. The group also has the distinction of being the "Official STAR Organization of Yamaha Motor Corporation." Their focus is on family, fun, camaraderie, and riding. I can certainly bear witness that STAR members are not afraid to have a good time. The great thing about the event is that it's truly family oriented. There's even a STAR Kids/STAR Teens branch of the organization, in which they're getting future STAR riders STARted early.

So, at this point, you're probably wondering how this year's rally went. Frankly, it was great. There was plenty to do the entire time. Numerous vendors were on hand to display their wares all week long, and while walking around their area, one quickly realizes that Harley owners haven't cornered the market for custom rides. Star owners are just as adept at jazzing up their rides and there are aftermarket suppliers to appeal to the need for every chrome-plated dream piece imaginable. On-site installations were available from most of the vendors - a good thing considering how the big "Show and Shine" event was held on Thursday. Folks were lining up to get that last piece of the puzzle installed, pinstriped, or hand painted before the judges could have their say. The "metric" chopper builders have an appreciation for the big Yamaha push-rod motor, too; and there were a number of them displaying machines to make any cable chopper show guy jealous. Rolling thunder proof that Star customizing is limited only by the imagination. Once again, who says the Harley guys should have all the fun?

The "Show and Shine" was one of many events held throughout the week. There were bike washes, a poker run, and seminars on numerous topics. Yamaha Motor Corporation even got in on the act by bringing out a demo trailer loaded with many different models for participants to review and ride. After all, when you get your old Star just the way you want it, you need to start thinking about which direction to go with the next one. What better way to get the creative juices flowing than to go out and take a little ride?

Perhaps the most interesting event of the week was the "Swampazz" ride held on Wednesday. This is a timed endurance ride designed to last five hours or longer. Safety is stressed, but so is consistency. You need to keep moving, but you can't speed. A traffic ticket is a big no-no in the Swampazz. While this event is no race, you can believe the participants took it very seriously. More than one rider was observed sprinting, as best as they could in riding boots, from their parked machines to the final check in. Every second counts in the Swampazz.

Charity of course is a big part of STAR Days. A ride and an auction were held to benefit Feed the Children, the national charity of STAR. This nonprofit organization helps needy families at home and abroad. On behalf of Feed the Children, STAR members delivered 40,000 pounds of food and personal care packages to the local food bank. These folks have big hearts and believe in giving back to the community. Our hats are off to them.

STAR Days is a perfect excuse to see some old friends, show off your bike and, of course, do some riding. We went to Roanoke not knowing what to expect and came away with a newfound respect for this group. STAR Days may be a somewhat low-key event compared to some of the other bike rallies, but I'm sure that's the way they like it. As mentioned, promoting the aspect of family feeling throughout the organization is most important to the club. One couple even chose to make STAR Days a part of their honeymoon. Planners ensure there are programs for the members' children, and there were quite a few kids attending.

Members are dedicated to improving their communities and advance a positive image of motorcyclists to one and all. Perhaps this quote from the STAR web site (www.startouring.org) sums it up best, "If you are looking for a family motorcycle association, with a lot of pride, spirit and camaraderie without the 'attitude' you have found the right organization. Come ride with us and feel the spirit."