Thousands of motorcyclists packed Gilroy’s streets and restaurants on New Year’s Day, but few know the real story of how the burrito run started in 1982.
Griselda Avila, 53, the owner of Cielito Lindo restaurant on Monterey Street, does and she can separate the myth from the facts.
It was New Year’s Day, 1982, and her father, Serafin, 82, had opened the restaurant in October, 1981. He kept the business open on New Year’s when nine bikers pulled up to eat.
The riders were newly clean and sober and wanted a celebratory breakfast for their first clean year. They started in the morning in Redwood City taking El Camino and back roads but they didn’t find any place open until they reached Gilroy around noon and Cielito Lindo was open.
“They came in and my father was so afraid,” said Avila. “He’d heard of Hell’s Angels. He was very, very afraid. But then he was amazed because these people were so loving and caring.”
The nine riders were appreciative of the meal and promised to come back the next year and bring friends. Avila said her father didn’t believe it would amount to much, but in 1983 some 37 riders showed up. The restaurant could barely handle that many and ran out of food.
The riders promised to return the following year with more friends and the Avilas were prepared. More than 80 came for burritos and the numbers increased year after year, as an attraction for clean and sober riders to start the year. Now thousands show up from as far away as Arizona and Southern California.
One of the myths about the run is that the restaurant was only open for the family, but they served the nine riders. That’s not true, said Avila. That did happen on a Christmas about 10 years after the original burrito run but the two stories have mistakenly merged. Her family did have some riders in one Christmas, but the restaurant is otherwise closed that day.
Over the years other Gilroy restaurants opened New Year’s to serve the riders and this year the streets were full of mostly clean and sober riders, with a few who were celebrating the first year of legalized marijuana based on the smell on the street.
“This is the way it should be,” said Rev JJ, a chaplain from Aromas who raises goats, pigs and chickens when he’s not riding. “It’s how Hollister used to be. We buy from local merchants, not vendors. There’s no need for police. We eat to ride and we ride to eat.”
A lot of the bikers do charity rides to raise money.
“This is our way of giving back after all those years we ran amuck,” said Greg Piper, who rode down from Pittsburg