Day Ten by Dave Schultheis
Tuesday, May 29, 2001 - York, Pennsylvania
I was awake at 5:26 a.m., and again at 6:25 a.m. Bright sunshine pouring in through the curtains finally got me up at 7:25 a.m., so I dressed and packed while watching CNN, then checked out of the motel and rode over to the visitor parking lot of H-D's York Final Assembly Plant around 8:30 a.m. I got my ABCs photograph and then parked.
I had lots of time, so I wandered. One feature of the plant is that they have a large parking area reserved for employee motorcycles. Imbedded in the asphalt in nearly every parking spot is a square piece of metal intended for the jiffy stand. (On non-H-D motorcycles they call it a "kickstand.") And there were a few non-Harley-Davidson motorcycles there, but the majority of bikes present were big twins or Sportsters.
Due to building refurbishment, portable trailers had been erected in the parking lot to house both the H-D tours and the York County Visitors Bureau. Racks full of brochures for York County attractions were in abundance. Later, they let us into another set of trailers where various H-D models were on display and a video tape was playing.
By 9:30 a.m., tour groups had been formed, those carrying cameras were instructed to put them in locked cabinets for safekeeping, and everyone was issued a radio receiver and protective eyewear. Each tour guide had a radio transmitter and would conduct the tour electronically.
The guide assigned to my group was Carl, who appeared to be a retired local resident. He was not a rider but had been well-trained because he had the answers to many questions. He explained that there were some places that we would not be permitted to go. It apparently had something to do with the model year change-over. Since there are very few changes in the looks of Harley-Davidson motorcycles from year to year, I joked with some of the other tour-takers that they didn't want us to see a cart full of radiators. I didn't know until months later (when the radiator-equipped V-Rod came out) that this could possibly have been true.
[As of this writing, I do not know if the V-Rod is assembled in York or not. Someone who knows will certainly tell me.]
The tour was quite amazing. They showed us a lot of stuff, some of which I was able to recall and make note of, some of which I could not. We saw them pressing gasoline tanks and oil tanks from flat sheets of steel. We saw them pressing jiffy stands from round pieces of red-hot metal.
We saw numerous gas tanks waiting for paint and numerous gas tanks that had been painted and were waiting to go wherever they were needed. We saw motorcycles moving through the plant in various states of completion. We saw a station where each motorcycle was started and run for a short while to make sure everything worked properly.
We saw video display screens with various messages for the employees, including the number of days worked without injury and the current price of Harley-Davidson stock on the New York Stock Exchange (stock symbol: HDI).
After the tour, they returned us to the visitor center where we were invited to buy t-shirts and other H-D memorabilia. I don't buy a t-shirt at every dealer stop, but I did buy a "York Final Assembly Plant" t-shirt for twenty dollars.
I left the plant at 10:37 a.m. and in an effort to avoid the horrible nightmare of traffic on U.S. 30, rode north on Interstate 83, west on I-581 through Harrisburg (ugh!) and then south on Interstate 81.
Miles down the road I stopped to take a photograph at the Maryland state line, when who should stop to see if I was okay but the couple on the red Gold Wing from the previous day. They had been to the Honda dealer and had significant work done to their bike and were happily riding back to Florida. Don't you just love it when you get to hear a happy ending to a tale of woe?
I stopped for fuel in Hagerstown, MD and about a half-hour later for a rest and map check in West Virginia.
Although I was certainly enjoying the ride, I was not enjoying the slightly incorrect position of the handlebars. It was quite uncomfortable on the arms and shoulders, but since I had left Fort Smith on Saturday, and dealers were closed on Sunday, and dealers were closed on Monday/holiday, it was going to be a while before I could them adjusted.
Upon entering Virginia again, I stopped at the Virginia Welcome Center for another picture, in case the ones I took the previous day in heavy overcast had not come out. I was able to rely on the kindness of a stranger to take a picture. Meanwhile, I saw two small children approaching the Road King. I saw their daddy a few feet behind and asked if they would like to have their picture taken on the motorcycle. Daddy didn't need any more suggestion than that to run back to the car for his camera.
After I'd had my picture taken, I helped the children (who turned out to be boy-girl twins about four years old) onto the bike, reminding them not to move their feet because some parts were hot. Their daddy got a great photograph (I hope). I _should_ have given him my card and asked him to send me a copy. I will be doing that from now on.
Near Winchester, VA I turned west on U.S. Highway 50 and began what would be about a three-thousand mile ride on this wonderful old road.
I passed a church in Frederick County, VA with a sign outside that said, "Exposure to the Son will prevent burning."
I was making good time, in good weather, but I was clearly out in the middle of nowhere. Beautiful country when I looked around, but mostly I paid attention to the road ahead.
A little after 3 p.m. I stopped to rest; it was sunny but cool. And hour and a half later I pulled into a Citgo gas station in Fellowsville, WV for fuel and then a half hour later stopped at a Rite Aid drug store in Grafton, WV to buy cameras.
I parked right in front of the store, with a California license plate on my crunched Road King, wearing "San Jose" on my vest, and a young woman came out of the store, took a look at dirty, tired old me and said that she needed a dollar. I gave her my last one, she thanked me and went back inside the store. I'd give another dollar to know what she needed so badly.
I bought two little plastic cameras (on my debit card) and then called my friend Mike in Ohio to let him know my progress. He wasn't home but had left instructions on his answering machine.
About two hours later I got into Parkersburg, WV and then crossed the bridge over the Ohio River into Belpre, Ohio, where I stopped to call Mike again. I was pleased to get a good signal on my Sprint PCS phone and Mike gave me directions to his place.
Another hour later I stopped for fuel in Athens, OH and saw a sign that said "Chilicothe 19 miles." Less than 100 miles to go.
I passed another church sign that said, "When you can't sleep, don't count sheep, talk to the shepherd."
Shortly after 10 p.m. I pulled into the driveway of Mike's house outside Bainbridge, OH. It was dark (and you know we city boys are used to having street lights), but I followed his good directions and got there just fine.
Mike has a nice little place in a quiet neighborhood about six miles off the traveled highway. I first met him through amateur radio when he lived near Dayton, Ohio and I used to go to the Dayton HamVention every year. I stayed at his place a time or two. Although we'd communicated by e-mail over the years, this was the first time I'd seen him in quite a while, and was very glad that he'd invited me to stay the night.
He had me park in a safe place and helped me carry my stuff into the house. I looked forward to a shower and clean clothes and then we sat and talked for a while.
Mike used to ride a Sportster but suffered a back injury and has been in a lot of pain for several years, unable to ride. I'm hoping that his back heals and he gets back in the wind before too much more time goes by.
He also has a dog named Jiggs that I've slept with before. Perhaps I should explain. When I stayed at Mike's home near Dayton, I slept in the guest bedroom, unaware that Jiggs liked to sleep on that bed. Fortunately I like dogs, so I wasn't upset when Jiggs jumped up on the bed with me.
For this trip, I slept on the couch and Jiggs was happy to sleep in his place on the floor, but did come over and check on me once or twice.
Miles for the day = 483.
Miles for the trip = 4218.
Tomorrow: Indiana, Illinois, and more rain!