At times it can seem like a desperate situation, one minute you’re a hero and the next a total zero. It’s hard to make up for those times when expectations are high and then reality beats you down. Some days it’s just not worth all the hassle. On the other hand, determination will take over and you feel like no matter the odds, you can – and will overcome. We ride. Sometimes we don’t ride. Sometimes we need to ride regardless of the weather. This morning it is freezing drizzle. Today, I’m looking for a particular Ground Hog.
I know it’s not his fault. Just like our local weatherman, both are just messengers of truth, or rather speculation, on what we motorcyclists consider the key ingredient to our particular mode of transportation. Good weather is our gasoline and right now for some motorcyclists the gas station is closed. Toying with our emotions is never advised and we put such high hopes in all you represent. How long will you keep us off our motorcycles? Maybe the greater question is CAN you keep us off our motorcycles?
So today I ride. I ride in search of you my friend – to show you that it is not my desperation to ride, but rather my passion to ride! Alas, I do not blame you. It’s your job to be the bearer of news, good or bad. And I will lift you to shoulder height when the news of an early spring comes, but not today. So hide in your stump, Phil. Look away from me and know that for the next few weeks we are not friends. Our relationship will always have its moments, but for now you are dead to me.
We can choose to be fair-weather riders and have our riding habits dictated by fury animals and “weather in motion”. But if the garage walls appear to be closing in, it’s time to get out - and ride. I prefer to ride!
1974 Harley-Davidson 90
It’s a contagious kind of passion, not the quiet kind we keep to ourselves. We ride motorcycles, and our enthusiasm shows from the expressions on our faces all the way down to the mark on our left boot. I just watched the film Why We Ride and I am honored as an average motorcyclist to be included in a like-minded and emotional, devoted and fun-loving community. The connection we have is easier to explain to those who already ride, but to those who don’t - you should watch this film. Why We Ride hits the mark and it shines through in the real people featured along the way. Mert Lawwill, you are one of those people who had a direct impact on why I ride. Real people, real stories and true words spoken.
How do you make a film that explains who we are without telling the stories of those who paved the way before us? A beautiful transition from our past to the present looking through a window to how the more things change in motorcycles, it will always be the people and the reasons we ride that remains the same. History, speed, danger and gasoline make for a perfect combination. What better way to express ourselves than with the sounds and smells of a machine that is the extension of our own heart and soul? Just add spark.
We have our own personal reasons for riding and no matter the age of the hand that twists the throttle, the reaction will always be the same. That motion our throttle hand creates tells “our” stories – of who we are and how life changing motorcycles can be. Our lives are so intertwined with the mechanics of the motorcycle that for some it is one and the same. Life changing and life in general all rolled into one.
The language spoken throughout the film is universal and the feelings are mutual. We ride motorcycles by choice but the camaraderie, competition and connection is a direct reflection of what these amazing machines are capable of. Even as a rider, Why We Ride inspires me. It made me proud to be a part of where we’ve been and where we’re going as a sport. It shows the side of motorcycling that is often overlooked by non-riders. Family, in both the immediate and extended sense of the word.
I may not compete at the highest levels of competition or travel around the world as Ted Simon has, and that’s okay. Others ride to share those experiences and that’s all a part of the bigger picture. We are writing the history of motorcycling with every revolution of our wheels and we are making our own memories and participating in the memories of those we ride with. WE are the reason we ride!
A thank you to the makers of Why We Ride and thanks to all who had a part. YOU are the reason I ride.
We all come from different walks of life, and to the naked eye it’s just the surface we see. A doctor, carpenter or factory worker on the surface, but behind the scenes we are so much more when the rubber hits the road. Even though the differences of passions and possibilities between us and of those that surround us can be great, we can often find fellowship in what makes the ground we stand upon common between us. Motorcycles are a great way to bring people together and it’s been a common thread since the invention of this two-wheeled transportation. There are those that are involved, those that want to be involved and there are those that are involved indirectly because of us.
For a small town Kansas boy I’m a world away from the United Kingdom, but for many of you who have a passion for motorcycles, distance is only a minor thing. I recently heard of the 69 Motorcycle Club and started to understand how this big world can often seem a little smaller. No matter where we are, what we ride or how people perceive us as bikers, we still have many layers of who we actually are. This is a universal thing and it transcends gender, age and location. We are united by passion and it becomes a universal language that we all speak and understand. Who we are on our motorcycles is exactly the same person we are when we’re not riding, and the motorcycle is just another vehicle used to spread the fellowship.
Father Colin Johnson, the Parish Priest at St. Peter and St. Paul – The Parish Charlton Church and Tower Hamlets in Dover has close ties with Kent’s 69 Motorcycle Club. The 69 M.C. is actively involved in raising money for charities and putting on events within the area to bring people together. Father Colin and I have never met but I understand him and can relate to his passion and his desire to share his energy with others. To be the Parish Priest of a community can have its own rewards but to have the ability to mix his enthusiasm of motorcycling with the fellowship of the church can only bring excitement to the congregation. Bikers by nature are very giving and the 69 M.C.C. would be no different. The fellowship of the biker community working in unison with local churches and groups can only make each organization stronger. After all, looking at the faces sitting in the church pews are the faces of the community, and each and every one of us has our own interests outside of what we wear on the surface. For Father Colin to don the collar of a Priest and a leather jacket, speaks to me. Fellowship in the truest sense.
Whatever we choose to do in our lives we should do it out of passion and for love. Others will see the excitement and enthusiasm in us but more importantly they can feel it. Thank you Father Colin for spreading the Word and the fellowship and I know we’ll meet someday!
It sat right there in the dining room in front of the window; a stereo console that had all the modern electronics of the day. AM/FM and a record player. With the lid closed it looked like a credenza, but when I would lift the lid and sneak a peek, it had shiny knobs, dials and all kinds of things that could get me in trouble. The perfect height for a kid like me to lean against and look out at the wonders of our driveway – and a place to check the weather. You know, whether or not to ride my motorcycle.
But it wasn’t the object in the room that brings me back to that place, it was the music mom had playing. KFDI Country out of Wichita played the background music of my childhood. Ray Price, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Merle Haggard and Don Williams just naming a few, came out of those cloth-covered speakers, with songs about country bumpkins and the good times. I can still hear the sound of Sunday morning coming down both lyrically and literally as my mother sat at the table having her coffee. I’m not sure if at my tender young age in 1974 I was fully aware of my surroundings but for some reason this has stayed with me.
Music has a way of telling our stories and explaining emotions that we find difficult to put into words ourselves. From my earliest recollections to now, music has always taken me to a place where the memories are patiently waiting to be remembered. As I was growing up the music was changing just as I was – and searching to find the words of how I felt at particular time in my life. Making up the words when my young mind didn’t understand what the adults where singing made for some funny verses, but it was all I knew. When the eighties came and Chicago, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow and the Bee Gee’s where finding their way into my 8-track player things changed for me. It all started to make sense and I could relate to the emotions and words coming through in every song. I don’t know if the music was impacting me or if it was just my ability to understand how music has always had an impact on all of us, but it really got my attention. It was all coming together.
Music to our ears can mean many things. Church hymns, rock and roll, or even complete silence can be that sound we need to hear at that moment. It affects our mood and speaks the words we are thinking or can give us the strength to say them ourselves. Music can hold secrets for us and usually hits the nail right on the head when we need its inspiration. It will always be about how a song makes us feel. Music helped me get through those tough and awkward times when nothing else could and it helped me understand who I might want to be as a person. What else could you do with good ole boys like me?
I cherish those days listening to the music my mother enjoyed. I’m sure music has the same impact on her as it does everyone else, but for a kid in the 70′s and seeing her standing in the kitchen at the stove or sitting at the table while the radio played makes me smile. I don’t know what she was thinking at the time and maybe I should ask her now. Did she have music to help her through those difficult times, what were the songs that lifted her up and what were her favorite songs?
It’s funny how a particular song will put us in an attitude of remembering or take us back in time. It can pull us through a full range of emotions in about four and a half minutes and do it in a way that makes us want to experience it again. But in this case it was all the songs and artists that put me on the floor in the dining room in front of the stereo; and my mother. I wonder if she realized I was paying attention…
It’s the long way home. Some days it’s just required to take a different route - one taking us away from the well-worn path we’ve created between point A and B. Remember, it’s the regularity that keeps the grass down. We don’t always have time for a detour, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need. Just a few extra minutes to see some different scenery – you know, stuff you haven’t seen for a few months or years – to clear your head. We don’t do it enough and when we do, we’re always glad we did.
I travel the same roads almost every day but it’s always in the same direction. As the seasons, colors and temperatures change things can look a little different but it’s the landscape and landmarks that we relate to. Some are only a few miles from home while others take us back home. An abandoned house, an old bridge or a valley that has always made you look - and smile, are always there for us whenever we need them. As a motorcyclist, it can be hard to find a day in January where the long way home can happen, but it always seems to. Sometimes you have to just do it even if there is an internal struggle to follow the same old habit of taking the usual way home.
Why is this so important? It gives us a few minutes for ourselves. It can be just what we need to see our small little world that surrounds us and give us a different perspective on the day. It’s no different from taking a minute from our busy day to watch the sunset, or turning around on your way home to take a picture of something that catches your eye. It can be on a road we have traveled before, but for whatever reason we overlooked it every time. Maybe it’s the time of day that gives us a different light on the same old scenery. We win either way.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by familiarity and memories. For those who know me also know of the area around me. You are familiar with my landscape and landmarks as you know them as well. Take the long way home – not every day, but someday. Pull over and take it all in and let the scenery take you home.
At some point it happens to all of us, I suppose. We hit a certain point in our lives where we feel a need to scramble a bit to find that “something” we missed out on. Excitement and danger used to be our middle names for crying out loud. Our youth is screaming at us to not let go, but we feel its hand slipping from ours as we hit middle-age. For some it might be traveling to far away places making up for all the years of the same old routines, while others might feel the need to alter their looks by bringing back the physique of our youth, either surgically or naturally – depending on your pocketbook or desire to exercise. You pick.
Working in the motorcycle business as I do, I see the chase for a cure to solving the mid-life crisis come in the form of buying a motorcycle. The sense of urgency to grab hold of something that will not only make us feel younger, but also (hopefully) make us look younger to those who might happen to notice. These are the guys and gals my age who have missed out on the danger and the sense of lawlessness that only motorcycles can bring. They see bikers portrayed in a way that says “that’s what I’m missing in my life.” Badass? Yes, please. Lucky for me, I averted my mid-life crisis when I was twelve years old. That’s when I started riding and let’s face it – I’ve been a rebel ever since.
There must be something in the smell of leather and exhaust that feeds the cure. It creates a different heart beat in our chest and allows the years to fall off our faces. We know when the engine fires up and the wind hits our face, there isn’t a beauty-aid or an over-the-counter drug that can be any better. The “Fountain of Youth” is a gas pump and we bikers discovered it. But living on the edge and finding that youth has a price and right now it’s about $3.15 a gallon.
We all have our ways of dealing with getting older, and I am a believer you’re only as old as you feel and your physical age has nothing to do with it. I have always felt like I’m in my twenties – even to this day. I will admit my face looks almost wrinkle free (when I’m riding down the highway) and though the gray in my hair has taken over it hasn’t affected my attitude. But I still think the mailman put my dad’s AARP mail in my box by mistake.
So what ever your Fountain of Youth is, drink it up (unless it happens to be premium gas) and ride off into the sunset. Find your youth and appreciate the wisdom you’ve gained along the way – just be careful, you’re not as young as you used to be.
We’ve turned the corner on how our memories are kept. Old photographs stored in albums or randomly placed on edge in a shoe box are holding the images of our lives. The time it took to take these photos and the once-a-year our albums are opened for that walk – the walk that takes you to the back yard or the steps in front of the old house. One leads to another and each picture has a meaning and a story. We were there. We remember that moment, and it speaks the truth. The truth that we were young once and what seems so long ago really wasn’t. We look at those photos with emotion because we know how the story plays out. We move, we change, we grow up or we lose someone close to us.
Some stories are still being told and some we know the outcome. Pictures in black and white of our parents and grandparents tell the stories of their lives and how they became who they are, while our lives transition from black and white to color allowing a broader spectrum to our own life. We knew the importance of those pictures we took and we treated them as such. They recorded us as we really were – young, innocent, naïve and in our natural habitat. Good times.
Not all albums and yearbooks are easy to look at. Pictures can’t lie and they show the good and bad regardless of what’s in it, because the picture is only the beginning of the story. The rest of the story is kept in our memories and some of these stories are hard to tell. As time moves on and our memories fade, it’s these photos that soften what might be bad and hopefully bring back more of the good. After all, it is the story of us. And it’s hard to argue with proof of how we looked, what we wore and where we were. I look at photographs in my old yearbooks and those days seemed to last forever. Looking at them now, I can see it was just a moment in time in the life of a young man who didn’t know where he was going or how his story would be told. I do now – at least up to this page.
Our lives are ever-changing right before our eyes. We take more pictures than ever before and they are brighter and more colorful than seem possible, and this is good. It makes it all easier to remember later in life when our mind forgets those moments. Tell your story and let it be the kind of book you want to read over and over, and be sure and listen and share the stories of those who are near the end of their books - and make sure you include the pictures!