By Keith Strange
July 15, 2013
The thing that brought together such varied people as a retiree, a Baptist minister, a transport service owner and an engineer at Love’s Truck Stop just over the line in Virginia Friday morning could be considered a quest.
Or it could be more about the love of the open road, or the search for experience.
Whatever it is, seven men from as far away as Augusta, Ga., gathered at the truck stop for a few minutes before mounting touring motorcycles and hitting the road.
Their destination? Alaska.
Trip organizer Daryl Wilson, 64, of Lexington, was joined by Freddie Carlton, 76, of Statesville; Joseph Beck, 45, of King; Mike Wilder, 55, of Harrisburg; Chip Glunt, 53, of Winston Salem; Todd Sharpe, 48, of Cleveland; and Jerry Hiatt, of Augusta, Ga.; as they embarked on the epic journey that will take them from Mount Airy to Hyder, Alaska.
And the excitement was palpable as the group said their goodbyes to loved ones.
“This is the first real ride I’ve taken in 15 years,” said Hiatt as he looked toward Interstate 77. “I can’t wait to get on the road. If we get some fair weather I’ll be a happy camper.”
The group is embarking on a 7,657 mile ride they expect will take three weeks.
“We’re going to be riding between 450 and 525 miles a day,” said Wilson. “Tonight, we’ll stay in Dayton, Ohio, and tomorrow night we’ll be in Madison, Wis.”
The following night will find the group in Alexandria, Minn. On the fourth night, the group will stay in Minot, N.D.
“Then we head into Canada, where we’ll stay in Medicine Hat, then work our way to Hyder, Alaska,” said Wilson.
Once the group arrives in what they describe as an Alaskan ghost town with only 35 residents, they’ll be welcomed by the community, according to Wilson.
“We’re going to be escorted into the town from across the border in Canada by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the townsfolk have said they are going to welcome us with some special events,” the ride organizer said.
Why Alaska? Wilson shrugged.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska, so I went out and found a bunch of guys who said they wanted to go too, and we just put the trip together,” he said.
While in Alaska, the group will witness salmon runs, go on a bear-watching tour and take part in other activities.
“We’re going to have the chance to meet a lot of new friends, and will be going through Mount Rushmore, Sturgis, North Dakota; Glacier National Park, Custer State Park and things like that,” Wilson said. “Hopefully, we’ll get to see and experience things most people only get the chance to read about.”
Along the way, friends and loved ones will be able to track their progress through a live video feed from one of the bikes, as well as GPS tracking. Anyone who wants to track their progress can do so at www.wilsonsecurityagency.com/images/alaska.htm.
“This is our first ride together, but we were very selective of who we allowed to go with us,” said Wilson, who has been riding for 40 years. “For a ride like this, you have to have confidence in everyone’s riding ability.”
And such a journey on two wheels is expected to take a bit of a toll.
“It’s going to be challenging,” he said. “This will be the longest ride any of us have ever been on. Most people don’t think of it as an endurance test, but four or five days in a row of riding 500 miles a day is challenging.”
But the look on the faces of the other riders conveyed one message: “Let’s go.”
As they were mounting their bikes and putting on their helmets, Carlton, a Baptist minister, turned on the stereo on his bike.
In the morning mist, the sounds of Johnny Horton’s “North to Alaska,” filled the air.
And always thoughtful, Beck’s wife Susan had a word of advice:
“Make sure you go to the bathroom before you leave,” she said helpfully.
Obediently, the seven wanderers trudged into the store one last time.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.