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Toby Woehl

As he stood in the garage adjacent to his home in Yankton, Toby Woehl was asked how many motorcycles he owns.

He thought about the question for a few seconds, then looked around and started counting off on his fingers. Both hands were needed, as it turns out.

Eight or nine bikes was the response.“They just accumulated,” said Woehl, a Yankton man who has motorcycles in both of his garages and even one in his basement at the moment.

Born and raised in Menno, Woehl has been around motorcycles for most of his life. Even now, as time has passed (he and his wife, Kerry, have three grown children), they’ve remained a hobby in his life.

“My dad always had motorcycles,” Woehl said. “He didn’t have much of anything, though.”

He was five or six years old — he can’t quite remember — when he got his first minibike, and Woehl eventually started racing quads out at the old Scramblers track near Yankton. Of course, those were the days, Woehl joked, when bikes wouldn’t clear hills or bumps and fly 50 feet in the air.

“I haven’t raced in ages,” he said, with a smile.

Prior to 2001, Woehl primarily owned Honda and Kawasaki bikes, but that year he entered the Harley Davidson world. And now, Harleys are what he prefers; he jokes that it’s a lifestyle.

“There’s the old phrase, ‘If you have to explain it, you’ll never understand it,’” Woehl said.

Asked if he works on his bikes or rebuilds them or anything of the sort, Woehl said no, it’s that he enjoys the thrill of the ride.

“There’s always something to tinker with, but it’s mostly just washing and cleaning them,” he said. He even joked that if it starts raining, he’ll realize he should take a bike out to get washed.

That said, Woehl is a motorcycle enthusiast. It’s obvious to those who see him around town or meet him for the first time.

“Anybody who knows me knows I usually have something Harley on,” Woehl said. “Whether it’s a shirt or pants or my boots, there’s always something Harley related with me.”

“But no tattoos,” he added, with a smile.

Not yet, anyway. Woehl knows the kind of tattoo he wants, but he realizes it’d take some time — he’s actually been in the chair four times but has “chickened out” each time.

Woehl isn’t alone in his love for riding.

His wife, Kerry, also rides and shares his passion for motorcycles.

“For years, I bugged her to get her own bike,” Woehl said.

That changed, he said, when a friend once lost his wife in an accident on old Highway 50. “I thought, ‘No way in heck am I going to watch my wife die in front of me,’” Woehl said.

So ever since that accident, he never brought it up again.

That same year of the accident, the Woehl couple went out to Sturgis for the annual motorcycle rally, and it was while visiting one of the booths that Kerry pointed to a bike she wanted. And so, that began a building project that now allows the couple to ride their own bikes on adventures together.

“She rides now,” Woehl said. “She likes to ride with me, too. If we do go to the (Sturgis) Rally, which is just about every year, sometimes she’ll ride by herself but when we get there, we’ll ride together.”

Woehl, who serves as a firefighter with the Yankton Fire Department, also has plenty of others to ride motorcycles with.

He currently serves as the president of the local wing of Fire & Iron, a national firefighters motorcycle club that has approximately 10,000 members. Yankton, with 21 members, is labeled Station 57 —instead of chapters, each group is referred to as a station.

“We ride together, and of course, we do a lot of benefits and other things for the community,” Woehl said.

The local Fire & Iron station (with members from Yankton and the surrounding area) recently raised $5,200 for Ethan Crossman, a kindergartner in Gayville who is undergoing treatments for brain cancer.

“That day of our ride, we gave him a check for $3,200, and we still had donations coming in,” Woehl said.

The local station has also, within the last year, raised money for the Yankton River City Domestic Violence Center, as well as TeamHOPE, according to Woehl.

Woehl and his fellow Fire & Iron riders have also made it a mission to help out victims of fire, he said.

“A lot of people have fire insurance, but it takes a while to get that money,” Woehl said. “It doesn’t put money in your hands right away so you can buy what you need. We try to get them some money right away.”

It’s a way Woehl can meld his passion for motorcycles into a passion for helping those who need assistance across the area.

“We just try to help out people in need,” Woehl said.