1976 was our country's bicentennial so I decided to attend the summer long celebration in Washington D.C. I quit my job, put together a minimalist pack, and headed out of Omaha on my Triumph.
I was going through Cincinnati when I saw a British motorcycle shop. I decided to stop in and get some chain lube. While there, I got to talking with some of the guys who were hanging around. It turned out they were planning to make a trip to Bowling Green, KY the next morning to attend the National Motorcycle Drags. Their small group of British bikes was going to make the trip together with a large Cincinnati Harley group. They invited me to join them and I accepted.
All together there were about 40 bikes. The Triumphs, BSAs, and Nortons
were all clean, well-maintained performance bikes. The Harley group
included everything from high dollar choppers to oil leaking rat-bikes.
They also had an old school bus that was driven by the wife of one of
the Harley riders. It brought up the rear of the convoy and was there to
deal with breakdowns.
These guys had obviously done this sort of thing before. I've seen military convoys that weren't this organized. Everyone kicked in $40 before leaving to cover tolls and gas. Any money left over was earmarked for beer when we got to Bowling Green.
You can imagine the chaos that would ensue if 40 bikes each had to stop at a toll booth and fish for change. The leader of the Harley group went through the toll booth first, counted the bikes through with the toll taker, and then paid all the tolls at one time. It was a brilliant solution.
When we stopped for gas a similar approach was used. You couldn't have each of 40 bikes put in 1 or 2 gallons of gas, go inside, pay, and then pull out. The gas station would be jammed up for an hour. Instead, all the bikes lined up at one pump, filled up, and then pulled out into the parking area to wait. When the last bike filled up, the Harley group leader went inside and paid for all the bikes.
At one gas stop, two well dressed, blue-haired old ladies walked out of the gas station to their Oldsmobile just as the bikes started filling up the parking area. Soon they were surrounded by motorcycles of all types. What happened next was truly amazing. The old ladies started walking around the growing collection of bikes, talking with the riders, and asking questions. It was almost like a couple of grandmothers had happened to run into their grandchildren at a gas station.
I marveled at the stereotypes that were being shattered.