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Motorcyclist Jackie Battles of Winchester, Va., is on a mission to visit all the cities named Winchester in the United States
Battles said, “It set me to wondering just how many Winchester’s there were and once I looked them up, decided that this could be a really good ride.”
He found out there are quite a few Winchesters in the United States in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
“My count is 24, but I counted cities only, scattered all across… there are two Winchesters in Wisconsin and don’t you know that fouls up the postal workers? And two ‘ghost’ towns, one in Mississippi and one in Arizona,” Battles said. “There are other Winchesters that will pop up on Map Quest or other Internet programs, but I can find no city proper, only a township or such.”
Battles’ has straddled his Yamaha Stratoliner for the past 15 summers.
His wife, Charlotte, always declines invitations to join him on these sometimes-rugged trips, preferring peaceful times at home instead of weeks on the back of a motorcycle.
If all goes as planned on his whirlwind trip, Battles will be rolling into Franklin County’s Winchester on the afternoon of Monday, July 7. If he’s spotted on Dinah Shore Boulevard., wave, but don’t look away as he may be gone before one can take a second glimpse.
“Your town will be one of those I will find a motel,” Battles said. “I will leave out from your Winchester about daylight and get to Winchester, Miss., 589 miles non-stop except for gas, at about 4 p.m.”
One might expect he’d get saddle sore from so much riding, but Battles is used to it and has planned every detail of the 11,000-mile trip he expects to last three weeks.
The hardest part for him will be all the miles of straddling.
“While I’ll enjoy the trip, it can be hard on an old man’s body,” he said. “You never get too old to ride a bike — you just get to where you can’t hold it up.”
This well-traveled biker admits that after about a week of riding, the bike seems to get heavier.
“I have ridden tens of thousands of miles astraddle a bike. A couple of years ago, I left Winchester, Va.’s Walmart and went to Fairbanks Alaska’s Walmart,” Battles said. “I spent a couple of hours and then rode back home. The entire trip was about 10,000 miles.”
Battles has traveled Route 50, the “loneliest road in America” all the way across the nation.
He has toured Canada and been up the Pacific Highway, seen the Redwoods of California and the ocean in Key West, Glacier Park and Niagara Falls.
The most beautiful spots he says he’s visited are in Alaska and the Rocky Mountains.
“I’ve been in Death Valley when it was 124 degrees and in Lassen Park where there was four-feet of snow on the side of the road,” Battles said. “I’ve been to Arcadia National Park and ferried across to Nova Scotia and ridden their north shore and all the way back through Maine.
“I’ve seen the lights of Las Vegas, the tunnel in Zion National Park and mountains so breathtaking that all you can do is sit and stare.”
Battles’ says he will stay in a motel some nights and camp out when opportunities are available, depending on how long he has been riding that particular day. He will be pulling a small trailer with a tent, sleeping bag and cooking supplies. If he’s too tired to set up a tent, he plans to get a room.
His hometown newspaper, “Winchester Star,” plans to keep up with Battles on his journey. He has promised to check in with the publication if something interesting happens.
“Like if I see Elvis and get a snapshot or if I run into Jimmy Hoffa — they want something other than seeing a cactus growing or a groundhog that didn’t make it across the road,” he said.
The most asked question Battles gets is simply, why?
“I tell them, ‘you only ask that question when you don’t ride and because you don’t ride, will not understand the answer, even if I explain it,” he said. “If you ride, you already know the answer, and you don’t need a reply.’”
Battles says traveling is as thrilling for him as going to a Major League baseball game.
It’s not the bragging rights or the conquest he’s seeking, but something else entirely, as he explains.
“It’s not the stadium, or the homerun or that fly ball you catch that make it memorable — it’s not the hotdog or even that your team won — it’s the entire experience that makes a ballgame an ‘event,’” Battles said. “And, outside on a bike, you can hear and smell what you can only see inside a car.
“You really do ‘experience’ the trip. You don’t pay any attention to a rock in the road in a car, but you do on a bike. You become ‘aware’ of everything. Leaning in the curves, getting cold in the evenings, getting hot during the day, getting off to really stretch your legs, you really do stretch — that totality all adds up to a journey.
“How do you describe the taste of a strawberry to someone who has never tasted one? You just give them a berry and tell them to eat.”
When he isn’t riding all over the globe, 65-year-old Battles pastors at the Liberty Baptist Church in Stephens City, Va. He says he’s tried just about every occupation that’s come along in life except being president, but he admits he doesn’t expect to give that a shot. His zest for life has sent him in about a hundred different directions, just like the trip he is embarking upon.