"Donald and Heidi, Michelle, David (a mechanic for Barney's) and I met on a Barney's group "historical" ride that was supposed to include Forts. Like the one in Hillsborough State Park, Bushnell and then one in Gainesville. After a day of waiting around for someone to decide to ride, missed turns and forts, we were still at a Wendy's in Ocala at two o'clock, so Michelle and I took out a map and decided how we were going home on our own. That was when Donald said, he was new to the area and wanted to follow us back.
"From that we started to discuss a better plan for group rides, since we were all "new riders", and wanted the group ride security and fun, we decided to meet and discuss how we could do something. The Tampa Bay Cruisers were born.
"Donald, Heidi, David, Michelle and I went to Fat Willey's in Valrico for dinner, and talked about some simple guidelines, we each felt were important to us. Long rides, no bars, staggered riding, safety first, limited speeding. That was the last time we saw David, but Donald, Heidi, Michelle and I continued to meet with the Barney's rides, and we met Ron, Terry and his wife."
"At first Donald, Michelle and I led the rides, but then needing new ideas, we asked each member to lead plan and lead a ride. I think that's about the time Russ came in, and really made it fun for everyone, with maps (instructions) and overnight rides. By the time Barney's stopped have rides, we were riding buddies. Other regulars were Buster, Larry, Mark Brown, Jim (Pinetree), and Roger"
"I was new to motorcycles, hadn't gone anywhere far from Tampa and didn't know anyone else who rode. I bought my first bike at Barney's on Gandy Boulevard, but I lived near the Honda dealer in North Tampa, and since it was a Honda I stopped in there. I saw a sign announcing dinner group rides, so I showed up for their next Thursday evening ride. There were about 20 riders who went to Cracker Barrel at State Route 54. The hostess pointed to about 6 tables in the same general area and said we could use them, a lot of the others knew each other and started sitting together in groups of 4 and 6, I took a table where nobody else had sat down yet and figured I'd meet some other riders who weren't falling into those groups.
"Roger sat at my table, and we quickly realized everyone else was going to stick with their buddies and we ended up being the only two at our table. We had a nice talk, Roger had ridden and raced earlier in his life but was just getting back into motorcycling. We were a little disappointed that this group of riders seemed to stick to their little cliques, and Roger told me he'd just met a friendly bunch of people who were starting a Sunday riding group. What really sealed our friendship was when the check came, and I said I'm glad this place is reasonably priced, I spent most of my money last night at a swap meet for our computer club. What kind of computer did I have Roger wanted to know, and I said you probably aren't familiar with the Commodore Amiga. Roger said sure I am, I have an Amiga at home, I couldn't help laughing that motorcyclists aren't a rare enough group, but both of us being Amiga owners was even more uncommon.
"The next month I went to Honda West again for the Honda Riders Club Sunday ride, and rode towards the end of the pack with Don the owner of the dealership. We stopped to check on a rider whose bike had broke down, then really took off at high speed with Don leading on a Pacific Coast and me and another bike trying to keep up. He slowed down again but I kept going thinking we must be close to the pack, when I whizzed past at least a dozen riders parked on the shoulder. There was a mistake in the route sheet and I figured they must be trying to figure it out, and the next thing you know they were all following me into the rest stop.
"When we arrived at the stop, Roger was there, and he came over and said, you just rode in with that group I was telling you about at dinner. It turned out they had pulled over because the lead group was going too fast for their liking, and Donald stopped to get his route out and lead them at a more comfortable pace. I was introduced and found out they would be riding on a Barney's dinner ride and after that I started to ride with them on Sundays once or twice a month.
"Barney's wasn't really interested in having riding groups meet at their location, so the group took on its own meeting place and name, the Tampa Bay Cruisers. We had a dinner ride to Tarpon Springs to make plans for forming a group, and I showed up with a calendar I had made on my Amiga computer. I was elected calendar maker on the spot. We rode twice a month and as Kathy said many of us took a turn at planning the route and leading the ride, and I showed on the calendar who would lead each one. After awhile it seemed like Ron and myself were planning most of the routes, we both put a lot of effort into going new places and the rest of the group accused us of trying to outdo each other on distance! But we were only trying to explore new roads and go new places that just happened to be farther from Tampa."
"After a couple of years, a lot of the original riders had moved away, and I started thinking of new ideas to keep the group growing. One thing I always felt we had a problem with was the Cruisers name, a lot of people didn't even know what a Cruiser was, and those that did thought that's the only kind of bike we wanted in the group. Since I had never owned a cruiser style bike, in fact we had more touring and sport bikes in the group than anything, I felt like a new name was needed.
"I was working in New Hampshire at the time, and read a newspaper article about a group of retired men who travelled around their state by car, trying to collect photos of every incorporated town in their state. They called themselves the New Hampshire 238 because that's how many towns and villages were in their state at that time. I thought this could be a good idea for our motorcycle group.
"I didn't know how many towns are in Florida, and I began to think Florida is a lot bigger than New Hampshire. Then it hit me to visit counties not towns, similar to a lot of bikers and campers who keep maps of how many states of the USA they've visited.
"We rode two Sundays every month, and Roger and I missed those Honda Riders Club dinner rides, which were being cancelled more often than they were being held, so we also did one dinner ride each month for awhile. I started keeping a list of how many counties each person had visited, and published a list in our calendar handout, broken down into categories; riders with less than 22 counties were Tourists, up to 44 you were a Snowbird, then you were a Resident, and the top level 66 or 67 counties made you a Native."
"I wasn't sure the others wanted to abandon the Cruiser name, so I said my rides would be on different Sundays than the Cruisers ride, but I think everyone went along with adopting the new name and schedule. We had a good core group by that time, Kathy, Roger, Pinetree from the original Cruisers, and Buster, Larry, Sam, and Frank. Pinetree and Larry promoted our rides and brought in many new riders. Leo came along and breathed new life into our group, making reminder telephone calls, designing T-shirts, and inspiring me to have the long-talked-of patches made, which were maps of the state which could be sewn onto vests and jackets and colored in to mark the counties visited."