Not Three Seconds After John Olin, CFO of Harley-Davidson He said to me in front of about a dozen drivers: "You know that this trip is even more fun without you There would be a lot more drugs and orgies. "

I looked at my friend ashamed. You told him?

Two days earlier, I received an urgent call home text while my friend Majsan Bostrom and I were at a taco in San Diego. My 71-year-old father was worried about the nine-day road trip I wanted to drive and reported on bikers heading to Milwaukee to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Harley-Davidson.

FULL SIGNIFICANCE: Harley's 115th Anniversary

"He thinks you will be involved in drugs and orgies," my mother said.

"Involuntary, of course."

Mom, these are not the Hell's Angels

The thing is, I was too worried, but for different reasons. When the 2286-mile journey began on August 21, I did not know what to expect. I do not ride a bicycle. Would I ever be part of this group that included Bill Davidson and Karen Davidson, the great-grandsons of co-founder William A. Davidson, while driving in a rental car?

Would Majsan and I screw up a kind of highway protocol and get yelled or thrown away?

Would we call ourselves Thelma and Louise in our Mustang convertible from 2018, the mid-life escapists in the feminist film of 1991? Yes, that happened before we left San Diego. As a Californian driver named Banana said, you do not choose your street name – you get one.

About 70 riders pose for a group shot after stopping for lunch at Red Onion in Arizona for a burger. Most drivers drove back to Phoenix and left about 20 bicycles for Gallup, New Mexico. (Photo: Amanda Kingsbury, IndyStar)

When I met Olin on the second day in Gallup, North Carolina, I began to relax a bit. The drivers of the night sat around a fire on a hotel terrace. Under the direction of Bill Davidson, the group "Happy Birthday" sang on the phone to the 17-year-old daughter of one of the boys on the trip.

These people took the ride seriously, but not themselves. I do not know why it surprised me, but glamorous, elegant Karen Davidson, creative mind for Harley's MotorClothes, pumped her own gas every time she refueled. During a one-day stopover in Kansas City, Michigan, Bill Davidson manually washed his own bike. Olin, a graduate of Indiana University, listens to John Mellencamp riding; his favorite motorcycle movie is "Terminator".

The rest of the drivers were just as down to earth. During the 335-mile drive from Kansas City to Springfield, Ill., Tommy Korkos, a plastic surgeon from Milwaukee, set off from head to toe white. The drivers joked that he saw as an ice cream man or a hospital.

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Harley-Davidson Rides Home Bikers arrive in Milwaukee, one after the other, after hitting cow and mattress on his bike

Playing dress-up

While the scenery along the route changed – mighty Saguaros in Arizona, breathtaking Mesas in New Mexico, corn fields in Illinois – not the rituals of the day, the kickstations usually got up at 8 in the morning, with lunch at a local restaurant or Harley dealer

There was very little time for sightseeing because the journey was so regulated: in Topeka, Kan., Bill Davidson and Karen Davidson made an emotional visit to the Evel Knievel Museum, and when they grew up, they knew the daredevil driver, the 2007 died.

In Hannibal, Mo., while the drivers in Becky were eating Thatcher's dinner, Harley managers sneaked to the Mark Twain Riverboat office and persuaded the white-haired captain n for guiding a surprise, last-minute cruise for everyone.

In the evenings, dealers organized stop-off parties in the stopover cities with food trucks and live music.

At the Worth Harley-Davidson dealership in Kansas City, Mo, Karen Davidson took the time to give me and my friend a Harley Makeover that selects items from the classic 1903 collection. We only played dress-up, but it did not matter – Harley designs its lifestyle brands to reflect different tastes, styles, and demographics. Of course, they want you to buy a bike, and they hope clothing could be an entry point.

RELATED LINK: Karen Davidson Gives A Journalist On Her Ride Home To Milwaukee A Harley Makeover

Instagram Trailer? Who cares?

When Majsan and I pulled up to the San Diego Harley-Davidson dealer on Morena Boulevard on the morning of August 21st, we introduced ourselves to dozens of riders. Instead, we traveled around the country with a core group of about 15 years, led by Captain JT Hasley, National H.O.G. Manager and his wife, Rebecca.

One of the first drivers I noticed was Sean "Speedy" Donahue. He was hard to miss, with his skinny jeans, incredible tattoo sleeves – and two cameramen and a sound engineer who captured almost every movement.

Sean "Speedy" Donahue is an adventure and motorsport photographer and social media influencer based in Austin, Texas. A crew of Joyride Productions, hired by Harley, documented his trip from San Diego to Milwaukee. [Photo: Eli Marias, Concrete Pictures]

Speedy, 30, is an Austin, Texas adventure and motor sports photographer and social media influencer with 105,000 Instagram followers. Joyride Productions, who works for Harley, documented his first tour.

"I thought he was the intern," said Curtis May, a 66-year-old driver and retired refinery worker from Beaumont, Texas. (May later praised Speedy's driving skills.)

Speedy learned pretty quickly how little his social media influence was on riders. On the morning of the trip, he and his crew fired their shot at the San Diego car dealership parking lot. The riders left without them.

"We've been left in the dust," he said, laughing. "It took me days to figure out that these people are just doing what they're doing – they're here to do this job, and this job is to come to Milwaukee and they'll go through it."

Speedy said he was first intimidated by the older riders. But one of the first people he was friends with was Ted Poston, a 58-year-old Los Angeles general contractor who described riding as a "freedom blast."

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Poston wore only a helmet in states that require them. Sometimes he set himself up and returned to the group with stories of his adventures at lunchtime or in the evenings – just as he did when he happened to meet a long-haired motorcyclist who had lost part of his ring finger in a motorcycle accident and bleeding at a shell station in Oklahoma , The man refused the medical treatment, as did Whiskey Poston had offered him.

"Ted was one of the first people I interviewed," said Speedy. "I thought, 'Wow, this guy has 1001 stories, it'll be interesting.'

" He wears no helmet and he just books it – he'll go with the group if he wants, but some days he does not want to That says a lot about him and his passion for motorcycling, he wants to enjoy it for himself. "

It's over and I'm tired, but strangely … sad

These riders were so different from each other, me I could not imagine that they existed in the same time zone at the same time, let alone spend nine intense days and nights together. But over time, I saw similarities.

Some had begun to drive to work through pain or grief. Early 2017 Alejandro Garrido, a 25-year-old intern at Harley #FindYourFreedom, suffered severe headaches, tremors and dizziness from a head injury sustained while training at a police academy at East Florida State College, Melbourne, Florida.

I thought of killing myself, "he said," I thought, you know, there's nothing to look forward to. That will be my life forever, and what is the meaning? "

While undergoing physiotherapy, he got back on the bike he had bought at the age of 22.

" Something in me told me that you have to carry on because your life means something to someone else, "he said. [194559] Bike helps Harley-Davidson summer interns overcome pain depression to bring his life back to the streets

Rebecca Hasley, a 49-year global procurement officer, received her motorcycle license after her mother died in 2000 after a brief battle with lung cancer at the age of 59. 19659010] "While she was dying, she told me: "Do not be afraid to live & # 39 ;," said Hasley.

I had expected deep reasons why these riders made this nearly 2,300-mile journey – much like hikers make the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, but for most it was not that complicated. Along the way, I made Paul Lathrop, a 50-year-old driver from Iowa City, nervous to tell his best moment of the ride.

Finally, about 90 miles outside of Milwaukee, he said, "I still do not know, I know what my favorite part of this trip is, there could be something around the corner that could blow everything else up."

When we finally land at the Harley-Davidson The Museum in Milwaukee on August 29th felt warm despite the warm greetings and big hugs from the family patriarch Willie G. Davidson, his wife Nancy and friends and family members of the other riders disappointing. San Diego, the launch pad, felt three months and three minutes ago. It was strange to imagine that I would not hang out with these people every day, even though I wanted to come home to my 12-year-old daughter and my own bed.

"If you drive with these people, then take care of them, protect them," said Korkos, the plastic surgeon from Milwaukee. "As soon as you get home and break off the ride, there is an emotional disappointment."

"I told Karen (Davidson) today," I'll look to the right when I drive the Blue Mountain Road tomorrow and you "I will not to be by my side. "

The night before, a serious-looking man in his thirties was sitting next to me at the hotel bar at Crowne Plaza, Springfield, Illinois, where all riders, even the occasional rogue, were spending I drank a glass of white wine and took down notes.

"Are you part of this motorcycle gang?" he said.

I laughed and started to shake my head.

But then I thought about it after. "Yes. Actually, I think that's me. "

Amanda Kingsbury is Content Director / Strategist at Indianapolis Star.

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