My two sons both ride motorcycles. The similarities between them end there. My youngest son, Stefan, has a fast Suzuki that he has totally pimped out. My oldest son, Hans, is a Harley guy. He had a crotch rocket years ago, but now he likes the big bikes. Until just recently, he had a Harley Electra Glide. He doesn’t have it anymore, but I will explain why that is later.
Stefan told me once that Harleys are motorcycles for guys who are old and fat. I thought about his comment today because Milwaukee is the hometown of Harley Davidson, and the city is currently celebrating the 120th birthday of the company. The streets are full of hogs, rumbling like gasoline-powered bass guitars in a heavy metal band. Based on my observations of the Harley riders that have been cruising through town, I have to admit that there is some truth to what Stefan said to me. Most of the bikers are mature, and not a few of them are corpulent. It makes sense in a way. In order to even afford a Harley, the biker has to be old enough to have some money in the bank. Those bikes are expensive.
Hans is not old. He’s only thirty-six. He definitely does not have a lot of money in the bank. He bought his first Harley almost a decade ago when he was working for some fracking outfit in east Texas. It was brand new. Hans had just gotten out of the Army, and he was making more money than he had ever had in his life. I think he got a Harley Sportster, and he loved that bike. Unfortunately, the motorcycle melted down to scrap in a house fire at the end of 2015. Shortly after that, oil prices tanked, and Hans wasn’t making the big money anymore. He wasn’t making any money at all. It was a long time before he could get another Harley.
When Hans had the Sportster, he rode with other vets down the country roads in Texas. He enjoyed the camaraderie. Hans had a few adventures with his redneck biker buddies. He did things that in retrospect were probably unwise, but I don’t think he regrets any of them. Riding was therapeutic for Hans. He has PTSD from his time in Iraq, and riding the Harley was kind of like Zen meditation for him: it was just the bike, the road, and him. He let the Harley choose the route.
Several years ago, Hans got a deal on a used Harley. Many people ride bikes down in Texas, so sometimes a person can get a cheap one. He rode it a lot until it developed engine problems. He didn’t have the money or the time to fix it (he was newly married with a baby boy at home). The bike sat in a puddle of oil in his driveway for months. It was a static display. He still hasn’t been able to repair the thing.
Hans has had accidents. He’s been lucky and/or blessed. He has gone over the handlebars at least once. Hans has informed me that this is not the best way to wreck a motorcycle. Fortunately, he has never broken any bones, but he has been banged up a bit.
A couple of months ago, Hans took out a loan, with his wife’s blessing, and bought the 2007 Electra Glide. Just a week or so ago, he laid the bike down. Hans was making a slow turn at an intersection, and the rear wheel of the Harley lost traction on some loose asphalt. The bike went from underneath him. Once again, Hans’ guardian angel was watching over him. The Electra Glide weighs over 800 pounds. It could have crushed his leg when it fell, but it didn’t. He just got his share of road rash as the bike slid on the pavement.
The insurance totaled out the Harley. Hans wanted to fix it, but the insurance company said “no.” Hans is more than a little depressed. He told me in his slow drawl,
“Dad, I need to have two wheels beneath me. You know that. Some people have an accident and never get back up on a bike. I am getting back on one. I need to ride. You know what I mean, Dad?”
I know that it is healthy for Hans to be on a motorcycle. His wife agrees with that. Yeah, it can be dangerous, but it is good for his mind and soul to be riding.
He will get another bike before he’s old and fat.
Frank (Francis) Pauc is a graduate of West Point, Class of 1980. He completed the Military Intelligence Basic Course at Fort Huachuca and then went to Flight School at Fort Rucker. Frank was stationed with the 3rd Armor Division in West Germany at Fliegerhorst Airfield from December 1981 to January 1985. He flew Hueys and Black Hawks and was next assigned to the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, CA. He got the hell out of the Army in August 1986.
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