May 8, 2014

History teacher on a Harley comes to
Ocracoke for a TV lesson on Blackbeard


Stan Ellsworth is an unlikely ambassador of scholarship. He is a biker on a Harley Davidson dispensing American history lessons on his television show “American Ride.”

Ellsworth, whose show is on the BYU television network, was on Ocracoke Wednesday to film a segment about Blackbeard and his connection to Ocracoke.

“A lot of folks don’t know what the stories are and the truth about history,” he said between takes at Springer’s Point with historian-author Kevin Duffus. “We need to remember the stories that bind and unite us. We are forgetting them.”

The show’s slogan is “rediscover American history,” and his shows look at unusual segments of American history, such as Duffus’ new theories on Blackbeard, or the U-boat brigade off of the Outer Banks in 1942 that’s not usually covered in high school history.

Attired in typical biker fashion—a black bandana covering long blond locks, black gloves, a black shirt under a blue jean jacket adorned with Harley pins--Ellsworth is warm and convivial.

“He’s a larger-than-life personality,” said production manager Brooke Redmon, of Vineyard Productions, the company hired to produce the shows.

Ellsworth and his crew traveled from Salt Lake City, Utah, to the East where Ocracoke is one of several stops this summer.   The show airs Mondays at 9 p.m., and they can be viewed online at ride.

In the current season, season six, the show is focusing on how the clouds of war gathered to lead America into World War II.  Duffus, who is based in Raleigh, is featured in the current segment about the war activities off the Outer Banks.

“The network just aired an episode that featured me talking about World War II and U-boats that was filmed exactly a year ago on Hatteras Island,” said Duffus, who is the author, among other books, of “War Zone: World War II off the North Carolina Coast.”

That segment, which aired May 5 and can be seen online, is titled “Wolf Pack: the Shadow of War.”  In it, Ellsworth talks about the cadre of German U-boats off the coast, German spies on American soil and more.  His delivery is lively, and the production mixes footage of him on his bike visiting the Outer Banks and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

But now, the group is filming segments for season seven which will air next year. The day before, the group was in Beaufort for that part of the Blackbeard story.

A former high school history teacher and college football coach, Ellsworth said he got into the entertainment business when a friend coaxed him into appearing in a movie.

“My friend needed someone to play a mean coach,” Ellsworth said.  “I quickly decided I wasn’t competing with Brad Pitt.”

Although Ellsworth now lives in Utah, he grew up in Manassas, Va.

“I’m related to every Lee that ever walked in Virginia,” he said.  No stranger to the Outer Banks, he said he spent summers here.

“The last time I was in Ocracoke was in ’78,” he said. “A lot has changed since then.”

The group has covered history in most all of the United States.  After Ocracoke, they are headed to Pennsylvania Dutch country, Philadelphia, and Boston.

Ellsworth has been riding Harleys since he was 12 and rides a top-of-the-line vehicle, a 2014 custom Road King, supplied by Harley Davidson, his sponsor.

Before the ferry left to take them back to Beaufort, the crew filmed Ellsworth riding through the village.

“I live everywhere I go,” Ellsworth said.

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