Well where do we begin??? Many of you may already know Phil and I from being around the motorcycle community, but here is our story for those of you who do not already know us…
I was born in Milwaukee, WI, where Harley-Davidson’s were a part of everyday life. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in the Midwest and in 2002, I relocated with my employer to Peachtree City, GA. Being raised in Milwaukee, I had always told myself that no matter what the circumstances, I would buy my first Harley by the time I was 30. So, as 30 rolled around, a friend and I decided to buy our first Harleys. After I did all the research, I decided on a HD Low Rider. We went to a HD Dealer in Atlanta to take our Rider’s Edge course and that is where I met Phil. This is how our story began…
As a part of the Rider’s Edge course, they walk you through the dealership to introduce you to all the different departments. It just so happens that Phil was working as the Service Manager. I remember from the moment I met him that there was just something about him that I was drawn to. When we had a break from the course, I went back to introduce myself to him and we exchanged phone numbers. After a few days, Phil called and asked if I wanted to meet him in Atlanta on my motorcycle for something to eat and we could go for a ride. I told him that since I was such a new rider, I was not comfortable riding my motorcycle through downtown at night. He said that he had just restored his 1971 HD Shovelhead, and that I could drive up and bring my helmet with me so we could go for a ride. So, we met at the Universal Joint in East Atlanta and had a few beers and shared a burger. Once we were done, we decided to go for a ride. Phil jumped on the Shovelhead while I went to my Tahoe to get my helmet. When he pulled up, I noticed that there were not any passenger foot pegs so he gave me two options… 1. I could prop my feet up on the shocks or 2. I could wrap my legs around him… You can guess about the choice I made, which later Phil told me “sealed the deal”…he was hooked!
Things progressed quickly in our relationship and we spent much of our free time on the motorcycles. After a season on my Low Rider, the friend that originally took the Rider’s Edge course with me decided that he no longer wanted to ride, so I ended up buying his HD FXDWG I absolutely love this CVO motorcycle since Harley had only made 900 of them.
As time went on, Phil had moved in with me and he was commuting back to Paulding County for work each day. It did not take too long for that to get old and shortly thereafter, Phil was introduced to the owners of Black Jack Motorcycle in Peachtree City. They were looking for someone to get their parts and service department up and running, so Phil decided that this would be a great fit for him and a good place to call home.
Phil had proposed to me in 2004, and of course I said YES!!! So now onto the wedding plans… With all of Phil’s family in Georgia and all of my family in the Midwest, we could not settle on a location to get everyone to the same place at the same time for our wedding. So, it was only appropriate that we incorporate our motorcycles into our plans, and we decided to take a road trip and get married in Las Vegas. So, on Saturday, August 21, 2005, we loaded up the bikes and headed West…..
We had planned a total of 17 days for our trip, and the only reservations we had made was in Las Vegas for our wedding ceremony which was planned for Saturday, August 25th. We figured that our wedding trip was all about the journey and not the destination. The first day was fairly uneventful and we rode 400 miles from Atlanta to Memphis. On Sunday morning we decided to get on the road early since the daytime temperature was reaching over 100 degrees. We hit I-40 before the sun came up and kept on riding, and riding and riding. For those of you who have made this trek, you know that there is NOTHING to see (only smell) between Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. So, we rode 800 miles from Memphis to Amarillo in one day. Trust me when I say that I was happy to get those states behind us, not to mention that they have REALLY big bugs in Texas. Monday morning we again hit the road early to enjoy the cooler temperature and enjoy the peacefulness of the road. We made our way through New Mexico and ended up in AZ. We were finally making our way into some scenic areas and our first stop was through the Petrified Forest. We continued to head West and stay the night in Flagstaff.. From Flagstaff to Vegas we planned to take all back roads and I was looking forward to getting off the highway!
On Monday morning, the weather was definitely cooler once we started to head for the Grand Canyon, which was a nice change from the sweltering heat over the past few days. We made our way up the South Rim and spent much of the day enjoying many of the awesome sights of the Grand Canyon. But, the weather decided to take a nasty turn on us, and we were caught in a hail storm (if you think rain hurts, try riding in hail). By the time we were able to safely pull over, we had 2” of hail on our laps. After we changed into some dry clothes, we made our way into Page, AZ for the night.
Tuesday morning we made our way into the Southwest corner of Utah where we spent most of our day exploring Zion National Park. With the temperature feeling like it was raising a degree every minute, we decided to head to Las Vegas so we could take a few days off the motorcycles and enjoy some well needed R&R. So after leaving Zion, we jumped back on the Interstate towards Vegas. With temperature well over 115 degrees, we decided to pick up our pace little to get out of the sun and into Vegas quicker.
Now here is the ironic part… Phil has been riding motorcycles since he was a kid, but he had never taken the time to get his “official” motorcycle license. I reminded him multiple times before we left for our trip, and it thought he had it taken care of. That was until a Nevada State Trooper pulled us over. So, as our speedometers were teetering around 100 MPH, the blue lights came up behind us out of nowhere. So we pulled over and here we are sitting on our motorcycles on the black asphalt, with the sun beating down on us and the heat blazing off our engines. The only thing I could think of is Phil’s Harley being loaded onto a flat bed and him being handcuffed and taken away in the Troopers car. Keep in mind that we were getting married in 24 hours. So the State Trooper asked us where we were headed to in such a hurry. We pointed to the poster that was taped to Phil’s tour pack saying “LAS VEGAS OR BUST…WE’RE GETN’ MARRIED” and explained that we were from Atlanta and were getting married in Las Vegas the next evening. He then asked us why we weren’t wearing our helmets. We told that since everything else was legal in Vegas, we assumed that Nevada was a non-helmet state. To our surprise, helmets are required. Thank goodness the Trooper never asked for our drivers licenses and kindly told us to put our helmets on, SLOW DOWN and enjoy our wedding in Las Vegas. We happily went on our way and made it into Vegas with no additional hiccups along the way.
When we got to the hotel, we parked our bikes, unloaded our T-Bags and happily went to our hotel room knowing that we had a few days to relax and enjoy our wedding and honeymoon. Later that evening, we dropped our motorcycles off at the Las Vegas Harley Davidson dealership so that they could be serviced since we were not yet even half way through our motorcycle adventure. We enjoyed our evening in Vegas, but hit the sack pretty early so we could get ready for our big day!
Wednesday morning…WEDDING DAY! The day had finally come that we had been planning for! We spent the day relaxing and just lounging around the pool. I had Phil’s suit and my wedding dress shipped to the hotel before we left for our trip, so that afternoon the hotel delivered everything to our room fully pressed and ready to go. After getting all made up in our wedding attire, we headed downstairs to the limo that was waiting for us. There are so many themed wedding in Las Vegas, but we decided to get married in front water fountain at the Bellagio Hotel. Our ceremony was so simple and uncomplicated and I can recall every single moment to this day.
After we were officially married, we had the limo drive us up and down the strip and we took pictures in front of the Welcome to the Fabulous Las Vegas sign and Harley Davidson Café. We went on to celebrate at Nine Steakhouse at the Palms hotel where it seemed like every time we turned around we had a cocktail or shot sent our way in celebration. Now, under normal circumstances, we would have planned to pick our bikes and ride out on Friday morning, by Mr. Jager Meister was not so forgiving the next morning, so we decided to stay another night in Vegas.
Saturday morning came quickly and we wanted to make our way into Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, so we again headed out early. We took the interstate the entire length of Utah and just North of Salt Lake City we got off the interstate and hit the back roads. With no destination in mind, we rode until we decided to pull over for the night. We ended up in Big Bear Lake, Idaho where we found a great bed & breakfast to call home for the night. Out of all of the places we visited, this by far was my favorite place and it seems like our little hide-a-way in the middle on nowhere. The following morning the owners made us French toast stuffed with wild berries from their own pasture out back. I could have seriously stayed there for an eternity.
Sunday morning we crossed back over into Jackson Hole, Wyoming and then rode into Yellowstone. WOW…for those of you who have not been, it is truly an amazing place to visit. I think we spent 10 hours in the park, and only rode a total of 100 miles the entire day.
Now initially, we wanted to make our way up into Glacier National Park, but based on the distance and what was still on our list of things we wanted to see, we decided to point the bikes back East and start making our way towards Chicago where my family was planning a small wedding reception for us with family and friends that next weekend. So Monday morning we pulled out of Yellowstone and we made our way into Cody, Wyoming which was the coolest little town. It was exactly like one of those little towns you see from the Ol’ Wild West movies. From Cody, we took back roads all the way over the Sheridan, WY where again we picked up the Interstate until we made it into Rapid City, SD. We rode into Sturgis first which was like a ghost town. We had missed the rally by a few weeks, and there was no trace that 500,000+ motorcycle enthusiasts were there just a few weeks prior.
On Tuesday we got an early start to the day because we wanted to visit a few sites in South Dakota. Our first stop was Mount Rushmore and then onto the Crazy Horse Monument which was one of my favorite places to visit throughout our Journey. After Crazy Horse we went onto Devil’s Tower and then into the Badlands. The Badlands were so amazing… After a jam-packed day, we decided to ride as far as we could and stopped just short of Sioux Falls, SD for the night.
Wednesday morning we woke up with 650 miles in front of us until we made it to my parents house in Chicago. Since there is really not much to see, we made our way across the Southern part of Minnesota, through Wisconsin and then finally into Illinois. Now as we were coming through Minnesota, Phil rode up next to me and asked if my bike had gotten louder. We decided to pull over to fuel up, and low and behold, I lost my baffle somewhere along the Interstate. So, instead of a nice, peaceful ride from Minnesota to Illinois, I got to listen to the loud raspy rumble of my pipe for 400 miles. We made it to my parents house later that evening, hit the shower and went straight to bed!
Thursday morning we went to Wild Fire Harley Davidson in Villa Park, IL where Phil proceeded to the service counter to get a replacement baffle for my FXDWG. While he was taking care of business, I decided to talk to their salesperson about a Black Electra Glide that was sitting on the showroom floor. When Phil was told that they did not have the baffle we needed, I told him that maybe I should just leave the FXDWG there and ride out on a new motorcycle as a wedding present. Here is the funny part…Phil and I said the entire trip that it was all about the journey of starting our lives together, and not about the destination. The slogan of Wild Fire Harley Davidson…”Life is about the journey and the road starts here”. I was destined to ride out of there on my new motorcycle. We rode back to my folks house and their jaws nearly hit the ground when they saw me pull in with the new motorcycle. So just to recap, I have rode the FXDWG Hot Rod almost 5,000 miles and the last 800 from Chicago back to Atlanta, I was going to ride back in style!!
Saturday we enjoyed spending time with my family and friends and they had a nice little reception for us. On Sunday we hit the Interstate first thing and 715 miles later we arrive at Home Sweet Home!
I am so happy that Phil and I made this journey together. To this day, I can remember every sight, sound and smell along the way. I think of the times that we would be riding next to each other and looking over at him thinking how great it would be to make this journey together in another 25 years. I truly believe that life is all about the journey and not the destination, and I look forward to the many roads ahead of us that we will travel down together.