Gary Lewis of Huntington once jumped on his Harley and rode to El Paso just for fun.
Oh, he didn’t ride nonstop. He took a break somewhere in northern Texas to sleep for the night.
While that might sound a little extreme, it’s not uncommon for people who love their motorcycles to take off on epic rides when they have a few days off.
In October of 2008, though, Lewis heard about the most epic motorcycle ride in America. It’s called the Four Corners ride, and it was started in 1983 when a California couple decided to travel to the extreme corners of the continental U.S. by motorcycle. They rode from San Ysidro, Calif., to Blaine, Wash., to Madawaska, Maine, to Key West, Fla., in 21 days. The four towns represent the most extreme corners of the country.
Earlier this year, Lewis, a 60-year-old Huntington businessman, could no longer resist. He joined the Southern California Motorcycling Association, signed up to take the ride, and then started dreaming about it, meticulously mapping a route for the four corners and every night reviewing the route and imagining the thrill of tackling a truly classic ride, not just some little jaunt to El Paso or Colorado.
Sunday morning, Lewis packed 26 pairs of underwear, 26 pairs of socks, 26 handkerchiefs, six pairs of blue jeans and some other basics (you don’t do laundry on a ride like this) and headed out from Huntington, accompanied by a friend who once rode his bike to Missouri on impulse, just because he heard Lewis was there on his boat and it sounded like fun.
If he finishes his ride – and he doesn’t seem to have any doubts – he’ll become one of the rare finishers. Fewer people have completed this ride than have climbed Mount Everest, he says.
But you have to follow the rules and keep careful records.
Lewis will have to have his picture taken in front of a landmark in each of the four destination towns. Then he’ll have to buy gas at a gas station in each town and get a computer-generated receipt showing the date and time of the gas purchase as well as keep track of his mileage.
When he finishes the ride, Lewis will get his reward: A pin, a hat, a certificate, and his name on a list of finishers.
There’s been a lot of anticipation for the ride, Lewis says, but the biggest challenge is to have all your ducks in a row – the right motorcycle ready to handle the 10,000-mile ride (he has a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic), the time to do it and the money.
Lewis says he doesn’t know what the failure rate is among people who attempt the ride, but I’ve read it’s high, he said. Most people fail before they get started. They sign up and then they never start.
Lewis has cleared that first hurdle – getting started. He left Huntington on Sunday morning and rode 556 miles, spending the night in Canada, and was expected to be 500 miles further down the road and in Maine on Monday night.
He’s trying to get the ride done pretty quickly, too, he said. He wants to be home in time to enjoy the summer on his boat.
We’ll be keeping tabs on Lewis’ progress over the next few days.