The buildings in the background stand over what was once the
flourishing Henderson Motorcycle Company, now merely a
memory and hallowed motorcycle ground.
ADVENTURE ACROSS USA 100 YEARS LATER – PART THREE
“Into the jaws of danger.” That was how one of our team members described the attempt to find the site of the original Henderson motorcycle factory in downtown Detroit. 100 years earlier Clancy made a return visit to Detroit with his 1912 Henderson where he said it was “looked up to in mute admiration by its many young brothers who had appeared upon the scene during its long and brilliant absence from home.”
What our group of adventure followers and seekers found was far from admiring. The city of Detroit was on the verge of imploding, factories and neighborhoods we passed by looked like bombed-out war zones and a news article proclaimed the area the second most dangerous in the United States. While adventurist, we decided to manage our risk and quietly slip into and out of the city in the middle of the day rather than try a media event mixed with nocturnal adventure or rush hours. What we discovered during our mid-day dash to where the original Henderson factory once stood was a tall modern glass building underneath which ran a tunnel to Canada. There was not so much as a sign to mark where the once-thriving motorcycle factory had been. It was with a bit of sadness that we left the former bustling factory site knowing that 100 years earlier it had been the birthplace of Clancy’s 1912 Henderson that had been around the world. But on this day there was no crowd, other than our riding group, to appreciate the event.
We hustled out of Detroit and were soon following the Clancy route across northern Ohio. As we passed through one toll booth the two sponsored BMW riders found them in a bit of a quandary when the bar across the road would not lift up. Some electronic gizmo not affixed to the 1983 Hondas had allowed them to easily pass through but seemed not to understand the messages the BMWs were sending with their electronic units. While waiting for the BMW pilots to back-peddle and try another toll booth I found myself wondering how Clancy would have solved a similar problem. It was with a smile that I realized he would not have had to deal with the problem, there not being an electronic toll both on any road he would have been traveling over.
As we passed through Cleveland we remembered that Clancy also did not stop there. He was seemingly on a schedule, as were we. Clancy lamented not having had time to visit the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company 20 miles to the south, his tire sponsor. Our motorcycles were using tires of various other makes, so we could see no reason in doing what Clancy did not, visiting the tire manufacturer.
(Above) The BMW riders had to back-up and try another toll booth before they could move forward, much to the entertainment of the horn honking cars halted behind them. (Below) Our core group stopped to be tourists at Niagara Falls. It was as impressive 100 years later as it must have been when Clancy also touristed.
Seemingly Clancy’s schedule shortly after Cleveland developed some flexibility because instead of heading due east and directly back to his starting point in New York City, he turned north and drove to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. We followed his route north, making a similar stop at the water falls. While touristing along with several busloads of Chinese tourists photographing the falls we wondered what Clancy would have thought had he been sent 100 years into the future and seen what he had thought he had left behind in China, throngs of Chinese people.
Following Clancy’s trail across New York found us again vectoring off a direct route east to New York City and instead southward to Reading. While he never wrote why he had made this obvious detour Clancy did note that … “in Western New York I found the best long stretches of road anywhere in the world.” That was quite a statement and while 100 years later we could argue better roads existed on the planet, it was an interesting motorcycle tour along the shores of Seneca Lake, albeit not too straight and often broken up by small towns, villages and crossroads. In one of the small villages we were surprised at being pulled into a restaurant by an unseen force. After parking we discovered a piece of motorcycle art the owners had placed in front of their establishment, but we had been unable to see it from the direction we had come. It was seemingly a cosmic force none of us could explain.
Our last night on the road as a group was spent in Newburgh, New York. While off the original Clancy trail, it was in this town we hoped to find a rumored second 1912 Henderson motorcycle in the Motorcyclepedia Museum. It was also here that we decided to have our celebratory End Of The Clancy Centenary Ride dinner, knowing that the next day our ride into the center of New York City would officially end our 5600 miles across the USA and we would go separate ways.
Unknown to us was the evening was hosted by a well-known motorcycle magazine, BACKROADS Motorcycle Tour magazine. Publishers Brian Rathjen and Shira Kamil arranged for several local motorcycle dignitaries to join the Clancy Centenary Ride Team members for dinner and the band to recognize our far-away Irish riders Geoff Hill and Gary Walker with an Irish song. The biggest surprise was when they presented me with their magazine’s annual award for “Lifetime Achievement In Motorcycling Excellence.” The award from the publishers and editors of one motorcycle magazine to this editor of another motorcycle magazine showed how the spirit of motorcycling, the motorcycling community and our global approach to 100 years of motorcycling around the world could mutually celebrate a monumental achievement, circling the world by motorcycle.
Our hunt for the rumored second 1912 Henderson motorcycle was slowed by the hundreds of bikes on display in the Motorcyclepedia Museum. It was impossible to walk directly to the Henderson display without stopping to look at wide range of motorcycles and memorabilia on display in between the entrance and the Henderson display. For instance, on display was the world’s most extensive collection of Indian motorcycles, from originals to other models merely badged as “Indian”.
Eventually our group gathered in a Henderson section of the museum where we found an immaculately restored 1913 bike, but not the rumored 1912 model. There was no disappointment, however, as the vast display of over 400 other makes and models more than made up for the trail ending at the 1913 Henderson.
Two of the museum board members, Larry Mosca and Pete Miller, volunteered to lead our group into New York City, a much needed set of guides. We were to arrive at Penn Station at 1 p.m. for a short press conference that was to officially end The Clancy Centenary Ride as envisioned by Irishmen Feargal O’Neill and his adventurous pal Joe Walsh nearly two years prior. Trying to keep six riders together on motorcycles ranging from new to 30 years old while entering the lower digestive tract of America’s largest city was one of our wilder adventures over the last 5600 miles, and an attestation to the skills of Miller (a former “motor cop”) and Mosca (aka Mr. Patience).
Less than three miles from our scheduled departure from Newburgh one of the clutch cables on the older Hondas snapped. Miller and Mosca, like mother geese, surrounded the BMW and Honda goslings and hustled us into a nearby graveyard. Under the shade of trees the word “prepared” came to be appreciated as the clock for the scheduled media event rapidly ticked down. Each of the 30-year-old Hondas had in their spare parts kit a new clutch cable, showing how well Honda aficionado Richard Livermore had prepped both bikes for the ride across America. Within 10 minutes the cable had been replaced and the group was nearly back on schedule. Amazingly, Miller was able to lead our zigging and zagging gaggle through a maze of construction, honking taxis and death-defying pedestrians to arrive at Penn Station at exactly 1 p.m. Mosca brought up the rear and waved traffic around us as cameras were clicking and autographs were sought.
(Above) End of The Clancy Centenary Ride from where Clancy started, Penn Station in New York City, minutes before the motorcycle media frenzy began June 22, 2013. (Below) Passed onto the great-niece of Carl Stearns Clancy, Lynda Clancy, was one of the two pennants provided by one Clancy Centenary Ride creator, Feargal O’Neill. The other will continue on around the world for a second global loop with Richard Livermore and me.
For 15 minutes our Clancy Centenary Ride Team attempted to take photographs and meet media representatives while parked in a questionable parking zone. To describe the motorcycle media feeding frenzy in words would leave out the noise and traffic congestion. In that short quarter of an hour new acquaintances were made, a pick-pocketing was thwarted, hundreds of photographs were taken and much back slapping took place. Four of us had managed to follow the original Clancy USA route of 100 years earlier with only two minor motorcycle glitches: a broken clutch cable and one burned out light bulb (easily replaced at a local auto parts store). We had been joined on our ride across America and at the finish by hundreds of adventurous motorcyclists, some on two wheels while others were with us on the Internet. A great-niece of Carl Stearns Clancy, Lynda Clancy, had even traveled from Maine to meet our group amid the onlookers at Penn Station.
As traffic became more snarled around our group and we could feel the push of New Yorkers wanting to get out of the city on the Friday afternoon, our core group parted ways. Gary Walker and Geoff Hill would fly themselves and their BMW motorcycles back to Europe, their world journey being over. Richard Livermore and I would continue south and eventually on to South America, our ride around the world having just begun 6500 miles earlier in Southern California.
The Clancy Centenary Ride was officially over at Penn Station in New York City on June 21, 2013. For Richard Livermore and myself, our ‘round the world adventure ride had just started. Geoff Hill, through The Blackstaff Press, plans to release a book in October, 2013 about The Clancy Centenary Ride titled IN CLANCY’S BOOTS, with photos by Gary Walker. I plan to reveal some secrets about the original 1912-1913 ride by Clancy and our own American portion in a new book titled DOWN AND OUT IN PATAGONIA, KAMCHATKA, AND TIMBUKTU slated for release in March, 2014.
Looking back on The Clancy Centenary Ride across America, it had been an interesting adventure. From the original concept nearly three years earlier after Feargal O’Neill and Joe Walsh had read the book MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURER about the first man to circle the globe by motorcycle, to our finish in New York City, the risks on both global rides had been different but significant. Both rides had been an extreme motorcycle adventure, neither of which could be replicated. I was pleased when finished to have been a part of both.
More detail on The Clancy Centenary Ride can be found on the Horizons Unlimited Clancy ‘Round The Globe Ride at www.HorizonsUnlimited.com/clancyride.