Tuesday - February 28, 2012
Robert "Bud" Schmitt
Alexander Springs Campground
Ocala National Forest
Today we had a new camper occupy the campsite across from our campsite. He had an early 1990’s trailer about 20 feet in length that he towed with an early 1990’s Ford pickup truck. In the bed of the pickup truck he carried a weathered Honda motorcycle. The motorcycle had a small cc engine and was very quiet. Our new neighbor was alone, we guessed was in his late seventies, and perhaps a widower.
It was quite a site to see this man unload his motorcycle from the bed of the pickup truck. The front of the motorcycle faced the front of the truck. He positioned a ramp on an incline from the bed of the truck down to the ground. He then got on the motorcycle, with the engine off, and very slowly backed the motorcycle down the steep incline, using his feet and the hand brakes on the motorcycle to guide it to the ground. We subsequently learned he is 84 years old.
We are so sorry we did not have more time to spend in conversation with this remarkable man. His name is R.L. "Bud" Schmitt, the R stands for Robert. Bud lives in Chalmers, Indiana, which is located 18 miles north of Lafayette and spends his winters in Florida. He is using Alexander Springs as his home base while he attends "Bike Week" in Daytona, Florida, from March 9 to March 18, 2012.
In our initial conversation Bud mentioned he was a "speed freak" on motorcycles. We were not quite sure what he meant by that statement until we became more enlightened about his life history. Here are some of the highlights:
1. In 1955, he set an unofficial motorcycle speed record at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. He hit 157.2 mph, but he burnt a piston and couldn’t make the second run for the official record.
2. In 2005, on the 50th anniversary of his record setting ride, Bud at age 78 attempted to break his old record. He was the oldest rider there. His friend, Dan Bell, owner of a Harley Davidson dealer in Lafayette provided him with a customized 200 hp, V-rod motorcycle worth $40,000.00, for the record breaking attempt. Weather conditions were not favorable and limited his attempt to 125.7 mph.
3. Bud once held the drag speed record of almost 130 mph at Chicago’s old Half Day Track. He also used to drag race motorcycles in the late 1950’s at Stout Field in Indianapolis.
4. In 1956, he blew up a two-engine Harley he had built and went down at 90 mph. He broke his arm and stopped drag racing, but it didn’t stop him from going fast.
5. For 30 years Bud owned an independent garage in Chalmers, Indiana. He use to convert engines and make hot rods.
6. A pilot for 24 years, Bud has built four airplanes.
During our many years of travel we have met some interesting people. This gentleman goes to the top of our list of "The Most Interesting People" we have met.
Tomorrow, another new adventure begins!