From Sept. 26 to Oct. 7, Fallston native Dick Scarborough joined 11 other men on the "Ride to Confucius," the first Harley Davidson-sponsored motorcycle tour through China's Shandong Province, the birthplace of the popular philosopher Confucius.
"It's something people there had never seen before," said Scarborough, who appeared on the front page of a Chinese newspaper while riding his motorcycle. "Everywhere we rode, people stood along the highway watching."
Scarborough, who owned an insurance company in Bel Air for 29 years, has been riding motorcycles for about 45 years and Harleys for about the last 20.
"Growing up, I had a friend who owned a Cushman motor scooter in Fallston and I wanted one so bad, but my father would never buy that," Scarborough explained.
The 70-year-old retired motorcycle enthusiast owns two Harley Davidson Road Glides with one in Florida and one in Maryland.
During the "Ride to Confucius," Scarborough rode four different Harley Davidson models, which were provided by dealerships in China: a Vrod, Street Bob, Lowrider and a Fat Boy.
"The Fat Boy was fantastic because it was the most comfortable and the largest," Scarborough said. He said he spent about $4,000 on the trip, which included roundtrip airfare, three meals a day and lodgings at five-star hotels.
Jeff Ji, owner of Knighthawk Tours in Wayne, Pa., was one of two organizers of the unprecedented trip.
In November 2005, a group of officials from China's Shandong Tourism Administration visited Pennsylvania and Ji showed them the Harley Davidson factory in York, Pa.
"Ever since, they thought I worked for Harley, but I don't," Ji said.
Ji, a native of China, wanted the Chinese to "experience the Harley Davidson excitement" and the "Ride to Confucius" was born.
"The Chinese government never permitted large groups to ride on the highways and were very cautious about the ride,"Scarborough said.
After two years of planning and approval from the Chinese government, 12 Harley Owners Group (HOG) were chosen to participate in the historic event.
"We covered 900 miles and it was all police escorted in the front and the back," Scarborough said.
After enduring a 13-hour flight to Beijing on Sept. 26, the riders were greeted by a national guide and then transferred to a Harley Davidson dealership downtown, where the riders bought T-shirts.
"The first purpose was to have a good time," Ji said. "Another purpose was helping Harley get brand awareness while having a good time."
In addition to riding their Harleys on Chinese highways, the riders also visited historic sites such as the Forbidden City,Palace Museum, Tian'an men Square, the Olympic Village and the Great Wall. Shandong Province is home to about 90 million people and is roughly the size of Pennsylvania.
While in China, Scarborough and the other riders became pseudo-celebrities."They were so kind and treated us fabulously well. It was almost like being a movie star," Scarborough said, as he flipped through a picture album from the trip.
"When we stopped in the city, Chinese people swarmed us and wanted to take a picture with us," he said. "They loved to sit on the motorcycles and have their pictures taken."
Ji, a recent Harley owner, described Scarborough as a fashionable person.
"He always dressed very sharp and he's very energetic," Ji said. "So many girls wanted to shoot pictures with him, it was unbelievable. He was always encouraging and such a fine gentleman."
When Scarborough wasn't busy posing for pictures, he was often the guest of honor at group dinners in China.
"Each evening, we were guests of either the mayor or some governing person who would host dinner," Scarborough said, describing the seating arrangements as "very strict."
According to Scarborough, all of the tables were round with a Lazy Susan (rotating tray) in the middle. At the head table, the host would face the door with a special guest on either side.
"As the oldest one in the group, I was selected to be the guest of the house, which means the host puts the food on your plate whether it's something you want or not," Scarborough said. "If you didn't eat everything, it would be disrespectful."
Scarborough was also amazed by the quantity of food served at each meal.
"They'd start with bowls of vegetables, then meats and lots of fish," Scarborough said. "Every meal ended with watermelon. They'd bring so much food, we were finished eating and they were still bringing more food to us."
Although open air food markets carried starfish, silkworms, grasshoppers and even testicles, Scarborough declined to eat the exotic delicacies, but was impressed by Chinese fashion and architecture.
"Two things amazed me the most: how well everyone dressed within the city. They were very friendly, even if they couldn't speak English," he said. "And the amount of new construction. There were large cranes on top of high rises, cranes everywhere with new construction."
Fortunately, Scarborough and the other riders experienced fairly decent weather during the ride, with the exception of some smog while riding near the Yellow Sea.
"Unfortunately, the smog was so thick and the visibility was bad," Scarborough said, reading an excerpt from the journal he kept during the trip. "It was one of those days where a shower never felt so good."
According to Scarborough, the riders looked like coal miners when they returned to the hotel later that day. Heavy traffic in the cities was also a bit troublesome.
"In the city, all you hear are horns," Scarborough said. "Everyone lives by their horns."
In addition to touring historic sites, the riders also visited local businesses, such as a brewery and a winery.
"We took pictures outside [the winery] and they're going to put our pictures on a bottle of wine, which I haven't received yet,"Scarborough said.
If presented the opportunity, he said he would definitely go back to China.
"The best part was meeting the people there and enjoying their enthusiasm," he said.
Ji, who is planning a trip to China in April, would like to make the "Ride to Confucius" a more frequent event.
"Harley to us is a lifestyle," Ji said. "You don't have to be super rich to buy and feel the excitement of the motorcycle."
Dick Scarborough of Fallston poses for a photo at the Harley Davidson in QingDao, China, while on the "Ride to Confucius" tour through the country.