Trail of Tears Ride

by Mick Lindley

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    The 5th annual Trail of Tears ride was on September 16, 2000  I was a proud participant and I must say it was a blast. According to estimates there was 70,000 motorcycles on the 235 mile ride from Chattanooga, TN to Waterloo, AL. We rode to Scottsboro, AL and joined the ride there. We felt we would be backtracking if we went all the way to Chattanooga. 

    As we waited to get out of the parking lot and join the ride at Scottsboro an elderly couple sat at the edge of the lot in a Cadillac wanting to cross both lanes and turn left. After a while we noticed that there were some gaps. Not enough for them to cross, but enough for us to do a jack rabbit start and go right to join up with the ride. Getting impatient I decided I could do it. I pulled up beside this Cadillac and sat there for a while thinking it over. I donít know if this lady thought I looked OFFICIAL or real STUPID. She rolled down her window and asked, "Can you stop these motorcycles? I need to go! I answered as politely as possible, "No Mam". I thought about that question later. How would you stop thousands of motorcycles going 40 to 50 mph? 

    The state troopers, sheriffs, and police, and volunteers, did a fine job blocking off every intersection as we passed by. If any of you are reading this I for one want to say a big THANK YOU. Still there were a few accidents. As we passed thru Florence we were waved over into the left lane. Two bikes tangled up and went down. The unlucky ones were laid out on the pavement. I never heard how bad they were hurt or how they were doing. 

    Old fashioned Southern hospitality was at its best as thousands upon thousands of greeters and well wishers stood along side the roads and streets as we passed by. All of them waved and shouted as we went by, and many held signs welcoming the ride. The line was an estimated 40 miles long. Many wanted to give us physical contact as we passed by with a high five. This is rather difficult to do as you have to let go of the throttle. Couple this with the fact that you are moving very slowly with constant counter steering to stay up and you get the picture of how tricky it is. On at least 3 occasions I saw police move people back onto the sidewalk. Many were passing out partially frozen bottles of spring water as we went by. I took one, and immediately had a problem. What can I do with this bottle of water? I use the right hand for the throttle, the left for the clutch. I finally turned around and stuck it beside my saddlebag and hoped it did not fall off. A little later I got a chance to drink it, and it WAS a lifesaver. 

    I got a chance to pass off a pair of spare riding gloves I had in my pocket to a 10 year old. I heard him shout after I got by, "he gave me his gloves". We stopped at Florence, AL for a rest stop in a huge park. I was lucky our group was within about 500 motorcycles from the front of the ride. We lined up in the park in much the same order we would leave. 45 minutes later motorcycles were still coming in. I suppose after we pulled out of the park they directed the rest of the group on to Waterloo. They never knew they missed the rest stop. 

    I had the pleasure of riding the last 16 miles into Waterloo behind a couple on a GoldWing with Ohio plates who really warmed my heart. The girl on the back threw both arms skyward and waved wildly with both hands in the air at EVERY group they passed, no matter how large or small it was. I wanted to find them at Waterloo to meet them, but I never saw them again. 

    As 74,000 motorcycles close in on tiny Waterloo it got interesting. Where do you put that many motorcycles. The answer is EVERYWHERE. All streets, sidewalks, middle of streets, parking lots, some yards, fields, etc. Luckily they had a huge field where most parked and later set up tents. 

    There are no accommodations in Waterloo. There is only one convenience store in Waterloo. Late Saturday night we walked up to this store (you still could not drive or ride) to get a Coke. The shelves were getting pretty bare. I talked to the owner and mentioned that we had just about cleaned him out. He said "I hope yaíll finish it off" I have already sold more than I sell in 2 months. Iíll take a vacation and come back and restock". 

    Many attempted to leave Waterloo after checking out the vendors there. This was near impossible to do on a little 2 lane road. By now the police were not blocking off the intersections and there was a mix of cars on the road. We tried it because we were going to stay at a campground across the river. We changed our mind and rode into the field where we set up camp and stayed for the night. 

    The evening was great with a concert by Branscomb Richmond and the Nelson Bros. Afterwards a great fireworks show was displayed on the river. If you ride a motorcycle plan to attend the ride next year. It is now the largest organized ride in the world. The number has more then doubled every year. Here is my question that comes to mind. Next year where do you put 140,000 motorcycles in Waterloo. 

    Check out my GoldWing page if you like at  Mick Lindley

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