Sunday, June 14, 2009

Senior group sees country by scooter

A gang of far-riding and well-traveled motorcyclists made Salisbury their home Thursday.

But it wasn't a raucous gaggle of biker misfits. The group, largely made up of riders 65 and older, is an off-shoot of the larger Wandering Wheels program.

The program is the brainchild of Robert Davenport, 76, who still leads many of the expeditions. Back in the 1960s, he began taking young men and boys across the country on bicycles in order to teach them something about the toughness of life and how to temper it with church.

"This was where the rubber really hit the road," Davenport said. "Not some goody two-shoes stuff."

Davenport knows a thing or two about toughness. In his younger days, he played football at the University of California at Los Angeles and became a two-time All-American fullback for the Bruins. After winning a championship and playing in two Rose Bowls, Davenport went on to become the youngest college football head coach of his era at Taylor University, in Indiana, in 1958.

After leaving the football world behind, Davenport sought a way to build more interest in church for young men. Out on the road, there is plenty of time to talk about the deeper things in life. At night, the groups typically rely on the hospitality of churches and civic centers.

These days, Davenport has put away his bike but is determined to stay on the highways and byways. His latest initiative involves people his age riding motorized scooters in lieu of pedal power. This allows people to stay out and enjoy the country regardless of age.

Their run through Salisbury,NC was part of a trip inspired by the "Dragon Trail," a road in the Appalachians that boasts about 160 turns in 11 miles.

The 150cc KymCo scooters they use are relatively bullet-proof. Davenport's model has nearly 14,000 miles on it, including three trans-continental trips. The team is followed at a distance by a large GMC commercial truck, which carries spare parts, tools, and a trailer in case of breakdowns, which aren't too common.

Davenport's scooter isn't the only thing that's bullet-proof. Over the course of his life he's managed to ride across the United States 43 times, a world record.

Wandering Wheels has been across the U.S. and Canada, but also to Russia, China, New Zealand, Israel and parts of Central Europe. It's the longest running bicycle touring experience in America. You should have your own scooter that is in top condition, as well as spending money for several days of stops.

There is a fee of several thousand dollars, depending on the trip you have in mind.

Check out their excursions at

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