A group of about 39 motorcycle riders from Uruguay stopped in Rolla Monday night as part of two-week tour of old Route 66.
The Rolla Chamber of Commerce and the Rolla Road Riders welcomed the travelers from Uruguay during their overnight stay here.
The riders flew into Chicago and began their journey by motorcycle May 19. On Monday, members of the Rolla Road Riders Geno Bequette II and his wife Renee, Don Ware and John Maskunas rode up Interstate 44 and met the Uruguay riders around the Fenton area.
Bequette called the riders “very entertaining” and said this is the first time he has welcomed riders from outside the country. Ernie Murphy, with the Rolla Road Riders also helped coordinate the ride.
The Uruguay group arrived in Rolla after 4 p.m. and stopped at the Tater Patch on Bridge School Road for dinner and pool.
At the Tater Patch, the Rolla Road Riders presented the Uruguay group with the Rolla club’s colors.
Joe Malva and his wife Linda, owners of the Tater Patch, said they were asked by the chamber to host the group.
Malva said he knew a little Spanish and some of the Uruguay riders knew English, so they had enough to communicate with each other. The trip from Uruguay is being coordinated by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Margaret Gottlieb, international trade specialist, with the U.S. Department of Commerce office based out of St. Louis, said that Lillian Amy and Jorge Balparda, who both work at the U.S. embassy in Uruguay, came up with the idea to ride Route 66. Planning for the trip began about eight months ago.
The Rolla chamber then got involved. Aimee Campbell, tourism director with the Rolla chamber, said this provided a chance for chamber staff to showcase the community and its hospitality.
Balparda said the riders will travel through eight states and stop in about 15 cities.
Balparda said this is the first time that he and several of the riders have been to the United States. “Some of them say this is their dream,” he said.
Balparda said he and others from Uruguay received a warm reception when they arrived in Rolla. “Everyone is friendly. There are some very good people,” he said.
The riders travel for about eight hours a day, depending on the weather, Balparda said. The trip is expected to last through June 2.
Also traveling with the group is Sebastián Beltrame and his film crew who will produce a travel series which will tell stories about the route and the places visited, as well as the experiences of both travelers and locals.
This film has the support of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay and will be aired on national television by 163 cable channels, the Uruguayan television network and 22 over-the-air channels, including the channels that belong to the main cities in the countryside.
Page 2 of 2 - The trip is also being coordinated in cooperation with Carrasco Viajes travel agency and Harley-Davidson Uruguay. The program is designed to promote new U.S. destinations in Uruguay.
Last year, the Rolla chamber welcomed a group from Ireland.
To follow the Uruguay riders, visit http://spanish.uruguay.usembassy.gov/ruta66.html