November 11 will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and two Frenchmen have found a unique way to say thanks to the vintage motorcycle that helped liberate Europe.
Christophe de Goulaine and Pierre Lauvergeat have embarked on 5,600 mile cross-country trip on a 1918 Harley-Davidson that carried American soldiers across France during World War 1. Many of these motorcycles saw duty in France, including the one ridden by de Goulaine and Lauvergeat. The model 18J has an 18-horsepower engine, which according to Goulaine can reach a speed of 55 mph with its sidecar.
Goulaine is a direct descendant of Capt. Rene de Goulaine de Laudonniere, the founder of Fort Caroline, the first European Settlement in North America here in Jacksonville. He talked about the history and the ride on Fridays’ First Coast Connect.
Harley-Davidson has an American military history in France. The U.S. Army sent thousands of motorcycles to Europe to help soldiers fight in World War I. “It is very emotional, this motorcycle, because we know it arrived in Europe for helping us get out of this conflict [WWI] and when we sit on the saddle which has got this original leather, 100-years-old, we know that an American soldier sat on this saddle and this is just incredible this potential of emotions,” said Goulaine.
The motorcycle was shipped June 6 from Port Saint-Nazaire, where World War I soldiers docked to help France. It arrived late last week in Mobile, Ala.
The trip is scheduled to end in San Diego. The motorcyclists hope at some point to find out who the soldier was that who rode their motorcycle in France in 1918.
The duo plans to return to France by Nov. 11 to ride down the Champs-Elysees in Paris to celebrate Armistice Day, as soldiers did at World War I’s end.
Friday evening from 4 to 7 p.m. they're planning a stop for a Meet & Greet cookout at the Adamec Harley-Davidson dealership on Baymeadows.
Then, as part of his visit to Northeast Florida, de Goulaine plans to tour Fort Caroline Saturday 9:30 to 11 a.m.