|The Century Ride Home
Celebrating Indian Motorcycle’s 100th Anniversary
By Steve Adams
|It’s Friday July
13, 2001, and the rumbling is unmistakable, growing louder. The sound reverberates
off the hills, boring straight into your soul. It’s the sound of hundreds
of v-twin motorcycles heading for Mecca…. is it Milwaukee? York? No, Springfield,
MA, the home of the famed Indian Motorcycle Company from 1901 until their
demise in 1953. The streets are lined with people of all ages, waving,
shouting and cheering the herd of Indian motorcycle riders on their last
day of a cross country charity ride. Indian Motorcycles, the legacy is
The State Street factory was once the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world, at one time producing over 30,000 units a year. A few bad management decisions, reduced what was the finest American motorcycle manufacturer to a ghost of its former self by the start of 1950s. But the legend refused to die, and a small band of enthusiasts and racers made sure it wouldn’t. Like the people for which it was named after, the Indian marquee has always been admired for it’s stamina and for its toughness. It is this toughness that was being put to the test on the Century Ride Home, a 4,200 mile charity road run celebrating the centennial of the Indian brand.
It all started over 5 years ago when Mike “Kiwi” Tomas and I devised a plan to celebrate Indian’s 100th by riding from Kiwi’s shop in Riverside, CA to Springfield, MA in 2001. Tomas, the owner of Kiwi Indian Parts, gave me the go ahead to start planning this ride, and we decided it would be best if we could raise money for our favorite charity, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. From that humble beginning was born The Century Ride Home.
Click logo to check out the CRH website for more info.
The CRH website was sponsored
by Virtual Indian Magazine
|Flash back to Friday morning, June 29, the temperature already reaching the low 90s, a small group of riders departed for the California Speedway in Fontana, CA for the official start of our cross country ride. We had over twenty riders starting with us, 16 Indians (3 new ones) and a variety of other makes got to make a few laps around the speedway (a big thanks to Dennis Bickmeier of the California Speedway for making this happen) before heading off towards Laughlin, NV and our first of 13 stops.||
California Speedway just before take-off June 29.
|The desert is no place for novices, as the temperature reached a mind melting 120º F in Amboy, CA (on old Route 66) around 4pm where we made a much needed fuel stop (and at $2.99 per gallon, you HAD to be in need of fuel!). We nearly lost one of our riders due to heat stroke and I was riding along side of him since leaving Twentynine Palms. He dismounted, walked up to the restaurant and promptly slid to the floor (thankfully he waited until he stopped, before passing out!!). After some much needed H2O for all of us, we continued on our merry way to Laughlin. We did manage to lose a few machines that first day. Tomas’ seized his motor on his Chief (he had a couple spare machines in his Freightliner), another vintage rider lost all of his oil on Interstate 10, and he coasted to a stop at a local watering hole and called his chase truck, downing a pitcher before the truck arrived. We also lost two new Chiefs, one to a wiring problem and another to a blown head gasket (the latter never did recover, and was shipped home). A few minor problems later (one guy losing a battery, and another losing luggage) and we arrived at the desert oasis along the river and the end of day one. Hopefully, this ride will get easier, as this first day proved to be a real tough mutha.||
Kiwi Mike Tomas on his '38.
|The next morning we were joined by a few more riders, and headed off to Oatman, AZ, Kingman, and old Route 66 towards Flagstaff and points eastward. By the end of day three, we were awfully glad to get out of the desert heat, but being pelted by hail in eastern New Mexico was no picnic either, and I am very glad that I wear a “sissy” full face helmet, as I could hear the pelting, but thankfully, not feel it! New Mexico was also our first chance to put Mike Bulda, a producer for NBC News in Springfield, in a sidecar to get some action shots! Mike Plate from the Bay area was more than happy to put him into his rig, a 2000 Indian Chief with a Champion sidecar, very cool. We also were lucky enough to have a few meals provided to us, including the Chamber of Commerce in Tucumcari, NM (where we met up with a few hundred HOG riders heading west on Rte 66 to LA); Indian MC of Amarillo (Day 4 Sponsor); Indian MC of Tulsa (Day 5 Sponsor), Wheels Through Time Museum, Mount Vernon, IL (Day 7 Sponsor) Christopher’s Restaurant in Oneota, NY (along with Indian MC Binghamton, NY the Day 13 Sponsor) and the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK (however, we had some miscommunications at the Route 66 Museum and arrived a day late, still we enjoyed the museum and I recommend it to anyone passing through).||
Oatman Arizona. Hot...
|July 4th we celebrated America’s birthday in Springfield, MO, were we were joined by quite a few more Indians. George Wheelock from Michigan joined us here (George is the author of “Reason to Ride” on our website), as did a few of the VI regulars: André “Frenchy” Chartrand; Dan “Scootertramp” Conlin; Jeff “Choo Choo” Meister (my wife’s nickname for you, not mine!); Bob “Crash” Alvarez (sorry Bob, had to do it) and the Madrids: Joe and Joe among others. I had my wife Michelle stop along the way and purchase a few pyrotechnic items to celebrate with, and let me tell you, you cannot find these items in the “Safe and Sane” stands in California!! These were awsome!! Okay, for those who live outside our Golden State, they were normal items, but geez, these things rocked!! We ended up only using about half of the fireworks, ending our personal show after I attempted to torch Matt Blake and his daughter Emily (scared the heck out of Emily and burned up Matt’s shorts) as an errant bottle rocket went sideways into his lap, instead of up into the air. Thankfully, no major injuries were incurred, and we decided that was enough of that (as a side note, that was the first bottle rocket I lit, as the rest were lit by my wife and by Edwin Votel with no problems… I have been banned from carrying matches).||
|We awoke the next morning to a major thunderstorm! Thunder, lightening and a lot of rain!! As Stan Jessup said, “…it is one thing to get caught in the rain, it is stupid to start in the rain!”… but we had dinner at the Wheels Through Time Museum and had to leave. The Pokey Posse decided to abandon the planned ride, and just haul up the interstate to Mount Vernon. I joined Richard and Donna Hamstead (local Missourians) for a tour on some great roads. The rain lasted about an hour for us, then just became muggy! We ended up blasting through St. Louis without stopping, and got to the museum in time for dinner. We picked up a few more riders there too, now we had well over 60 riders with us. Still the Springfield iron was the dominant ride! After a great barbecue and tour of the museum, we set off for Columbus, and our longest day of the ride (over 400 miles). We had some great riding ahead that day, crossing over the Wabash into Indiana was spectacular, plus in Seymour, IN., we received a police escort out of town (I am still not sure if that is a GOOD thing or not…..). I think this day is were I received my newest nickname, “Wrong Way”. The Pokey Posse again headed out on their own, and rode straight to Columbus….and they actually were the FIRST riders to arrive!! They still arrived well after dark, and I lost most of my group (thanks to the traffic jams around Cincinnati) and ended up with just me, Ed and Ted Bortner as riding partners! Ed (father) was riding a customized Drifter and Ted (son) was on a BMW (they even managed to lose their family who was following in the chase truck). We picked up three more bikes outside of Columbus, Wally Gillman, Bob Cary and John & Debbie Talar.||
Steve Adams on the Kiwi Chief with the new 84" engine.
More photos and report on Stan Jessup's site
More photos and report on Jeff Alperin's site
we finally arrived in Columbus, OH, there were a lot of bikes waiting for
us. Our numbers suddenly jumped to 80 plus riders, and still a majority
of them on vintage Indians! Jeff Alperin and George Yarocki both rode 101s,
bringing the number of Scouts to four, including John Wright from England
on his 741B bobber. John stands at a petite 6’4” (estimated) and totally
dwarfs that machine. He has done some magic on that little 741, as he could
keep up with the Pokey Posse on most roads. We had an off day on Saturday,
so we headed for the AMA’s Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum where they were
set to unveil their “100 Years of Indian” display to the public. With a
large crowd of riders and enthusiast watching, Bill Tuman, Bobby Hill (two
of the famed “Indian Wrecking Crew” racers), Rocky Halter (well know AMCA
judge and Indian parts peddler), Mark Mederski (AMA Museum director), Ed
Youngblood (curator of the display) and Mike Tomas cut the ribbon, and
welcomed us all to the Indian display. The Indians were well represented,
with bikes raging from 1903-1953, including some very famous racers. Thanks
to the AMA for putting on such a great display of Springfield iron (sorry,
no photos as I had slipped on the ramp of Kiwi’s Freightliner, and broke
BOTH of my cameras….that is going to cost me).
Our stay in Columbus also marked to beginning of our last week on the road. Our riders have seen a lot of country and a lot of mother nature. Cumberland Maryland was our next destination and what a great city this was. The scenery was fantastic, with great riding roads through the Appalachians and into Pennsylvania where we jumped on the Lincoln Highway and headed to Gettysburg. At Gettysburg, George Wheelock gave us a guided tour of the grounds. George was very knowledgeable about Gettysburg, as he is an ROTC instructor at Michigan Tech. and made the trip a definite highlight for our riders.
John Wright fettling hot 741
|We arrived in Harrisburg after Gettysburg, for a another two day rest. There we were joined by more riders and, best of all, two young children and their parents who are living with Cystic Fibrosis. Olivia (age 9) and Brandon (age 7) were treated to rides on most of the Indians, laughing and smiling the whole time. These kids are fighters and show the “never give up spirit” in their every action. My thanks go out to Melissa Deets of Cystic Fibrosis for bringing these kids out, and to the parents of Olivia and the parents of Brandon. The kids were presented with a Century Ride Home t-shirt, signed by every rider. Melissa also arranged breakfast for us, by getting some local business to kick in some doughnuts for us……6 cases!! We had doughnuts for days, and even gave 4 cases to a homeless shelter in Schenectady!! That was a lot of doughnuts. Other highlights of our final week were Binghamton, NY where Mark Callahan of the local Indian dealership hosted us and even continued on to Springfield with us and Cooperstown, NY, home to the Baseball Hall of Fame.|
|July 13th, a marked change from the beginning of the ride. We now have riders from Sweden, Germany, Holland, Norway and a couple of Canadians who have joined our ride. This is truly an international event. We numbered over 100 riders as we left our final night on the road in Schenectady and headed for the Massachusetts border. For a change, Tomas and myself led everyone (the previous days, we broke up into smaller groups, including the infamous “Pokey Posse” with a group of fast riders, slow riders and in between riders riding together) to New Lebanon, NY where the Pittsfield, MA police picked us up and escorted us to their town for lunch. What a reception! We were paraded around the city before stopping at “The Brewery” for a buffet lunch. More press and more interviews, and a proclamation from the City. There we also met up with Ray and Ilene Jensen and the crew from Indian MC of Springfield. Ray was responsible for the police escort and for the reception we received in Pittsfield. Now we were joined by the Mass. State Police and the W. Springfield Police and we headed off towards Westfield and our last stop before Springfield. I however was tending to a new rider sign up when the escort took off (it should be noted that I had a terrible time kickstarting the 48 Chief I was riding as I had strained the ligaments in my right knee). With no one sticking around to help me, except Scott Hull from Tulsa (who rode with his 14 year old son David on his Road King - his Chief was just not ready). After a couple of false starts, the bike fired and off we went…..without an escort. So we had to stop at all the traffic lights, and I ended up getting us off course (again, living up to my new nickname). After swallowing my pride, we pulled into a local muffler shop and found that we had just missed our turn. Back we went and flying we did, the old Chief with Kiwi’s new 84” motor just legged it out. We caught them in Westfield and we lined up to head into Springfield. Tomas and I were to lead the riders who started with us in California, then riders on Indians, followed by the rest. Our numbers jumped up to over 200 machines (though I think most of late arrivals did not pay…c’mon guys, pony up to your local CFF office and give!!). Off we went, and as we got closer to Springfield, Tomas motioned me to follow him, instead of lead with him, so much for sharing the limelight I guess. Hey he is the boss…|
entered the outskirts of Springfield, we saw more and more people on the
sides of the road, on front porches on sidewalks waving us on, cheering
for us. There were even groups of motorcyclists waiting for us to pass
so they could join in. I saw the Memorial Bridge ahead (which the City
of Springfield closed to traffic for us), with the American flag hanging
over it, downtown Springfield behind it and hundreds of people waving,
yelling thank yous and cheering us on. Very emotional, and to think we
just rode across the country, 4200 miles, and it was over!! I don’t know
if I was sad or glad. We made it!
Damn! WE MADE IT!
And still more.
for us was the local radio DJs from Rock 102, Bax and O’Brien; the Mayor
Michael Albano; owner of the Sheraton Paul Picknelly and other dignitaries.
We were presented with the key to the city (hey the damn thing doesn’t
work in any of these locks!), and Official Proclamations from the City
and from the State.
Saturday, we were greeted to a concert, hosted by the local nightclub “The Hippodrome” where Iron Butterfly was the headliner. Also a bike show was held on Court Square, along with the new Indian company with their rig, and Indian of Springfield displaying their wares. The riders got a chance to relax and relive the past two weeks. Back slapping, hugs and handshakes were the order of the day. We had done the nearly impossible, traveling across the country of mostly vintage machines with a group of riders who didn’t know each other before the ride, but were now family!
Indian of Springfield, one of the main CRH sponsors
to everyone involved with the ride and to my family for putting up with
me. A few people/groups need to be singled out: the Pokey Posse: Greg,
Stan, John, Doug, Nevada Bob and Dave; the Speed Racers: Bill, Dugal, Bob
C, George W., Wally, Winger Bob, CJ and Amy, John and Debbie, Roger and
Kate, Scott and “Pokey” David; the Pukawee Tribe: Bob, Dan, Jeff and André
and most of all, Joe Lambert, Kiwi’s mechanic and truck driver who went
through hell on this trip. Driving the Freightliner on roads that were
tough enough in a pickup, let alone this rig, to wrenching on or
helping on bikes to the wee hours of the morning. Thank you, thank you
Indian motorcycles, it is not just a brand of motorcycles, it is a way of life! See you all on the road!
Steve “Crash” “Wrong Way” “Crotch Rocket”