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Laura J. Gardner | The Journal Gazette
Sarah Frodelly of Hope, N.J., relaxes at the Johnny Appleseed Park campground Wednesday, the first day of the Wing Ding.

Riders roll in, basking in kinship

8,000 begin annual Gold Wing gathering

– If you went anywhere in the city Wednesday, you were bound to see folks enjoying their independence astride sparkled motorbikes and trikes that combine a smooth ride with ample storage space. Or so they said.

“It’s a luxury touring motorcycle,” Lee Swanson said of his Honda Gold Wing trike. “It’s not your Harley-Davidson loud pipes. It’s quieter than a car.”

With temperatures hitting triple digits, Swanson, 63, and his wife, Donna, were camped out in Johnny Appleseed Park with other riders in town for the annual Wing Ding, which started Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum.

Fort Wayne has hosted the convention, organized by the Gold Wing Road Riders Association, twice before. Nearly 8,000 members are estimated to attend this year.

Swanson and his wife drove from their home in Tampa, Fla., for the four-day convention. Afterward, they’ll head to the Pacific Northwest where Donna Swanson hopes to spot Bigfoot, or rather, Bigfeet.

“I want to see a mother and a baby,” she said.

Dreams aside, the Swansons came prepared for the realities of life on the road. Their Gold Wing pulls a teardrop-shaped trailer that has cooking and sleeping compartments. The trailer helps them save money on hotels and restaurants, and it also lets them bring a lot of stuff with them, a common theme among Gold Wing riders.

Though, with all this gear, why not just drive a car or an RV?

If you did that, Wayne Gott says, you wouldn’t get the sensory experience of riding a motorcycle.

“You can see everything,” said Gott, 57. “You can’t see stuff sitting inside a box looking out through a window around pillars.”

Plus, the bike is a stress killer. “Usually, when you’re on there riding, it fills up everything, and everything else goes away,” he said.

“You don’t have to grit your teeth and look miserable when you’re riding it,” said his wife, Laurie Gott, 52. “It’s enjoyable.”

“You don’t have to wear earplugs,” he said.

“We don’t like to deafen the neighbors,” she said.

The Gotts, Canadians from the Niagara Falls area, have been Gold Wing riders since 2009. Wherever they go, they carry the Gold Book, a thick list of GWRRA members.

“If you get into trouble and need assistance or whatever, you just pull out the book, look up somebody that’s local, and they’re there to help you,” Wayne Gott said. “We’ve used it a couple times.”

This sort of camaraderie is also a common theme among Gold Wing enthusiasts.

“It doesn’t matter where you are in the United States or wherever as long as you belong to GWRRA you become an instant friend,” said Sarah Frodelly, 46.

Frodelly of Hope, N.J., said she has met Gold Wingers with elementary school educations and others with doctorates.

“And we’re all equal,” she said. “I really love that.”