Published in the Rains County Leader on November 10, 2020:
My husband David has been a biker most of his life. He learned to ride his
uncle’s old Cushman motorcycle when he was nine, and since then, hitting the road on two wheels has been an almost magical experience to him. He’s owned several motorcycles, and when we met in 1999, he had a Yamaha Virago 1100 that he rode every day.
Shortly after we began dating, he asked if I’d go riding with him. I wasn’t sure about the bike, but I liked the man, so I said yes. I think we both knew that was the first of many rides together. By the time we celebrated our first anniversary I had my own helmet, boots, and leathers and had put in many miles on the buddy seat.
If you’re at all familiar with the biking world, you know that there is an ongoing, mostly good-natured battle between those who ride Harleys and those who don’t. David liked their look and sound, but the price tags didn’t appeal to his frugal nature. Then we moved in next door to two Harley owners.
We were looking for a house with more space, especially in the garage, and we found the perfect house with the perfect neighbors. The first time I met Peggy, she invited us to church, and the first time we met James, he was wearing a Harley shirt. We quickly became friends and riding buddies.
Of course, boys will be boys, and David and James argued constantly about whose bike was better. David held his own pretty well until James got a new bike – another Harley – and offered to let David take it for a spin. When he came back, I could tell from the look on his face that there was a new bike in his future. After lots of research, he bought a black 2000 Harley Road King Classic with only 10,000 miles on the odometer.
While the Harley was more comfortable than the Virago, I noticed that Peggy looked like she was having more fun on her own bike than I was – and the Virago was still sitting in the garage. With lots of patience and encouragement from David, I got my license and took my place, instead of on the seat behind him, on the road behind him. And I spent a lot of time there.
We rode a lot. Sometimes it was just the two of us, sometimes with Peggy and James, and other times with a church group or a Harley club. We made dinner rides or longer rides to visit family, and we made extended camping trips to see the sights and to attend bike rallies around the country.
In 2004 we both signed up for the Harley Frequent Flyer Program. In addition to our usual rides, we made a Grand Canyon sweep across the southwestern U.S. to California and back along a more northerly route. We also rode to Colorado to visit our son and daughter-in-law. By September I had racked up 25,000 miles and David had over 40,000. And then, on a trip to Arkansas with Peggy and James, I totaled my bike and ended up back where I started, riding two up behind David.
In March of the following year, we were transferred to Florida and began caring for my parents in our home. David continued to ride with a church group and with friends, and I rode with him as often as I could. It wasn’t the same, but the Road King still had the prime spot in the garage.
When our caregiving days ended in 2011 and we moved to Emory, we expected to spend more time on the bike – but somehow it didn’t work out that way. The weather seemed hotter, the roads seemed rougher, and it was just easier to take the car. We still took a ride now and then, but those rides were fewer and further between. David went out periodically and fired up the engine to keep the battery charged, but the irresistible urge to ride wasn’t there. The bike had traveled over 103,000 miles, but he didn’t feel a need to add more.
Then a neighbor began to show an interest in the bike. He asked if David would consider selling, and they chatted for a while. In the next few months, he came by several times. I asked David how he felt about selling, and he said he didn’t really want to, but he hated to see the bike sit there and deteriorate. Last week the neighbor showed up at the front door with an envelope of cash, and an hour later he towed the bike away.
I worried a little bit about David. Being a biker has been a large part of his identity since well before I knew him, and it felt a bit like the end of an era. But when he came back into the house, he seemed fine, so I began to think about more practical matters.
“What are you going to do with the money? It would make a nice down payment on a trip to Israel.”
He looked up at me with an impish grin and said, “Or that Ultra Classic I’ve been wanting.”
Maybe it’s not the end of an era after all.