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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.