The week-long VIP, Harley-riding experience ended as it began, with a police escort, first, out of town from Joplin, Mo., to begin the journey on Route 66 last Tuesday. Three days later, it was down Canal Street onto the grounds of motorcycle Mecca – the Harley-Davidson Museum.
For the riders who came from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and from across the U.S. to ride with the grandson of the founder of Harley-Davidson, this was home. For Davidson, vice president of the museum, it was a chance to show off the pride points of a place that for him is something of a family scrapbook.
With a broad smile, he hunkered down next to "The Hill Climber," the 16-foot-tall bronze statue that serves as the centerpiece of the museum compound. The group huddled in close to hear him share insider secrets of the statue, pointing out the places where Davidson family members literally made their mark. (It wouldn’t be right to give away all the secrets here – that’s for the next VIP experience)
Davidson delighted the riders with stories and factoids – the kind that don’t come in guidebooks or on regular tours. This was a time to share family memories, and no one does it with more pride than Bill Davidson, as he hushed the crowd with tales of William S. Harley, Arthur Davidson and Bill’s father, Willie G. Davidson.
"I’m so happy to share this experience with you," Davidson told the group. "You are getting access to this awesome piece of history and it will mean so much more to you because we just got off the road this exhibit celebrates."
The riders got a behind-the-scenes tour from the curator of "The American Road" exhibit, including the off-limits archives, accessible only to a select few. The exhibit, which opened this week, celebrates the road trip, from the 1930s to the 1970s, and is packed with neon signs, photos and, of course, motorcycles.
After dinner on the private deck atop the museum, ride participants had the opportunity to have Bill and his sister Karen Davidson, creative director at Harley-Davidson, sign clothing, get autographs and to take pictures. These, too, would become family photos of sorts - as only those who ride know how bonds are sealed on a Harley road trip.
Route 66 is, for many, a bucket list journey. For the riders on "The American Road Tour with Bill Davidson," the bucket is forever emblazoned with the bar and shield logo and is filled with the experiences of a lifetime.
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