Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Let Me Ride Part 1

 I’ve been on two wheels on and off since I was a child, it runs in the family really. My dad rode for many years before my mom threatened just existence if he ever rode again. The funny part is her father met the same threat at the hands of his wife. My grandfather being a particularly proud man decided he wouldn’t get rid of his bike ever. So for a decade his 1986 Honda Gold Wing sat in a shed in Landover, Maryland. 

My mother couldn’t threaten me though, and at the time I had finally graduated to cruisers, specifically a Harley-Davidson Road Glide and a Road King. Everytime I rode off into the sun on my bike I could see my dad get the fire back inside of him to ride again. All of his buddies from back in the day who decided to stay divorced were out riding and I knew it would hit him one day. 

Thing was my dad was ready to sit back and ride long distances, but not on a CB750 like he could in the 80’s. Nah he needed something substantial, and that’s when he decided to ask my mom a question:

“Can you ask your dad if I can buy his bike?”

“What the fuck for?”

I chimed in:

“It’s for me really. Just ask him.”

The phone call took five minutes. My mom loved her father, but she couldn’t stand listening to him boast about how happy he always was. He made the answer very clear: if me and my father wanted the Gold Wing, we just had to come pick it up and it was ours. Mind you we live in North Carolina so it was going to be quite the trip. 

But the trip was made. My dad and I packed up the Ford Edge and the 4x8 trailer that we used in many an adventure and set off. It was to be a quick back in forth trip, roughly 450 miles to Landover then into DC to my sister’s house for the night before an early turnaround back to Charlotte. 

My mother didn’t completely understand what was really happening. What did we need with a motorcycle that hadn’t moved in over a decade? We were fulfilling a passing down that should have happened years before but everyone was too dumb to open up and make the idea a reality. Whatever it was we were ready to make it happen so at least it wasn’t too late. 

I joke that me and my dad are basically a modern version of Sanford and Son. Most of our adventures together involved either picking up some type of used item or anything else that would irritate my mother enough not to talk to us for days. 

It was just like any of the other journeys, the trailer gently bounced its way up I-85 behind the radius-shaped SUV. Our conversations were always light in these trips, mostly about how much grief we would receive from my mother when we returned. But this one was mostly about getting my dad back on a motorcycle after so many years. 

We made it to the DC area with no trouble, traffic was light and the trailer didn’t separate from us. We finally pulled up to my grandfather's house after 7 hours rolling on the freeway. It was an enlightening meeting of family and of men. We spoke to each other about our mutual bond of freemasonry as we dug out the bike from the shed. The subject came up initially when I noticed the insignia for the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite of freemasonry. 

While our fraternal bond was no secret, the condition of the bike definitely was. That was the first time the bike had daylight hit it since it was parked. The paint was a rosy-taupe metallic over a deep metallic brown and the chrome still mostly reflected sunlight. The tires were flat and I realized I was stupid enough to forget an air compressor. So we “rolled” along on the flat, dry-rotted tires until it was outside in the yard. That was a considerable amount of work so I devised a plan: I unhooked the trailer with its tongue jack, ran a chain from the hitch to the front forks of the bike, and made a makeshift 265 horsepower winch. I volunteered to sit on the bike to walk it up onto the trailer as my dad did the job of using the car to gently pull

the 700+ pounds of bike onto the trailer. It went without a hitch. After much work with tie-down straps, the Goldwing was secure.

We retreated with the SUV and trailer to my sister’s house in Northwest DC for the night. Later that evening me and her husband went to their backyard to check out his motorcycles. He led me to two shell covers, one folded back to reveal your standard Harley-Davidson Street Glide in black metallic paint. But under the other cover was something special. 

His father purchased the bike brand-new in 1972, a special bike that had a limited one year only run: the Triumph X-75 Hurricane. The bike was rare for a variety of reasons I don’t need to get into here. But more important than its rarity was the generational value, a father passing along his ride to his son. Giving him the right to follow directly in his footsteps and ride free of any trouble. Well, after it made a trip to the shop. It needed a little love before it could hit the road again.

It was deeply humid at 4:00 AM when me and my father crossed the 14th Street bridge making our exit from DC, we were headed home with the Gold Wing in tow, the trailer rolling smooth with all the weight on board. We were on our journey home, but just beginning our journey with the bike. When we made it back to NC I had a surprise for my dad since I knew it would be a while before the Gold Wing would even be close to rideable. 

The next day I told him to hop in the car with me because I wanted to go check out some random beater that was for sale in Statesville. We actually pulled into Tilley Harley-Davidson to my father’s confusion. Out front was a 2000 Electra Glide Ultra Classic in two-tone red and black. My dad eyed the bike on a previous trip and I bought it behind his back before we picked up the Gold Wing. If I was gonna get him back riding, I was going to do it as soon as possible before he changed his mind. 

This was just the beginning of a much longer story to tell of generations giving to each other. The story is beautiful even though it occasionally brought heartache and physical pain. No matter what it cemented the two generations on two wheels again. 

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