Bias loves life on the open road
Willie Bias, 80, has great family genes, he says, but he would prefer having quality jeans for his motorcycle trips.
Bias started riding his own motorcycle in 1951; it cost only $35 he recalls.
“I?love motorcycles and all of the parts,” Bias says. “I would work on my first motorcycle in our basement because our farm, just south of Wells, wasn’t heated. I learned my way around a motorcycle pretty fast.”
To get away from Minnesota’s dreaded winters, Bias and his wife Mary Ann would travel to Arizona.
“I did a lot of riding in Arizona,” Bias says. “It was great because the time we had was ours and we didn’t have to worry about taking care of the house or anything like that.”
He belonged to two different riding clubs in Arizona: the Power Riders and the Sun City Riders.
“It was great because everyone had such a different background,” Bias explains. “We have doctors, truck drivers and farmers to name a few.”
The groups would ride for thousands of miles while Bias was there.
“Arizona is great because of all the curvy roads,”?Bias says. “The people in our groups never talked about their personal life, but instead, their biking tours and rallies they have been on.”
Bias recalls after a long ride one day, one of his groups stopped for lunch. That was the first time Bias heard about the “tail of the dragon” stretch of highway in Tennessee.
“The stretch was 11 miles and consisted of 318 curves,” he explained. “I just had to go and see for myself.”
In 2007, that’s exactly what Bias did.
“I first visited my brother in Indianapolis, then headed to the 11 mile stretch in Tennessee,” Bias explains.
For 10 years, during the summer in the 1990s, Bias would visit his two brothers and sister on his motorcycle, too.
According to Bias, the ride was going in a triangle because his brothers lived in Indianapolis and Illinois, while his sister was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“It really was a blast,” he says. “I got to do my favorite thing and see my family at the same time.”
As far as motorcycle trips go, Bias’ favorite is the event in Sturgis, S.D. every year. This upcoming rally will be his 25th year in a row he will be attending the rally.
“We have been staying with an 83-year-old lady for the past 10 years,” he says. “It is so great because of all of the different Harleys you get to see. All the people there share the same passion of motorcycles as I.”
Bias has been a part of the National Harley Davidsons Group and the local Albert Lea Harley Owners Group (HOG) since 1990.
“Being in those groups comes with a lot of benefits, one being roadside assistance when your motorcycle breaks down on the highway,” Bias explains.
A month-long trip to Alaska is the next planned ride for Bias. Three of his “Sturgis buddies” will be traveling along his side.
“One of my friends from Chicago has a piece of land near Anchorage,” he says. “I can’t wait for this trip because we will get to do some fishing and lots of riding. It is one of the last things to cross off on my bucket list. Everyone has a bucket list whether they know it or not. Sometimes people don’t get to do the things they really want in life. But, I have been very fortunate.”
Bias has been all over the United States with his motorcycle. He has been to Minnesota, Arizona, parts of California, Las Vegas, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee and Florida.
In 1991 Bias took his wife, Mary Ann, to a bike rally, which was held in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“It was one of the few times my wife has been with me on a trip,” he says. “I always picture her praying for me the second I leave on my motorcycle. Also, I always remember my mother telling us that if we bought a motorcycle, we might as well buy a casket, too.”
Bias ended up selling his first motorcycle so he could provide for his family. He sold it in 1963.
Willie and Mary Ann have five children:?Brian, Bradley, Ann, Jackie and Angela.
He didn’t get another Harley Davidson until 1989; that was the same year the Biases moved into their home in Wells.
The best part about riding a motorcycle is how the machine and the rider become one, according to Bias.
“I also enjoy the fresh air, which is always changing,” he says. “It is powerful and almost becomes a part of you, kind of like the relationship between an old western cowboy and his horse.”
Bias, a 1951 Wells High School graduate, also used to be a farmer.
“I raised corn, beans and pigs,” Bias says. “Sometime in the 80s, I bought a school bus, took out all of the seats and turned it into a “hog hauler,” so I could transport more pigs.”
According to Bias, his pickup truck could only carry about 10 pigs, whereas his “hog hauler” bus could take up to 35 pigs at a time.
Bias also served on the Freeborn School Board for 12 years and is one of few people who can say he handed all of his children their diplomas.
From 1954-1956, Bias was a mechanic in Germany working on tanks, trucks, jeeps and even railroad tracks.
Bias is an individual who doesn’t want to forget his experiences, especially his riding trips and rallies.
“I have kept a journal for the past 10 years and wrote in it every single day,” Bias explains. “It is fun to look back and see my reactions and observations on some bike trips.”
As for the future, Bias still wants to travel all over with his motorcycle.
“I just always need to see what’s over the next hill,” Bias explains. “Some of the people I have met have become lifelong friends and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”