Freedom fighter sets another record
Milwaukee, Apr. 4—Dave Zien is a serious long-distance rider. As a member of the Iron Butt Association, Dave holds a whopping 118 motorcycle riding records on his 1991 Harley-Davidson FXRT, with the association having to come up with a brand new award for his achievement of an unprecedented “One Million Miles on the Same Harley.” His remarkable accomplishment was completed at Hal’s Harley-Davidson in Harley’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Dave left Wisconsin on March 30 along with Tony “Pan” Sanfelipo, an investigator for the Hupy and Abraham law offices, founder of ABATE of Wisconsin and the very first Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Freedom Fighter Hall of Fame member; and Dave’s friend and Iron Butt competitor Dan Stephans. They headed to Florida to pick up another heavy hitter in the motorcycling world, John “Rogue” Herlihy, Sturgis Freedom Fighter Hall of Fame member and long-time motojournalist.
The ride was wet, wet and wet most of the way there with relief finding them in Ocala, Florida the next day with warm, sunny weather. On the return trip, the Zien entourage caught more rain, traffic and bike problems. Dave had to have his ignition switch changed and the stator worked on at Mt. Creek Harley-Davidson in Dalton, Georgia. Getting on the road again despite the continued high winds, tornado watches and flash flood warnings, they all made it back to Milwaukee on April 3 for the following day’s ceremony.
End of the road
The last leg of this incredible ride was sponsored by the Milwaukee law firm of Hupy and Abraham, S.C. Around noon on Saturday the 4th, Michael F. Hupy rode into Hal’s sitting behind Dave on “Suzanna ala Sha-Luck A Lay Ya” (that’s what Dave calls his bike) while video-recording the final three miles of the journey. With the odometer showing 000000 for the 10th time, the bike sat on stage for the ceremony. A large crowd turned out to witness the event with cheers, flags and whistles of approval.
Throughout the afternoon, there were many presenters of items and plaques to Dave. With everything from a $5,000 check from the Hupy law offices that was given to the Wisconsin Dept. Of Veteran’s Affairs’ Veterans Assistance Program in Dave’s name, to a new toothbrush and shoe polish (two things Dave does while riding) from Accident Scene Management, Inc. founder Vicki Sanfelipo to a rocking chair for Dave to relax in. (Yah, right!) After all the awards and speeches, a small group headed down to the Harley-Davidson Museum for a special tour.
The following Monday, Dave rode the ’91 for the last time to the Harley headquarters on Juneau Street, accompanied by about 20 friends and some H-D employees. After officially retiring the machine, he was then given the keys to a new 2009 Road Glide by Steve Phillips, VP of Quality and Dealer Relations at Harley-Davidson. The bike that Dave has called home for all of those miles will be on permanent display at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame. Asked if it was hard to let his old bike go Dave said, “ I did have second thoughts about giving it up, but I will always have the memories.”
As a newly-patched club member, I sat at a Federation of Clubs meeting watching this loud-speaking Senator from Wisconsin jumping on a chair speaking about a variety of issues—bikers’ rights, veterans’ issues, gun legislation and so on. No one seemed to mind that this guy clad in his leather vest and blue jeans kept on yelling passionately for what seemed an eternity. My eyes were wide open to the style this guy brought, and I admired him for it.
For the past 10 years after that first meeting, I have run into Dave off and on at a wide variety of events—swap meets, shows and meetings. I understand why he is such a widely sought-after speaker. He’s charismatic, loud and knowledgeable about a wide range of issues and is involved with many different groups.
Are you an NRA member and believe in your right to carry? Dave was one of the driving forces at the state capitol as an assemblyman and state senator on gun owners’ rights, including the right to concealed carry that lost in an override vote by only two votes. Are you a motorcyclist that’s in fear of losing the right to choose to wear a helmet? Dave was at the lead of the helmet issue back in the early ’70s. Are you familiar with the 2005 Wisconsin RURA (Roadway Users Responsibility Act) 466? Dave was the main author of this bill that provides for increased penalties for vehicle operators who violate the right-of-way of other roadway users. In my opinion, Act 466 raised a biker’s right to ride above road-kill status.
What about you veterans that need a friendly hand going through some of the red tape of the V.A. system? I have seen Dave speaking tirelessly to people about what they or their families have coming to them in the line of medals and honors. Dave is adamant about veterans getting what they deserve for their service to this country. Being a Marine in Vietnam himself and former chair-man of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Dave knows what a veteran is feeling and the pain our soldiers go through.
Even after he lost a re-election bid in 2006, I saw former constituents call him at his home for advice on a variety of issues, with Dave spending hours trying to be of service. He is by no means a selfish man. In fact, his generosity is immeasurable. Considering the time, knowledge and persistence to be the best person he can be keeps him driving full speed ahead at all times. His spiritual knowledge and faith has enlightened him to be a servant to mankind. With a bible sitting on the dash of his record-holding Harley, this is testament to his belief in the Lord.
Probably most important is Dave’s commitment to family. With four kids and many grandkids, you can’t imagine where he finds time to attend their functions, but with all he does for the rest of us, his family is number one, which seems to be a lost character trait in today’s fast-paced world.
I have ridden with Dave over the last couple years to Washington, D.C and Houston, racking up nearly 6,000 miles in his company. I have seen the shining of boots while doing 70, the silliness of a person that puts banana peels on his engine for fragrance and the drinking of a cappuccino while going through a toll. I have heard about the carrying of a gravestone on the back of his bike to D.C. and then sleeping on the wall so it is not tampered with, and the friendliness of a man who slept in the woods and emerged with wild flowers for all the ladies.
I plan on many more years of being able to call Dave my brother, friend and fellow rider. As Dave says, “May you run many more years with the zest for life that you shower everyone around you with, and never get a flat on your open road.”