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Friday, August 24, 2012

Sturgis Black Hills Rally...A Special Moment

For John....

During the days before the Sturgis rally started, my friends Charlie, Linda, Bev, John, and I did our share of riding in the surrounding area. Heck, I actually put 700 miles on my bike while I was up there, just doing all the rides in the surrounding countryside. Yep, that's correct 700! One day's ride through the Black Hills covered about 225 miles, and I did that ride a second time, running it backwards, just to make sure I didn't miss anything!

On one of those rides, some things came up, and my crew ended up splitting up, leaving John and I on our own. Which brings me to my subject.

You see, John and I have known each other since we were kids....very small kids....preschool. We grew up next door to each other, went to the same schools, got yelled at by each others parents, and as soon as we were old enough, we rode motorcycles together. In later years, John, his dad Big John, and I all worked together at EMD, building locomotives. In fact, I think Big John, a very good man, got me that job. So see, we've got history.

And then the inevitable happened. Jobs change, lives change, and I ended up moving away from the area for work. I settled down in the DC area, and then California, and then back here in DC. And at some point, I got away from riding. Not for any special reason, mind ya, it just wasn't a part of my life for a while.

Time passes....

Some years back, maybe around 2006 or 7, I started paying an occasional visit to the local Harley dealer, Patriot, in Fairfax, Virginia. I'm not 100% sure what triggered it all, but I think it was my son's purchase of a Street Glide, and letting me ride it around OBX one Saturday afternoon. That afternoon, with the wind blowing and the Harley rumbling along, I wondered why the hell I didn't still have a bike! 

But I still hadn't made a purchase. I just window-shopped now and then, going back home to a life of socializing with some folks that I really didn't have a lot in common with, but that's another story. This story's about riding motorcycles, and it's about John.

So one day, I get a voicemail that says, "Don't make me come down there and get ya!" This happens a couple times. Finally, I call the number in the caller-ID to see who the hell is making silly threats. A lady answers, and I tell her I'm Ken. She hands the phone off to someone, and that someone is John. What a terrific surprise!!!! 

So we BS a little....well, actually we BS a lot....and after catching me up on who's doing what, John tells me he's got a couple Harleys, his wife Bev (it was Bev that answered the phone) had one, and wanted to know if I had a bike. Embarrassed, for reasons I can't quite explain, I told him no, that I didn't have a bike any more, and that I hadn't had one for a while.

This was no small admission, and John didn't take it lightly! LOL. He said, Damn! You need to get another bike and get back up and ride with the crew!

That was all it took. The very next day, June 1, I bought a brand new Harley Softail Custom from Patriot, and a few days later I rode that fucker right up to John's house. It probably didn't have 200 miles on it. And we've been riding together ever since. 

The new bike, and some great old friends riding together again. RIP Crazy Steve, on the left....

John tells everyone that if he hadn't called me, I'd still be attending dinner parties in Old Town Alexandria with my lawyer-wife (I was engaged at the time), driving around in my Porsche, trying to act like I was having fun. You know something? He's probably right. 

That engagement didn't survive the motorcycle purchase, by the way. A few blasts around town on the back of the bike, plus one trip to Daniels put an end to that!

So here's the Special Moment: As I said, on one of those Sturgis rides, it was just John and I rolling northbound on 385, heading for Deadwood, South Dakota. Rolling mountains and big sweeping turns, and John and me running side by side, with a wide stretch of road to ourselves. Our Harleys were almost harmonizing. John pulled up close alongside with this HUGE grin, pointing back and forth between him and I, and then holding two fingers together. At first I didn't get it, but then I realized what he was saying. We were still riding together and having fun after all the years of friendship. Now, how great is that?! 

Now I'm telling ya...I had the greatest feeling about that ride, and the moment lives on. I love the guy like a brother, and I think it's amazing that two little kids...two next door neighbors...have kept up the friendship, and can still share and appreciate a special moment like that. Thanks, John, for being my friend, and thanks for being along on that ride. I'll never forget that big smile on your face.

And thanks for saving me from the dinner parties.


Addendum: There are many of my old friends that really should have been there, and sadly, some have passed on. I'll take a little time to remember three great friends who, like John, I also grew up and rode with. They left the party way too soon....

Crazy Steve

Spider and Big Bob