SOUTH FLORIDA AND CHICO, Calif. – Talk with most anyone and many would agree, 2020 has been somewhat of a challenging year on many fronts.
Our nation is battling the coronavirus, deadly wildfires have ravaged the west coast, across the country cities have seen social unrest in the wake of calls for social justice and equality and a series of storms have battered the east and gulf coasts.
Even so, there is one man, who despite so much turmoil is not deterred from his travel goals. He has a unique view of the United States.
“Our country is beautiful! You can see any part of it and in this case, you don’t need a passport,” explains Zimbalist Chalk. “Just get out and visit it.”
Lifelong motorcycle enthusiast Zimbalist Chalk is doing just that. Based in South Florida, Chalk has been riding motorcycles since he was a young child; says he has always loved hitting the open road. He even has a riding name: Cowboy.
This past month, Chalk has been traversing thousands of miles – on his Harley-Davidson – coast-to-coast – SOLO!
Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough spent time with Chalk as he passed through the Chico area.
It seems nothing is throwing a wrench in his plans.
Yarbough asked him if he knows the country is in the grip of a pandemic.
“I ride motorcycles, it’s just what I do. It’s open,” says Chalk. “I know we have a pandemic and safety is always in my mind.”
Yarbough asked him about personal safety, given the number of cities experiencing protests and other unrest in the wake of calls for increased social justice and equality.
“I’m not fearful of that,” says Chalk. “I’ve visited several of the sites in Minnesota and Washington, D.C.; I have traveled through Portland. Motorcycling transcends all of that. When you talk motorcycles to people, there’s a bond, matter the gender or the race.”
Chalk’s goal for this trip was to see and touch the so-called four corners of the United States and to travel through each of the lower 48.
He pulled out August 31st…from Key West, Florida. That’s the southernmost point in the country. He says some days he would ride up to one-thousand miles. And traveling across some states, he would even ride at night!
“During the day you have to worry about other cars. At night, you have to worry about animals on the road; deer, moose, and bear,” explains Chalk. “You have to stay alert.”
His route for this mega-trip? North to Maine then zig-zagging interstates and back roads all the way west to Washington state.
“A lot of it is just seeing and doing things and riding the back roads and seeing parts of the country I have never seen before,” says Chalk. “Whether it’s the needle in Seattle or the lakes in Idaho or the mountains in Montana.”
Chalk says in taking to the open road, sharing his story on social media has turned his journey into an inspirational and vicarious road trip for many others.
He shared with Yarbough an encounter while traveling through Maine. He says he met a young man, who did not look like him but that they shared the same bond over a mutual love for motorcycles and riding.
“I was leaving my hotel and we had a conversation about motorcycles and he asked about this trip,” says Chalk. “He was like, ‘Oh My Gosh I wish I could do something like this sometime.’
Chalk says the young man wished him well on his journey. Chalk continued to finish packing and preparing for the days ride. He says when he returned to his motorcycle he found a hand-written note on the seat of his motorcycle.
It read: “Drive Safe! I’m really inspired by your massive solo trip. Say hi to the Pacific for me. Alex (from Maine)."
Chalk says moments like that remind him that people are genuine; that motorcycling has a way of transcending any other differences.
On the tail end of the trip, Chalk rode through fire scenes in Washington and Oregon and smoke-filled skies in California. He just skirted Hurricane Sally in the southeast.
After roughly 14-thousand miles, Chalk returned home to South Florida, Thursday, September 17th.
He says this epic journey gave him the opportunity to see the country, connect with old friends, make new ones, and to be reminded of something simple: have faith in the kindness of strangers because they can quickly become friends.
“Make friends wherever you go. When you’re not talking politics and religion; everything else is a wash.”