Tom Mitchell is a wizard.
But he doesn’t hail from Narnia, Oz, Middle Earth or Hogwarts. He’s from Florida, and he’s the Royal Wizard for the Order of the Red Spoon.
Mitchell and his wife, Linda, are among more than 12,000 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle riders converging on the Alliant Energy Center this week.
The Gold Wings motorcycle gathering, known as a “Wing Ding,” may not be what you picture when you hear the words “motorcycle rally.” Members aren’t clad in leather but in vests emblazoned with a mosaic of colorful patches and pins earned by attending rallies or completing safety classes. Their bikes aren’t growling “HOGs” but bulging, candy-colored cruisers — many of them on three wheels.
“We’re just a fun, goofy group of people,” said biker Becky Glydewell, who rode from Springfield, Ohio.
Hence, The Order of the Red Spoons.
The Mitchells started the Order at their chapter in Florida. Linda said Gold Wing riders are famous for safety education and their disinclination for going to bars. Instead, they go to Dairy Queen.
The number of ice cream rides each rider participates in determines his or her title: One can be a squire, knight, lord or lady. Because the Mitchells started it, their official title is “Royal Wizard.”
“We were looking for a way to get people to come ride with us,” Tom said. “So we came up with this. There’s isn’t a rider who doesn’t like going for ice cream.”
Abel Gallardo, the president of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association, said that the group’s love of ice cream is one of the many quirky aspects of the organization.
“It’s a funny thing — our members just love ice cream,” Gallardo said. “We have to go into cities and say, ‘If there is one thing you don’t want to run out of, it’s ice cream.’”
Those ice cream sales are only a portion of the $3.4 million the rally is expected to bring to the city.
This is the fifth time the convention has come to Madison, the group’s most frequent destination.
Several events were planned for the Wing Dingers, from classes to something Gallardo called a “Cirque-like performance” on Friday night.
You can also see members on group rides through the countryside.
Many said what really brings them here is the people.
“We have friends from all over the country that come to these events,” said Brian Richards of Knoxville, Tennessee. “It’s like a big family reunion.”
Doug Pettigrew, from Clovis, New Mexico, rode 1,200 miles just to spend the week with friends from other states.
Eileen Guile, from New York, said she “can’t go 10 feet without seeing someone we know.”
Although she said it probably helps that she and her husband, Tim, are known for their distinct hats. The pair go to every rally wearing French clown hats — a felt bowler hat topped with a single teetering flower.
Except for the one time they dressed up like a turkey and a meat cleaver-wielding pilgrim woman.
“Stuff like this — it’s just fun,” Tom Mitchell said. “That’s what we do. We have fun. That’s why we keep riding.”