05 June 2018

Fly 'n' Ride 'n' Fly — Sept 2016

I'm VERY behind in my blogging, so this is a post about events from 2016. There are two more posts coming "soon" from BEFORE this that are partially written, then a major life-changing event after this (on October 1, 2016) that is still unresolved as I write this in June 2018. My goal is to get caught up within the next few months; we shall see...

Mid-2016—Always on the lookout for motorcycles and motorcycle-related adventures, I was very interested in a trip report I saw on the web site about a guy who'd taken a long weekend to ride vintage motorcycles in Eastern Pennsylvania, just outside Philly. It sounded interesting, so I looked him up on-line at

There was one tour left for the year AND it would fit into my upcoming scheduled trip to the US, so I sent Victory-rider and best-friend-from-college Rich an email and asked, "Are you in?" He replied the next day in the affirmative, so we booked the "Redneck Gyro IV" from September 10-12, 2016: "Gather a group of 6 enthusiasts, put them on a half dozen Italian twin cylinder motorcycles of the 1970’s, and enjoy switching bikes and covering close to 1,000 miles in three days of riding from southeastern PA to the mountains of West-by-God Virginia and back."

Upon arrival in the US, I was picked up by my good friend Liz, who graciously allowed me to stay in her spare bedroom AND borrow one of her fleet of vehicles. THAT's a friend! About three weeks after arriving, I headed back to the airport for the flight to Pittsburgh, PA, Rich's life-long hometown.

Rather than have Liz do another Tacoma-SeaTac Airport round-trip, I had Capitol Aeroporter pick me up at the house. Usually I like to keep to myself on these shuttles, BUT there was a guy aboard who just had to keep asking questions. Something about him felt wrong, though as much as I wanted to tell him to fuck-off and mind his own business, I didn't. At first.

Twit: Where you headed?
Me: Pittsburgh.
Twit: For business?
Me: No.
Twit: Then why?
Me: To ride 40-year-old motorcycles through the hills of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland.
Twit: You ride?
Me: Yes ("Doh!" went unspoken)
Twit: Do they have helmet laws in Pennsylvania?
Me: I don't know. Anyone who rides without a helmet has no brain.
Twit: The government shouldn't be able to tell us whether to wear a helmet or not.
Me: Okay.
Twit: It's about personal responsibility.
Me: Really?
Twit: Yes!
Me: I'm assuming you don't wear a helmet?
Twit: I have to in Washington state.
Me: When you ride where there's no helmet law, do you wear a helmet?
Twit: Hell no!
Me: Since you say, "It's about personal responsibility", I'm sure you have a $10 million insurance policy, right?
Twit: Huh?
Me: Is that a no?
Twit: Yes. Why would I have $10 million insurance?
Me: You're young, do you have a family?
Twit: Yes.
Me: Since you're all about Personal Responsibility, I thought you'd actually be personally responsible for your actions. I guess you're just another right-winger who thinks others should be personally responsible, but not you.
Twit: What does that have to do with insurance? (This is when he earned the name, "Twit")
Me: When your head hits the ground and cracks open like a melon, you're gonna either need a LOT of expensive medical help or a funeral. Then your wife and kids probably won't have enough money to pay the rent or buy food. A $10 million insurance policy would ensure that I, everyone else in this van, and thousands of others won't have to waste our tax dollars supporting your family because you were Personally Responsible.
Twit: (crickets)
Me: (smile)

He didn't say another word the rest of the trip, though he did give me the finger as the van drove away after dropping him at the terminal curb... which I took to mean he knows he's a twit. I'm betting he happily voted for Dolt45 (Trump).

After an uneventful flight (the best kind), Rich picked me up at the airport and took me to his house. We had a nice dinner with Robin, his very nice girlfriend of whom I'd heard a lot over the years, but had never before met.

Two mornings later, we drove to the Steubenville, Ohio, FBO (small airport) where Rich keeps his single-engine plane. 

Once our luggage was on-board and Rich's pre-flight inspection complete, we rolled down the runway and into the air.

I LOVE FLYING in small planes and Rich is an excellent pilot! He started flying back in the 70's, I think while we were still in University, and it's obvious that he loves it.

We landed at a small FBO about 10 minutes from the Kennett Square, Pennsylvania home of Joel and Lynn Samick, the owners of Retro Tours. Once we were on the ground, we called Joel; he came by to pick us up and take us to the house where we settled in our assigned bedroom and met Chuck and Robert, two of the three other participants in the weekend's ride. We also got to check out Joel's workshop and stable of bikes.

Most of the bikes have a special "Antique" license plate no longer offered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Joel is a former champion motorcycle racer and mechanic and maintains all of his bikes himself.

He runs Retro Tours with the help of his wife, Lynn, who's one hell of a great cook/hostess.
Rich, Lynn, and Chuck
Since the tours start EARLY in the morning and end in the late afternoon/evening a couple days later, Joel and Lynn offer a bed in their home AND a couple home-cooked meals that are NOT to be missed, for a mere $50 extra. If you take one of their tours, opt-in for this.

Lynn cooked an awesome dinner and we spent some time after talking about the next few days' ride, expectations, and preferences.
Chuck, Rich, and Robert--they're NOT upset, it was just bad timing on my part ;-)
Sleep was a bit difficult 'cause Rich SNORES... picture the cartoons where the character's snoring lifts the roof off the house and you'll be in the neighborhood (sorry, Rich).

As usual, I was the first one up the next morning, though it was very soon after that Lynn had coffee/tea available. Breakfast was as good as dinner and more than enough to keep us going until lunch, whenever that would be.

Next, it was out front to check out the bikes; all Italian and all from the 70's:
       1971 Moto Guzzi Ambassador 750
       1972 Laverda 750SF
       1974 Benelli Tornado 650
       1975 Ducati 860GT
       1979 Moto Guzzi V50
       1979 Moto Morini 500 Strada

I neglected to take individual photos of each of the bikes, so here are five of the six...

Joel does a great job keeping his stable in great running and cosmetic condition. Although they were each around 40-years-old, they ran as well as most modern bikes and better than some. He carries the spare parts that he's most likely to need and we never had an issue he couldn't solve virtually immediately.

Our route took us from Southeastern Pennsylvania (PA) to Maryland (MD), back to PA, back to MD, to West Virginia (WV), and back to PA on two-lane blacktop and through many small towns.

One of our stops was at an overlook that is definitely scenic

About halfway through the first day, the unfamiliar riding positions started my lower back complaining a bit. An hour later, it was BEGGING for relief. When I mentioned it to Joel at one of our fuel replenishment / bike swap stops—at each gas stop we rotated through the bikes so we each got to experience each bike—he suggested I use the rear pegs as my foot pegs. This worked VERY well and my lower back stopped bitching. Thanks, Joel!

We stayed both tour nights in the same rather large cabin with two levels, four or five bedrooms, depending on how you count them, and a hot tub on the deck. It was in a heavily wooded "gated development", but we didn't have to worry about the gate 'cause the bikes fit between the gate poles and the trees. There was enough elbow room between houses that we didn't hear a peep from any of our neighbors.

Rich's body was aching significantly more than mine, so he opted-out of Day 2's riding, which was to be a big loop. Not one to leave a friend "stranded", I opted to hang out with him and keep our travels down to running into town for lunch and picking up a few groceries needed for cooking my sweet potato hash for the group's Day 3 breakfast.

We missed the crash. Robert lost focus entering a curve and ended up under the guardrail, breaking both the Laverda and his leg. He was picked up by ambulance and taken to the nearest hospital (rural WV) where they determined his condition was beyond their scope of treatment. They then sent him by ambulance to a larger hospital in Morgantown, an hour or so away.

Taking care of the bike was a bigger challenge—it was both unrideable and hundreds of miles from home. Joel found a one-way rental truck and loaded in both the Laverda and his bike, while Chuck and Charles followed on their bikes. At this point, it was no longer a riding tour, but a "let's get the hell back to the cabin and figure out what happens tomorrow" slog. Joel called us and asked us to meet them in town for dinner and a discussion on the next day's logistics. The place he picked served massive sandwiches!

They also had an art print on the wall that I wanted to buy, though they refused to even consider its sale

To this day, I STILL want that print. (Edit: Thanks to Meredith for reading this and pointing out that the print is available on It's now on my Wish List for my next trip to the U.S.)

Rich was still hurting from the first day's ride, so he happily volunteered to drive the rental van and two bikes back to Joel's house while the rest of us took the normal Day 3 route back. It was the most scenic day and I wanted to stop numerous times to take photos, though Joel sets a pretty brisk pace, so I felt uncomfortable making unscheduled stops and holding everyone up—one of the many reasons I've only ever taken 3 group tours in my entire life. Joel told us we should each "ride your own ride", and for me that would include stopping numerous times to take in the scenery and snap a few photos. It just didn't feel comfortable causing the rest of the group to turn around more than once to see if I was okay. So I sucked it up and rode home hard.

Here is Joel's trip report for our adventure.

Photos of the Laverda after sliding under the guardrail:

After another great dinner and breakfast by Lynn, Rich and I flew over the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside back to Pittsburgh with a short detour to our alma mater, Bucknell. It's changed a LOT in the 40 years since we left and we felt like grandpas walking around campus; maybe 'cause we are old enough to be?

One last plug for Retro Tours

1 comment:

  1. Great post, John! First moto tour company I've ever heard of that I might give some cash to. Sorry to hear about the Laverda.