Kiehl's Easy Riders

Harleys roar through Houston: This fashionable motorcycle gang is on a mission to fight AIDS

Harleys roar through Houston: Unlikely motorcycle gang on a mission

Kiehl's Texas Run at Highland Village October 2013 men on motorcycles outside store
Easy riders, from left, Conrad Leach, Chris Salgardo, Kevin Robert Frost and Travis Shinn. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Kiehl's Texas Run at Highland Village October 2013 Kiehl's staff
Conrad Leach, center in motorcycle jacket, and Travis Shinn, kneeling, pose with Kiehl's sales associates. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Kiehl's Texas Run at Highland Village October 2013 painting skulls on fingernails
Guests had the opportunity to have their nails embossed with skulls. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Kiehl's Texas Run at Highland Village October 2013 interior with crowd
Kiehl's president Chris Salgardo touts the Kiehl's Limited Edition Ultimate Strength Hand Salve, $28.50, with all proceeds donated for AIDS research. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Kiehl's Texas Run at Highland Village October 2013 ladies with skeleton
Guests posed at the Smilebooth with a friend who was stiff in front of the camera. Photo by © Wilson Parish
Kiehl's Texas Run at Highland Village October 2013 men on motorcycles outside store
Kiehl's Texas Run at Highland Village October 2013 Kiehl's staff
Kiehl's Texas Run at Highland Village October 2013 painting skulls on fingernails
Kiehl's Texas Run at Highland Village October 2013 interior with crowd
Kiehl's Texas Run at Highland Village October 2013 ladies with skeleton

Chris Salgardo has ridden his Harley up and down the west and east coasts to raise money to find a cure for AIDS. Now the president of Kiehl's Since 1851 is roaring across Texas.

Salgardo, accompanied by amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) CEO Kevin Robert Frost, British artist Conrad Leach and rock 'n' roll celebrity photographer Travis Shinn, recently made a Houston stop at the Kiehl's Highland Village store as part of their five-day "Texas Ride for amfAR." The foursome traveled from Austin to Dallas for the Two X Two for AIDS and Art fundraiser, with stops in Sugar Land (at the Kiehl's counter at Dillard's in First Colony Mall), Houston and Longview. 

 "I've never come across so much rush-hour traffic where car drivers are so considerate to motorcyclists." 

"I think that Texas gets a bad rap for not being supportive and emphatic to HIV/AIDS causes and I just don't think that's true," Salgardo said. "There's something about Texas, every time I come, the Southern hospitality is amazing.

"To be able to be on a bike, you see the country and you see the small towns like you can't in a car, so it's really a thrill for me."

Leach, who hails from London, said he found Texas drivers courteous to motorcycle riders, which might surprise some locals. "It's a really motorcycle-friendly place to ride. I've never come across so much rush-hour traffic where car drivers are so considerate to motorcyclists. Here I've never felt so welcomed on a motorcycle. First time in Texas, first time on a motorcycle in Texas. I'll definitely be coming back," he said.

The nice thing about a long motorcycle ride in Texas, Leach added, is the amount of miles you can cover in a day. "You can really stretch out and relax and start to enjoy the scenery," he said. "In Europe, by the time you've warmed up, you've arrived at your destination. Whereas here, the journey is everything — and it's wonderful."

The idea to launch charity motorcycle rides came naturally, said Salgardo, who has been riding motorcycles for more than 30 years. The skin care company, which has been in business since before Lincoln was president (1851), has long featured vintage motorcycles in its stores around the world.

In Houston, the band Dovetail greeted the riders and guests, who were treated to scull-themed nail art manicures and photos at the Smilebooth, along with skin care consultations. All proceeds from sales of Kiehl's Limited Edition Ultimate Strength Hand Salve benefit AIDS research, Salgardo noted. (A tube retails for $28.50.)

"Texas is a huge market for Kiehl's," Salgardo said, noting two stores in Dallas (at Highland Park and NorthPark) and one in Houston, with a new store planned to open in The Woodlands at the beginning of 2014.  "We're not done with Houston yet. I will be back."