Vintage motorcycle enthusiasts retracing Lindbergh’s journey will pass by Amana

Beginning earlier this month, members of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) retrace the historic motorcycle journey of rider Charles Lindbergh in 1921, including a scheduled stop Sept. 20-22 in the Amana Colonies.

All four riders will ride 1920-24 Excelsior Series 20 S motorcycles, virtually the same model of motorcycle that Lindbergh rode, the only difference being that Lindbergh had no headlights or electric horns. These motorcycles have been painstakingly restored to be as correct as possible. Some modifications have been made for reliability and safety reasons, while maintaining the look and feel of the original motorcycles. The original plan was to complete this ride in 2021, marking the 100th anniversary of Lindbergh’s ride, but that was not possible due to COVID restrictions and numerous delays in the process of restoring the four machines.

These men are all long-time AMCA members and hail from different parts of the world. Alex Bernhardt of Chicago, Illinois will ride a 1920 Excelsior. Stewart MacLellan of Belleville, Ontario, Canada will ride his grandfather’s 1921 Excelsior. Hans Coertse of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa will drive a 1923 Excelsior. Gene Harper of Denver, Colorado will drive a 1924 Excelsior and is the race organizer. Additionally, Bill Maron of Evergreen, Colorado will be the support team, driving the truck and trailer with all the equipment, parts and tools. John Olsen of Madison, Wis., will be there to photograph the trip.

The ride started on Saturday morning September 3 in Madison, Wisconsin, in front of the University of Wisconsin Engineering Building. The group will retrace Lindbergh’s journey as closely as possible. Most of the small towns he passed through are now big cities, and many of the dirt roads he has traveled are now major interstate highways, all loaded with heavy traffic. For this reason, the group will bypass many of these obstacles and try to stay on two-lane roads as much as possible, but always follow the general route.

Plus, several detours will be made along the way to visit some great vintage motorcycle museums and some of America’s best motorcycling roads. The official endpoint will be the Charles A. Lindbergh Home and Museum in Little Falls, Minnesota on Saturday, September 24. at Camp Knox, Kentucky.

Lindbergh’s trip in 1921

On June 19, 1921, Charles Lindbergh, an 18-year-old farmer from Minnesota, left Madison, Wisconsin, for the first leg of a 3,000-mile, seven-week motorcycle journey. He rode a 1920 Excelsior “Series 20 R” motorcycle. He had just completed his freshman year of college at the University of Wisconsin studying mechanical engineering. Six years later, he would become famous for having managed the first non-stop solo flight from New York to Paris.

The next day in Chicago, Lindbergh met two college buddies from Wisconsin named O’Connor and Drewery who would accompany him, driving a Model T Ford speedster. From there they traveled to Camp Knox Kentucky for six weeks of Army ROTC training in a field artillery unit. While stationed there, they made many detours in the area to explore various caves and other interesting sites. After completing their military training, the three men continued to travel south through Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

Lindbergh later wrote, “After missing connections to my father in Jacksonville, Florida, I returned home to Little Falls, Minnesota by a route farther west.” This return trip took them through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Lindbergh went on to write “I arrived in Little Falls August 6, 1921, with a motorcycle that was badly in need of an overhaul.” Excluding the many small side trips made while at Camp Knox, this trip was completed in just 19 days of actual driving, an incredible achievement considering the poor condition of most roads at that time.

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