This past weekend was the Trail of Tears remembrance ride. MrWurdi and I were on one of an estimated 150,000 motorcycles that made the approximately 200 mile trip from Chattanooga, TN to Florence, AL. The line of motorcycles stretched for about 50 miles.
From the Official Trail of Tears Motorcycle Ride Website:
The Annual Trail of Tears Motorcycle Ride was started in 1994 by Bill Cason to mark one of the trails used during the 1838 removal of Native Americans from their homelands in the Southeast to Oklahoma. The ride started at Ross’s Landing in Chattanooga, TN with eight riders and ended with 100 riders in Waterloo, AL. The ride has now grown to over 150,000 riders, making it the largest organized motorcycle ride in the world.
I know I don’t have the words to adequately express how amazing it was to be a part of this. People lined the streets in the towns we traveled through and people who live along the route sat or stood in their front yards to wave at and cheer the passing line of motorcycles. Other motorcyclists waited for their chance to join the line.
As we crossed bridges, we saw people who’d come out on their boats to watch the procession.
American flags were seen in abundance as well as many tribal flags from the various Indian nations represented. The flags flew from overpasses, motorcycles, and vehicles parked alongside Highway 72.
The main ride stopped in Madison, AL for lunch while our group broke off to stop at a friend’s co-workers house. They hold a cookout each year in their front yard located on the Trail of Tears Corridor. From the side of the road, we were able to see the front of the ride – something we couldn’t see from our initial position, some ten miles back in the line.
When we arrived at McFarland Park in Florence, AL, MrWurdi described it as “the Woodstock of chrome and leather.”
At the park, a pow wow was held that included an opening ceremony, war dances, and an honoring of warriors – including U.S. veterans from various wars.
One of the tribal leaders made an announcement prior to the honoring ceremonies. He asked everyone to stand in honor of the warriors and to refrain from taking photos during that time. Later, when permission for photography was given, I was able to get a few pictures of the war dances. The drumming, singing and dancing gave a glimpse of what it must have been like so many years ago.
Although most of what happened was wonderful, I did get angry at one point. Not only did one woman completely disregard the request for no photos, she actually called out to one of the participants, asking him to pose. Disgraceful. The couple in front of us were sitting, eating their funnel cakes, and chatting. Damn it. These men and women risked their lives for their country and you can’t stop running and filling your mouths for 10 minutes to show them a little respect? A loud throat clearing on my part stopped the chitter-chatter but their lack of respect for the warriors infuriated me.
The weekend was unforgettable. Next year, I hope that MrWurdi and I are able to not only participate as much as we did this year but to continue on to Oklahoma for the rest of the ride.