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My Harley-Davidson Life

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Many years ago, when I first started riding motorcycles, it was by and large an “outlaw” thing. There were the jeans, the leather, the cut-off jean jacket vests, the beer and the rebel attitude. There were parties that make spring break look like a church picnic and the occasional run-in with the law.

We didn’t buy new bikes because we couldn’t afford them. If we did, it was a barebones model that became our canvas to create something unique. My bikes were usually something on a rigid frame, chopped and raked with ape hanger handlebars, extended front end and a contour-hugging seat ending with a sissy bar.

Maintenance was very simple as well. Electrical systems consisted of three main wires. There was a carburetor, a distributor or magneto, and tanks for gas and oil. Troubleshooting was easy. Is it getting fuel? Is it getting air? Is it getting spark? And visiting the dealership or other “Bike Shop” was usually met with an indifferent smile and/or nod and a mumbled “Need some help?” They could tell you were “just looking.” All those years ago, the dealerships carried a couple of dirt bikes, the Sportster (maybe even a couple in different colors), a Super Glide or two and a full dresser. The show room could probably fit in my living room.Indian-1

Early stages of rebuilding my 1944 Indian Chief

Anyway, fast-forward to present day.

I bought a new Harley-Davidson, which was delivered from the factory to the dealership in Tampa, Florida.

When I went to finalize the purchase, I was ill prepared for what awaited me there.

First, I had never seen such a variety of bikes! Dozens of different configurations of dozens of models in dozens of colors! I couldn’t believe the SIZE of the place either! It was a veritable mall of motorcycles and related paraphernalia. There’s a clothing department, a parts department for all the parts and accessories you will ever need, a merchandising department for the coffee cups, beer mugs, and “Harley Only” parking signs and the sales department.

I was greeted by a couple of young ladies whose smiles and enthusiastic greeting I had only ever observed before in cultists like the Moonies.

But it didn’t stop there.

EVERYONE was like that. The sales people, the customer service reps, the financing folks, the service department. I mean EVERYONE!

Owning a Harley is no longer the domain of the rebel, the badass or the outlaw.

It is a religion. No, a cult!

I am reminded of an anti-drug campaign where the reader is challenged to “spot the drug addict.”

Doctors, lawyers, teachers, housewives, nurses, secretaries, it doesn’t matter anymore. They ALL ride Harleys.

Of course, you still have the few who want to be Jax from Sons of Anarchy.

And the fewer still who are genuine 1%ers. The true outlaws.

Rons-Bmw-My-45

My Flathead 45 and my good bud, Ron’s, Bmw

Then I also realized that somewhere between my last bike (an old Harley flathead 45 chopper) and this one, I became a grown-up. When I was younger, I rode like I was invincible! T-shirt, flip-flops, shorts and no helmet (if I could get away with it). But, now? Now I ride like I’m invisible (which we riders are to the average car driver or “cager” in the biker vernacular). I ride in jeans, boots, jacket and helmet now (I’ve seen what massive head trauma does). And, sadly, I am now just “the old dude on the blue Harley.”

But still, I like riding my bike.John-Me

My good bud John and me with our bikes last week (No, I wasn’t riding in shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops)

Even though it has lost some of its mystique and its associated badassery, and I am ALWAYS on the defensive, it’s still something that will always be a part of my soul.

Anyway, on a bike, in a car, or on foot, remember…

Life is a Sandwich. Eat It Up!

Mike


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