Monday, October 30, 2017


9 DAYS, 5018 MILES

The garage door began to squeak as soon as I hit the button. Normally Harley and Chico would bark as soon as they hear that sound but we had put them in the kennel the night before. Walking outside I was immediately struck with the early warning of fall. I called inside to Jan to put on something heavy because it would be a chilly morning to ride. It was 0530hrs (5:30am) as I moved Jan’s bike outside. I had left mine outside hooked to the loaded trailer the night before. It was Saturday, dark, chilly and one month later in the year than the time we normally schedule for our bike vacations.
At 0630hrs (6:30am) we rolled out of the driveway. We had decided to wait the additional 30 minutes to allow less time riding in darkness. Our goal for the day was to make it to Bristol, Tennessee. Just for everyone’s information and so no one gets confused, the town of Bristol, TN and Bristol, VA are basically one in the same. They are only separated by the state line that runs directly down the center of Main Street.
Our route would take us to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and west to the city of Carlisle for our first gas stop. There we would pick up I-81 south. But first we would contact my brother Mark in Maryland who planned to join us for the trip. Our plan was to call him after we fueled our bikes and he would then leave his home in Maryland and take I-70 west until it intersects with I-81. The plan worked perfectly. We were only a few minutes apart in arriving at the planned intersection. Without turning off any of the bikes, we continued back onto I-81, said hello to one another over the CBs and settled in for the day’s ride.
We have a routine on the road that works well for us. We keep a tight schedule. We leave the hotels at 0600hrs. We run tank to tank, normally 200 miles, before stopping. We have breakfast after the first tank, unless free breakfast is available at the hotel. In that case we eat first and then grab a snack in the late afternoon. We keep gas stops as gas stops, which means we gas up, use the rest room, hydrate and push on. In the evening we eat a good full meal and get a good night’s sleep. It was important to stick to the schedule this year because we had a lot of miles to cover in limited time. Jan and I both had just 9 days to complete the trip. Normally we build into the schedule a “down Day” just to relax but we would have to go without it for this year. We would even have to push a little harder up and down the hi-ways then we would normally do.
For the first day our routine worked really well. We got to Bristol, TN well ahead of schedule with plenty of daylight left.  I decided to move things up a little and incorporate the riding of “The Snake” on the first day instead of waiting for the next. “The Snake” is hi-way 421 running from Bristol to Mountain City, TN. It is 33 miles long with 489 curves. A real challenge to ride, but a lot of fun. All three of us were anxious to take on the challenge.

We stopped short of HWY 421 to make camera adjustments and to allow Mark to try to tighten the shifter on his 2015 StreetGlide. After inspection of the shifter and tightening of the screw we decided to press on but to stop at the first Harley dealership that we encounter to get a better assessment the problem. Cameras set, anxiety high, we roll onto HWY 421 with Mark in the lead followed by Jan and me bringing up the rear pulling a trailer.

Mark got us into a good rhythm and we were really enjoying it. The turns required good leaning and shifting skills at just the right times. We wiggled our way through the first 10 miles. Then suddenly into a very tight uphill U turn that leaned heavily to the right then starts an immediate steep incline, Mark goes down on his bike. His bike choked when he was unable to get it in 1st gear. Jan was right behind him and saw Mark go down. She manage to stop her bike before hitting Mark but because of the angle of the curve and the weight of the bike she had to let her bike go down on the left highway peg and floorboard. Both bikes were down when I entered the curve behind Jan. I was able to stop my bike & trailer next to Jan with the front of my bike pointing towards the high outside of the curve. No one seemed to be hurt so we first insured that no traffic was coming and then immediately got Jan’s bike up and had her straddle it holding the front brake until her nerves settled.

Mark and I then got his bike up, got it started, and he was able to proceed to the top of the hill. Jan drifted her bike back to a more level area, took a deep breath, started the bike, and gave it all it had to again maneuver the curve and reach the top of the hill. I was happy that no bike traffic was coming at the time. A car did come by when the bikes were down but they never stopped. They just looked and kept going. I was still in the curve and at a bad angle. I knew that my Harley would be screaming trying to pull that trailer up the steep incline from a dead start, so I drifted back to get the trailer straight, then hit it. I was right, the Harley screamed but we made it. We were all out of danger. Only minor damage was detected at the scene so we got back into the rhythm of the road and didn’t stop again until we got to the Country Store at the halfway point.
Shady Valley Country Store marks the halfway point of “The Snake”. Normally everyone stops there to get gas or something to eat or drink and of course to buy the “I Rode The Snake” patch. We did the same except we also wanted to take the time to check the bikes out to make sure they were okay. Jan’s bike was fine. Mark’s StreetGlide had sustained a little damage to the underside of the right saddlebag extension that he had just added a few weeks earlier. A closer look also revealed that his right highway peg had actually pushed into his right side lower fairing causing it to crack. We took time to make a few more adjustments to the bikes then rolled out of Shady Valley to finish “The Snake”.
We enjoyed the rest of “The Snake” and recommend it to all those who love riding as much as we do. Sports bike riders would surely enjoy it but it would be an adrenaline rush for anyone. Darkness caught us as we neared the end of HWY 421. It was my job now to get us out of the Tennessee mountains in the dark and back West for a good starting point in the morning. Many of the mountain roads in Tennessee look alike especially at night. Jan swore that I was taking them back through “The Snake” in the dark, but I wasn’t. I was working our way through the mountains to the town of Elizabethton, TN., so that we would be near a major highway for our morning start. It was 2100hrs (9:00pm) when we checked in the hotel. It had been a full day. We had ridden 585 miles, survived an accident and rode “The Snake”.
Day 2 we are up and rolling on time. Our objective was to reach Memphis and spend a little time with old friends before calling it a night. As usual we ran the first tank out and stopped for breakfast at a Waffle House. Rolling to our second stop near Gordonsville, TN., we were coming off I-40 when Mark pulls up near me and yells that he has no clutch. I continued to the service area and looked back to see Jan and Mark pushing his bike. We got the bike to the service area and determined that there was nothing that we could do. We would have to contact a Harley Dealership and we knew that would be a problem because it was Sunday. Mark pulled up the nearest dealerships on his GPS screen and began a series of calls to reach a dealership that could help. None had enough technicians on hand to send a vehicle. The closest dealership was 40 miles away.  AMA to the rescue. I’m a lifetime member of the AMA and they have been a blessing to me more than once over my years of riding. This was no exception. Although we got off to a bumpy start with the apparently new dispatcher on duty, things were quickly rectified by an AMA supervisor who called back and stated that they would have someone there within the hour. Nothing left to do but wait. We discussed our situation and Mark decided that he would end his vacation at this point and return to Maryland once his bike was repaired. They wouldn’t be able to repair his bike until Tuesday and he didn’t want to hold us up because he knew we had limited time. We said our goodbyes in Gordonsville, TN and Jan & I rolled out heading to Memphis assured that AMA would take care of Mark.
1700hrs (5:00pm) we arrive in Memphis and I reached out to “Nocturnal”, a member of the Memphis Buffalo Soldiers to provide me with a new number for my old friend “Yogi Bear”. Without hesitation “Nocturnal” put me in touch with my old friend and former President of the Memphis Buffalo Soldiers. Then within minutes “Nocturnal” without being asked pulled up to the position where Jan and I had just gassed our bikes. All he wanted to do was to help if he could. You’ve got to respect people like that. I called “Yogi Bear” and we all agreed to meet for dinner. Seeing “Yogi Bear” & “Nocturnal” brought back pleasant memories of the good times we had years ago when I was with the “Soldiers”. We gathered at a restaurant in Memphis and were joined by one of “Nocturnal’s” beautiful daughters who was home from college because of the threatening hurricane on the east coast. It was a good evening for Jan & me discussing old times with our friends. Years ago “Yogi Bear” and the Memphis Buffalo Soldiers had sponsored an event for Jan when she was riding across country raising money for her organization, Divas For A Cure.

We remembered those times and laughed about the fun that we shared. As evening was coming to an end we said our goodbyes and thanked everyone for their kindness. Then “Yogi” led us to a hotel close to I-55 where we would start our next day.

We checked in with Mark to see how he was doing. He was comfortable in a hotel and the Harley dealership hoped to work on his bike first thing Tuesday morning. We had covered 537 miles and visited with old friends. It was a good day and now it was time to rest.
Sticking to schedule we awoke ready to pull out at 0600hrs (6:00am). We loaded the bikes and decided to eat breakfast at the hotel while we waited for daylight to break. It was Monday and our plan for the day was to visit “The Whitney Plantation” in Jan’s home state of Louisiana. It was on our “Must Do List”. For some reason during my planning I thought that the plantation was near Shreveport, and that we would have a short day’s ride, but a quick call to the plantation office proved my planning wrong.

The Whitney Plantation was closer to New Orleans and the last tour begins at 3pm. To make matters worst it was closed on Tuesday so we had to get there today. I explained to Jan that we would have to step it up to get there in time for the last tour. She locked in behind me and we pushed hard down I-55 south to New Orleans.
Crossing over bridges, bayous and land that was familiar to Jan we rode the left lane as far as we could then turning onto some country roads and finally onto HWY 18 and arrived in Wallace, Louisiana to learn The Story Of Slavery, told from the slave’s point of view on The Whitney Plantation. We arrived 30 minutes prior to the last tour of the day. We parked our bikes in the dirt and gravel parking lot as close as we could to the buildings and walked inside anxious to learn more about our history.
The learning begins as soon as you walk inside the door. The walls are covered with more information than you can consume in the limited time that we had or even if we had additional hours. The museum will keep you busy until its time for your tour and there are plenty of books to purchase or to browse through while you wait.

Our guide, Ali, was very knowledgeable and made the tour very interesting. The tour lasted much longer than expected but the sights of the old slave quarters, the holding cells, the swamps, the old church and the “Big House” made all the knowledge that we’ve learned over the years come to life. Jan and I both thoroughly enjoyed the tour and took a lot of pictures.
Because the tour lasted so long we decided to find a hotel in the local area and get a fresh start in the morning. We had completed a little over 400 miles and checked off another item on our “Must Do List”. It was a very good day but tomorrow will be a real challenge.

Before going to bed we checked in with my best friend Herb “KingWing” Dorsey to give him an update on where we were. He usually travels with us but when he doesn’t, he still monitors our every move. He had been in touch with my brother Mark and found out that an additional technician had come in on Monday so the Harley dealership was able to fix Marks bike and get him on the road a day early. That made us all sleep a little better.
It was Tuesday, our 4th day on the road and we had a lot of ground to cover. My goal for the day was to see my new grandson who was just born a few days earlier. The challenge was to get there before dark, the obstacle was 1000 miles of paved road.

We were up early and rode into daylight knowing that it would be a long day. Jan very seldom reads a map or uses her GPS when she is traveling with me. Most of the time she just follows my tail lights. So as we travelled up I-49 I knew that she wasn’t really paying attention to the signs. We were really pushing it hard and were only a few miles from Natchitoches, the Louisiana town where Jan was raised, when I called her on the CB and asked her if she wanted to stop in her old hometown. She asked if we were going anywhere close to it and when I told her that we had to go right by Natchitoches she quickly asked if we could stop for a few minutes.

As we approached the exit I waved her ahead to take the lead. She then realized exactly where she was and had no difficulty in locating the home where she was raised. Tears filled her eyes as we stopped the bikes and she concentrated for a few minutes on the house and the surrounding area. She walked to the door, knocked and explained to the elderly lady that answered who she was. She asked if it was okay to take pictures of the old homestead. The whole experience only took a few minutes but it brought back a lifetime of memories for Jan. The current occupants stood in the doorway and waived at us as we departed. We slowly rolled out of town but stopped to take one last photo before maneuvering our bikes back onto I-49 and heading for Texas.
Jan kept quiet for hours as we continued to rack up the miles. I guess she was caught up in a thousand thoughts of her childhood in Louisiana.  We stopped and had a quick bunch and Jan explained to me some of the things that she remembered about her old home. We had already covered over 500 miles, much of which Jan didn’t remember because she was so deep in thought about her childhood.

We were keeping the needle between 80 and 85 whenever traffic and road conditions allowed. By 1700hrs ( 5:00pm) that afternoon we were gassing the bikes in Wichita Falls, TX. We had covered a little over 700 miles. The bikes were running great and we still had sun light and the hope of getting to our destination before dark. Only flat country roads with occasional curves and the sight of hundreds of rocking horses by Texas oil wells kept us alert as we pushed northwest from Wichita Falls. We called ahead to let my son, Kevin know that we expected to be there NLT sundown. We passed little towns with a single sign and only a hand full of homes. We passed ranches that had family names made out of iron and welded to large gates but no sign of a home anywhere in sight, just lonely dirt roads leading off to more open spaces. As the miles mounted Jan fell further and further back from her normal position of being one bike length behind me.

It was her way of letting me know that she was tired. We had been in the saddle for over 12 hours and still had at least three hours to go. I refused to acknowledge her signal and continued to make the best use of the open road and extremely limited traffic. Jan finally got my signal that I wasn’t going to slow down and that I was determined to get to my son’s home before dark. So I look in my rear view mirror and I see Jan rolling forward at a high rate of speed and I smile to myself as she locks into position as if to say “Okay let’s do this”. As the sun set we rolled into the town of Pampa, Texas, 60 miles northeast of Amarillo.

Within minutes Kevin was at the hotel to pick us up and drive us to his home. My grand-daughter’s husband met us in the yard holding my first great-great grandson, Devin. It had been over a year since I last saw him. Inside the rest of the family waited; my daughter in law, Marcie, and my two grand-children, Thomas and Tiani, mother to Devin.
We all shared hugs and kisses but my mind was set on seeing the newest member of our family, my grandson, Seth Berrett Costley, born less than 2 weeks before our arrival. It brought a wonderful completion to our day. We had stayed in our saddles for over 15 hours, covered 1047 miles without incident, got to see family members who we see far too infrequently and got to hold the newest member of the Costley Clan. It was a long day, but a good day.

When we got back to the hotel we called my brother Mark and were glad to hear that he had made it back to Maryland safely.  All we needed now was some well-deserved rest.
Wednesday came far too soon but we accepted it knowing that it would be a shorter day. We took our time eating breakfast at the hotel, then called Kevin and waited for him, Marcie and little Seth Barrett to stop by so that we could see them before leaving. We were only able to spend a short time together but it was well worth the long trip. After goodbyes and watching them drive out of the parking lot, we checked the bikes and prepared to saddle up for our next destination, Austin, Texas.

We both felt good in knowing that we could get there in what most people consider a normal day’s ride. I have wonderful friends in Austin that I’ve known since we were stationed together in Rota, Spain in the early 80s. The Carter Family is loved by the Costleys but we haven’t been able to see each other in years. I wanted so much to see them and have them meet Jan. I especially wanted Jan to meet their beautiful daughter Tiffany who I am proud to say is my god-daughter. But when I called them I learned that they would be out of town. Deeply disappointed, we would have to add them to our “Must see later” list. But that didn’t change our plans for going to Austin.

Jan and I both have another very dear friend in Austin who had moved there from Maryland not too long ago. AJ “Suga Soldier” Coffee is known and loved by many in the motorcycle community and has been our friend for years. She knew we were coming and was anxious to spend time with us once again.

The ride to Austin was without incident except for the inability at one point to find gas in any of the small towns that we passed through. I remember Jan calling me and asking how much gas I had. My needle was already on “E” and the warning light was on too. She was not in much better shape. We passed a sign saying that the next town was 32 miles away. We both checked our odometer buttons at about the same time. My reading showed that I had enough gas to cover 34 miles. I had two miles to spare, Jan had a few miles more so we slowed down a little but kept it steady. We rolled into the town of Aspermont, TX at 1140hrs. The little station had only two old gas pumps but at least they had gas. When I filled my 6 gallon tank it took 5.83 gallons….not much to spare. We laughed, hydrated, and pushed on.
By early evening we had reached Austin, contacted “AJ” and was waiting for her not far from her home. Its always fun when we are together. “AJ” fixed dinner and put us up for the night. It was the first time in days that we had an opportunity to take it down early and it was needed. After dinner and showers, Jan and AJ stayed up and talked as they normally do…..I simply went to bed and thought about the rest of the trip. Today was easy….476 miles.
Thursday, our 6th day out, destination: Mobile, Alabama. Everyone was up early, the trailer was packed and “AJ” walked us outside to say goodbye. It was still dark when we rolled out of her gated community, picked up route 290 East and headed toward Houston. We had made our turn and were now headed back East.  It would be a 600 plus day but it was mostly Interstate Highway so we would be able to make excellent time.
The sun was directly in our eyes as we rolled through Houston. Every place we looked we saw the signs of receding water and wet furniture lining the streets. It was sad to think of all the people that had suffered, been displaced and were now living in state shelters. We both wanted to stop, roll up our sleeves and help in any way that we could but as we looked around we didn’t see many people, just lonely streets filled with stacks of discarded personal belongings that used to mean so much to so many. We pushed through thankful that one of Jan’s closest friends, Pam and her husband Rufus had weathered the Houston storm without much damage. Once again we would have to go without seeing friends. Time just wouldn’t allow it.
Out of Texas, through Louisiana and nearly out of Mississippi we were burning up I-10. By early evening we decided to shut it down on the east side of Gulfport, MS. We stayed at the Hampton Inn. The receptionist gave us a nice suite and a big discount when she found out that I was retired military. She had two children currently serving in the military and couldn’t thank me enough for my service.
As I returned to the bikes, Jan was already involved in conversation with an individual who was admiring our bikes. He was there delivering pizza and as we talked I noticed the Vietnam cap that he was wearing. He was a Vet and a member of the Mississippi Combat Vets Association. He was also a rider. His name coincidentally was also “AJ”. Not to be out done, I pulled out my Vietnam cap from our trailer and that’s when Jan took a picture of both of us together.

We really didn’t get to take advantage of all of the suite’s niceties, just a hot shower and the bed and we were done for the night. But we certainly appreciated the gesture.

Friday’s schedule would take us to Augusta, Ga. We had three more things to check off our list before reaching home; Meeting with my old friend “Dragon 6” and his lovely wife, Lichia in Augusta, Catching up with my other close friend “Ice” from Huntsville and riding the “Tail Of The Dragon”.

We had breakfast at the hotel in Gulfport then immediately headed northeast to Augusta, Ga. “Ice” and I had spoken before I left Jersey. He wanted to ride a part of our journey with us. It had been years since we rode together so this would be a special treat for me. When I was National President of the National Association of Buffalo Soldiers & Troopers MC, “Ice” was the President of the Huntsville, Alabama Buffalo Soldiers. He and his beautiful wife Anita always opened their home to me as I travelled through Huntsville and further south visiting chapters.

It became my regular stop over point and I could never thank them enough for their hospitality and friendship. We had agreed to ride the “Tail of the Dragon” together. He was going to hook up with his brother-in-law Marion aka “Junior” in Atlanta and the two of them were going to meet us at Deals Gap on Saturday.

We had a day’s ride ahead of us but with our early start we expected to get there by late afternoon. We ran through three tanks and at 1630hrs (4:30pm) we were on Augusta HWY, in Dearing, Ga. A quick call was made to “Dragon 6” and within minutes Lichia was there to greet us and guide us to their home.  “Dragon” would be delayed on business so while Lichia and Jan got acquainted with one another I changed clothes, asked if I could use the garden hose and started to work on the bikes. They hadn’t been cleaned since we left Jersey.
The four of us shared a wonderful evening of good food and conversation. We plan to see a lot of each other in the near future as they and others become a part of our United States Black Cavalry Family.
Before going to bed another call was made to “Ice” to finalize our plans for tomorrow. He was already in Atlanta and anxious to meet with us before noon at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort in North Carolina.
“Dragon 6” and Lichia insured that we were comfortable and we ended our day thankful for having them as our friends. We had racked up another 550 miles.
We awoke Saturday morning to the smell of breakfast. Lichia was in the kitchen cooking and “Dragon” was setting the table. We got our things together, enjoyed breakfast with our hosts and loaded the bikes. Daylight had arrived as we started the bikes. We said our goodbyes in the driveway and “Dragon 6” led us to the main highway to get us on our way to Deals Gap to tame “The Dragon”.

We arrived at Deals Gap much later than expected, slowed by some of those mountain roads that made us think that we were already on “The Tail of The Dragon”.  It was crowded with bikers on all types of machines when we arrived at the resort. The first order of business was to find “Ice”. It took all of about 10 minutes before I heard his familiar voice call out to me. It was great seeing him after so long. After meeting his brother-in-law, “Junior” we sat and talked for a while and grabbed a bite to eat while we discussed old times. Picture taking, bike gazing and people watching all took place before we decided to take on the challenge.

We waited for other bikes to get ahead of us, then with “Ice” leading we rolled up the hill away from the resort and onto “The Tail of The Dragon”.  “Ice” picked up a little speed, then followed by “Junior”, Jan and me we evolved into a nice rhythm as one after the other fell into and out of each curve in unison as if we were train cars being pulled by an engine. We rolled through the 11 miles, 318 curves enjoying every inch of the “The Dragon” and stepping up to the challenge that it presented. At the end, we all stopped, laughed and exhaled with excitement as we congratulated each other for taming “The Dragon”.
It was time to move on. “Ice” and “Junior” decided to go back on “The Dragon” to take pictures from one of the overview sights. After saying our goodbyes, Jan and I pressed on. We had to make it to Bristol, TN / Bristol, Virginia by sundown to stay on schedule. We had no time to spare. We both had to be home tomorrow and at work on Monday. We ended our day early in Bristol having a nice meal at Shoneys and staying at the Travel Inn, the worst hotel that we had experienced during this entire trip. Another 400 miles completed and two   more check offs on our “must do” list. We went to bed knowing that if all goes well we would be home tomorrow.
My bike had been making a funny internal noise for days. The same kind of sound that you get when to take off in the wrong gear. I wasn’t very concerned at first but now it was becoming more pronounced. I didn’t mention it to Jan because I didn’t want her to start worrying about it and although it was becoming louder the bike still seemed to be running okay especially in the higher gears. It was Sunday morning, our last day on the road and we had to make it home so I decided to press on and keep my fingers crossed.

We stuck to our schedule and in the minutes before daybreak we gassed our bikes at the service station next to the hotel and rolled out onto I-81 heading north. It was 0700hrs (7:00am) and we wanted to be home before dark. The Sunday morning traffic was light as we pushed the bikes through the rolling hills of western Virginia. The day was uneventful and by 1430hrs (2:30pm) with a few rain drops hitting the windshield we pulled into Love’s service station in Carlisle, Pa. It was the only rain we had seen in 9 days and it was so limited that you could actually count the drops on the shield.

Bikes gassed, restroom break completed and a small drink to quench our thirst, we readied ourselves for the final leg of our trip. We were less than 200 miles from home. At 1500hrs (3:00pm) we were passing through the toll booth and entering the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It’s a road that we know well. So without hesitation we run through the numbers, lock in at 85 and let the bikes do the work. We crossed the bridge into New Jersey and at 1730hrs (5:30pm) we were pulling in our driveway. We had covered 581 miles since 0700hrs (7:00am) and were home safely.
Checking my bike’s odometer, it registered 5018 miles for the entire trip. Not bad for 9 days on the road.
Unfortunately we had no time to relax after we arrived home. Both Jan & I had to go to work the following morning. So while I unloaded the bikes and trailer, Jan sent messages out to family and friends that we were home safely. We got a quick bite to eat, showered and hit the bed. We were home….but Harley & Chico would have to spend one more night at the kennel.

Sunday, January 12, 2014



Detailed Version

"This red Cushman is just like the one we road as teenagers!"
The 2013 summer began with me entering my 55th year as a biker.  I remember vividly the very first ride that I had. One summer my oldest brother Ike had somehow managed to save enough money to buy an old Cushman step through scooter from one of our cousins. It was hand painted black, wasn't very pretty at all but it ran great and it provided us with a hell of a lot of fun.  It was weeks before Ike would allow me to ride the scooter alone but eventually he did teach me how to ride and from that very day, many years before I was legally licensed to ride, I knew that I would someday have a bike of my own to enjoy the experience of riding.  I have owned many bikes since that old black Cushman that I first rode in the early fifties, including the six that my wife, Sunny and I currently own today. My desire to own and to ride hasn't decreased one iota from what it was during those earlier days.  However today I must confess that at the end of a long day in the saddle my body quickly reminds me that I am now over 70 years old and not the teenager that I was in the fifties.

Since retiring from the military in the early 90s I've made it a point to plan a summer trip each year. The planning always begins in January with the selection of a destination. Then the next few months are spent determining   routes, points of interests, which family members to visit along the way, lodging and always, which historical sites to see. All planning of course is impacted by the amount of time I am allotted by my employer for vacation.  Without a doubt I've found that one of the most important things I consider when planning a long trip is who, if anyone, will be traveling with me.

In the many trips that I've made, I've traveled with as many as twenty other riders (far too many) and with as few as only one. On many occasions I traveled alone. Typically I begin in January asking about ten riders to join me for the year's summer ride. By the time July or August rolls around that number has usually dwindled to a more manageable five or six. This year's ride dwindled to just me plus three. The great thing about that was that I was already very familiar with the three remaining riders; my best friend Herb "KingWing" Dorsey would be my "tail gunner." I love this brother to death and trust him with my life. We have spent countless times together on the road. Herb is 82 and bought his first bike in 1949. He is a member of four different motorcycle organizations and continues to ride today as much and as hard as he did in the 60s and 70s. I couldn't begin to tell you the number of trips that he and I have made together over the past 23 years. My brother Mark Costley will ride in the number three spot. Mark is an experienced rider and has joined me on some of the rides in the past. He is the only one of my eight brothers that is still riding. This trip will test his beautiful 007 Road King. Mark and I normally meet at Americade each year. It will be fun spending a little extra time with him this year. 

The number two spot will be held by my wife, Sunny "The Diva". Sunny is also an experienced rider and has ridden across country at least three times. Additionally she has accompanied me on many trips and has ventured on her own to as far away as Texas just to visit friends.

Part of this trip is to have Sunny meet her goal of riding in all 48 states of the Continental United States.  Visiting Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota will leave Sunny with only one State, Maine,  to complete her goal. She is very anxious to make this trip and to make it on her first big touring bike, her 2008 Harley Ultra Classic that she recently purchased. This will be a family affair.

Our destination was the Black Hills of South Dakota to visit one of America's most famous monuments, Mount Rushmore.  Along the way we planned to visit the Badlands, Sturgis, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Custer State Park and the Monument dedicated to the great Native American, Crazy Horse.  The trip was planned for 9 days; 3 days out, 3 days touring, and 3 days back. Estimated mileage 4500.

One week from departure" KingWing" and I start making daily checks of the weather across the country. Everything looks good except for a storm forming in the south and expected to travel up the east coast around the date of our departure. We would watch it closely and determine later in the week if departure times needed to change. Two days from departure Mark calls and says that he is riding up from Maryland a day early so that he can be rested for the first day of the trip. He arrives Sunday afternoon. Herb and I confer about the weather and decide that we will push the departure date up one day to avoid the wet weather that was now definitely arriving in the Jersey area on Tuesday. Like most bikers, we don't mind so much getting caught in the rain, it adds to the adventure...but leaving home in the rain is another story. We spent Sunday cleaning the bikes, packing our bags, and going over our trip plan to insure that we had everything that we needed for the next 9 days on the road.  Then finally we got some rest.

Sunday night seemed to pass quickly and before we could get the amount of quality rest that we had hoped for, the alarm on my clock and on Sunny's phone were both sounding.  Mark was already up and moving around. I guess that we were all a little anxious. We contacted Herb and confirmed our meeting time at the local Wawa in Pemberton. Bikes all loaded and wiped clean, "Harley" & "Chico", our two  spoiled dogs,  dropped off at the kennel, house walk through completed, mental check completed, it's 12 noon and Sunny, Mark and I are rolling out  of the driveway to meet Herb, gas up the bikes, get a cup of coffee and discuss the plan of the day. Destination....Columbus, Ohio.....500 miles before dark.

1:00pm we rolled out of the service station, took Woodlane Road to route 206 north. purposely cut through the town of Columbus, NJ  so that we could say that we rode from Columbus to Columbus on the first day, made a left onto route 130 south and in less than a quarter of a mile we were going up the ramp to pick up the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  EZ Passes displayed, we passed through our 1st toll, locked into a tight formation and headed West. The Journey had truly begun.

I have a few simple rules when riding with a group on long trips; Weather permitting, we start each day by leaving the hotel at 6am; we end the day by watching the sun set. We don't eat breakfast until we have burned the first tank of gas and we always gas our bikes before we find a hotel for the night.  Finally, we don't ride at night in unfamiliar areas unless absolutely necessary. We would follow these rules for the majority of the trip.

The two big Ultra Classics, a beautiful Road King, and Herb's chromed out GoldWing ran through the first 150 miles flawlessly.  At our first stop near Hershey, Pa, we grabbed a quick lunch, gassed up the bikes, drank some Gatorade and hit the road.....but not before I realized that I was missing the gas cap on my Ultra. I had left it on top of the gas tank at the WaWa service station where we had met 150 miles back in Jersey. It would be nearly 2000 miles before I would finally get another one.  Staying on the PA Turnpike we pushed ahead toward Ohio.  We exited the Turnpike at the New Stanton exit and picked up I-70 west toward Wheeling, WV.  380 miles now under our belts, we rode with the sun setting in front of us.  We will not make Columbus before darkness so we rode until the light of the sun disappeared on the horizon.  We stopped in Cambridge, Ohio, 430 miles from home, 70 miles short our destination but happy that we had left a day early because now it was raining in Jersey.

Interstate highways would be our home for the next day. We departed the Southgate Hotel in Cambridge at 6:00am. In short time we were in Columbus and in the middle of morning rush hour traffic. We worked our way over to the left lanes and as traffic thinned we accelerated toward Springfield, OH.  Stomachs full from breakfast and tanks full of gas we would make today a full day of riding.  Leaving Springfield we passed through Indianapolis, Indiana and pick up I-74 west. With quick gas stops in Brownsburg and Rapids City, Illinois we pushed on to I -80 west and into the state of Iowa.  Iowa City would be our destination for the day. Stopping at sunset we had completed a 650 mile day. We were in middle America and enjoying the open spaces. We all slept well that night.

It was now Wednesday, our 3rd day on the road. We were ahead of schedule so found no need to rush but we would stick to our plan. We left the Clarion Hotel in Iowa City on time. The weather turned a little chilly so we all put on our leather and headed I- 80 west toward Omaha, Nebraska. Passing through Des Moines, we stop in Van Meter, IA for gas and breakfast. On the road again we near Omaha and take 680 to I-29 north toward Sioux City. The weather became misty and then light rain started to fall as we neared the mid way point between Omaha and Sioux City.  Just south of Sioux City we veered left onto I-129, crossed over into Nebraska and exited onto US Route 20. I had already informed everyone that once we got to Nebraska we were going to give up the Interstates and travel the old roads once used by ranchers and cowboys to herd their cattle to market. US Route 20 was one of those roads. It was open country, beautiful scenery, lonely roads and little towns of just a few buildings stretched miles and miles apart. It was perfect....except for the rain. I refused to stop to put on rain gear. It wasn't hard rain. It was more like nuisance rain and the leather gear was holding up well. Our plan was to make it to Valentine, Nebraska by the end of the day but as the rain worsened we knew that our plans would have to change. We kept riding and enjoying the sights in spite of the rain until we reached a small area called Orchard, not far from where route 20 intersected 275. The rain was now pouring and the shoulders of the road were too soft for us to pull over so we pressed on. In Orchard, through the heavy rain we saw a big sign reading "DETOUR BRIDGE OUT.”  We were about 20 miles from O'Neill and unfamiliar with the area so we toughed it out, followed the detour signs, took our time and made it safely to O'Neill.  It would be the only rain that we experienced during the whole trip....but it was enough.  Arriving in O'Neill tired from the tenseness of riding in heavy rain and being wet we decide to call it a day. We had completed 435 miles. Not bad considering most of it was done in the rain. Sunny was beat and immediately took a shower and hit the bed. Herb, Mark and I were more hungry than tired. We noticed a Dairy Queen across the street from the hotel and quickly headed in that direction. Two chili dogs and a banana split later we make our way back to the hotel and got directions to the nearest laundry mat. O'Neill is a small town whose laundry mat was a former bar in an old western hotel. The bar and stools were still there so Herb, Mark and I made ourselves comfortable talking about the day's ride as the clothes and leathers dried.

We cleaned our windshields from yesterday's rain and dirt, drank a cup of coffee and left the hotel on time. The weather was still misty but it soon burned off as the sun came up. Our next stop would be for gas and breakfast in Valentine about 115 miles away. Nebraska is known for all the corn that it produces and believe me we saw plenty of it on US route 20. The scenery continues to be spacious and beautiful. The bikes were running great and all of us were anxious to reach our destination by the end of the day. Leaving Valentine with our tanks full we continued on route 20 toward Chadron 140 miles down the road. Along the way I glanced into my right side mirror and noticed that Herb's headlight was out. I radioed him and informed him of the problem. We decided that we would check it out at our next stop. As we neared our exit to the town of Chadron we were supposed to pick up route 385 north and cross the border into South Dakota.  But instead I radioed everyone and told them that I wanted to take them somewhere special. A few years ago I had the pleasure of being the National President of the National Association of Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers Motorcycle Clubs. I am no longer a part of that organization. However, both Sunny and Herb are so I thought that they would enjoy visiting a fort from the 1800s where the 9th & 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers were stationed for over 18 years.

Fort Robinson is a gorgeous outpost just 28 miles southwest of Chadron. It is a very historical site that is opened to the public. It has a nice museum and the grounds are immaculate. The scenery surrounding the Fort is breathtaking.  It is well worth the visit if you are ever in the area. We spent a couple hours there and everyone enjoyed the experience. Leaving Fort Robinson we are still on schedule and only 108 miles from our final destination, Custer, South Dakota. Within 30 minutes we were making a left onto 385 north toward the town of Chadron. Riding down main street and seeing a couple of the old buildings brought back my memory of being there years ago. I pointed out to everyone the motel where I stayed on my last visit and told Herb that there was a Honda dealership in town where we could get his light checked.  Just as I mentioned the dealership it came into view and we all pulled in.  We found everyone there willing to help.  Some remembered when the "Soldiers" were there before. Herb explained his problem and in less than 5 minutes it was repaired.  His light bulb wasn't bad at all. The problem was that the starter button was not fully disengaging after use.

A little WD-40 fixed the problem on the spot. It was now after 2:00pm so we decided to have lunch before making our final 2 hour stretch to Custer.  Helen's Restaurant was within walking distance.  We filled up, walked slowly back to the bikes, thanked the Honda people again for their quick service, mounted up and headed north to South Dakota.  In less than 20 miles we crossed the border into South Dakota. In less than an hour and a half we exited the highway and entered the town of Custer, SD.  We gassed up at the Exxon station on our right as we turned onto Mt. Rushmore road. Directly across the street was the Rock Crest Lodge, our home for the next 4 days.  We had made it there safely, on schedule and with only minor problems.  We quickly checked in, off loaded the bikes, found a place to eat, posted pictures on Face book and went to bed thinking what tomorrow would bring.

The Lodge staff was great. Coffee was ready for our early start on Friday. We had a full day planned for Custer State Park starting with a tour of "Wildlife Loop."  Rolling through town after breakfast we were all excited about our chances of seeing American Bison up close and personal.  The largest herd in American roams the grounds of Custer State Park and we wanted to find them. We were welcomed warmly by the Rangers as we entered the Park.  They explained to us that the main herd was not anywhere near the road at this time but that we could see them grazing in the distance. Pulling away from the station we glanced to our left and lying in the grass was a herd of beautiful antelope.  

Continuing south on Wildlife Loop we enjoyed the slow ride and gorgeous scenery. It was easy to understand why this area was made a State Park.  Deer and antelope truly do play here and so do the Buffalo. It was as if we had the park all to ourselves as we topped a small hill and Mark caught a glimpse of the buffalo herd to our right. We stopped, took pictures and felt a little cheated because we couldn't get closer. Not long after that sighting we noticed that traffic ahead of us had stopped. It didn't take us long to see why.

The famous park "begging burros" were on the side of the road begging for food from every visitor.  Of course we stopped and Sunny found some snacks in her tour-pak to feed to the burros.

I took picture as Herb and Sunny held their hands out to allow the burros to feed and then spent some time just petting the friendly animals. As the burros slowly walked back to the field we mounted our bikes and continued around the Loop. At one point we stopped at a small rest area that was once the home of pioneers in the 1800s.

It was an interesting place sitting alone in the prairie with a small museum inside.  We spent about 30 minutes there talking with other bikers and relaxing before rolling out and finishing the Loop. Turning left on route 16 we traveled west to route 87, Needles Highway.  Needles Highway was on our list of routes to ride. "It is part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway rated as one of the top five Scenic Byways in all of the United States. Needles Highway curves and winds through 14 miles of rock tunnels, and magnificent rock formations called "Needles" one of the most prominent rock formations on the Highway is the Needles Eye, reaching 30 to 40 feet in the air with a 3 foot wide slit."

Needles Highway was labeled impossible when it was constructed in 1919. It took more than 150,000 pounds of dynamite and a lot of determination to construct the Highway.

It was absolutely gorgeous to ride. Breathtaking to say the least. About two thirds of Needles Highway completed, we pulled into Sylvan Lake for lunch. The lake was beautiful but the first thing that Sunny noticed was the mountain climbers on top of the magnificent rocks surrounding the lake. She thought that they were crazy, I wanted to be up there with them. Leaving Sylvan Lake we traveled less than 2 miles when we were pleasantly surprised by something that we had been searching for all day.

On the right side of the road just as we rounded a curve was the largest bull buffalo that I had ever seen. I radioed for everyone to look but we were past it before everyone realized it was there. We quickly found a place to park, grabbed our cameras and Herb and I ran back down the road toward the buffalo. We were able to get real close and got some great pictures. Sunny was even able to take some video. It was a great end to Needles Highway. The experience of riding Needles Highway would be memorable.  We wanted to turn around and ride it again but time wasn't on our side.  We had a lot more to see.

Completing Needles Highway, route 87 leads us back to route 16 for a couple miles then right onto route 244. After a few miles we began picking up glimpses of our next destination, Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore is said to be America's shrine to Democracy. It is awesome. You can't help but just stare at its magnitude.

All Americans, in my opinion, should try to visit this site. The sculptor of Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum stated "I did not and don't intend that (the Memorial) shall be just a damn big thing, a three -day tourist wonder.

A nation's memorial should, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, have a serenity, a nobility, and power that reflects the gods they have become.  Herb, Sunny, Mark and I certainly experienced the serenity, saw the nobility and felt the power of this magnificent sculpture.  We took our time soaking it all in and were still looking over our right shoulders for more glances as we departed the grounds.  It was a special experience and one that would not easily be forgotten.  From Mount Rushmore we pick up route 16 again heading back to town but not before making one more stop.  8 miles from Mount Rushmore stands the World's Largest Mountain Carving, Crazy Horse Memorial.

This memorial is still in progress and has been ongoing since 1948. When completed, the sculpture will be 563 feet high and 641 feet wide. The head of crazy horse is 87 feet high, 27 feet higher than the heads of the U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore.  On the site of this memorial is also the Indian Museum of North America and the Native American Educational and Cultural Center.  We explored the entire area enjoying all of the Native American artifacts and speaking with other visitors.

Sunny and I ventured outside where we found a magnificent bronze sculpture of 2 fighting stallions. It was so beautiful.

Leaving Crazy Horse Memorial we rode the five miles back to town thinking about all that we had experienced on our 1st day of touring South Dakota. Our day ended with dinner at the Family Restaurant and Ice cream at the Purple Pie Place.  Tomorrow would be the longest day of our entire trip.

It was already Saturday and a full day of riding was planned. So far we were on schedule with everything. We hoped today would be the same.  We had a lot planned; Rapid City, Sturgis, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and back to Custer, South Dakota all in a day.  An early start was required and we were off and running at 7:00am.  A back road trip to Rapid City was a real nice early morning ride. It was just 40 miles but we took our time enjoying the scenery and the rhythm of the road.  No one spoke on their CB, everyone just soaked in the experience.  In close formation we passed through Rapid City and pick up I-90 west to exit 55.  

Our destination, Black Hills Harley-Davidson.  The dealership was just opening as we pulled into the parking lot but venders outside were busy breaking down huge tents that had been set up to accommodate the large crowds that were there the week prior for the 2013 Sturgis Rally. Inside, Herb, Sunny and Mark hit the sale racks but I headed for the parts and service department. Finally after riding my Ultra over 2000 miles without a gas cap, I was handing out $20.13 for a new one. Refusing to leave the dealership empty handed, Sunny found a beautiful red leather jacket on sale. It matched her bike so she bought it.  Across the highway from the dealership we rode to a truck stop diner and settled in for a big breakfast. In an hour we are back on the bikes and heading west to Sturgis.  Riding into town we saw the big hillside sign, STURGIS.

We parked behind the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum, paid our $17.00 to get it and spend over an hour viewing the bikes and artifacts both upstairs and downstairs. Mark and Herb didn't realize that there was a lower floor so by the time Sunny and I finished browsing they were already outside sitting under a big shade tree. After a quick visit to the Sturgis Harley Dealership we stopped by the Hot Leathers store, purchased a few small items, mounted the bikes, slowly toured the empty town and headed back west toward Wyoming. Back on I-90 we exit at route 85 north and travelled to Belle Fourch, SD where we stopped for gas and Gatorade.  My brother Mark convinced me to keep drinking Gatorade to alleviate my problem of leg cramps. It worked for the entire trip. Leaving Belle Fourch we rode route 212 northwest and within minutes we were rolling past the sign WYOMING. 

We weren't expecting to come up on it so quickly so everyone made a U-turn in the middle of the road and went back for pictures. Pushing through Wyoming, route 212 leads us into Montana. We stopped at the border to take more pictures to prove that we had made it. Montana is truly "Big Sky Country." It's the 4th largest state and you can tell it when you are on a bike because the roads seem endless and the land mass is unmistakable.  We stopped in Broadus, MT for gas then picked up route 59 north 80 miles to Miles City. After Lunch we headed east on route 12, destination North Dakota Border, 100 miles away. Route 12 was a straight lonely road with little more than land to admire. We reached the border and once again pulled over to take pictures to prove our whereabouts.

While at the Montana, North Dakota Border I think we all realized that we would not make it back to Custer before dark. It would be our first time riding in the dark, at least on this trip and Custer was 230 away. We traveled route 12 to Bowman, ND before stopping for gas and picking up route 85 back to South Dakota. It was now 7:35pm and the sun had set. The next 198 miles would be in the darkness. We give each other a little more room between bikes and head due south.  There's very few lights along the way, just road, darkness and millions of bugs.  Reaching Belle Fourche at 9:30pm, we gas up, clean off our helmets and windshields, grab a cup of coffee, relax a minute and mount up.  We are still nearly 85 miles from Custer. Leaving Belle Fourche we take I-90 east to 385 south. Passing Rapid City we began to see familiar signs for Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial.  By 11:35pm we pulled into the Rock Crest Lodge parking lot. We had made it home safely but we were beat and extremely hungry.  We had been out for nearly 18 hours.  Everything in town was closed except for the service station across the street.  Sunny hit the shower while Herb, Mark and I raided the service station for anything that could be micro-waved. Pizza and hot dogs in hand and of course Mark's customary end of the day cold beer, we headed back to our rooms ending the longest day of our trip.

On Sunday morning we woke up with the sun shining on four of the dirtiest bikes that I have seen in a while. They were covered with millions of bugs from last night's experience of riding in the Dakota darkness.  Today was supposed to be a day of relaxing at the Lodge, checking out the bikes, packing clothes and preparing for our trip home.  By the time Sunny and I made our way to the office for coffee, Herb had already made arrangements with the Lodge staff to have a water hose, bucket and rags available for us to clean our bikes.  I think that we walked to breakfast that morning and upon our return to the Lodge we immediately started cleaning the bikes.  Sunny and I were busy cleaning our bikes when we were approached by a gentleman from Nebraska.  He and his family were there celebrating his mom's 84th birthday.  His dad and mom were married in Custer in the 50s.  His dad had passed a few years ago and his mom wanted to return to Custer to renew her memory of his dad. They asked Sunny if she would join them in the shaded area that they had selected to celebrate.

They needed someone to take pictures of the entire family.  Of course Sunny joined them and I was stuck with cleaning both bikes.  Everything done, we were set to relax for the rest of the day but I had a surprise for everyone.  Over the past few days I had purposely steered everyone away from a part of Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway that I felt was the most dramatic.  I called everyone together and explained to them that we were going to take a ride that they will remember forever.  I cautioned them about the extremely sharp curves, switchbacks, stone tunnels and pigtail bridges that drop and rise quickly.  The gorgeous scenery should be appreciated but don't take your eyes off the road for too long.  It would be 17 miles of road that engineers of the 30s once said could not be built.  I explained the important of gearing up or down and accelerating properly in some of the drastic turns to prevent stalling.  Everyone was excited.  Sunny was a little apprehensive but it only took a little bit of encouragement before she was ready for the challenge.  Kick stands up we rolled straight through town on route 16. We entered Custer State Park and exited still on route 16. Riding faster than we should, we passed our turnoff. Sunny quickly radioed that she thought she just saw the sign on the left. Mark turned around and back tracked to verify the sign.  Sunny was right.  We all U-turned and met with Mark in a matter of seconds.  We were all ready for the challenge of Iron Mountain Road. Damn this is fun! Iron Mountain Road was everything that everyone expected it to be.  The ride was thrilling and challenging, and the scenery was overwhelming.  The turns, curves, pigtail bridges and tunnels required all of the attention of an experienced biker.  It was fun with a touch of danger.  It deserves to be ridden more than once but we just didn't have the time. It was time for us to make our way back to the Lodge and prepare for tomorrow's departure East toward home.  We finished our day with dinner in town and another stop at the Purple Pie Place.

As usual we were up early on Monday morning checking the bikes, cleaning the windshields, loading the trailer and saddlebags and ensuring that we didn't leave anything behind in our rooms. We rode down to the office were Herb and Mark were already waiting for us. We had our morning cups of coffee, paid our bills, and quickly discussed our plan for the day and slowing rolled out of Custer heading north to Rapid City. Custer, SD had proven to be the ideal staging area for our plan of touring that part of the country. I radioed Herb to see if everything was clear in the rear. He gave us the go. We changed lanes, rolled back on the throttles, adjusted our positions, picked up route 16 and in less than 45 minutes we were passing Rapid City and on I-90 East. Leaving I-90 at exit 110 and picking up route 240, it was close to 9:00am and we were approaching the entrance to the last item on our bucket list, "The Badlands". We stopped at the Badlands entrance sign where we dismounted and took turns taking pictures of each other.  Sign pictures completed we eased up to the entrance booth, paid our $10:00 per bike and began to tour one of the most unusual places in the country.  "The Badlands."

I guess everyone has their own take on the badlands.  I found it to be a strange, eerie, and ghostly place, yet very beautiful and extremely interesting. It was like being on another planet with only a hand full of other humans to keep you company.  The "pull over" points along Badlands Loop gave us breathtaking views and plenty of room to walk around for great pictures... if you weren't afraid of the rattlesnakes.  But to ride the Badlands Loop on your bike is just a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

We all rode in silence just taking it all in and wishing that we had the time to spend the entire day there. We stopped at the Visitor's Center for breakfast and a few more pictures before exiting the Badlands at the Northeast Entrance. A few miles outside of the Northeast Entrance we pulled over to fill up our tanks at the Badlands Trading Post near Philip, SD.

While some looked around inside Sunny and I grabbed a cold drink and sat in the shade for over 30 minutes watching prairie dogs play on a mound of dirt near our bikes. All of the items on our touring list now completed, the only thing left to do was to head East. Getting the " go ahead" from Herb, we cranked up the three Harleys and the GoldWing, picked up I-90E, rolled back on the throttles and rode for another 350 miles before calling it a day and spending the night at the Americ Inn in Worthington, MN.

We rode all day Tuesday stopping only for gas and meals.  Everything went great until we rode into the vicinity of Chicago and immediately hit heavy traffic. We hoped that the traffic wouldn't be backed up too long but we were wrong. We were in the left lane and barely moving when my bike began to run hot.  There was a lot of construction in the area that left no shoulder on the left side for emergency stops  so we began to slowly move  through the traffic and work our way to the far right lane where there was more room to stop if we had to. My bike was still running hot but the right lane was moving just enough to keep it from shutting down.  Sunny has a Baker 1 Oil Cooler on her Ultra.  I'm not sure how effective it really is but she had no problem in the heavy traffic.  Mark's Road King was still running cool and of course Herb's reliable 1500 GoldWing just automatically kicked on the radiator fan and kept moving forward. Gradually traffic picked up and the bike cooled down but we were hot from sitting in the traffic so we exited the highway to gas up and get something cool to drink. We were in Hammond on the Illinois and Indiana border.  After a brief break we were ready to get back on the highway but without warning Mark's Road King was dead. We checked everything and still nothing.  Mark thought that maybe the Key FOB battery was bad.  I understand the security that the FOB provides but I guess I'm just old fashion, its just one of those items that I can do without on a bike. Luckily there was a drug store across the street where Mark was able to buy a new battery. Once installed the Road King roared to life and the problem was least for the moment. Rolling back onto the combined Interstates of 80/90 we rode another 2 hours and pulled into Elkhart, IN to spend the night. With the problems of very heavy traffic around Chicago and Mark's bike not wanting to respond, we were still able to cover close to 650 miles for the day. It was time for a good meal at the Elkhart Crackle Barrel and then some rest.

Wednesday we were back to our regular schedule. We were all up and ready at 6:00am, the bikes were gassed and at 6:28am we were rolling East. There was no reason to say anything to anyone. We all knew that we were going to ride hard all day to make it home before dark. We had approximately 750 miles to go. Herb did a CB check, cleared the rear and we rolled away from the service station on Cassopolis St and onto Interstate 80/90. In 2 hours we made our first gas stop in Genoa, OH., southeast of Toledo. We planned to "gas and go" all the way home except for a quick lunch. Back on the Ohio turnpike we pushed another 165 miles using I-80 into I-76 and stopping in New Springfield, OH, dead south of Youngstown. We were making good time. We eat a quick snack and were ready to roll in 30 minutes when Mark's Road King reared its problem again. Eventually Mark was able to get his bike started but for the rest of the trip, all 280 miles, he never turned off his bike again until he reached his home in Sykesville, MD. Rolling out of New Springfield we quickly crossed into Pennsylvania. Our next stop was in Bedford, PA. It was 2:00PM and we still had plenty of daylight. All of us were familiar with the PA Turnpike, it's curves, tunnels, and straight-aways so we were able to make excellent time without much concern. So locked into tight formation we rolled back on the throttles and let the big bikes work  like they are suppose to do. The next 20 miles passed quickly and before we realized it we were approaching the Breezewood/Baltimore sign and exit. I radioed everyone that we were taking this exit to accompany Mark home to Maryland so that he wouldn't have to ride alone, especially with the problems that he was having with his bike. Herb radioed back that he was going to remain on the PA Turnpike and go straight home. He missed his "Honey", his lovely wife Esther, and had called her at the last rest stop to tell that he would be home soon. He had 217 miles to go.

For the first time on this trip the group was going to split but we all understood why. With Sunny and I accompanying Mark we exited to the right, said our good- byes to Herb and picked up I-70E to Maryland.  The 107 miles to Sykesville was an easy ride. This is the part of the country where Mark, Herb and I grew up and we have always loved riding the beautiful rolling hills of western Maryland. Sunny had ridden this area with me several times before too and had always loved the scenery. By 4:00PM we pulled into a service station in Lisbon, Md. It was Mark's last time that he would have to gas his Road King while it was still running. He was less than 30 minutes from home. We all thought about Herb because we were only a few miles from where he grew up in New London, MD. We hoped that he was doing well riding alone down the PA Turnpike. We hugged Mark because this would be our last stop together on this trip. Back on I-70E it was only a few miles when Mark exited on route 32 heading to our childhood home of Sykesville. We all blew our horns and waived and before we knew it Mark was out of sight and Sunny and I were heading on I-70 toward Baltimore. Approaching 695, the beltway around Baltimore, bright tail lights suddenly brought us to a complete stop. Traffic is often heavy on the beltway around this time of the day and we sort of expected some delay but we could tell that this was more than just rush hour traffic. We hung with the cars until my bike once again began to run hot. I looked at Sunny and nodded and she knew exactly what I meant so she started clearing a way for us to move to the right shoulder so that we could keep the bikes moving and hopefully cool them down. We were able to reach the overpass and as we looked down on 695 we could see flashing police lights in the far distance. The merging I-70 traffic was barely moving so we stayed on the shoulder as far as we could then slowly worked our way into traffic and gradually moved over to the left lane. It was the only lane that was getting around the accident. It took a lot of time to get around the accident that was blocking the two middle lanes. But once passed the accident the beltway traffic opened up and so did Sunny and I. It was now past 5:00pm and we were about 140 miles from home. We had enough gas to just about make it so we pressed on still hoping to make it home before dark. Coming off the beltway we picked up I-95N and held down the left lane until we crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge and rode under the "Welcome To New Jersey" sign. Back on our own turf we felt comfortable and somewhat satisfied in knowing that we had just about made it.  Sunny followed me as we maneuvered through the curves and picked up I-295N. In less than an hour we were exiting 295 and onto route 38.  At 7:00pm we stopped in Mt. Holly and gassed up the bikes. 15 miles to go and the sun starting to set in our rear view mirrors we rode east on 38. 20 minutes later we pulled into our driveway, turned off the bikes, gave each other a big hug and recorded our mileage. We had covered 740 miles for the day in 13 hours and had made it home safely. We immediately contacted Herb and found that he too had run into rush hour traffic and had been held up outside of Philadelphia but arrived home safely about 30 minutes ahead of us.  The trip completed, we had ridden 4630 miles and completed everything on the "Bucket List" for this trip. It was a wonderful trip that was made great by sharing it with my wife Sunny, my brother Mark and my best friend Herb.

Pictures and videos of the entire trip can be found on the following sites. Please feel free to share these links with family and friends.


Conclusion:  After reading all of this some of you may ask if Mark ever found the cause of the problems that he was experiencing with his 2007 Road King. According to his Harley dealership in Frederick, Maryland, the culprit behind the sporadic starting failures was no more than an accumulation of dirt in the bike's starter and on the starter's contacts. The starter was pulled, disassembled, cleaned, reassembled, reinstalled and Mark hasn't had a problem with it since.

Sunny's 2008 Candy Red Sunglo Ultra Classic with ABS brakes, and progressive suspension made 37 gas stops on this trip costing her $504.02 in premium gas.  Her bike was the only one that experienced absolutely no problems on the trip.

TC's 2010 Flame Blue Pearl Ultra Classic with standard brakes, air suspension and Screaming Eagle air filter, pulling a Hannigan Aerodynamic  Sierra trailer also made 37 gas stops on this trip costing him $508.70 in premium gas. (Just $4.68 more than Sunny and I pulled the trailer the entire trip) The only problem I experienced was the bike running hot in heavy traffic.

Herb's 1997 Pearl Black GoldWing continued to rack up the miles. It made this trip without a hiccup except for the brief period without a headlight. Watching and riding with Herb you would never believe that he is 82 years old. He and I have covered tens of thousands of miles together and know each other's riding styles so well that we travel the highways and country roads in rhythmic cadence like we were still in the military. I'm always proud to see the expressions on the faces of so many people who are pleasantly surprised when they learn that Herb is 82 and still riding strong.

After posting vacation pictures on Facebook I received a lot of calls and comments from friends who were surprised to see me riding a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic. For years they have seen me touring only on my Honda GoldWing so naturally they wanted me to make a comparison.  Here's my opinion, not by any means an expert opinion, just the personal opinion of someone whose been riding since 1958 and who has owned a lot of different bikes.  I thoroughly enjoyed touring on my 2002 Goldwing.  It was extremely comfortable, handled like a sports bike, had plenty of power, pulled my trailer like it wasn't there and was more dependable than my car.  I had over 100,000 touring miles on my Wing when it was totaled in an oil slick accident on my way to Americade a couple years ago. In all of that travel I was never once left on the highway because of a maintenance problem with my Wing, not even a flat tire. So you can see why I loved it so much. My 2010 Harley-Davidson Ultra is a nice bike but of course different from my Wing. I didn't find it as comfortable to ride for long distances but that may have been for a couple reasons. First, I had just had shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff just three months prior to the trip. Shoulder surgery is painful so I really don't think that I would have been comfortable regardless of what I was riding. Cruise control really helped me cope with the pain because it allowed me to drop my right arm every half hour or so to allow it to rest. Secondly, I didn't find the Ultra's seat to be as comfortable as that of the Wing....but that may not be because of the seat. It may be because I am now 70 and have lost a great deal of my "natural cushion" from my butt. The Ultra performed very well pulling my trailer the entire way without any strain. I was disappointment but not surprised when it ran hot so quickly in heavy traffic. But I'm elated to know that the recent changes that Harley has made in their new Project Rushmore series incorporates radiators for liquid cooling.  That should practically eliminate the overheating.  What bothered me more than anything or I should say what I missed more than anything on my Ultra vs my Wing was the fact that I didn't have REVERSE. Pushing that Ultra around with the trailer attached and using these old legs proved to be a real chore especially in some of the areas that we visited on this tour. REVERSE is wonderful on big touring bikes whether you are pulling a trailer or not. I would love to see Harley have REVERSE as standard equipment on all of their Electra Glides.  I enjoy riding both of these bikes and I don't put one above the other. I simply accept the characteristics of each and make the adjustments as I ride. Most of today's bikes are very dependable so selection comes down to simply personal choice.  For me I wish that the Wing sounded like the Harley and I wish that the Harley handled like the Wing. Other than that I'll ride either one without complaining.  Right now I'm enjoying adding all of the personal choice accessories to the Ultra to identify it as mine.

It’s already January, five months after our summer trip out West. Planning will begin soon for our next one. Preliminary plans are for us to tour Maine and all of Nova Scotia.  Anyone up for a ride?

See you on the road,

"TC", Herb "KingWing", Mark, and "Sunny The Diva"