A Passion For The Hog
A Hell’s Angel wouldn’t be my first choice in a life partner, but I never met one I didn’t like. I think I have figured out why. They’re happy. They are doing what a lot of us wish we could – put our cares away, hop on our Harley Davidsons … and GO! Noisy wanderlust.
Every one of those bearded dudes I have talked to is kind, fun, and unfailingly polite. Must be that white-haired ladies tame their beast. Frankly, I’m just plain jealous of their rides.
Getting out of my car last week in the Tops parking lot, I stopped in my tracks. A motorcycle was parked next to me, but not just any motorcycle. The shimmering black Harley Davidson was showroom shiny and tricked out with more chrome than my eyes could handle on a bright sunny day. The Hog sparkled like an 8-foot black diamond.
While I stood checking out the Harley, two tweenage girls were walking toward me heading for the store. Wearing cut-off short shorts and small halter tops, they bopped along to their earpod music, sipping sodas. They glanced at me checking out the bike’s details, and I saw one roll her eyes. They jabbed elbows at each other and giggled their way into Tops. I could read their thoughts as if they were clouds over their heads: “What’s that old lady doing checking out a motorcycle? Whadda joke! Yah, ‘magine her riding one of those things.”
Little did they know that I was reminiscing back to my handful of Harley experiences. I could almost feel the summer wind in my face thinking about one college summer on Cape Cod. That year, my bicycle sat on the porch. Between restaurant shifts, I straddled the back seat while hugging my Harley driver to and from the beach, work and home. I never got to drive it, but I didn’t have to in order to love the bike’s throaty voice and its daring angled turns. Well over 50 years ago, we didn’t wear helmets or leather jackets, but we were riding the Cape’s country roads, not interstates. At the end of that summer, the bike’s owner took his gorgeous Harley and his almost-gorgeous self, back to Oberlin, Ohio and I never saw either of them again. Ah, summer.
About twenty years ago, my BFF invited me to her family’s annual beach gathering at the Outer Banks. My son, a Marine lieutenant, was in the process of moving to a North Carolina beach town about 250 miles south of the Outer Banks. He also received an invitation to the house party and was waiting when we arrived. After big hugs, I said, “Where’s your car? I didn’t see it” He grinned.
“I left it home and rode up on my new toy,” he said. And then he proceeded to tell me how he’d always wanted a Harley Davidson. (I never knew that). He had received some extra money on his previous assignment and thought, “Hey, I’m 26, single, and I can manage it – if not now, when?” He reassured me that he had taken lessons and passed the state licensing requirements. We went down to the yard to check it out – a blue Harley Softail Heritage Classic. A beauty. Then came the kicker. “Mom, everybody knew – everyone but you.”
“W-H-A-T?” I said. I was offended.
“Well I knew you’d be upset about it and I didn’t want you to worry.
I remember smirking and glaring at him all at the same time. “Worry? WORRY? You fly cobra attack helicopters carrying missiles, rockets and canons while snipers shoot at you from rooftops. And you think I’m going to worry about a stupid motorcycle?” He shrugged, but he was still grinning.
“Oh, and who is everyone who knows except me?” His Dad, sister, all the O’Brien cousins, and all his friends were sworn to secrecy. Everyone knew but moi. I added, “I guess you never noticed the scar on my right calf from a manifold burn, huh?” It was his turn to squirm.
I said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll forgive you this time, but only if you give me a ride on it.”
“Mom, I only have one helmet.”
“Well,” I smiled, “you’ll have to solve that problem.” He did, the next morning.
The 40-minute ride was everything I remembered. He had good skills, I was comfortable, and that ocean breeze – that same ocean that laps at Cape Cod – was divine.
I think I have one more ride in me, despite what those teeny-boppers think they know. My son sold his Harley years ago. Dear Richard would love one, but THAT’S not going to happen. I guess if I ever want to sit astride a putt-putting Hog again, I have to ask a Hell’s Angel. Next time they come through town, I might just do that.
Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.firstname.lastname@example.org