We’ve all had those dreams. You know, the kind that are so wonderful, like you just won the lottery and married a supermodel, and right as you kiss her some distant sound breaks the silence of the night and you wake with a startle. You hope that if you fall back to sleep quickly enough, you will be whisked back to that awesome dream, but alas it never returns. I lived one of my dreams. Unfortunately, it ended with the sounds of squeeling tires and crumpling steel.

On August 11, 2003, I left my home in San Jose, California for the trip of a lifetime to ride my 1998 FLSTF to the east coast and back. The itinerary would include three nights in Las Vegas, then traveling the Mother Road Route 66 with stops at many points of interest along the way, and then the main event, visiting Milwaukee for the Harley Davidson 100th Anniversary party. After that, I would go all the way to Massachusetts as the farthest eastern point on the ride. On the return trip from the northeast, I planned to take the Blue Ridge Parkway and then continue down to Pensacola, Florida, where I would visit my sister and her family. From Pensacola, I would take Interstate 10 through the southern states back home to California.

The morning I left San Jose was a typically sunny and warm beautiful California day. The odometer read 38,278 miles. I estimated that the round trip across the country and back would total eight thousand miles. After having a wonderful home-cooked breakfast with my mom, it was on to Las Vegas to meet my friend, Vince Iosso. Traveling north on Interstate 15, I encountered searing heat of 115 degrees F, which made me feel as if I were riding through a pizza oven! I arrived in Las Vegas that evening and awaited the arrival of my friend. After three late nights of soaking up all that is Las Vegas, I left for Arizona. There I would connect with the first portion of Route 66, which would take me from Kingman to Seligman where I would spend the night. On the way to Seligman, I made a stop at the Grand Canyon Caverns to take the cave tour. While I was 260 feet below the Earth’s surface, a thunderstorm was brewing to the east. After arriving topside I decided to wait out the storm as it passed, soaking the arid desert landscape. An hour later, with a light rain coming down, a group of riders on their Harleys pulled in. They were a group of Kiwis who had had their Harleys shipped over from New Zealand to the states. They were heading the same direction as I was, to Milwaukee via Route 66.

The ride through the southwest included stops at the Grand Canyon, the Hubbell Trading Post, Window Rock, Gallup, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas, New Mexico. In Tucumcari, NM, I met Paul. He was riding a silver Ultra Classic on his way from California to Florida and then home to upstate New York. He had just pulled into the Motel 6, his bike covered in mud. He explained to me how he had fallen over on a mud-covered portion of road, where it had been raining pretty heavily to the south. Luckily for him, his Harley suffered only a couple of small scratches on the lower fairing. The next morning I was off to Amarillo. The route there covered several miles of original Route 66 pavement, and brought me directly into town. After a quick stop at the local Harley Dealer, I settled in at the motel, unloaded my gear, and took a swim. For dinner, I went to the Big Texan Steak House, well known for its huge steak dinners. Unfortunately, my appetite was not up to the challenge of devouring their famous 72-ounce steak dinner with all the fixins. The prize for this accomplishment is getting the entire meal for free. After dinner, I made a quick run West on Interstate 40 to see Cadillac Ranch, where I engraved my name on one of the car tires.

Two days later I arrived in Altus, Oklahoma, where I visited my long-time friend USAF Lt. Col. Blaine Holt while he was based there for training. This side trip took me off of Route 66, so I had to make my way east on Hwy 62 and north on I44 to Oklahoma City to pick up 66 once more. After a hot and humid day’s ride with stops to see some of the route’s attractions, I made my next overnight stop in Joplin, Missouri. At this point I was just two days away from arriving in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin. I was beginning to see a lot of Harleys on the road heading northbound. It was August 26th, my 37th birthday. I stopped in St Louis to tour the Gateway Arch and then had a fine dinner on the riverfront, where I wiped out a bucket of steaming boiled crawdads – mighty tasty. It was around 11pm when I arrived in Springfield, Illinois. It was a Saturday night and all the hotels were filled with bikers. I had no reservations anywhere so I had to try my luck. I successfully landed a room and tried to get some rest for the final push northward to Osh Kosh.

I decided it would be wise to avoid going through Chicago. I hit Hwy 55 North to Hwy 39 and had to take a secondary road to avoid traffic. Soon after I arrived in the great state of Wisconsin, I was filled with excitement and relief. I was almost there, just a few more hours. As the sun was setting I rode into Osh Kosh. The next morning my friend Deb Kleinfeld and I rode down to Milwaukee. It was the longest 80 miles on Earth. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning! This was it, the event I had ridden over 2400 miles to get to, and I was finally there. It seemed like a dream. I guess you could say I was in HOG heaven, literally and figuratively! The first thing we did was to take a tour of the Juneau Ave. plant. For the next three days we ate, slept, and drank all that was Harley and Milwaukee. My friend Deb flew back to California on Saturday, August 30th, so I spent the last day of the party solo. On Sunday I toured the Milwaukee Art Museum and then joined the leather-clad masses at Veterans Park for the big concert. What a party!

It had been an awesome few days in Milwaukee but it was time to move on eastward. I loaded up the bike and took a short ride to Manatowoc. I had reserved a spot on the SS Badger to make the four-hour crossing of Lake Michigan from Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI I couldn’t have asked for a better day. The weather was perfect, cool and slightly breezy. After another late evening I made an overnight stop in Clare, Michigan. The next day I cut across the heart of Michigan and arrived at my Aunt’s house in Clinton Township, not far from the town of Warren where I was born. My Aunt Lois was teaching 2nd grade at Ojibwa elementary school.

Prior to my trip we had talked, and she asked if I would participate in a social studies project with her students. The idea was for me to send a post card from each state that I rode through on the way to her school. Then upon my arrival in Michigan, I would talk to her class about the trip and my experiences. When I arrived at my aunt’s house on Thursday, we had dinner and discussed when I could come in to talk to the students. There was, however, a small change - the entire school had become very interested in the project, so I would now be speaking in front of all 700 students of Ojibwa. Luckily for me, my aunt had arranged to have me speak to two groups of 350 students at a time. At 1:30 on Friday afternoon I showed up at the school. The custodian helped me to wheel my Fatboy into the large gathering room where I would speak to the kids. The students came filing in, and after they settled down I began a fifteen-minute talk about my travels across the country. When I was done with my presentation, I took questions from the students. Their questions ranged from “How far did you ride?” to “Did you stop to go to the bathroom?” The enthusiasm of these kids was well worth the frayed nerves that typically accompany a public speaking engagement.

I managed to get in some quality time with a few other relatives while I visited the state where I was born. With the Milwaukee event behind me, I said goodbye to my aunt and Michigan as I set out across the Blue Water Bridge into Ontario, Canada. The next few stops would include Niagara Falls, the scenic Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, and a ride through the Berkshires of Massachusetts, my goal being the hamlet of Ayer, Mass. where my Uncle Rick and Aunt Joan live. During my visit to Ayer, I was introduced to my uncle’s friend Stuart, a musician with a serious Honda motorcycle collection. I rode my Harley over to his house to see his collection. He had 15 classic Hondas, all in excellent condition. We decided to take a short afternoon ride on the local backroads. He chose to ride his 1970 CB750F, a beautifully maintained machine. He guided us up to the top of Mt. Wachusett, the highest point in Massachusetts, where we could see Boston some 40 miles off to the east.

The odometer read 43,597.9. I had traveled a healthy 5,319.9 miles by the time I arrived in New Jersey. The second anniversary of September 11 had come and gone a couple of days ago. I managed to make it into Manhattan for the day to visit the World Trade Center site. It was a very moving event to see that the towers were actually gone. I thought about how I had visited them a couple years before they were attacked, but I was in a pinch for time and couldn’t wait the 45 minutes to go to the observation deck. I commented to my friend Kathleen, “no big deal they’ll still be there the next time I visit New York.”

The following morning I prepared to head west to York, Pennsylvania. It was the day after Hurricane Isabel passed through the eastern seaboard. It was a very intense ride on the interstate dealing with a consistently strong wind, which tried its best to push me off the highway. I managed to make it to York no worse for the wear. The town was teaming with bikers because York Bike night was happening that very weekend. Friday evening I enjoyed the festivities downtown - live music, beer, and good food. Saturday morning I rode over to Harley Davidson’s York vehicle operations plant to take the free tour. It was pretty awesome to ride my Fatboy to the very place where it had been made. Now both my bike and I had been back to our respective places of birth – a truly sentimental journey!

The plan for getting back to California was to travel south, make a stop in Washington, D.C. for a day, then go west to Front Royal, Virginia and ride Skyline Drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway make a stop in Florida, and then beeline it back home on I10. It was Monday, September 22nd, and the weather was overcast and drizzling when I arrived in Front Royal. The ride from Manassas had been a tad bit stressful between traffic and making a few wrong turns. I stopped at the visitors’ center to take a break and glean some info about the ride that awaited me on one of this nation’s most scenic byways. The news was bad. The remnants of Hurricane Isabel had passed through the area, wreaking havoc along the way and felling trees along the ridges on Skyline Drive – the road was closed. The pleasant man at the counter told me that I would have to drive south all the way down to Waynesboro where I could then pick up the starting point of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

After a much less scenic ride then I had hoped for, I arrived in town around 5pm. After getting situated in a nice motel room and taking a brief nap, I decided to get some dinner. It was just getting dark and the drizzle had stopped. I left the parking lot of the motel went down the block and made a left turn. I accelerated down the street at the same time I was straining my eyes to read the small font on a restaurant sign, and that’s when I heard the distinct sound of metal on metal and simultaneously felt the impact. In milliseconds I came up off the seat, my back arched backwards over the top of my backrest and my arms flailed in the air. I saw nothing but dark sky above and the flash of a shiny object fly over my head. I came to rest back on the seat, the bike still upright, and turned my head to see that a Ford Explorer II had just plowed into me. It was at this moment I knew that my dream had come to an abrupt end with the sound of crumpling steel and skidding tires. The driver got out to see if I was OK, but I was too upset to graciously accept his apologies. Within minutes I heard sirens and the next thing I knew the paramedics and police were on the scene. After asking me the routine barrage of questions to make sure my brain hadn’t been scrambled, they strapped a C-collar on me and lifted me on to a backboard. I was then whisked off to the nearest hospital emergency room, where I spent the next three hours being poked and prodded.

After receiving a diagnosis of soft tissue injury I was finally released and took a cab back to my motel. The officer who came to the accident scene, a fellow Harley rider, made sure my bike was taken to Shenandoah Harley of Waynesboro. The people at the dealer went out of their way to assist me and I was extremely grateful. The accident had rendered the bike non-operational, so I had to figure out how to get home. I was able to get a copy of the police report so I could find out the driver’s insurance information. Since it was a rear end collision and the driver was passing another car on the right when he hit me it was clearly his fault. I spent a few hours on the phone making arrangements through his insurance to get me and my bike back to California. I would fly and the bike would be shipped. When I looked at my bike for the last time in Virginia the odometer showed 44,422 miles in the two months on the road I had completed 6,115 miles of my epic journey. It was hard to believe it was over.

After arriving home I spent the next couple of weeks in bed with my heating pad and ice pack trying to quell the pain in my back. I had more X-rays taken of my back and I made countless visits to the chiropractor. Although, with time my back began to feel better my thoughts were consumed with fixing my bike and finishing the ride of my life.

To be continued...    more pics below


Sarting Mileage 38,236.7   

Boulder City, NV        
 
Grand Canyon
 
Window Rock,AZ        
 
Continental Divide, NM             
 
Amarillo, TX                 
 
Oklahoma                     
 
Kansas                                                                                
 
Missouri                                 

Lincoln's Tomb, IL     

Wisconsin                                

HD 100th Party                        

Ojibwa Elementary School, Clinton, MI 

York, PA                     

New York                    

Ending Mileage 44,422.5


Route Map

                          Bike Damage