Hog heaven

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 24, 2013

SALISBURY — Subtract Bobby Curlee’s cracked ribs, dehydration and a need for new clutches on his Harley, and you’re left with four friends with a new appreciation for America and the people in it.
“This country is just beautiful,” Curlee said early Tuesday evening as the Hogs for Haiti’s 8,950-mile journey to the West Coast and back wound up in Salisbury, “and I think the only way to see it is from a motorcycle.”
Curlee of Faith, Wayne Mosher of Granite Quarry, Ken Small of Concord and David Blackburn of Mocksville left Salisbury on their motorcycles June 27. Over the next 27 days, they racked up miles and donations toward a new Lifeline Christian Mission children’s home in Haiti.
By ride’s end at Tilley’s Harley-Davidson, more than $15,000 had been raised for the children’s home, with more donations expected to roll in.
Curlee, an ordained minister, master electrician and Lifeline Christian’s Mission’s plant manager, organized the ride. He and his wife, Lakey, spend a good portion of each year in Haiti.
The couple work with 600 to 800 people on church mission trips each year, and Curlee promised his other riders they would meet some of the nicest people on their journey across America.
About a third of the trip, the men slept in tents at KOA campgrounds, Another third, they were in motels, and the rest of the time they stayed with people Curlee knew from mission trips.
Curlee constantly amazed the other riders with his connections to people and churches. “I know people from all over the country,” he said.
Based in Westerville, Ohio, Lifeline Christian Mission has 16 churches and 14 schools in Haiti. It also maintains medical, dental and eye clinics. The children’s home, now under construction in Grand Goave, will serve 76 children.
Before the trip, Curlee, Mosher, Small and Blackburn were more or less acquaintances through the Christian Motorcyclists Association.
After a month on the road together, they now are lifelong friends.
It’s difficult to record everything they saw, but highlights included the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, the Mojave Desert, Old Faithful, the Grand Tetons, Mount Rushmore, the Redwood National Forest, Navajo Nation, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Willie from Duck Dynasty.
They actually stood on a corner in Winslow, Ariz, as the song goes.
“If you get a chance, do it,” Mosher said of seeing the country this way. “I kept telling people, ‘We are living a dream.’”
They battled temperatures as high as 118 degrees in the Calif. desert, and two days later in Oregon it was 55 degrees.
“We have a new standard for hot,” Curlee said.
For the record, Small rode a Kawasaki, while the other three had Harleys. After Curlee was noticing some clutch slippage at high speeds, he paid for new clutches at Paradise Harley-Davidson in Tigard, Ore.
Curlee also suffered from dehydration near Hoover Dam, and he cracked his ribs while trying to avoid a couple of vehicles at a gas station in Albuquerque, N.M.
The group lost about one-and-a-half days with the mishaps, but rerouted things to keep on schedule, which was important. They had certain days they had to be at churches or people’s homes.
At every welcome sign or welcome center into a new state, the men pulled over for a photograph with the sign. They kept posting these pictures and more to their Facebook site.
They also had people ride along. Gerry and Jan Lefebvre of Oregon accompanied them for about a week, as did Jack Barry of Rochester, N.Y.
A treat midway through the trip was when the men’s wives flew out to the Great Northwest to spend three days with them. El Don Hoven lent the group his beach house on the Oregon coast, and the wives were able to stay there several days after the men returned to the road.
Small said he has been wanting to make this kind of cross-country trip by motorcycle for the past three years, but his plans were derailed each year until now.
Mosher and Blackburn are retired. Small had the luxury of being a teacher with some summer weeks off.
“This is a fabulous country, and to see it all on a motorcycle is just a blessing,” Small said, describing how all the senses come into play.
Mosher said the most important thing he’ll take from the ride is to “just keep the Lord in the middle of everything we do.”
That and his new appreciation for this country.
“Every day was different,” Mosher said. “There’s just so much out there to see.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.