Freedom. That's what Ralph Hughes and his biking buddies are looking forward to as they take off mid-May, mostly on Harleys, to travel all 50 states in 50 days.
"Being on a road on a long trip on a motorcycle -- to me, that's the definition of freedom," Hughes said. "And it's a great group of guys we're going with."
The bikers, who range in age from 60 to 81, were mostly in law enforcement. Hughes, 71, was with the Oakland Police Department.
"The core-five group is myself, Gary Cose from Livermore, Ulysses 'Bud' Early from Danville, Mike Oliviera from Danville and Waylon Wagner from Texas," Hughes said.
They'll be joined for part of the adventure by Ted Hatsushi and Tony Garcia from Pleasanton, and Bill Lenson from Brentwood.
"We're a bunch of wild, crazy people gathered for about a two-month ride," Hughes said. "We've been riding together for 35 years. People come and go, and a lot have died off or stopped riding."
First, they'll head for Reno, probably taking some back roads. They'll travel to Vegas, then across the country to the Deep South, up to New England -- Boston is the halfway point -- then back west to Walla Walla.
The route is general, designed to hit every state but loose enough to let them veer off course when adventure, good music or a great meal beckon. They'll enjoy rides through national parks, and all have senior passes.
"The average is 200 miles a day so it's really not a backbreaker, maybe about three hours," Hughes said.
Three cities are a must -- Las Vegas, New Orleans and Boston -- which proved to be highlights of past trips. They also plan on Dodge City to visit a renowned steakhouse.
"Then when we get back home (after 46 days) we're hopping on a plane to rent bikes in Anchorage," Hughes explained. "Then we fly to Honolulu and rent bikes -- and we'll be sitting tall there on a motorcycle on the 50th day."
"Not that anyone will care," he added with a laugh, "but we'll know we did it -- 50 states in 50 days."
These bikers have done the "four corners" trip, which includes the farthest points in California, Florida, Maine and Washington, and in 2010 did the "five corners" ride, which adds Brownsville, Texas, for another five days of riding, "doing 500-600 miles a day with nothing to see."
"This trip is about 9,000 miles, 10 days shorter and 4,000 miles shorter than the five corners trip," Hughes said.
Their bikes are equipped with communication systems, GPS and connections for the latest traffic conditions, and they will stay in hotels. Hughes is leaving his two Harleys at home, and he and Oliviera are riding Can-Am Spyders, which have two wheels in front and one in the rear.
"It's a mental adjustment to ride a trike because to ride a Harley is a macho thing," Hughes said. "But I just had a knee replacement, and a trike is the smart way to go."
They've been talking about this trip for years and were getting serious about it when the pandemic hit. Now the time seems right.
"None of us are 'outlaw bikers,'" Hughes commented. "We've gone all over the country, to virtually every state in the U.S. and ridden in Mexico, Canada, Europe and parts of Asia, and never had an issue. We meet some incredible people on the road."
Hughes will call his wife each night, "part of the deal," and send pictures. He also promised to take along the Pleasanton Weekly and keep us informed. Stay tuned.
Editor's note: Dolores Fox Ciardelli is Tri-Valley Life editor for the Pleasanton Weekly. Her column, "Valley Views," appears on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.