Diveristy in Friendship
by Antone R.E. Pierucci
The Outdoors Issue
where the rubber meets the road
FINDING SPIRITUAL AWARENESS AT THE INTERSECTION OF MOTORCYCLING AND MASONRY
By Drea Muldavin-Roemer
When asked how he got his nickname, Armin “Road Rash” Houshmandi laughs and tells the story of the first time he fell off his bike. He was riding from his home in San Jose to Alice’s Restaurant, the famous motorcycle hangout in nearby Woodside. About halfway there, he took a turn a little too wide, overcorrected, and went skidding out onto his side. Shaken but ultimately unhurt, Houshmandi picked himself up, righted his bike, and gingerly continued on to Alice’s for lunch—the first of three back-to-back-to-back spills he suffered within weeks of getting his first bike. Later, he uploaded video of the crash from his GoPro camera to Facebook, and before long, he was christened with his new biker name.
That good-hearted camaraderie is what attracted Houshmandi to what have become his pre-occupations: motorcycling and Masonry. A Master Mason at Golden Rule Lodge No. 479, Houshmandi is the cofounder of the Seekers of Light San Jose Chapter of the Widow’s Sons, a charity-focused Masonic motorcycle riding association. The Seekers, which were founded in 2017, currently have 12 members. They ride together to various lodges for degrees and events, and have taken group rides as far as Monterey, Carmel, and Half Moon Bay. They rode more than 500 miles to Las Vegas last year for a gathering of Widow’s Sons chapter presidents, and even survived a treacherous, 15-miles-per-hour ride in first gear through the snow.
In 2018, the group joined with the Men of Gilead, the Hayward-based chapter of Widow’s Sons, to deliver supplies and clothing to victims of the Camp Fire. The two groups also deliver food on behalf of the Second Harvest Food Bank on their bikes. Houshmandi says the group is looking for even more opportunities to partner with volunteer organizations in the future. “You can talk about it, or you can go plant some trees or you can help pick up trash on the side of the freeway,” he says. “However you do it, do it.”
For Houshmandi, motorcycles and Masonry go hand in hand as vehicles for spiritual awareness and practices in faith. “You’re looking five or six cars up,” he says of biking. “You’re reading traffic, you’re gauging the wind resistance. It’s exactly like going through your degree proficiencies. You put your trust in something that you can’t really see. You’re trusting that gravity’s going to hold your butt to that saddle, and you’re trusting your guide as you go through these degrees.”
Houshmandi was in the process of obtaining his third degree when he first learned of the Widow’s Sons. Formed in 1998 by Armando Nunez, the first chapter launched in Florida and has since spread across the country. There are now 10 chapters in California, from the Sons of Liberty in Palm Desert to the Brothers of the 3rd in Humboldt County. There are chapters all over the country as well, and many more throughout the world.
As for the chapter’s name, Houshmandi was drawn to Seekers of Light for its versatility of meaning (and its sunny acronym, SOL). “I really wanted everyone to get into it because we’re going to be riding around with this on our back,” Armin says, referring to their leather jackets.
And while he says that most of the group doesn’t look the part of a typical lodge in their leather gear and riding boots, they are deeply committed Freemasons, first and foremost. “We obey the speed laws, we try not to be jerks when we’re riding,” he says. “We always try to put our best foot forward.”
Beyond the chance to bond over a shared love of the open road and the satisfaction of giving back to their communities, Houshmandi says the Seekers of Light helps its members experience the richness of the Masonic craft. In essence, both riding and Masonry require skill, trust, and willingness to receive lessons as they’re presented. Through vulnerability and working with natural forces, there are ample opportunities to become more in tune with oneself. “There’s always something different that you can learn or teach somebody in Masonry,” Houshmandi says. “It’s kind of the same thing when you’re riding a motorcycle. The asphalt is unforgiving and physics are unforgiving, and you have to learn to work within the rules and laws of life. And where do you really do that, aside from Masonry?
“Where else do you fine-tune who you are as a person?”
More from this issue:
For 77 years, the Chinese Acacia Club has created a space for Chinese American Masons, a historically underrepresented group.