Riding like rock stars
Riding with a group is different in many ways than riding solo. For starters, you don’t want to be the one holding everyone else up in the morning, especially if you’re the new guy in the bunch. This goes double if the bunch is as tightly knit as the group I’m riding with. We are about 16 bikes, which is a fairly decent size pack. Of the lot, I have the most gear to load up, so with the early departure time I’m scrambling already. By now most everybody’s helmet is on; I’m not quite finished when I notice someone else has bags on the pavement. I exhale. I’m not going to be ‘that guy.’ (Disclaimer: the only time it’s OK to be ‘that guy’ is if that’s you’re thing, you do it all the time, you’re the last one ready to roll every time, in which case you probably already have a nickname and your buddies rib you about it constantly).
There are other differences: I haven’t paid attention to a road sign in several hundred miles, or even looked at a map until now, and that’s only my curiosity wanting to get a visual sense of where I am in the country.
Also, on a ride of this nature and with a group this size, it’s best to stay organized. There is a road leader, Tim. An active duty police officer from Maine, Tim works with Harley on his own time. He’s been doing rides like this for the Motor Company since about ‘97. Tim calls everyone together for a pre-ride meeting and lays out our day on the road. Of course, we will ride in formation and try to maintain a particular order. A lot can happen if sixteen bikes riding together start doing whatever they want – none of it good.
We keep it together pretty well until the first tollbooth. The neat double row of motorcycles fractures and spreads out to as many booths open. Not until many miles later do we realize that we are no longer sixteen. It seems that “East” is very different from “West” and, upon exiting the toll, a few of us zigged while the rest of us zagged. The zaggers stop for a leisurely fill-up and snack, while the ziggers, recognize the error of their ways, literally, and have to play catch up. They pull in to the gas station not long after. United once again, we continue on to Greensburg for our first of two dealer parties today.
Z & M Cycles is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. When we arrive, the owner Jim greets Willie G. and Nancy with a big hug. The depth of their relationship is easy to see. The dealership is huge and nicely done. The amount of people in attendance is, easily, the largest thus far. The parking lot is overflowing with bikes. Almost like a riding museum, there are motorcycles that represent so many sections of Harley’s history. There are also as many stories.
The autograph table is set and the line is out the door. One gentleman brings in his V-rod air box cover to be signed. It’s not until after speaking with him for a bit that I notice he has a prosthetic leg. Falling off a ladder cost him his leg and two years of riding. He’s back on the road now and owns not only the V-Rod but also an Ultra Classic, which he’ll be taking to Milwaukee. His wife says riding is the best therapy for him. I say he’s an inspiration. We leave Z&M like rock stars, and make our way to the next venue.
We get to the dealership in Wheeling, West Virginia, but not before someone runs out of gas and a siphon hose is broken out. At the dealership, we find that Kiss is there! All right, really it’s just four guys dressed up like Kiss, but it’s fun nonetheless. There’s a clown that does long distance charity rides to benefit children. He has an Ultra Classic that is less than a month old with over 13,000 miles on it already. And, of course, more people with lots of stuff for Willie G., Nancy, Bill, and Karen to sign.