When he turned 60, Fort Mill grandfather Samuel Williams did not want a recliner. This truck driver bought himself a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
And although he had never ridden a motorcycle until he bought the Hog, just months later, Williams the motorcycle newcomer decided to take the bike on a road trip.
But he did not team up with others or join a club. With a few protests from his adult children and encouragement from others like his grandkids, Williams left home about three weeks ago and headed west.
Williams had his motorcycle, a few clothes and his riding gear, a cell phone and GPS.
“That’s about it,” Williams said. “I just always wanted to see the Grand Canyon.”
The word had gotten around the Fort Mill neighborhood where Williams lives. Everybody off of Steele Street knows that Williams, with more than a million miles of driving trucks, was a road warrior.
But this was different.
“If anybody could pull something like this off, it is Mr. Williams,” said neighbor Rodney Dunlap, a motorcycle rider himself.
Still, Dunlap said, he and others – especially Williams’ family – planned to track Williams through periodic cell phone calls.
“It wasn’t just a trip to the store,” said Dunlap.
Williams headed north toward Interstate 40 in North Carolina, then west. He ran smack into walls of rain the first day.
“I never had rode in the rain, and here I am going to California and it is raining,” Williams said. “But I kept going.”
Williams made it all the way to Arkansas that first day.
“14 hours,” Williams said.
He stayed in a motel, as he would the whole trip, and started out early the next day before sunrise. He barreled through Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle and into New Mexico.
He stopped, finally, and saw a rainbow so big and so beautiful that “it looked like I could reach out and touch it.”
Williams stopped again at a motel, where the clerk, just like the one night before, said something along the lines of: “South Carolina? Motorcycle? Alone? Are you OK sir? Do you know you are in Arizona?”
Williams just chuckled each time and said yes, he was 60 and riding alone.
“Every person was so nice, but they couldn’t believe it,” Williams said.
Then through Arizona the next day, and that Grand Canyon that was – finally, in person – worth every mile.
Then into California, and north toward San Francisco where his younger brother, Max, lives.
After a brief stay, Williams headed down the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles, rode to the Santa Monica Pier at the western end of Interstate 10 – and the lower 48 states.
So, Williams said, “I headed east. West was ocean. When you ride as far as you can go, you just turn around.”
Riding mainly nights to avoid the brutal desert heat, Williams cruised along Interstate 10 until he was so tired he had to stop one time at a rest area. He lay his head down for a while, woke up, and saw a sign.
“Beware of scorpions and rattlesnakes,” Williams said.
Williams pushed on east on Interstate 20, through Texas and Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama to Georgia, hit Interstate 85, and – just 11 days after he left home – pulled into his driveway.
He slept, after winding down, for about two days.
“Who ever heard of a 60-year-old man riding all the way to California and back, by himself, on a motorcycle?” said Delores, Williams’ sister. “But he sure did it.”
Williams had covered more than 6,600 miles alone on a motorcycle –having never been on one until just months before.
“I saw the country and met great people who just had their jaws drop when they found out I was out there all by myself,” Williams said. “I saw such skies that God created. These landscapes, and people.
“What a country we live in!”
Williams now is considering his next trip, for his 62nd birthday.
“Anchorage, Alaska. And I’m going all by myself, too.”