Win Dean Travels: Forty-Eight States on a Free 40-Year-Old Four-Piper

Think about your Golden Years. Time to road-test the rocker on the front porch? No way, says Win Dean. Time instead to visit everyone else’s front porch, on two wheels. This adventurous 83-year-old set about the task of seeing the 48 contiguous states in one year from the saddle of his 40-year-old free motorcycle, while spending the least possible time in motels.

Free motorcycle? A dozen years ago, Win noticed an old Honda rusting away in a friend’s carport. “If you can fix it, it’s yours,” he said. One repaired ground wire later and a lot of time spent cleaning carburetors and lubricating stuck parts, Win had a running 1972 Honda CB750K. Add a couple strips of 1-inch steel strapping and he had a support system for his luggage: soft saddlebags and a rolling suitcase strapped on the carrier.

Welcome to California, almost home, with pictures of many more welcome signs in the camera.
Welcome to California, almost home, with pictures of many more welcome signs in the camera.

A shakedown trip through California in the summer of 2011 proved the bike to be a great touring machine. Next question: Could a 40-year-old bike complete a 10,000-mile circuit of the U.S.?

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Win has always liked a challenge. A retired high school teacher and a keen pilot and scuba diver, he was married for 58 years before his wife passed away in 2010. He’s traveled through all 50 states several times, and visited more than 100 countries around the world.

The first part of the adventure was visiting the four corners of the continental U.S. and a circuit of all the states bordering Canada and Mexico. He started July 30th from San Diego and returned in September. Pausing only to get married to fiancée Jody (who often accompanies him on shorter rides), Win hit the road again the following June and filled in the gaps on the map with a 6,000-mile jaunt through the interior states, finishing one day before his 12-month deadline.

Thanks to a network of friends and relatives, Win spent just seven nights in motels during the two trips. Because of his flexible schedule, he was able to wait out a hurricane in Nashville, and only encountered rain a few times. The best day? When he rode up to a retirement community meeting in Kansas as a representative of Mount Miguel Covenant Village, the retirement community where he lives in California, two thousand miles away. Better make that “active retirement community.”

Mount Rushmore: under the stern gaze of the presidents, the bike started to misfire.
Mount Rushmore: under the stern gaze of the presidents, the bike started to misfire.

His longest day should have been a 700-plus mile haul between Missoula, Montana, and Bismarck, North Dakota. But a convention in Bismarck meant another 50 miles of rainy riding to find shelter. After 12 hours in the stock saddle of a 1972 motorcycle, did Win complain? No. Which says something about the endurance of this 83-year-young man.

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Low points of the trip included a brush with disaster on a turnpike in Pennsylvania, when a driver passed on the left in the same lane at well over 70 mph, scraping Win’s elbow along the entire length of the car. Fortunately he stayed upright and suffered no damage to himself or the bike.

Win only had two mechanical problems. A tank of bad gas in Arkansas meant a 70-mile tow to Nashville (thanks, AAA Premium), where Win had plenty of time to clean out the carbs and gas tank. Then, toward the end of the trip, the bike developed a misfire above 60 mph (later diagnosed as a failed aftermarket ignition component). The solution for this one—ride slower than 60 mph and see the sights!

What’s next for Win? Well, a lot is going to depend on the choices of his new wife, Jody. She loves short rides on the back of the bike, so maybe Win could motorcycle across Hawaii two–up to bag his 49th state on the Honda…which would leave only Alaska!

(This feature article was published in Kickstarts in the March 2015 issue of Rider magazine.)

You meet the nicest people—Win and nieces Alison and Pam visit the Iron Eagle Bar in Okeechobee, Florida, accompanied by Alison’s husband, Kirk, on the Harley.
You meet the nicest people—Win and nieces Alison and Pam visit the Iron Eagle Bar in Okeechobee, Florida, accompanied by Alison’s husband, Kirk, on the Harley.
Pike’s Peak, Mount Rushmore and St. Louis Arch (pictured) were three high points of Win’s ride.
Pike’s Peak, Mount Rushmore and St. Louis Arch (pictured) were three high points of Win’s ride.
Welcome to Pike’s Peak, late June. Five minutes after this photo was taken, clouds descended, hail pelted, visibility dropped to five feet and the temperature plummeted below zero. Time to go down, back to the sunshine below.
Welcome to Pike’s Peak, late June. Five minutes after this photo was taken, clouds descended, hail pelted, visibility dropped to five feet and the temperature plummeted below zero. Time to go down, back to the sunshine below.
Win captured pictures of the welcome signs for each state he visited. As soon as he bagged the Washington sign, it was off to Idaho.
Win captured pictures of the welcome signs for each state he visited.

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