Magdalena Marshal Michael Zamora takes a moment to show off his Harley Davidson.
Russell Huffman | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Motorcyclists traveled as far as 360 miles to participate in the third annual poker run to benefit the Magdalena Kids’ Science Café on June 17.

For most taking part on Saturday, the poker run was an opportunity to get out on the highway and enjoy their motorcycle while also helping out a good cause. The Kids’ Science Café, headed by Gerald J. (Jim) Sauer Jr., is a 503 (c) non-profit organization that promotes science and engineering.

The poker run was the brainchild of Magdalena’s chief marshal Michael Zamora, a big motorcycle enthusiast who serves as the event’s “commander in chief.”

“We’re hoping people come and enjoy the village and the hospitality and bring everybody they can. I’m looking for vendors to help this thing get bigger and better. The money goes to a great cause,” Zamora said.

John Sbrega, center, traveled from Phoenix, Arizona, to sign up for the Magdalena poker run.

Heading up the activities means Zamora had to stay at home base during the poker run because he still has his duties as marshal.

“The run generally takes about 5-6 hours to complete. We usually wind up at the Golden Saloon and the festivities there,” Zamora said.

While poker runs are about the participants getting the best hand, no gambling is involved. A fee is charged to motorcyclists, who then travel to different checkpoints where they draw a playing card. There can be five to seven stops involved, and the idea is also to promote other communities, and the event is a win-win for all involved.

Magdalena’s 2023 poker run started at the fire station and then to Datil, Pie Town, Quemado, Apache Creek, and again through Datil and back to Magdalena—a trip covering a little more than 200 miles.

That distance must have seemed like a hop, skip, and a jump for Chris French, his wife, Loril (Pinky), and John Sbrega.

“We HOG out of Phoenix, Arizona,” French, a Black Sheep minister, said. “We had expected many more people with us, but the plans fell through for some of them.”

HOG is an acronym for Harley Owners Group. It is made of Harley Davidson riders of all levels of experience and is a great way to learn about becoming a part of the motorcycling culture.

“Freedom,” Cross said. “That’s what I love about riding a motorcycle. Pinky is the local tie with her parents living just down the street, and the 1993 Magdalena graduate serves as the activity coordinator for the group.

The 360-mile ride to participate in the poker run was a challenge for the trio, who encountered some tough weather along the way.

Students from the Kids’ Science Café earned extra money with snack and drink offerings.

“We rode through wind gusts yesterday, and they were no joke. You have to be. You have to have a little perseverance and patience and huge trust. I completely trust my husband. He handles our bike wonderfully, and so being behind with him, I have complete trust in him riding us through wind rain,” Loril said.

While the Crosses are tied to Magdalena, their friend John is not, and the lure of being on the open road with friends is too much to pass up.

“I love riding, and getting out of town is always a bonus. You know, no responsibilities and just riding with some friends and helping a good cause,” Sbrega said.

It turned out to be a perfect day for motorcycling, and Magdalena Mayor Richard Rumpf was helping welcome riders and answer questions. Many queries were turned over to Zamora, but the day’s activities were noted.

“I’m hoping they come away from here and tell people that they had fun in Magdalena and were welcomed by everybody,” Rumpf said. “I think everyone has had a good time. The weather hasn’t cooperated in the past, but this year it has. I think everyone has had fun.”

There’s also an economic and public relations boost for the communities involved because the Harleys do like their gasoline, and shopping is done along the way.

“All the stops everywhere they go, they welcomed this run, and they help us out. They’re excited. The riders love it going through places like Pie Town and Quemado. It benefits those communities, too, from the standpoint of putting money into their businesses because the riders will need to buy gasoline. It’s a great advertisement for their communities when people tell their friends about them,” Zamora said.