Most poker runs involve "hogs," massive motorcycles that move their riders via internal combustion power on their charitable rounds. The riders in the "Tour de Taverns," though, will depend on different bikes, with their legs pedaling to provide the propulsion.
This year's Tour de Taverns, the fourth annual, takes place Saturday morning. Proceeds from the event are going to help "Iron Man Sam," aka seven-year-old Sam Fleming, and his family, in his fight against a rare form of childhood cancer.
Riders will gather at the Sand Bar ahead of the starting time at 10 a.m. The circuit, which tour organizer Jimmy Boylan described as "rider-friendly," begins at the Sand Bar, then heads to the Crazy Flamingo, onto the Sunset Grille, Rookies, CJ's on the Bay, Snook Inn, and Porky's before ending up back at the Sand Bar.
With seven "taverns" participating this year, a new high, the theme for the Tour de Taverns is seven-card stud. At each stop, riders draw another card, which is duly noted on their ride sheet, and gradually build what they hope is a winning poker hand. Back at the Sand Bar, the winner will be announced. There will be raffle prizes, football on the wide screen TVs, and perhaps cocktails.
Last year, with six local establishments along the route, riders played Yahtzee. The new addition, the "rookie," one could say, is Rookies Bar & Grill, which will take participants well south to their location in the Marco Walk shops at the corner of South Collier Blvd. and Winterberry Drive. Rookies is not really a rookie, though, as they participated in the very first Tour de Taverns four years ago.
With a large contingent of bicyclists on Marco's roads Saturday, those driving motor vehicles should take even more caution than normal, and "share the road" with the cycles. Nearly a week before the event, Boylan said they had almost 90 riders signed up, and well over 100 are expected by the time of "kickstands up" Saturday morning. Free bicycle rentals (donations gratefully accepted) are being provided courtesy of the Island Bike Shop, a longtime supporter of the event, for anyone who wants to ride but doesn't have wheels.
Sam Fleming, the beneficiary of the tour, is the grandson of the Sand Bar's own Jackie Fleming. Sam, a fun-loving seven-year-old who enjoys baseball, soccer and video games, is struggling against neuroblastoma, a deadly disease that has necessitated chemotherapy, repeated surgeries, and blood and platelet transplants. Sam's upbeat attitude and resilience through all the treatment have earned him the nickname "Ironman Sam." Medical and associated costs, including trips to Texas and monthly visits to Sloan-Kettering in New York, have placed a tremendous burden on his family.
Each year, the Tour de Taverns selects a deserving recipient for the event's proceeds. Last year, donations went to the 9/11 orphans fund. In 2010, the funds stayed local, going to help young Pearcetin Trammell, born with arthrogryposis, which impaired the use of her arms and legs.
Boylan reported that Pearcetin is now walking.
"She just went to the theater for the first time," he said.
Those wishing to help out Sam and his family can go online to www.ironmansam.org, call Capri at (239) 642-8449, or just show up at the Sand Bar on Saturday morning to have a good time for a good cause.