Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? All of your ideas manifest into a tangible entity, the time spent working out all the details converges on a singular point. Whether it’s something as small as a single project on a bike or the entire build, or something as big as planning an entire show, when it succeeds in coming together it’s a beautiful feeling. J.P. Rodman and a few others had an idea, to put on a motorcycle event in the rural town of Raton, New Mexico. There isn’t much to Raton, most people in this world probably only know it for one of two reasons; they’ve passed through it on I-25 or know that J.P. Rodman lives there. Outside of that, most people probably wouldn’t even know where to begin to look for it on the map. But that in itself became the appeal. To go somewhere you’ve never been to hang out with a bunch of other people into the same shit as you and have a good time. It probably also helped that J.P. would be giving away his most recent Born-Free trike at the party, and who wouldn’t want a chance at that?
I pulled into Raton around 6:30 on Friday. I’d spent the previous night at the Grand Canyon, a mind-blowing spectacle I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager. After the drive through the rest of Arizona and up to the Northeastern corner of New Mexico I’d finally arrived in the eerily quiet town. I unloaded my bike out of my van, re-jetted the carb for the thin mountain air, and headed into the heart of the once booming coal mining town. I didn’t look up J.P.’s address; I figured I’d eventually stumble across an abundance of chopper-ish bikes lining one of the streets. After only about 10 minutes of putting around the desolate main street I came across just that, a hundred or so bikes posted up in front of an old car dealership just below a rocky outcrop of a hill with an illuminated red sign reading ‘RATON’.
Across the street from J.P.’s shop was an abandoned half-city block where attendees had pitched their tents and parked their bikes, trucks and vans. I saw license plates from Texas, Colorado, California, Oklahoma; even New Jersey. Everyone was congregating in front of one of the garage doors drinking beers and catching up with each other. The first night mostly consisted of the warm meet-and-greets along with the casual drinking that follows.
Saturday morning everyone gathered around the shop and the abandoned lot. Waiting for the stragglers to wake up and get their bikes dialed in, we made plans to ride towards Cimarron to dip in the mountain stream. Different packs rolled out at different times, but eventually everyone made the journey down the plains and into the hills to a shady cliff-lined part of the river. The wading and dipping was cut a bit short with the threat of hail and thunderstorms looming up the canyon. On the way back into Raton, most people stopped at a bar, literally called ‘Cold Beer’, while downing pizza and burgers. I could see what appeared to be a break in the storm situated directly over Raton. I headed down the road solo, unfortunately it was not the break I was hoping for, and about 4 miles before town I encountered a torrential downpour. While exiting off of the highway into town, I hit a large puddle of standing water with a thick layer of mud lining the bottom, and things did not end well. When I stood up from the 20+ mph spill, I could see parts of my camera floating away, but that was the only serious result of the crash. I was whole and my bike fired back up! Now I had to make peace with shooting the rest of the good times with my trusty iPhone.
After drying off, the party continued with everyone else seeking some shelter inside J.P.’s garage. Others took their clothes, tents, sleeping bags and other gear to the Laundromat that happened to be very conveniently located at the other corner from the block. Inside J.P.’s garage, stick and poke tattoos, beers, and a whole lotta fun was had, capped off with the giveaway of the trike that happened to go to a man in attendance from Fort Collins, Colorado. As the sky cleared up the good times continued in and around the shop well into the evening. The next morning Raton returned to its sleepy self, devoid of a bunch buzzing bikes, laying in wait for it to happen again next year.
INTERVIEW: J.P. RODMAN
What lit the fire under your ass to come up with the idea for this event?
JP: So, last year, right before Love Thy Chopper, Kenny Kirk, and Jim Harper had come up from Fort Worth. Everyone met here (Raton) and we went to the top of the hill, we got talking about doing an event. We had caught wind that Love Thy Chopper was going to end, so there was going to be a free weekend in the schedule for the region. So, we confirmed with the Love Thy Chopper guys and asked if we could do an event in Raton and they were stoked.
What was the process of getting it off the ground from that point on?
JP: We knew we were going to do the run. Then the Born Free build came into play also. So, then were like “Shit, let’s get together on the Born Free build and then do a raffle for it in Raton.” That was something that was added halfway through. Also, we’d been talking to some of the local car clubs, since there’s not much in the way of that sort of thing around here.
Well there’s really just not much!
JP: Yeah, everybody knows everybody’s business. They’d been talking about doing a car show, so we thought we should do it on the same weekend. They were still kind of separate events, but I think next year we’re really going to try and consolidate it.
Describe the town of Raton to someone who’s never been.
JP: It’s a town the furthest north on I-25 in Northeastern New Mexico. It’s an old coal mining town. I overheard someone saying that at one time there were over 40 bars in the area and three coal camps. It was booming at one time. Now the population is down to about 6,000 people in the region. It’s an old town full of old architecture and businesses are closing by the day.
It’s like a time machine.
JP: All the old brick buildings, they haven’t knocked them down. They haven’t knocked down the old buildings to put up new ones. Same thing with what we did with this building here. It’s an old dealership that I live and work out of. But as far as Raton, the only real businesses seems to be for food for the people who are still here. So there’s not much for industry.
Food and gas.
JP: Exactly. That’s exactly it. It’s a gas stop! I was talking to some of the guys as they were gassing up, and the gas attendant asked them, “Hey, you guys passing through? Where are you going?” and they were like, “Well, we came here.” The gas station guy was like, “What? What are you doing here?” So that was cool. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is from the rest of the town after this.
The region itself is an extension of the Front Range jutting down from Colorado, so it’s a beautiful area.
JP: Yeah, both the plains and the mountains are right there. It’s neat, it’s all between Albuquerque and Denver, it’s all about the same distance. It’s pretty cool; I’ve been here for about three years now.
So you’re planning to hold this event again then?
JP: Yeah, I want to do some more planning with the car guys. I also want to talk to some of the people in Taos, and do it so the first night is in Taos and then it’s a run over to here for the second night. So then there is a whole ride. Today, we had the ride kind of planned but we told people to just go and have fun.
Minus the weather it seemed like everyone had a great time.
JP: Yeah, now everyone is in the shop, kind of hanging out. Beers have been crushed over the last two days. I’ve been emptying the trash each morning, so that I can tell you.
There are people from all over that came to this. That’s got to feel pretty good. A “build it and they will come” sort of deal. What’s the furthest distance traveled by anyone here, do you know?
JP: I was talking to a guy that rode from New Jersey on his EVO. That’s unreal. Hopefully it’s not just the trike that’s the attraction, because I’d hate to have to do another raffle trike. I think it’s just that it’s a different place, something different than just another normal city show or something like that.
You think people get burnt out on some of the shows that have been going on for X number of years and it’s the same every year where not much really changes?
JP: I think you hit it right on the head there.
What else do you have in the works?
JP: Well what we wanted to do with this was to be able to break even. We also set up a scholarship for a local kid so that they could attend a trade school, so to be able to give that back is cool. If we can recoup some of the cost on the trike we could maybe do another bike, but I have some paintwork lined up to pay off some bills. Hopefully do a bunch of smaller projects as opposed to one big one, kind of chill out for a bit. I want to do a series of shift knobs, that’ would be cool. Just keep doing what I love doing.
Any big shout outs you want to give to people who’ve helped along the way?
JP: Jim and Kenny at Chopper Supply Co. Scott at Chemical Candy Customs; man he helped my out a ton. Danger Dan, Rob from Gasshole Garage, Oliver Peck and Audra. Audra did all the upholstery in the trike and Oliver and I did some horse trading to get this done, he also donated the shirts for the run. Of course, Lowbrow and Biltwell. The guys at Born-Free for letting me put my crazy shit in their show. I just want them to know that I appreciate them. ChopCult, I don’t know man, there’s so many. My mom and dad, my mom has been in here the last few days running the store and helped sell raffle tickets and merchandise. It’s been rad!
Be sure to follow Run To Raton on Instagram for updates and give JP a follow as well. I would like to thank JP for his time and hospitality.