Each year in the northern Alabama town of Waterloo, tens of thousands of motorcycle riders descend in honor of the Native Americans who endured forced removal from their land by the government in the 1800s under the Indian Removal Act. The motorcycle ride starts in Bridgeport, Alabama and finishes in Waterloo. Waterloo was one of the main spots where Indians were loaded onto boats for transportation to arid lands in the West. The Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride is a lovely event that helps bring to light a shameful period of our nation’s history.
The Trail of Tears
The group calls the ride “Trail of Tears” in remembrance of one of the most infamous results of the Indian Removal Act that was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson in 1830. In 1838 and 1839, the Cherokee Nation was forced to give up all of its land east of the Mississippi River. The tribe was forced to move to Oklahoma. Men, women, children, the infirm and the elderly alike were forced to march by US Army troops on the Trail of Tears. More than 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokees died during the brutal death march.
The Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride
Thankfully, the Trail of Tears Motorcycle Ride is much more pleasant than the journey it pays homage to. The ride goes rain or shine on the third Saturday in September. The ride begins in Bridgeport, Alabama early in the morning, and throughout the day tens of thousands of motorcycles rumble their ways down Highway 72 until they head west on I-565. From I-565, riders will arrive at the US Space and Rocket Center for a mid-morning stop.
After the break, riders will continue westbound on I-565 until they get off on Exit 2. Traveling north on Mooresville Road, riders will once again get back on Highway by truing left. They ride through Athens and Florence before finishing at the Trail of Tears Festival in Waterloo.
Enjoying the Fun
While the ride is in honor of a serious injustice, the festival is not by any means somber. When 30,000 motorcycle riders show up, a serious party breaks out. There is live music, great food and vendors aplenty. The festival runs from Thursday through Sunday, but the climax is always the third Saturday in September. Saturday is when the hordes of motorcycle riders come swarming into town all afternoon. The party atmosphere that is generated when this happens has to be experienced to be believed.
In addition, member of the Cherokee Nation come together for a three-day pow wow that begins on Friday morning. They are the folks that the festival is all about, and they are given a place of prominence in Waterloo to honor their heritage.
Motorcycle riders aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the Trail of Tears Commemorative Motorcycle Ride. The festival in Waterloo is fun and educational for the whole family. The live music, food and fun are a hit for people of all ages.