Drivers along the nation's highways have been startled the past few days, coming upon great hordes of noisy pilgrims streaming toward a distant shrine.
These pilgrims are reverent, in their own way. They cherish their icons, which bear them onward, representing freedom, the open road, and who knows what else. These are Harley riders, on their way to the 100th anniversary celebration of the creation of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle in Milwaukee.
They call it The Ride Home.
It began Thursday, with riders massing at four departure points: Washington in the East, Portland in the Northwest, Baton Rouge in the South, Las Vegas in the Southwest.
The Portland route was the longest: 2,240 miles passing through Kennewick, Wash., Missoula, Great Falls and Billings in Montana, Sturgis and Sioux Falls in South Dakota, on to La Crosse, Wis., and finally Milwaukee. It would take 42 hours and 25 minutes astride - for those who followed the speed limits.
From Washington, it was a mere 1,213 miles. Saturday morning, hundreds and hundreds of riders, two lanes wide as far as the eye could see, rode along Interstate 95 in Maryland, turning the Maryland House rest stop into a giant hog encampment at one point.
In Washington, members of the Secret Service Motorcade Support Unit rode Harleys around the National Mall at the start of the ride.
Tomorrow, a four-day party begins in Milwaukee, where William S. Harley, 21, and Arthur Davidson, 20, built their bicycle with a motor in 1903.