‘Great American Deli Schlep’ stops at Chompie’s, highlights hunger (AZ Jewish News)

Shannon Levitt
July 27, 2021

This article originally appeared in Arizona Jewish News on July 27, 2021

Steve Goode doesn’t usually visit Arizona in the summer.

The retired real estate developer from Chicago spends the first three months of every year in Scottsdale to escape the cold. But this year’s Great American Deli Schlep, Goode’s cross-country motorcycle ride to raise awareness about food insecurity, scheduled a July stop at Chompie’s Restaurant, Deli, and Bakery in Scottsdale.

This schlep is Goode’s fourth motorcycle trip across the continental United States. Previously, he’s traveled to the nation’s four corners and into its national parks. For this ride, he mapped a route to correspond with The Nosher’s 2018 list of the best Jewish delis. But Judi, his wife, tweaked his plan and suggested he also do something to serve the greater good.

Goode partnered with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, which was founded with the goal of ending hunger for people of all faiths and backgrounds. The organization was eager to team up with him to bring visibility to their signature issue.

At each stop, 42 delis in all, Goode talks about the 1 in 4 people in the United States who don’t have enough to eat. In Arizona, the number is 1 in 10.

“This project hits that sweet spot with the Jewish community: food and justice, two central tenets to the Jewish community,” said Naama Haviv, MAZON’s vice president of community engagement. “Now, we’re all ‘Schlep’ all the time.”

Goode’s stop at Chompie’s on Friday, July 23, turned out to be wetter than he expected.

He had been warned about the possibility of Arizona monsoons before he started his trip, but he more or less dismissed the idea.

“It’s basically a sunny place,” he said.

Originally, his arrival was set for 11:30 a.m. Thinking it might be 115 degrees by that time, he decided in June to change his scheduled stop to 8:30 a.m. “I didn’t really factor in the monsoons and drop in temperatures,” he admitted.

Still, that morning’s torrential rain, lightning and thunder didn’t keep Goode from his purpose of talking about the reality of hunger in the United States. And a small crowd was there to greet him and listen.

Temple Solel Rabbi John A. Linder, who has become a friend of Goode’s, came out to cheer the project.

“Steve Goode is a mensch amongst mensches,” Linder said, via email. Linder’s inspired by his friend’s long journey and the mitzvah he’s doing by directing tzedakah to MAZON.

Haviv said, “every dime raised is a joy and surprise and wonderful,” but the trip’s real success is the conversation and awareness around the issue of hunger. “People can do some thinking alongside their pastrami.”

Goode insisted that he doesn’t rate the delis, but still some people have argued a little with him that he chose incorrectly in one city or another. He can only respond that he’s just following Nosher’s map.

“It’s a very Jewish thing to go and meet Steve for lunch and argue with him how he picked the wrong deli.” Haviv laughed.

In addition to the mitzvah motive of the journey, it’s also an opportunity for Goode to meet up with other Jewish motorcycle riders. At every deli, members of the Jewish Motorcyclists Alliance, a national network of Jewish motorcycle clubs with names like Star of Davidsons and Hell’s Bagels, have come out to meet with Goode and share stories of the road.

And Chompie’s was no exception. At least five members of Phoenix’s Lost Tribe motorcycle club showed up. David Magat, a Glendale member of the club who’s become a friend, waited out the storm with Goode after the crowd thinned out.

Goode’s only been forced to pull his 2018 Honda Goldwing Tour bike over twice since he started on June 1. While the monsoon surprised him, it’s not the worst weather he’s faced. On an earlier leg of the trip, about 100 miles east of Houston on Interstate 10, he was met with sheets of rain.

“Everybody was slowing down, and I decided to get off the highway because I realized this was not a normal storm — this was a gulf storm,” he recalled.

He turned off the highway onto a frontage road going 20 miles per hour. He needed to find a hotel room, but his visibility was nil. “I ended up hitting about 12 inches of water,” he said. “The spray on the front went above my head and the balance of the spray rose up to my waist on the bike — just the whole cascading water came up and honestly, I don’t know how I didn’t go down.”

The motorcycle hydroplaned and the spraying water shocked him, but he was able to slow enough to find a nearby hotel. By the time he checked in, his bike and the one car in the parking lot were mired in a foot of water.

Even when riding through terrible weather, he’s never afraid. Traveling by motorcycle, he said, “gives me a certain sense of joy, freedom, meditation.”

This ride, ending Aug. 14, is more constrained and complicated than others he’s done because he has to keep to a schedule of meetings with people and press. But it’s also more meaningful, he said. Even if he’s only “making a little dent” with funds his ride has raised, he’s happy to do his part to highlight the issue of hunger.