Bikers Inside The DC Beltway
Photo: Metro Chapter member Charles Fletcher meets with US Representative Keith Ellison
For years I had wanted to go to the Horse Smokeout Rally in North Carolina. Time was always the primary obstacle to my actually going. Traveling each way would take longer than than the duration of the 2 day rally. Flying was out of the question because, to me, going to a bike rally means riding to it. This year was different since it was the 10th annual Smokeout and it also started the day after the MRF Bikers Inside the Beltway event in DC.
I’d been to the nation’s capitol several times previously on lobbying trips with ABATE of MN. But I’d never ridden out there on a bike. Both of these events happened to fall during a time when my day job had a seasonal week off. Conditions were falling right into place but I didn’t commit until about 1 1/2 weeks before the roll date. I had bike problems to solve first.
I had hoped to take the ’83 shovelhead FXRT but discovered it was ready for a complete engine rebuild and wouldn’t be ready in time. So I had to get the ’94 Geezerglide Ultra ready to take the trip on somewhat short notice. Thanks to Butch’s Custom for their dropping everything to make sure the Geez was ready in time.
The ride out was great with nice weather the whole way. I met Dave Anderson of the SCVR in Hudson and the 2 of us arrived at Dave Dwyer’s home in Portage, WI where we ate and spent the night (thanks again, Dave). The 3 of us rolled early to meet Hardtail at a gas station close to the freeway only to find out Hardtail was working on bike problems and would catch up later. So we hit the road and met up with Steve Johnson of ABATE of WI in Beloit. The 4 of us made good time through the s##thole known as Chicago/Gary and made our way across Indiana and Ohio, arriving in Buckeye Lake, OH to find Hardtail had beat us to it. He must have been moving right along since we didn’t loaf through this 600 mile day (the furthest I had ever ridden in one day).
The next morning was chilly so after putting on layers, we headed for the West Virginia border where we would have to put on hardhats. The mountains of WV are breathtaking and I wish I could have put more attention on gawking but I had to focus on riding well on these windy, winding and steep freeways (OK, my first time riding in mountains, too). Arriving in DC, we worked through the dense, urban rush-hour traffic and landed at our cheap but clean Motel 6. Dinner was on a sidewalk in the city followed by a visit to the Wall, the Lincoln Memorial and the haunting Korean War memorial.
In the morning we made it a point to roll into the city early so that Dave A and I could make it to Senator Klobuchar’s Minnesota Morning (meet n greet with coffee) which she hosts every Thursday. We spoke with her staffer, Travis, about our issues for about 20 minutes while waiting for the photo-op line to play out. I know he needed to be somewhere else so I’m grateful he took the time to hear me out.
Having gotten pix taken with the senator, I headed to Rep. Ellison’s office. I had been unable to pin down an appointment in advance so I just showed up. Persistence finally paid off when I got to meet with his legislative assistant, Lara, While speaking with her, the congressman walked into the office and, after a few minutes, I got some face time with him. This was valuable since I heard him say directly that he favors motorcyclists’ right to choose what to wear while riding. YEAH! That’s what I’m talking about!
The rest of my time during the event was spent at the specially reserved bike parking area in front of the Capitol. There were members of many Motorcycle Rights Organizations from the east coast and as far away as ABATE of Colorado (they flew). Motorcycle-friendly congressmembers came out to speak to the group and the whole event struck me as being upbeat and productive.
The event ran until 2pm but I left a little early to get out of town before rush hour kicked in. I took my time and arrived at the rally in NC the next day. I’ll spare you the details but I had a blast - a couple thousand good folks, some great bands, many cool vendors and much drag racing, both formal and informal.
Heading home, it was cold and raining and I made it about 320 miles before spending the night in Charleston WV. The next day was nice and I was ready to put some serious miles behind me. I made it about 190 miles before the charging system failed and I found myself in Mount Sterling, KY. Using a yellow pages feature in my fancy phone I eventually found the help of an old-school wrench called Indian Bill, who rides a ’48 Chief. It was his day off but he dropped everything, got his trailer and brought me and the Geez to his shop. After troubleshooting (stator) and ordering the part, he invited me to stay at his humble home that night. What a cool guy with an amazing life story. Also active with his SMRO: the Kentucky Motorcyclists Association. Thank you Bill!
Next day, the part didn’t arrive as planned so we had to drive to Lexington to pay 3 times as much for the part at the Harley stealer, whoops I mean dealer. By the time we got it all buttoned up it was too late to ride so I got a good night of sleep at a motel and rolled about 7:30am. 825 miles later I rolled into my driveway at 11pm - exhausted and jubilant!
In closing, I’d like to say the MRF is not just some folks in DC we send money to and let them do the work. The MRF is us. Jeff Hennie, as energetic and capable as he is, cannot do the job alone. The US Congress is supposed to be representing us, the people - not the lobbyists. Right now is a good time to call or write your senator(s) and congressmembers and let them know the will of the people.
Charles Fletcher, Metro Chapter, ABATE of Minnesota