LADYSMITH—Tucked away in a subdivision of Caroline County is a man who decided it would be neat to customize a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle to raffle off for charity.
As Gary Busic rode his Harley-Davidson to work, perhaps it was in the deep exhaust note of that V-shaped engine that the notion came to him: Customize a bike in the burgundy and gold colors of the Washington Redskins and have all of the Redskins players autograph the bike. After all, the Richmond native had been a lifelong fan of the Redskins, particularly after attending his first Redskins game when he was only 4.
He had been heavy into motorcycles for 15 years. So, naturally, his passion grew to create “the Redskins bike.” First, he had to have a bike to even customize and raffle off for charity. But when you’re the service manager of Richmond Harley-Davidson, as Gary is, it helps.
It also helps if your boss, George Wills, the owner of Richmond Harley-Davidson, gives the green light to donate a brand new $23,000 Harley-Davidson FLHX Street Glide that would eventually have all the signatures of the Redskins team. And it didn’t hurt any that the Redskins went in with Richmond Harley-Davidson half and half on the cost of the bike.
Gary did most of the design work on his iPad, coming up with more than 20 design variations. Jay Gonzalez, shop foreman at Richmond Harley-Davidson, did the actual work: which was putting the Redskins color theme on the fenders and putting a special brake light on the fender that illuminates the letters, HTTR, which, as fans know, stands for: Hail to the Redskins.
“We started looking at different parts that would go on bike as far as the handlebars, the rear fender – which is a big part of that bike,” Gary said. “So I went with the stripes all the way down the bike like the helmet and put the logo on the side of the bike. It’s got a ‘Bad Dad” rear fender. Everything is chromed out.”
Customizing a Harley-Davidson was nothing new for Richmond Harley-Davidson, which customizes 90 percent of the bikes for Richmond area police officers.
The raffle tickets are $20 each and have been sold at the Redskins training camp in Richmond, where the bike has been on display. It’s been in the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation tent. Tickets can be purchased over the phone. “People from Texas and Arizona have been calling and giving their credit card numbers to buy the tickets,” Gary said.
“One guy walked into Richmond Harley-Davidson and offered $100,000 for the bike,” Gary noted. But they had to turn him down because the raffle had already started.
On the day that the bike was ridden from Richmond Harley-Davidson down to the Bon Secours Training Camp in Richmond, 300 other Harley-Davidson riders accompanied the bike. Gary noted that 600 customers came into the store that day and it didn’t hurt any that the Redskins cheerleaders were upstairs signing calendars for fans.
Eventually, it came down to a decision of who would ride the Redskins bike the 18 miles from the shop to the training camp. Suddenly, a $23,000 bike was now worth over $100,000. Jay took on that awesome responsibility of riding the 1,000-pound bike with 75 horsepower and 83 pounds of torque. Richmond’s Channel 6 TV station was there to record the event. Jay said he was “not worried” excessively about the ride. “I just treated it like another customer’s bike,” he added.
The players had signed the bike with Sharpies and Jay had put a special clear coat of paint down to protect the signatures.
Gary and his wife, Brandie, rode a Harley-Davidson with the group of 300 bikes to the training camp. No doubt some of the group looked at Gary and thought to themselves, “He kind of looks like Elvis.” In fact, when Gary was in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from 1991 to 1994, his nickname was “Elvis” because he looked a lot like Elvis. Ironically, the Redskins fan was chosen to escort the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and Miss USA at an event in Korea while in the Army.
By early August, 2,500 tickets had been sold, and the goal was 5,000. Initial plans were to pick a winner at the last day of training camp on Aug. 16. The money from the raffle will go toward buying athletic equipment for Richmond city schools, Gary said. Raffle tickets are available at Richmond Harley-Davidson and Steel Horse Harley-Davidson in Midlothian.