Members   George Ogden   1951 Model 125 Up     
1000 miles on $20 - 1951-style
by George Ogden

The Summer of 1951 was a busy time for me. I was sent to National Aquatic School by the Boy Scouts of America, and after a week-long school, spent two more weeks running the waterfront activities at our local scout camp. If that weren’t enough, I traveled with our Boy Scout group to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. That was another three week trip. But I was restless to do something different. The Harley-Davidson 125 motorcycle I was given by my father in January 1951 was beckoning for a ride—a long ride.

So one August afternoon I told my mother that I was going on a trip to Athens YMCA camp at Tallulah Falls, Georgia. I had gone to that camp for two summers in 1947 and 1948. It sounded like a good trip to take, and with $20 in my pocket, I left Macon, Mississippi, my home town, about mid-afternoon. My route would take me through Columbus, Mississippi, Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia before turning north to Talullah Falls, all travel on two-lane highways. I cruised at about 40 miles per hour since I was already 180 pounds and six feet tall. The only way that I could get extra speed was to lie down on the big bench seat, or draft behind trucks.

I rode into the night and passed through Birmingham sometime after midnight. My only memories of the route through central Alabama was the hilly and curvy highway until I reached eastern Alabama, and the lack of traffic. I was virtually by myself until I finally reached Anniston, Alabama about three AM, and found a hotel. I spent $3.00 for a room until early morning. I got on the road again and got to Atlanta sometime around midday. Finding my way through the city, I got on the road north and arrived at the YMCA camp before nightfall.

I found the camp director, Coach Pearson, and introduced myself. He remembered me from my previous stays there and allowed me to spend the night in the dispensary, and eat in the dining hall. I had a chance to walk around and visit the cabin I had spent two summers in, and check the name plate I had attached to the ceiling in the meeting hall. All campers did this as a matter of custom. It was still there. The next morning after breakfast, I said goodbye and started back down the mountain.

By noon I had reached Atlanta and the Hummer was barely running. I found the Harley dealer and they adjusted the points and I was on my way. It was rush hour as I was leaving Atlanta and night before I got out of Georgia. But I was determined to ride straight through without stopping except for gas.

Again, I had the highway almost to myself and got home about four AM. I had traveled over 800 miles, and still had some of the $20 I had left home with. Other than having the points adjusted, I had no other problems with my Hummer. By the way, in 1951, I don’t remember my bike being called a Hummer -- just a “Harley 125”. The weather was clear throughout the whole ride. Moonlight and stars at night and bright sun during the day.

Editor's Note: Macon, MS to Tallulah Falls, GA is 377 miles one-way - on today's Interstate highways. I'll bet George's round-trip was 1000 miles - on 1951 roads.

  Last updated: December 30, 2013 Up