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Spring ‘Defrost Your Nuts’ motorcycle party draws hundreds

The crowd was sparse early Saturday morning, but by 2:30 p.m., hundreds were at the Mallalieu Inn, ready for a day of highway riding and partying.1 / 3
A yearly spring “Defrost Your Nuts” participant, a biker who identified himself only as “Greg” proudly showed off his Harley at this year’s event. Hundreds of bikers showed up April 12 at the Mallalieu Inn, the starting point for the 80-mile ride. 2 / 3
Paul Linder, left, and Don Christensen compare notes about their bikes outside the Mallalieu entrance. Linder has been to 10 spring rides. This year was Christensen’s sixth.3 / 3

By Chuck Nowlen

Photos by Chuck Nowlen and Kathy Barnhart

A guy named “Smoke” rode in to publicize his group, Bikers Against Child Abuse.

People like Don Christensen, meanwhile, showed up because it was the first organized ride of the year.

“I call it ‘child therapy,’” laughed Christensen, a West St. Paul landscaper and one of hundreds at the annual spring “Defrost Your Nuts” motorcycle ride April 12.

“It’s just a chance to get your bike out for the first time in months and visit with some people you haven’t seen all winter.”

In other words, said a woman nicknamed “Raja,” another B.A.C.A member: “This is like a giant bar-hop for bikers.”

Whatever the riders’ reasons, everybody –- from urban professionals on Gold Wings to “One Percenters” rocking big, mean Harleys -- got along just fine at the 80-mile ride, which began at North Hudson’s Mallalieu Inn, as it has every April and October since 1985.

“This has always been a good group,” said North Hudson Police Chief Mark Rickert, who led a handful of officers managing traffic and watching over things on Hwy. 35 and Wisconsin Street near the Mallalieu party site.

Said Rickert, who broke into a knowing smirk at a reporter’s tongue-in-cheek assertion that the ride must have been named for the lug nuts on all the motorcycles’ wheels: “I’ve been here for the last 14 years and can honestly say that there haven’t been any problems or incidents in all that time. For the most part, people are just here to have a good time. They all tend to self-enforce themselves.”

‘Not too hard, not too early’

Alcohol is a particular concern every year, said Rickert and several participants. This year’s ride, for example, also included stops at the Gypsy Road Saloon in Wilson, the Wild Wood Bar and Grill in Woodville, and Ras’ on Main and J.J.’s in Hammond.

Explained Raja at the Mallalieu around 10 a.m.: “We got here at 7:30-8:30 this morning. There’s a lot of stops at bars all day, and us? We’ll all be here ‘til they tell us to leave. So, yeah, we do try to pace ourselves and not party too hard or too early.”

The weather Saturday was drizzly early and cold all day, and while it might have meant lower attendance, it didn’t seem to dampen any spirits at this year’s ride. The crowd was still sparse at 9:30 a.m., but a steady rumble of arriving motorcycles began to build by 11:30.

By the time the group took off around 2:30 p.m., the Mallalieu and Wisconsin Street were all but packed.

Noted Christensen, a six-year participant: “Hey, we were riding in the rain all day last year. So this? This is no big deal.”

The event was first organized more than 40 years ago by local bar owner Don Ward, Mallalieu owner Sandy Moelter recalled.

“It started with just 12 guys, and now it seems like they come out of the woodwork,” said Moelter, whose bar has drawn as many as 5,000 on nice April days in the past.

When Ward left the business, Moelter and her husband Gary –- both avid bikers –- picked up the organizing gauntlet at the Mallalieu. Gary died in 1998.

“But, you know, life goes on, and, I’ll tell you, it’s not really that hard to put it together,” she said. “I have to make sure there’s plenty of help here that day and get a permit from the Village of North Hudson. I provide all the port-a-potties and the fencing, and buy extra beverages and hot dogs which really helps on cold days like this year.

“But, other than that, it’s pretty simple. I do not have to do any advertising, either. It’s just word-of-mouth, and then everybody just shows up -- every year.”