It's 4am. Do you know where your Milwaukee is?
It's very early, dark and chilly. I'm a little numb after the long night saying goodbye to the many good people we met on our ride. I have decided to head home to see my family as soon as I can, since the coming days will be even busier and full than the last ten. I have a side bag full of gifts for them and am looking forward to bestowing the talking monkey (don't ask).
We crossed the mighty Mississippi yesterday into Illinois on a beautiful morning. Soon came the sweet apple and peach orchards and beautiful horizontal panoramas of corn and soybeans only cut through by our two lane roads. Then we discovered "spinach" in Chester, IL, the home of Popeye. We stopped by the Popeye museum housed in the two-level house where the sailor man’s creator originally drew the comic. I bought a "swee pea" t-shirt for a friend. And as I ready myself at 4am for the final ride of my now 2500 mile journey, I guess you could say I'm strong to the finish “cause I's eat me spinach...”
Last night were the final parties before Milwaukee. In Urbana we gave the Mexicans a thrill they did not expect: They got to meet Willie G. And his wife Nancy, his daughter Karen and sons Bill and Michael. The first family of Harley-Davidson graciously agreed to meet with our crew. We had to sneak the Mexicans and the rest of our crew into the back service bays to avoid creating a scene, and the arrival of Willie G. back there was met with wild applause. They were stunned to see the man himself. We took dozens of pictures in the service bays with the faint smell of oil and gas all around - as it should be!
We finished up after a sprint to Bloomington and a very nice reception at Chuck's H-D run by the amazing Winnie, a woman who runs a tight ship, loves the business and treats her customers like family.
So, as I finish this amazing and humbling journey, I am satisfied I have lived up to my principle of doing this trip like any of our customers would - by carrying what I brought. We had a car following us, but I never used it, instead insisting on carrying my own backpack and stuffing my own side bags. My Screw It Let's Ride bandana is very dark on the edge where it has met my forehead over all these miles, and my jacket carries an assortment of bug guts back home with me too.
It's time to let the real celebration start, and meet hundreds of thousands more of our customers. I will roll into Milwaukee tonight for a kick-off party after I reconnect with my wife and daughters today, and will raise my hand to all in celebration of the spirit of Harley-Davidson and our riders. It's a celebration of 105 years of our corporation, but more importantly a celebration of 105 years of riders and their adventurous lives.
And it's merely the first five of our next hundred years of discoveries about ourselves.