Tuesday, October 9, 2007

EX-biker? You either is, or you ain’t.

One observant reader, Sailor Curt, asked, "Your profile says ex-biker...what's up with that? I don't know whether to list you as a biker trash gunny or just a gunny. A wise man once said:"You don't quit riding because you got old, you get old because you quit riding.""

Well now you went & did it- another story.

I don’t think you can be an ex-Biker, really, anymore than one can be an ex-Marine.
You either is, or you ain’t, & that’s that.

As a kid, I’d look at the MCs in the Sears catalog with my Dad (I think they sold Puch MCs? -hey- keep it to yourself). I remember telling him I wanted one where the engine filled up the area underneath the gas tank- I’m probably about 12 then. He’s thinking a nice 50cc unit, I’m thinking 750 Indian, Harley 74.

The day I turned 16, which is in the winter here, I got my learners permit which allowed me to ride a MC, one up & daylight only. That was one cold ride on my Dad’s Honda 90. I soon bought a 160 Honda- two cylinders- man I was almost in the big leagues now; then a 350- cookin’! (A 350 Honda in those days weighed 350#, you could only hurt yourself if it fell on you).

Most guys my age were ogling the ’57 Chevys & muscle cars of the time. I used a car to get from here to there in the rain & snow. Utility only. I rode MCs as often & for as long as possible.
Then, I get a line on a chopped 1958 Harley panhead stroker. 10" over front end, spoolie front spindle (no front brake). Perfek!

$1200, in 1967, was a crapload of money. I had $400, & Dad lent me the rest over Ma’s spirited objections.
I was a Biker. Yes, capital "B".

The panhead needed continual work to keep her going. Even starting the thing was a project- advance the spark by rotating the distributor, kick it, kick it again, & again, readjust, kick again, then fool w/the distributor to get it in the right place to run, & off you go. I knew that old bike top to bottom, front to back. Intimate with the wrench, I was.

I knew a guy at the time, an older dude (prolly around 35!), who actually lived in a garage he rented. Mattress on a crappy frame, fridge (mostly for beer), woodstove made out of an old barrel, bike parked in the middle of it all, with tools & the various contrivances cobbled up to ease the work of maintenance. THAT boy was a Biker.

Nowadays, a maroon in a suit, totin’ a briefcase, & holding a Visa card can walk into a Harley dealership & come out "bad to the bone"- custom looking bike, jeans & T-shirt, leathers, even fake tattoos if he’s a real dork.

Don’t anyone tell me that guy is a biker; he may ride a motorcycle, but biker? Nope.

After the military, I had other bikes & still have a mildly customized Shovelhead- For Sale. I met my wife riding (she rode too), & took some great rides as late as the ‘90s to the Wall in Washington, Canada, Gettysburg, Maine, even NY f’n C.

Met some righteous people, & still have those moments. Still have my much-adorned, burnt, crashed, & worn sleeveless Levi & leather jackets, both of which go back 40 years.

None of this is to denigrate today’s bikers. It’s just the way I came around to two wheels, & my continued fascination with them.

The point here is Biker was a way of life- I’m just not there anymore.


Life happens, priorities change, & the way we choose to spend our time evolves. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it? Having the OPPORTUNITY for change?

Now, living in the woods for the last 14 years, has created a whole new set of freedoms for things I like to do, & even more things that HAVE to get done. (Not to mention the mile of dirt road before I get to tar). My choosing, I guess, but I find I LIKE felling trees & processing into firewood, shootin’ in the side yard, hunting, running a garden, & generally enjoying the solitude & gratification provided by my environment.

So, Sailor Curt, while it’s got nothing to do with "getting old", I have officially changed my profile to read "former biker", cuz you either is or you ain’t.

I guess I still is, at heart. And it says so on my arm.

And don’t worry, my friend, working at this pace I CAN’T get old!

‘Sides, I drank WAY too much when riding with all those crazy dudes.

Thanks for your time…

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