HARRISBURG, PA., AUG 8-SEPT. 1–When Bill Tull, owner of Susquehanna Valley Harley-Davidson in Harrisburg, announced the Sea to See the Sea Ride almost two years ago, I was not sure if I could block off the time for a 24-day cross country ride, but I am so glad I did!
Bill had made this ride solo more than 10 years ago in an attempt to clear his head after a heart-rending divorce. This time the ride would be much different. Ten years later, for his 60th birthday, he would lead the ride with eight friends and fellow H.O.G. members coast to coast, 9,130 miles, accompanied of his lovely bride of three years.
We began the ride on August 8 at Susquehanna Valley Harley-Davidson, with nine of us in a circle joined by 20-25 friends and family who had gathered to see us off. George Higgins, the vice president of the Harrisburg Black Sheep chapter, joined with us to say a blessing for the trip, but being a former quartet singer he began by leading us in singing “America the Beautiful.” With hugs and kisses and great excitement, we were off, riding out of the dealership to the sound of the old Smokey and the Bandit song: “Eastbound and down, loaded up and truck’n, a’we gonna do what they say can’t be done!”
The ride eastbound to Atlantic City, our first stop, was uneventful. We found a quaint little restaurant on the boardwalk for dinner and had our picture taken around one of the lifeguard boats at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. One of the ladies said, “Let’s line up the boots in the sand” when we were getting our feet wet in the Atlantic, and this became a theme to be repeated on the West Coast once we arrived.
As we rode across the country for the next 23 days we witnessed some of the best America has to offer —the St. Louis Arch and the Gateway to the West Museum, the climb up Pike’s Peak, crossing the Rockies and the Continental Divide, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and The Strip in Las Vegas, Glacier National Park, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Devil’s Tower and the Redwood National and State Parks, just to name a few of the many landmarks. We traveled the California coast on Route 1, saw the cliffs of the Oregon coast, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, followed the Columbia River Gorge and rode over the famous Bear Tooth Pass in Wyoming.
For me it was a trip of a lifetime. I vividly remember my first desire to travel the country when my third-grade teacher shared pictures of her summer travels. Her goal to visit all 50 states was etched deeply into my soul from that day forward. Not that I have completed the journey, but this ride would take a big bite out of the task.
This would be my virgin voyage cross-country on a motorcycle. Any fears for my first trip were fueled by a friend who warned me, saying, “Halfway into this trip you are going to get up in the morning and say I have to get back on that damn thing again?” But I did not find that to be the case at all. Yes, the schedule was tough, but I was on my 2011 CVO Ultra which purred like a lion and ate up the road. We averaged 375 miles per day — sometimes less, but on some days we covered 500 or 600 miles.
I actually enjoyed every day with no real struggles riding and would repeat the ride again—no question. To our benefit, we had the privilege of being led by an experienced and well-prepared ride leader. I found that Bill Tull is a true biker who seemed to have a sixth sense about rain. Several times he pulled off to take a 15-minute break to let the rain clouds pass by. When we resumed we only rode over wet roads. In 9,130 miles we traveled less than 250 miles through wet weather.
I was privileged to ride with a great group of people in our Harrisburg H.O.G. chapter. And I count myself privileged to ride an American icon—a Harley Davidson. On more than one occasion on this ride I was approached to have my picture taken with my bike, like the three young Mexican girls visiting the California coast who snuggled up so close to me for the picture that my face turned red. Bill Tull told me that if I died in that moment the mortician would have had to scrape the smile off my face. Good times.
Traveling the U.S.A., one thing I found to be so true is that you can read about it and see the pictures, but until you witness it yourself, the magnitude of the beauty of this country cannot be fully appreciated. Everyone on the ride commented on multiple occasions that everyone in America should take a cross-country trip either riding or driving. Each national park, from the heights of the Rockies to the depths of the Grand Canyon, from sea to shining sea, has its own majesty to behold. I praise the men who had the vision to set aside these beautiful lands for posterity.
One of the simplest, yet most profound, sights we witnessed on our trip was on a night ride to see Mount Rushmore. Manmade Mount Rushmore illuminated in the night was spectacular, but it was nothing compared to the beauty when we stopped in the darkness of a forest road to gaze upward. The brilliance of the Milky Way sky was full of the brightest stars I have ever seen. It seemed as if you could reach up and touch them. In the darkness of the night I heard one of our team members say, “You did a great job with this one, God.”
To top off the journey, on the way home we stopped at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee for the 110th Anniversary Celebration, then headed north to Michigan to pay a visit to Mackinac Island and cross over the spectacular Mackinac Bridge. All in all, over 24 days and 9,130 miles, nine riders on eight bikes took over 3,700 photos and videos and took home a lifetime of memories.