Ridin' Around with John Boettcher

Barber Museum via Pennsylvania.

I've ridden to Pennsylvania a few times this year and had to go again to Seco Warwick for my company. It was for a seminar on vacuum heat treating furnaces.

I headed out on the Eldorado at 5:00 A.M. on a September morning. As it was Sunday I decided to go through Chicago. The skyline looked great against the orange sky with the sun not quite up. I took the Chicago skyline where you can see all the refineries along Lake Michigan. It was US Highway 6 and US Highway 20 through Indiana and most of Ohio, and then Ohio Highway 303.

There was a "road closed ahead" sign on Highway 303, but I decided to see just how closed the road really was. Well, after riding five miles up to the bridge, I found it was under repair with barricades and a big earthmover on the bridge. I didn't want to ride five miles back to the detour so I rode the Eldo through a ditch, up the embankment and slowly eased the bike between the shovel of the earthmover and the driving tread. I had about a one-fourth inch of clearance and squeaked through. As I came around the opposite side embankment I noticed all the golfers at the adjacent golf course, laughing, waving and shaking their heads!

I checked into a motel in Meadville but I still had a few hours of sunlight left, so I rode up to Presque Isle by Erie, Pennsylvania. I took a little loop that took me down New York Highway 426 and back into Pennsylvania down Highway 77. Great roads, but the sun had set and I was pushing it with all the deer that were out. Not quite 700 miles for the day.

Monday was a short day at Seco so afterwards I headed out on Pennsylvania Highway 27 to Titusville. Great roads, heavily wooded, and not bad for a drizzly day. I saw the Drake Well, took a side road which lead up a gravel road into Plumer. I rode over to Oil City and saw a few oil refineries.

Then I was to meet, for the first time, former Internet MGCL listee, Smilin' Jack Ballard. He lives outside Mercer, Pennsylvania. We hit it off right away and I got a tour of his farm, airplane and motorcycles. SJ is a retired jet pilot and quite an interesting fellow.

Tuesday and Wednesday I rode over to SJ's after the seminars ended. Tuesday, on the way over, I stopped at Monaco's Moto Guzzi near Franklin and met John and his lovely wife Sandy. Nice place. I bought a T-shirt and headed over to SJ's. He pulled out his old Beemer and we rode to a restaurant about 40 miles away to meet a few of his friends. After we left I showed him how the Eldo can still pull the front wheel off the ground!

Wednesday night was bike night in Sharon, Pennsylvania. SJ rode his Norton Commando that shined like new. We got there around 5:00 P.M., and by that time about 2000 bikes had already arrived. The great variety was a pleasure to view with my favorite being a 1940ís Indian with the V twin mounted like the Guzzi, even with shaft drive.

I couldn't stay long because I had to get back to Seco for a dinner party. I said good bye to SJ and headed back.

Thursday the seminar was over by noon and I was back in Ohio heading south on a variety of back roads and state routes with a couple of US routes for good measure. US Highway 62 from Maysville, Kentucky to Georgetown was enjoyable. I covered a little under 600 miles, but this is not bad for a noon start.

Friday morning was brisk as I rode down US Highway 127 to Tennessee Highway 28. Somehow I ended up in Georgia and then back in Alabama on a few county roads. Guntersville was nice with the lakes and Tennessee River. I headed north  to Lacey's Spring, near Huntsville, and met another former MGCL listee, GuzziDoug Wohtke, an equally interesting person with a completely different way of looking at life. This was after picking up a nail in my rear tire and doing a roadside tube swap. I remembered everything except a spark plug wrench so I could use my inflater, but luckily a farmer stopped and ran home to get a tire pump. I was mobile again in less than a half hour.

Doug offered to put me up for the night but I told him I wanted to get a little closer to Birmingham. (It may have been those huge snakes he has that scared me off!)

I ended up in Cullman, Alabama. I was up early on Saturday and decided to take the long way to Birmingham. I zigzagged around a bit and made it in time for a tour of the Barber Motorcycle Museum that MGCL listee and Georgia MGNOC Rep, Glenn Bewley put together.

I met MGCL list bad boy, Harold McLean, and we went through the museum. Pretty amazing place; lots of bikes were right on the floor where you could sit on them or get a real hands on look. I even saw another one of those shaft drive Indians, but this one was more authentic with the original green war paint. Harold got a kick out of a couple of old Lotus sports cars that were in the back.

I met a few other people but as is well known, I'm bad with names. After I headed up US Highway 75 (after I finished viewing the museum) to Alabama Highway 5, Alabama Highway 13 and Alabama Highway 172 into Mississippi and up mainly on Mississippi Highway 25.

I rode by the Pickwick Dam in Tennessee and made my way north on Tennessee Highway 22 to McKenzie. A couple of county roads lead to Mayfield, Kentucky, making for an all around great day.

Sunday it was time to get back home. I stopped in Eldorado, Illinois just for grins and a picture. It is actually a nice little town. I've been on most Illinois roads so it was pretty uneventful the rest of the way back. An all around decent trip. It was nice to meet a few new people and see an awesome museum.


Eldorado, Illinois

Harold McLean at Barber Museum


Smiliní Jack Ballard at Bike Night is Sharon, Pennsylvania

Yours Truly in front of SJís airplane


Barber Museum

Copyright ©1999-2012, John Boettcher, all rights reserved
Contact John at:  ratguzzi@hotmail.com