What a beautiful day. And I don’t just mean the weather. If one could hand pick the perfect riding conditions, the list of requirements would include things like scenery, road conditions, traffic, riding companions, and machine performance. For this leg of the trip, all those items were absolutely magical.
Which is not to say there were no mishaps or conditions that caused some grief. Pete Young’s Premier got a flat tire. Jon Szalay’s belt broke. Some of us had a navigation problem and lots of u-turns were executed, but at the end of the day, as all sat comfortably dining in the Coker Tires Museum in Chattanooga, TN, all those inconveniences were washed away. Warm conversation, good food and companionship was the platform for the evening.
Corky Coker, owner of Coker Tires, took the stage and announced to the road weary crowd that he was offering a free set of tires to each rider who was already running the Coker rubber. He called out names of those who would receive the gift, then topped it off by saying that if anyone wore through the freebies within the next few days of the ride, he’d replace those, too. Killer deal.
As folks munched on steak and chicken, the workers at Coker were setting up their shop to assist the iron jockeys with their repairs. By the time dinner was done and the dishes cleared, half a dozen riders had already hauled their machines in to the bays and serious work got under way.
The night before, over in Maggie Valley at Wheels Through Time, Dale Walksler had extended the same offer and riders crammed into the ample shop there to tear into their individual repairs with an intense sense of communal survival.
A lot has been said here about camaraderie, and the word seems inadequate to appropriately describe the amazing phenomenon that is transpiring here. Over the last two nights, men were lending a hand to their fellow motorcyclists and work went into the wee ours of the morning. Tires were changed, pieces-parts exchanged, and stories swapped. Laughter could be heard pouring through the roll up doors as grinders whined, hammers banged, and the sounds of a busy shop echoed into the darkness outside. Guys were sweating side-by-side to get each other functioning and back on the road safely. The scent of testosterone and 70 weight could be detected from down the street.
Both Dale and Corky offered not only their crew but also their own assistance and the gift of time was invaluable. The men directed repairs, rolling up their own sleeves and lending a hand when needed. No egos, no drama, no ulterior motives. Just good old teamwork in its purest form. By three in the morning both nights, most riders had their issues ironed out and headed to get horizontal for a couple of hours before they got up and hit the road. There are, after all, another 13 days remaining on this incredible journey.