Milwaukee turned into a sea of black and orange over the last week as bikers from all over the world rumbled and roared into the city to celebrate Harley Davidson’s 115th birthday. All of Brew City got in on the celebration, with street parties, parades and races all over town. The hotel was filled with motorcycle enthusiasts eager join the festivities and each morning the parking garage vibrated with the combined hum of idling bikes ready to explore the city.
It was on a rainy morning during the celebration that I caught up with the Bumpus family. The group of 13 was in town from Tennessee for the annual party. For them, cycling is more than a hobby, it is their life. The family owns four dealerships in the Greater Memphis area and have been serving HD fans since 1986. No strangers to this citywide party, the family has made this pilgrimage to Milwaukee since the company’s 85th anniversary.
Led by patriarch, Jerry, the family works and plays together. When they are not in the dealerships, Team Bumpus is hitting the open roads- all of them! Everyone rides, from great grandma to the tiniest tyke, this family gets their fix of loud pipes and long runs. It would appear the only things this group loves more than bikes is each other. Together, the tight-knit group has tackled a number of cross-country trips, at some point seeing most of the US from the saddle. A few like to roll on their own, while others, like Angie and her husband Scott, prefer to share the ride, as it gives them the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time together as a couple. Whether it’s riding together, selling bikes together or traveling together, the one thing all Bumpuses agree upon is that everything is better when accompanied by family.
A key person in the Bumpus family motorcycling history, and illustration of the love the family shares, was missing from this gathering; and his absence was clearly felt. At one time, Jerry and his sons were railroading men. They all had a penchant for speed and machinery, but it was his son Dan who had a true passion for motorcycles. When Dan was just 28 he suffered a near fatal stroke that changed the course of Bumpus family’s lives, forever. Dan’s recovery was astonishing, but it left him with permanent limitations which made it impossible for him to continue the family tradition of working the rails. When Jerry asked Dan what he wanted his next step to be, Dan told him he wanted to own a Harley Davidson dealership. Before long, the Bumpus family was in the motorcycle business. That was 32 years ago. Since then, the family business has expanded to several locations, and to many generations of Bumpus family employees. The family lost Dan in 2017, but it is very clear his spirit, and sense of adventure, is still very much with the family.
The group waited for skies to clear, eager to enjoy the “motorcycle mecca” Milwaukee becomes each year. Before long, the clouds parted and the crew headed out to enjoy themselves the Bumpus way: all together and with a wide open throttle.