By PEGGY USSERY, Dothan Eagle
DOTHAN, Alabama (AP) – Bikers learn a lot of things on the road.
Plastic shopping bags can keep your socks dry when your boots are soaked. Just slip them on your shod feet and put on your boots. Also, on long road trips, do it for the needs of the motorcycle, not yours, especially if you are riding an older bicycle. And never doubt the kindness of strangers. The best stories, after all, are breakdown stories.
When riding an vintage motorcycle, Doug Wothke’s favorite tool is a hammer that he keeps attached to the bike.
“If I can’t fix it with a hammer, I have an electrical problem,” Wothke said.
Wothke of Headland and fellow runners Berry Wardlaw and Vivian “Gypsy” Charros of Dothan will join over 100 other runners from across the country for the 2021 Cross Country Chase. The race is designed to test the speed, endurance and prowess of navigation by riders of vintage motorcycles, especially those built between 1930 and 1960. This year’s race, dubbed “Secrets of the Ozarks”, will begin in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on July 5 and will span 1,340 miles over five days.
Wardlaw will ride his 1939 Indian Chief while Charros will ride his 1954 Harley Davidson Panhead and Wothke will ride his 1936 Indian Chief. The group left the Wiregrass on Wednesday.
Each day of the Cross Country Chase, runners will receive a map of the day’s course. There is no GPS or assistance teams to help you in the event of a breakdown or deviation.
“It’s not really an adventure with a security blanket,” Wardlaw said. “We want adventure.
Bikers all have modern motorcycles, but there’s just something about antiques that brings out the inner child, Wardlaw said.
Wothke has a shop in Headland and has been around the world on motorcycles four times – the first time was on a 1948 Indian. His oldest motorcycle was built in 1912. Wothke enjoys the challenge presented by older motorcycles and has so many older motorcycles that it can’t always count. (It’s almost 70.)
“I only need one more,” Wothke said.
Charros is a traveling nurse who has cared for COVID-19 patients, mainly in California, and who entered the Discovery Channel’s “Biker Build-Off” competition and won in 2006. She also worked as a photographer and columnist for the specialist motorcycle magazine “Thunder Press”.
“It’s tough when it comes to the age of the motorcycles – parts aren’t available,” Charros said of the antique rides. “Everything is mechanical; there are no computers on this thing.
With older motorcycles, you need some mechanical aptitude to keep the bike running. You have to be in tune with the machine. But that too is part of the attraction for riders.
“You have to be a part of this thing to make it happen; he’s not going anywhere without you, ”Wardlaw said. “You control the timing of the ignition. Sometimes you check the oil pump. You start it with your foot. If you’re not one of them, it won’t happen. You have to shoot the bell; you have to blow the whistle – all of it. That’s the cool part about it.
Wardlaw and Charros operate the Accurate Engineering motorcycle store in Dothan. Wardlaw has been riding since he was 12 – he’s now 65.
The Dothan Group is completed by Marvelous Molly, Wardlaw’s 16-year-old rescue dog, who is hard of hearing but looks stylish in a motorcycle outfit. She rides on a padded perch in front of Wardlaw and even has her own sponsors.
Molly was not trained to ride the motorcycle, and Wardlaw said he never intended for her to do so. But ever since she was a puppy, Molly wanted to ride with her. He just made room for her.
“We’ve been riding ever since,” Wardlaw said.
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