Todd Wooldridge's Tribute Bike

Owner: Tod Wooldridge

Original Make/Model/Year: 1986 Harley Davidson Electra Glide

What's the history behind this bike?

My uncle Bob and I rode together for about 20 years in Chicago—I lived in Chicago before I moved here to Tennessee. He was the uncle your mom and dad didn't want you to hang out with, who got you your first beer, but I hung out with him anyway. He put me on my first Harley, and then he and I rode together for a long time after that. And when I moved to Tennessee, he said he would come down and ride the Tail of the Dragon with me on his '86 FLHTC—it's a classic, a Liberty Edition motorcycle. He had planned his trip, got new tires, got a new seat—but before he could leave Chicago, he passed away.

He willed the motorcycle to me, so I went to Chicago and spread his ashes on the lake front—I put some of the sand from the lake front and his ashes in a vial and it's hung above the dashboard of the bike, so a little bit of him goes wherever his motorcycle goes. It's got 166,000 miles on it now—it's 23 years old and never been trailered.

How did you decide to make it a tribute bike?

I left the bike sit for about a year. It bothered me to ride his motorcycle. So ,finally, I decided to do something positive with it and honor our troops, our veterans, and my uncle at the same time. So I got it out of the barn and went to my painter, Kenny Hadorn from Air-FX custom motorcycle painting and airbrushing in Cleveland, and I told him I wanted to honor my uncle and our troops and veterans. He painted my uncle's portrait on the fairing, and then there's pictures of our troops all the way around the whole motorcycle, including on the motor the starter cover, and the air cleaner. I've got my dad's dog tags and my uncle's dog tags both painted on the rear fender to honor them.

How have people responded to the bike?

People just love it. We'll go to a show and several veterans will come by with tears in their eyes. Mothers of kids who are in Afghanistan and Iraq right now will cover and start crying when they see the bike, and thank us for paying tribute to their children.

What kinds of conversations have you had with them?

A lot Vietnam veterans will tell us how they didn't receive a thank you when they came home, and how they appreciate us recognizing them now. Usually, it's with tearful eyes when they talk to us about the bike. My painter will walk off one way and I'll walk off the other way when everyone starts crying.

How long did the project take?

It's been an ongoing thing, but it's been about two and half years since we started working on it. We powder-coated the whole motor, transmission, frame, and front end this past winter.

What kinds of prizes have you won?

We've got numerous best of shows, people's choice awards, best touring awards, most patriotic motorcycle—we've gotten a lot of trophies for it in the past two years.

Any more plans for the bike?

I'm just going to continue riding the motorcycle and showing it, and try to touch as many people as I can with it. I also ride with the Patriot Guards, so if one of our boys or girls comes back deceased, I'll try to make their funeral and lead their procession, if the family members would like me to do it.