Madison's Easy Riders

Motorcycle enthusiasts
enjoy hitting the road

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind. (March 2004) – For many people, driving is simply about reaching a particular destination, and little if any pleasure is derived from the process. But for those who take to the road on two wheels instead of four, getting there is more than half the fun.

Harry Hawkins

Photo by Ruth Wright

Harry Hawkins on his BMW motorcycle.

Harry Hawkins, 59, of Madison, Ind., has been riding motorcycles since he was 15 years old.
Hawkins, the owner of Transmission Warehouse in Madison, began riding seriously in December 1980. He took his first long distance trip in May 1981 with wife, Mary. The couple rode to Dearborn, Mich., for a transmission seminar, then headed north into Canada, where they traveled through Sault Ste. Marie, South Baymouth and Tobermore before heading south.
Since that time, Hawkins has logged about 300,000 miles. “He’s seen a lot of the country now,” said Mary Hawkins, who doesn’t seem to mind her husband’s hobby and, in fact, accompanies him when she can. Last October, the couple spent about two weeks traveling through Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana.
Bill Hall, who works for the Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp., has been riding bikes since 1985. “I just like the open spaces, being outdoors,” said Hall, 46. Hall shares his enthusiasm for the hobby with son Kyle, 17, who got his motorcycle license last year. The two have since ridden to Yellowstone National Park in Montana.
Roger Allman, the hospital administrator at King’s Daughters’ Hospital & Health Services in Madison, said that for him, riding is an escape. “I can put the helmet on, the visor down and nobody knows me. Nobody calls,” said Allman, 50, who often teams up with fellow hospital administrator and motorcycle enthusiast Larry Keith in his adventures.

Roger Allman

Photo by Don Ward

Roger Allman with his
BMW motorcycle.

Allman’s goal is to ride in all 50 states. So far, he has ridden in 33. Allman compared riding a motorcycle with driving in a convertible with the top down. But even that doesn’t quite measure up to the feeling of being on a bike, he said.
Hawkins, Hall and Allman represent a new generation of motorcyclists – one that transcends age, gender and socioeconomic status. Motorcyclists are no longer branded as rebels, misfits or criminals, as they were in the 1960s and ‘70s when gangs like Hells Angels and Outlaws ruled the roads. “In the ‘80s, that image started going away,” said Hawkins, who counts doctors, lawyers and teachers among his motorcycle pals.
Much like drivers of automobiles, motorcyclists tend to circulate in brand-related cliques.
Hawkins enjoys the quiet comfortable ride of his BMW K1200 LT, with heated seat, back rest and hand grips, while Hall prefers his Harley Davidson.
But regardless of what they’re riding, most motorcyclists share a few common characteristics, including a penchant for long trips – typically alone or in small groups.
“He who travels fast, travels alone,” said Hawkins, who has logged many a mile with just his trusty steel steed for company. Hawkins has visited all 49 states in the continental United States and most provinces in Canada. His longest trip was in 2002 when he headed northeast toward Canada with motorcycle pal Darrell Howard of Owensboro, Ky. The two ended up visiting Labrador and Newfoundland, what Hawkins called his “big adventure.” He and Howard traveled nearly 8,000 miles and spent 18 hours traveling by ferry. The trip is Hawkins longest to date.

Roger Allman, Larry Keith

Photo provided

From left, Roger Allman and Larry Keith at Daytona's 'Bike Week.'

Hall has traveled solo all the way to the West Coast and back. “I wanted to see the Oregon and California coast,” he said.
Allman also has seen his share of the road. He has ridden as many as 1,600 miles in a 24-hour period, a feat he admitted is unusual.
Some may balk at the thought of traveling so many miles alone, but most motorcyclists seem to take it for granted. Of course, there are times when the hospitality of strangers comes in handy. For Hall, that was when a dead battery left him stranded in northern Montana. Thanks to the assistance of two local residents, he was soon on his way. “I think that the people that you meet are one of the highlights of the trip,” said Hall.
Motorcyclists can also count on their fellow riders for camaraderie. Hawkins is a member and an ambassador of the BMW MOA, an independent, non-profit club boasting 38,000 members worldwide.
Another motorcyclists’ club is American Bikers Aimed Toward Education, also known as ABATE, a not-for-profit safety, educational, charitable and advocacy organization. In Indiana, ABATE offers motorcycle rider education classes. Tom Buchanan of Madison, ABATE’s Region 9 director, said that the club meets in Madison at Bello’s Pizza at 7:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month.

Hawkins, Fountain

Photo provided

From left, Harry Hawkins and Andy
Fountain on a ride in North Carolina.

ABATE is best known for advocating motorcyclists’ rights, including freedom of choice in regard to helmets. Indiana and Kentucky do not require motorcycle drivers or their passengers to wear helmets, although many still do. “I feel naked without (a helmet),” said Hawkins.
ABATE membership is open to the public for $25 per year and includes a one-year subscription to Hoosier Motorcyclist and reduced admission to more than 180 ABATE of Indiana sanctioned events each year, such as motorcycle rallies.
Motorcycle rallies, held from coast to coast by many different organizations, include Bike Week in Daytona, Fla., and Black Hills Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, S.D.
Last August in Sturgis, 450,000 people attended the 63rd Annual Black Hills Motorcycle Rally. The week-long event, the largest of its kind according to organizers, resulted in the collection of nearly $1 million in sales tax for the state of South Dakota.
Similarly in Dayton, Fla., thousands attend the annual event, which will be held this year from Feb. 27 to March 7.
“I’m not much on bike weeks – the big crowds don’t interest me,” said Hawkins. He makes an exception each year for the BMW MOA rally, which he said is much different from typical bike week extravaganzas. In 1988, the rally was held in Madison and attracted about 1,500 people to the area, according to Hawkins. This year, the rally will take place in mid-July in Spokane, Wash. Hawkins said he plans to attend.
The popularity of motorcycle rallies is another testament to the growing popularity of the hobby. Since 1997, new unit sales of on-highway motorcycles have increased approximately 91 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Apparently, many share Allman’s sentiment: “It’s an adventure,” he said.

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