Longtime friends from southern Indiana visit all 48 contiguous states in 2-wheeled adventure

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JEFFERSONVILLE, Indiana — Above the doorway from the office to the garage at Grider's Automotive in Jeffersonville hangs a map of the United States. It's yellowed around the edges, and duct tape keeps the lower corners affixed to the wall.

Black lines drawn on the map creep thousands of miles outward from Jeffersonville to points east, west, north and south, each one marked with a year. Instead of serving as a guide to where things are, it shows where its owners have been, and each of the contiguous 48 United States are touched by at least one of those lines.

"It's a really good centerpiece around here," Sam Grider, owner of Grider's Automotive, told the News and Tribune (http://bit.ly/1z0ytx5 ). "Everyone looks at the map and is amazed by it."

Every year since 1998, Grider, 62, and his friend Rex Clyatt, 58, have left Jeffersonville behind on their motorcycles to tour the country. It wasn't always their goal to visit every state in the continental U.S. It just kind of happened that way, Grider said.

"I don't know if it was ever a thing to rack up states or not," he said. "When we looked up and saw we had the last four (states left to visit), we said we needed to do that. But up until then we never gave it a thought."

The pair left on a trip to check off those last four western states — Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California — this summer, leaving at 6:30 a.m. July 25. Unlike trips in previous years, the two hauled their bikes on a trailer from Jeffersonville to Salt Lake City, where they put the truck and trailer in storage and left on two wheels apiece. They covered 2,200 miles in the first two days of the trip, sleeping in shifts in the truck before riding 600 miles to Boise, Idaho.

"It wasn't that bad, but you've got to like to ride," Clyatt said. "Take you four or five Advil and hop on and ride, you know?"

The final state to complete the task of visiting all 48 states was California. Clyatt and Grider stopped to take a photo in Carson City, but there wasn't a special or emotional moment when the task was completed, Clyatt said. There was too much road to cover and not enough time.

"It wasn't no great moment," Clyatt said.

The two made for San Francisco, where they were there just long enough to cross the Golden Gate Bridge before riding for Lake Tahoe.

"We ride 1,000 miles a day," Grider said. "We've got it down pretty good."

Grider and Clyatt trace the beginnings of their friendship back 40-plus years, a friendship based on a love for fixing cars, gambling in casinos and riding motorcycles.

Grider got his first motorcycle — a Honda '64 150 Dream — when he was 12, he said, while Clyatt began riding when he was 18. But neither really had a passion for lengthy road trips until relatively recently.

The first trip in 1998 took the pair to New Orleans. Subsequent trips have taken them to the southernmost tip of Florida, the busy streets of New York City, the flat plains of the Midwest and the desert heat of the Southwest.

The only year the two haven't biked away from Jeffersonville together was in 2011, when Grider was involved in a motorcycle accident and wasn't fit to ride. Clyatt wasn't about to go it alone.

"I wouldn't go without him," Clyatt said.

Grider's wreck happened just a few miles from his home, but the two have never had a problem outside of Indiana. They've never had an accident, and the closest they've ever come to being pulled over is a Nevada police officer activating his light bar briefly to warn them to slow down.

Though the two have been to all 48 contiguous states, some were more thoroughly explored than others. Grider and Clyatt stopped in Maine, Washington and Arkansas on separate trips just long enough to say that they had visited.

The quest to visit the lower 48 is complete, but Grider and Clyatt aren't done exploring the country on their annual motorcycle trips, they said. And they're not going to let age slow them down.

"We're going to keep going," Grider said. "We ride hard."

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