Wow. It’s December already again. Another year come and gone. When you are young, the days seem like years. When you get older, the years seem like days. Now the days are short, the weather is wet, and the bikes are all lined up in the garage plugged into battery tenders, tanks filled with good gas with a stabilizer mixed in. They sit patiently lined up like steeds in a barn, in the hopes that every now and then we’ll get a nice day to ride and can go out and let them stretch their legs on some backroads. Meanwhile, we riders retreat indoors to a cozy fire, a nice glass of single-malt scotch, and we plan for next year’s adventures.
By the time you read this my personal odometer will have turned fifty. I sort of feel like I’m straddling a fence in some ways – not really “old” but not “young” either. I know I’m not old, but it feels weird to say that I’m fifty – five-oh. Hell, a lot of my friends call me the young one. One thing about bikers, we tend to get “cooler” as we get older. One of the coolest “old” (and I use that term chronologically only) guys I know is my HOG chapter buddy Dick. He’s probably ridden more miles than I ever will, and is one of the folks who launched that Seattle tradition known as the Children’s Ride and he’s still active in that organization. Dick is another of my riding mentors, and is so cool that a few years ago he had hinges tattooed on the backside of his knees – a spot that probably hurt more than any other spot on the body. Those hinge tattoos were entered in a contest for H-D’s on hundredth anniversary in the most unusual category, but they didn’t win. And on many of my rides I tend to be on a quest for the perfect hamburger, Dick rides on a quest to find the best biscuits and gravy, and has taken many of us to places he likes. Like I said, Dick is the dictionary definition of “cool old guy”, but like all of us, he also never really grew up.
And I think that’s what I like most about being a member of this community. We are, for the most part despite our increasing years, very much young, and I think it’s the riding that keeps us that way. Face it -- it takes a certain personality type to get out there on the highway, fists in the wind, riding towards the sunset. One who’s willing to ditch whatever it is that’s keeping us chained up at least for a little while. It’s why we are so envied by non-riders. They want the freedom we have, but their personality sometimes won’t let them go there. Bikers tend to out party anyone younger than us too – spend two nights in Sturgis and you’ll know.
A lot of other folks when they reach this age turn into grouchy grumpy old men – grousing about “kids today”, counting down the days to retirement, and wanting to move somewhere warm. Judging from the picture on this column it sounds like me right? And while I admit to every now and then starting stories with “when I was younger”, and I do cast envious eyes from time to time at my friends in Palm Springs, I don’t think of myself as an old man. Well, except sometimes when I look in the mirror. When I first started riding with my father back when I was 12 or so, I don’t think I ever envisioned this – the bearded/bald stocky old Harley riding guy I seem to have become. No, I’d like to think I’m one of the “cool old guys” that the neighbor kids talk about, and like my friend Dick and a few others.
A few weeks ago Dick was asked by another guy in our HOG chapter if he could get the same tattoos on the back of his knees that Dick has. Dick said he was flattered and gave his permission, not that it was needed I suppose, after all imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. My next-door neighbors a few years ago adopted a little boy from Guatemala named Diego. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, maybe I’ll be a cool old guy after all. Like most young boys, Diego loves my motorcycles, and always runs to the door when he hears me start one up in the driveway. He reminds me to wear my helmet, and waves enthusiastically when I ride in or back home, and he comes over when he sees me in the garage to “help”. He rides his bike like it’s a motorcycle too, and I remind him to wear his helmet which he usually does. Soon enough he’ll hopefully be hanging on behind me for rides on my scoots.
I hope Diego stays young. I hope he learns to love the freedom one has out on the road, to feel the wind and the sun and anticipate what lies around that next curve in the road. I was young when I learned to ride. I remember sitting in front of my father on off-road Yamahas in the mountains of Utah and Wyoming learning the ins and outs of riding – how to shift, how to turn, how to not throw a tantrum when the kick-starter wouldn’t engage. I remember how it made me feel to ride out of the campground by myself and wander off down some Forest Service road away from the family and on my own, going where I wanted to when I wanted to (as long as the gas held out). That freedom – that sense of wonder, that feeling of being in control – that’s what keeps us bikers young, even when we turn into old men.
But, as we approach winter, all we can do is think about the future for the time being. Where will I go next year? Will I buy a new bike? What new place will I discover? Will Seattle ever fix its roads? Is the Mayor that stupid? Well at least Seattle voters gave the Mayor the proverbial middle finger in rejecting his $60 car tab fee that didn’t fix roads. They showed some rare common sense for Seattle voters. And we’ve got a special Legislative session under way now and the regular Legislative session coming up in January. As a rider, I’m hoping we see some good common sense legislation and proposals to make the roads better and safer for us as riders, but I’m not all that optimistic it will happen. This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel old for sure. Thank goodness the knowledge that Spring will come back and so will the open road.
Quick Throttle will once again keep an eye on what’s going on in the Legislature that affects riders this session – and we’ll post the list of legislation on the web site and keep that updated as the session progresses. Don’t forget as well about Black Thursday on January 19th this year – the day the biker community invades the State Capitol.
The Holiday Season keeps us young as well, and we in the community will live up to our generous reputation as we always do with countless toy rides and charity functions. I hope you get a chance to get out and enjoy them as I will. It keeps me young. My Holiday wish for you and yours this year is just that -- may you stay forever young. However, its about time for me to go off and do old-guy stuff in Olympia for a few months. No doubt come Spring there will be a few more wrinkles, but the wind in my face will hopefully smooth them out. Happy Holidays!
Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com