Why a Bicycling Group Wears Burgers
Erma's Diner was real. Honest. Both the diner and Erma.
The photo on our home page (click on the burger above) shows the real thing in Ione, California, back when we started. That's when Erma and husband Russ ran the diner and their son Mike was a cyclist with a small group of cycling buddies who meet each weekend to ride in the Amador County foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
After cohering for a year or so, the group decided to create its own cycling jersey and cover it with the logos of the businesses of its members and other cycling-related business that they liked and used. The obvious choice for the front of the jersey was the burger logo of Mike's mom.
Everybody started recognizing the group by their "uniform" and calling them Erma's Diner. The name has stuck for several years now. In fact, Erma's Diner is listed on cycling lists as one of the local "clubs."
Unlike other clubs, however, Erma's Diner collects no dues and holds no meetings other than on bicycles. We don't have a varied ride calendar. We ride out of the parking lot behind the police station, next to Iron Ivan the locomotive every Saturday and Sunday of the year (barring rain).
Now that we are wearing the third or fourth generation of our jersey, lots of other cyclists now recognize the Erma's Diner riders, who range from casual riders to racers, from moderate distance riders to ultradistance riders. Because of the nature of our location, all our rides are hilly.
What About the Diner?
It's there and it's not. The same building is there, serving essentially the same burgers-and-shakes menu, but Erma is not. She retired and sold it to Larry, who is not a cyclist and wasn't interested in being associated with cyclists. Larry whited out "Erma" and wrote in "Larry." You'll still find it at the intersection of highways 104 and 124 in downtown Ione.
The Details if You Must Know
The original Erma's Diner bunch (Jim Gray, John Hambright, Larry Hayes, Chuck Gray, Pat Johnston, and John Rovane) found it difficult to find a better place to ride bikes than in Amador County. After riding together casually, they decided to make it a weekly event. Friends invited friends and the group grew until it had a core of regulars and an asteroid belt of irregulars. It's not easy to distinguish which is which at times.
Eventually, the idea of having a group jersey made was broached, and enough riders agreed to buy one that the group could make up an order from Voler. That's when the search started for the logos of members and supporters who wanted to appear on the jersey. Since one of the group is the son of Erma, who owns a diner in Ione, where the group usually begins its rides, and since the group often stopped at Erma's Diner for refreshment after riding, the diner's logo was first in line and given the premiere location on the front of the jersey. Others followed--members businesses, bike shops that we all use and who have supported us through the years--but that first identification with Erma's stuck, and the group began calling itself the Erma's Diner group.
That identification was cemented by the appearance of the jerseys, which started showing up en masse in the foothills on the weekend as well as at organized bike rides and races throughout northern California. With "Erma's Diner" prominently displayed on each rider's chest on an eye-catching gold and red jersey, everyone else started calling the group "Erma's Diner." Just "Erma's Diner," since we are not a club or a team or anything else official. As Larry Robinson, co-owner of The Rest Stop, said, "They're a bunch of grass roots cyclists."
The group's godfather figure is John Rovane. He's the one who usually calls the core members to ask (or tell) them the day and time and route of the rides. We all phone-tree from there. When John can't make a ride, he usually passes along the reigns to Chuck Gray. They are the closest we have to a president and vice-president. Chuck (his bike name is "Chuckles") also serves as social secretary, collecting and dispersing contact information and maps among the group. The rides are usually on Sunday, but during the rainy season, we'll ride on the better day of the weekend.
In late 1998, out on a ride (of course), Chuck and Ed Hensley casually discussed the possible use of email and the World Wide Web for communicating among the growing group. Ed's sister, Pat, was not using her free web space, so Ed started an Erma's site there. In 1999, BicycleProducts.Com, with John Burge's coordination and urging, agreed to sponsor a domain name and web site hosting for the group. In spring of 2000, Ed finished moving the site to the new domain, featuring a photo of the diner itself on the home page.
Who Did This?
This stew was mixed by Ed Hensley and John Burge, who slapped this cafe together with help from Chuckles on spatula, Bone on the grinder, The Rabbit on chopping block, Mr. Twinkie on collander, PJ on corkscrew, Beaver on the juicer, Chrissie on eggbeater, Michael on the grill, The Hammer on tenderizer, Lead Bottom on Harley, Shirley on congas, Jerry on keyboards, Rayman on style, & Don John on cash register.