Nothing to complain about
Starting the day by taking a page out of yesterday’s lesson book, I load the bike before having breakfast. At the bikes, Willie G. walks by and greets me with a “Heyyy Photo-man.” He asks how I am doing, and I ask him “what could I possibly have to complain about?”
During our pre-ride meeting, we’re told we have a fair amount of miles to cover to get us to Dayton, OH and that, although we’ll spend a lot of time on the Interstate, we’ll also ride some back roads. We start winding down some great country by-ways and come across Route 78, a beautiful little roller coaster of a road. Marveling at the scenery and countryside, I lament all the photographs I am unable to take and file them away on my, “oh well, next time” list. The roadside is littered with eye-candy: tattered barns painted as Mail Pouch Tobacco billboards, old houses – some beautiful, some really beat up. There are many opportunities to stop and explore, just not with a group.
I play with the idea that, if I ride to Sturgis next August, I’ll take a round-about southern route which might put me on this road again. Then I can return to Woodsfield and photograph the barbershop with the weathered 1960’s paint job, take a ride down their street named “Lover’s Lane,” and discover everything else there is to find. At one point motoring through these small towns and rolling hills, I hear Elvis Presley singing Jail House Rock. I pull up next to Mike “Captain” Morgan; the music is coming from the radio on his Road Glide. There I ride, both feet tapping on the floorboards, just soaking everything in.
A few miles down the road and we need gas. We stop at a Sunoco station and some of us splinter off into the shop. I walk in behind Brenda Bleustein, (wife of Jeff Bleustein, H-D’s Chairman of the Board). The owner of the store asks where we’re from. I say, “…all over” and Brenda says, “… but we’re headed to Milwaukee.” “For the 105th Anniversary?” the shopkeeper asks. Brenda answers, yes, and he says, “Send my regards to Willie G.,” at which point Scott Phillips, casually points over his shoulder and says “Tell him yourself. He’s right over there.” The poor guy freaks. Telling us what an honor it is to have us there, he asks if we’ll hang out for ten minutes. He calls the local paper and, in no time, a reporter from Caldwell, Ohio’s own Journal-Leader is there – we’ve made the news!
Photo-op and press conference done, it’s time to make up some ground. We jump on the Interstate and buckle down to get some miles under our belts. The roadside is not as pretty, but we pick up the pace and I get to use that extra gear in the Road King’s six-speed transmission. Cooking down the road in a pack is fun. It’s by no means a team sport, but I get a similar sense of camaraderie. Looking out for the people ahead of you and keeping an eye on the ones behind, there is definitely a team spirit. Tractor-trailers in the right lane, the pack moves to the left to pass. Not far in the distance is an eighteen-wheeler with a familiar black and orange paint scheme complete with Bar and Shield logo. I’m behind Karen and Michael and watch them both blow their horns and wave to the driver as they pass. It’s hard not to think how cool it is that the driver has no idea who those friendly riders are. Knowing their identity, however, just further illustrates that the day doesn’t end at five o’clock for this family.