When time and the weather allows, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker escapes the near-constant controversy that’s followed him through his first term in office by hiding in plain-sight, on his used 2003 Harley-Davidson Road King. Walker says he learned to ride during his stint as Milwaukee’s county executive, just in time to lead a group of bikes down Wisconsin Avenue for Harley-Davidson’s 100th anniversary. Now, his bike is his escape.
There is no person in Wisconsin as polarizing as the first-term governor, and seemingly nowhere he can go without being spotted, usually by angry crowds, unless he goes in riding gear. Walker says people are surprised when they find out he rides. Walker says riding during Harley’s 100th anniversary celebration planted the bug, and he started doing a group ride every year, usually in May or June. This year, because of ongoing protests, the group trip around the state was canceled.
“I said, to me, it’s not worth it to put anyone at risk, especially with a couple hundred bikes. The last thing you want is for someone to get hurt,” Walker said.
Walker says his bike is his escape, and says he rides to get away from it all. He insists on riding alone, and says a few nights each week this past summer, he left the seclusion and safety of the Governor’s mansion, and headed out to explore Wisconsin’s roads – the same roads he traveled last fall as a gubernatorial candidate. The irony of trying to ride away from the recall talk, is that everywhere he rode, he was reminded of it, from his own street, to country roads, as Wisconsin is awash in “Recall Walker” signs, but Walker says he doesn’t let it get to him.
“To me, it’s just one more thing flying by on the road,” Walker said.
If Walker survives the effort to recall him as Governor, he says he plans to keep riding, in a more visible way. In 2013, the nation’s governors are coming to town, and Texas Governor Rick Perry rides, as does Indiana’s Mitch Daniels. Walker says he hopes to lead a bi-partisan parade.