A small group of Payson Harley-Davidson enthusiasts will be joining at least 600,000 of their biker buddies in Milwaukee, Wisc. next week for a monumental Harley homecoming.
The Payson contingent leaves at 8 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 23 from Safeway to make a journey to the Harley-Davidson 100th birthday party. They will arrive in Milwaukee Aug. 28 for four days of celebrating.
"It's the trip of a lifetime," Safeway manager Dan Dillon said. He and his wife, Bernadette, who works at Bank of America, and nine other Payson residents are making the trip, which has been five years in the planning.
The Payson delegation will have eight bikes and a chase vehicle with a trailer, in the event of a breakdown.
"We have a set route," Dillon said. "The first night, we stay in Las Vegas, N.M., the second night we're in Denver, Colo. The third night we're in Rapid City, S.D., the fourth night we'll be in Spencer, Iowa and we get to Milwaukee Aug. 28. We have friends and family to stay with at every stop except Las Vegas, N.M."
The sponsors of the Harley Davidson party are expecting more than 600,000 motorcycles from all over the world, Dillon said.
"I talked to a friend in Holbrook and they had a huge group from Norway come through," he said. He said a group of 20,000 riders went through Flagstaff Wednesday.
There is not a place to stay in Milwaukee within three-and-a-half hours, he said. The Payson group is taking over the home of Dillon's brother, who is leaving town to stay at a lake cabin.
"We're calling it the Woodstock of the New Millennium," he said.
There will be four nights of parties and about 20 name bands playing at different times, Dillon said.
The Payson group is making a 17-day, 4,700-mile round trip. For many of them, it is the longest bike trip they have made.
In addition to the Dillons, participants in the Payson group are Jim Carr of The Rock Yard; Bob Lloyd, retired; Joe Rodgers, Precision Painting; Dora and Dan Rodgers, semi-retired; Rick Korth, entrepreneur; Tim and Theresa Dudley, an APS "trouble man" and a mom; and Steve Rodgers, regional manager for AAA Rental. Theresa is the only woman in the group who will be riding her own Harley.
Dan Rodgers and Steve Rodgers are brothers, and Joe Rodgers is Dan's son, so the ride is a real family affair for them.
Dan has also been riding the longest in the group, with 31 years experience. Theresa Dudley has been riding only about two months. Dillon started riding when he was 17.
"So there is a lot of different levels of experience in the group, and a range of bikes," he said. "The oldest bike is a 1971 model, the newest is a 2003."
Oddly enough, it was in his home town of Milwaukee that Dillon started his career as a biker.
Anyone interested in giving the Payson contingent a send off to the big Harley party, can come to the Safeway parking lot Saturday morning, Aug. 23. The gang will hit the road at 8 a.m.