Put 91-year-old Frank Patton of Tampa on a motorcycle, and it is easy to make him smile.
Members of several Kansas chapters of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA) traveled to Tampa Saturday to pay respect to their senior friend and mentor.
The entourage included 25 bikes, 31 men and women, and one dog named Peanut. Tampa Community Association provided a fund-raising lunch.
Patton was instrumental in bringing the GWRRA to Kansas and was one of the first area directors. He is a member of Chapter A, Wichita.
The Frank Patton Award was established several years ago in his honor. It is awarded annually to a member who is judged a leading promoter of the association.
Patton has been riding motorcycles since 1965. He joined GWRRA in February 1983. His late wife, Gertrude (Crist), a native of Tampa, helped him organize chapters in Kansas.
“She motivated me to get this thing going,” he said. “My wife gets all the credit.”
The couple were living in Wichita at the time. Gertrude was not a rider, but she often traveled by car to join Patton at rallies.
In 1983, Patton won a motorcycle and trailer from the association. He was awarded the bike at a rally in Colorado Springs.
The GWRRA is the world’s largest social organization for owners and riders of Honda Gold Wing/Valkyrie motorcycles. Members enjoy the freedom of belonging to a not-for-profit, non-religious, and non-political organization.
“It’s something I can go to and feel a part of a group,” Patton said.
Founded in 1977, it has grown to more than 80,000 members in 53 countries. There are more than 800 active chapters managed by 4,000 volunteer leaders.
The Kansas District is part of Region H in the U.S., and includes Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Kansas has eight chapters and more than 750 members.
Many cyclists, including Patton and his friends, are concerned about the bad image the public has of bikers. As members of GWRRA, they said, they are dedicated to the association’s motto, “Friends for Fun, Safety, and Knowledge.”
Various members join in short rides and long rides, and rally at various places. The association holds a major rally every year. This year it will be at Tulsa, Okla. The state rally will be in August.
Patton said he has been to many GWRRA rallies and has never seen a problem. The group is family-oriented, and rallies often include grandchildren and pets.
Instruction in safe riding is a big part of each chapter’s activities. One of the several volunteer leaders is assigned the task of training members in safe riding and CPR.
“Motorcycling is like driving a car,” Patton said. “You have got to be alert or you can’t do it. You have to pay attention to what you are doing. Safe driving is a skill.”
He has traveled more than 100,000 miles by motorcycle and has never been involved in an accident. He quit riding after his wife had a stroke and needed his full attention.
“Your wife is the most important thing,” he said. He visited her every day at Salem Home in Hillsboro until her death two years ago.
Patton maintains his rider’s license along with his driver’s license. He is in good health and drives a vehicle but realizes his limitations when it comes to riding a motorcycle.
“For my own safety, I won’t ride,” he said.