With a combined age of 159, you’d expect to see these two guys hanging out at the local drugstore waiting to have their prescriptions filled but, happily, that is far from reality. You see, Dave George and Hal Harding are trike riders of the highest degree. They have been riding together for over 13 years and, with well over a million miles between them, think nothing of hopping on their Roadsmith trikes and riding over 300 miles in 30 degree weather to" have some work done" at the factory.
That’s where we had the pleasure of talking to these two incredible gentlemen, on a very cold November day in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. They had ridden in from Wisconsin the day before with temperatures in the high 20s when they left that morning. "We both have those electric suits that keep us pretty warm" said Dave when we talked, "so the cold doesn’t really bother us." With over 200,000 miles on his Roadsmith Gold Wing, he thought it would be a good idea to have his trike inspected at the factory to see if anything might need some attention. His good friend and riding buddy, Hal, wasn’t about to be left behind and happily suited up for the long, cold ride.
Long rides are nothing new to either of these guys and their personal stories are just as interesting as their stories together. Dave George has been riding off and on since he acquired his first motorbike at the age of 15. It was a Whizzer which he purchased with the help of his dad who loaned him the money. "At that time, you could buy the Whizzer motor for $99.50" he said, "and put it on any frame that you wanted." Dave’s choice was a Schwinn bicycle, which he proceeded to beef up with heavy duty components to accommodate his new powerplant. He says that it was a fantastic vehicle when it was completed and he easily rode 15,000 miles on it before moving on to other motorcycles in his youth.
He rode for a few more years before meeting the girl of his dreams and, as often happens, eventually had to hang up his riding gear while he worked two jobs to support his wife and FIVE daughters. He told us that he typically worked 80 hours per week in order to raise and educate his daughters, but happily they are all married and now raising their own families. As a clear indication of his loyalty and strong work ethic, Dave worked for Appleton Paper Company in Wisconsin for nearly 40 years before finally retiring.
Following a 20-year hiatus from motorcycling, he had some serious catching up to do and went through seven Gold Wing motorcycles (his current Roadsmith trike being the 7th) and, in the process, logged 792,000 miles on the Wings. He was very adamant about the fact that there are few motorcycles (no, make that zero) that could deliver the Wing’s low maintenance and dependability and, after hearing his stories, we couldn’t disagree.
Having visited 49 of the United States on his bikes and trikes, he has also been to Alaska twice (once on two wheels and again, recently, on three). Other adventures with his buddy, Hal, include a recent trip to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where they rode the famous Cabot Trail around the island. Having switched to a trike at the age of 75, Dave now says he can’t imagine why he waited so long.
While Dave George’s story is amazing, it is no less remarkable than that of his riding partner, Hal Harding. As the "younger" of the two, at age 77, Hal Harding is living proof that, with the right attitude, you truly can do anything you set your mind to do. You see, Hal has what he calls a "minor disability" which he is more than happy to talk about. Back in 1986, Hal, a successful cardiac surgeon, had a stroke which compromised the entire right side of his body. Although he eventually recovered most of his physical abilities on that side, he still walks with a cane, "so that people just don’t assume that I’ve been drinking," he says with a smile. His attitude and enthusiasm for life are contagious and he inspires everyone he meets.
Having never ridden a motorcycle before his stroke, it was his brother, a motorcycle police officer with the city of Chicago that convinced him to buy a trike. It was a decision that would change his life for the better. The Gold Wing is Hal’s second trike, and first Roadsmith, and he favors it considerably over his original one. "The Roadsmith is just so smooth and comfortable, compared to the previous trike I owned," he says.
When asked if he was married or had a girlfriend, he said "I’ve been married twice and divorced twice, but I prefer my current girlfriend because she has four legs." Not surprisingly, he was referring to his beloved Golden Retriever, BB (for "Biker Babe"), and says that he takes her with him in a special dog motorcycle trailer whenever he’s traveling in the U.S. "She’s traveled more than 100,000 miles in that trailer," he proudly states, which, in our mind, qualifies her for a top travel award in the canine class. His trike is also a Roadsmith Gold Wing and, traveling an average of 36,000 miles per year with his pal, Dave, it won’t be long before he’ll be coming in for his 200,000 mile service, as well.
"We’re just really good friends that seem to be compatible on and off the bikes," said Hal about his good friend, Dave. "You know he’s 5 years older than me, at age 82, and I worry about what I’m going to do when he can’t ride with me anymore," he said with just a hint of sadness. "But, that’s a long way off," he added cheerily, "we’ve still got lots of riding ahead of us and we intend to enjoy it!"
As they saddled up on their trikes in the Roadsmith parking lot, ready for the long ride home, we asked them for a couple parting photos with which to remember their visit. They waved, turned their trikes in perfect unison and roared out of the parking lot like a couple of guys that had ridden hundreds of thousands of miles together. In this case, they truly have...and we hope there are just as many more waiting for them in the future.