When he pulled off the helmet, he was bald as a baby's butt, and older than I was. What's more, he was a friend. The whole thing was shocking because back then you didn't expect to know people like that, the type of biker who makes you roll your eyes when they show up in ridiculously bad movies.
Shouldn't have been a shock, really. These days, McDonalds workers are trained to give everyone who shows up on a bike senior coffee without asking about age. Once upon a time a "bike" was a kid thing, a crotch rocket, one of the hot doggin' loose ends a kid had to tie up before getting serious about life, maybe his last acre of wild oats.
Now it's sometime the first batch, numero uno on a thousand bucket lists.
On my way west on Saturday, I took some back roads and passed this marker on the Iowa side of the Big Sioux, where an old geezer's last mile on a Harley or Gold Wing came to a jarring halt. His good buddies and their wives put up this fond remembrance for the poor soul, who, the thing claims, lived for nothing greater than taking out that bike and pushing wonderful country wind through what hair he still had. Promethean, really--proud.
Well, okay, I thought. We should all be so blessed. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, right?--even if it's a Hawg? And besides, as the Pope now so famously said, "Who am I to judge?" This is the home of the free and the brave. If someone wants to go to his grave like Peter Fonda. . .hey! whatever makes your engine pop, right?
"Live to Ride, Ride to Live." Still, it's a credo that makes only if you're really bored, and that's a little sad. And crosses too? WWJD?
I couldn't help but shake my head and chuckle a bit at the sheer lunacy of it, which isn't the sought-after emotion a sign like this is meant to trigger, or at least not what his buddies and his wife intended, I'm sure. I was probably supposed to give the deceased a few moments of silence in the sheer awe of his devotion.
Look, I had more than one motorcycle in my life, and I remember fondly taking off out west for years, mid-summer, and loving every moment of it. I'm serious. I was an old man, too, bald as a buzzard. I know the joy.
I suppose his wife came along too, and maybe they had a couple of really good hot years at Sturgis. I bet she even left her bra back home in the closet. You know.
More power to 'em.
But still. "Ride to live, live to ride"?
Five miles away, no more, I rounded a turn and came up on this one, same rural South Dakota biker gang, I suppose, at least same old geezer ethic. Is someone actually building these crosses in his garage? Can you buy 'em on the internet?
This one is permanently affixed to its own story line. The old guy just missed a curve. It happens.
Am I wrong here, or would these roadside memorials pierce the heart more deeply if they were meant to honor 17-year-olds? The old bucks who died in both places, five minutes away from each other, had to be geezers, just had to be. Kids aren't old enough for credos. You got to be an old man to moralize.
Just a couple of days ago, a small squad of odd-looking three-wheelers rolled up in front of me, 25 thou a pop, in case you're wondering and in the market, and that's without the togs. Only old guys can dream about these. Besides, what 19-year old kid is going to want a three-wheeler?
But I'm thinking there's one heckuva market out there for three-wheelers, an ever-expanding market of boomers with round bellies and pockets stuffed with Cialis, in good shape to roll up to the Home.
Seriously, a unit like this is just an old-fashioned walker on steroids.
But maybe it'll save lives.
Ride to live. Live to ride.