Classic Motorcycle Tours with Retro Tours

Redneck Gyro

| September/October 2010

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    Ground zero: Riders pack their gear and suit up as the tour gets ready to head out from Retro Tours headquarters in Kennett Square, Pa.
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    Last day: Tour leaders Doug Snyder and Joel Samick (from back, left to right) and tour participants Keith Silfee, George Brown, Richard Backus, Ilya Kriveshko and Bill Wells, get ready to ride out after two days plying the back roads of West Virginia on classic Italian iron.
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    Fearless leader Joel with his BMW sidecar rig.
    Photo by Richard Backus
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    Fearless leader Joel in his garage at Retro Tours, home to his collection of 20 classic bikes.
    Photo by Richard Backus
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    East Hardy, W.Va., softball team checks out a Vincent Black Prince.
    Photo by Richard Backus
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    Shift pattern and fuel tap position is marked on all the bikes — because they’re all different! This is the Benelli, which has a one-up/four-down shift pattern.
    Photo by Richard Backus
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    Lunch stop in Thurmont, Md.
    Photo by Richard Backus
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    Backus takes in a view of the Potomac at the West Virginia border.
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    Homestead host and ex-CIA man Ed George
    Photo by Richard Backus
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    Leaving Moorefield, W.Va.
    Photo by Richard Backus
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    Checking out the wind farm at the top of Mt. Storm, W.Va., which has 132 units.
    Photo by Richard Backus
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    How could you not? Drive-thru liquor store somewhere en route.
    Photo by Richard Backus
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    A break for lunch — at an Italian restaurant, naturally — in Fairmont, W.Va., sees “our” bikes glorifying in the sun. Perfect.
    Photo by Richard Backus

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Gritting my teeth against the cold mountain air, I hug the tank of the 1979 Moto Morini 500 Strada I’m riding, trying hard to make my body small and conserve heat on one of Retro Tours' classic motorcycle tours.

We’re at almost 4,000 feet elevation, winding our way through the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia on state Route 72. Although it’s mid-April it sure feels like winter, and I won’t be surprised if it starts snowing any moment.

Forty-eight hours earlier, I was sitting comfortably in a Boeing 737, winging my way from Kansas City to Philadelphia to meet up with Joel Samick, a former philosophy and electrical engineering major whose life was irrevocably altered many years ago when someone gave him a Honda CL450.

That Honda led to a life fully saturated in motorcycles, starting with a summer exploring Europe on a then-new 1969 Norton Commando, followed by a short stint sorting steel-toed boots at Yankee Motorcycles in Schenectady, N.Y., and then as partner with his wife, Lynn, in Powersports East, a highly successful multi-line motorcycle dealership in Bear, Del. Along the way, Joel became a series-winning racer and a certified Honda technician, acquiring considerable skills with a wrench.



While running the dealership was financially rewarding, it was also physically and psychologically tiring. “I was stressed, angry and 50 pounds overweight. I had to stop,” Joel says. He retired from the dealership in 1998 (Lynn continues to oversee the operation today), and turned his attention to feeding his love of motorcycles. A collection of motorcycles ensued, most of them big twins of the kind Joel had ridden and loved in the 1970s. Driven by a belief that motorcycles should be ridden, not stored, Joel organized a trip with a half-dozen or so of his friends, all riding bikes from his collection.

That first ride evolved into a series of motorcycle tours, as Joel experimented with varying group sizes and distances. Along the way, he learned what it takes to plan and execute a successful tour, and about five years ago he decided to turn his hobby into a business. Retro Tours was born.






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