I went to a funeral today to pay my respect to the father of my friend, European Press Agency photographer Paul Buck. Paul and I have known each other since junior high school and back before either of us had a drivers license his dad Jim used to take us to the local motocross races. There’s a great story about someone (I don’t know who) forgetting to secure my bike to the trailer one race and it cartwheeling down the interstate behind us. But I digress…
Anyway, Paul’s dad was buried in the same municipal cemetery as my parents. We were standing around reminiscing about our dads before the service and I said, “Hey, you want to see something hard core? My Dad has a Guzzi on his tombstone.”
Whenever I tell people about my Dad I always say he loved two things — fast cars and motorcycles. If you don’t believe me just look at his tombstone. My Mom picked that out after he died in 2003 because — besides her, my brother, and me — those were the two things he loved most. And when I think about it now I realize just how hard-core he was.
Dad toured all 48 contiguous states on his Moto Guzzi baggers. He was one of those “Iron Butt” guys who liked to do 1,000 miles per day. That may not sound like much to a guy who can cruise 1,000 miles on a modern, air-conditioned Goldwing, but Dad did it on archaic, ’70s-era Guzzis. He loved those bikes, and rode them everywhere until he had a stroke (while riding) and a bad single-vehicle crash in 1992. He still rode a little after that, but not much. And not very far.
Like it says in the “About” section on this site, my first memory of motorcycles was riding on the back of Dad’s Electra Glide at four or five years old, making a 250-mile trek to my grandparents. In the early ’70s Dad switched from Harleys to BMWs. Then he bought a Ducati — a beautiful 900 Darma SS — but somewhere around ’75 or so he discovered Moto Guzzis and fell in love. From that point on Guzzis were all he owned. When he died he had five plus a tractor-trailer storage unit full of parts.
Imagine, if you will, doing 1,000-mile days on one of these with a full fairing, saddle bags, and a small pop-up camping trailer hitched to the back. Many times I watched my Mom and Dad (yes, Mom got into the act too) head off to some rally two or three states away for a camping weekend. If Mom didn’t want to go Dad went by himself, and would stay gone as long as he thought his business could survive without him (which often wasn’t very long.)
Oh, Dad had all the luxuries of the time — radio in the fairing, crude helmet radios, etc. — but the ’70s didn’t really have much in the way of luxury for motorcyclists. Nevertheless, these beautiful, classic bikes took him all over these great United States.
Now Dad had nary a tattoo — didn’t have much use for them unless you were in the Navy or the Merchant Marine — wore a crew-cut most of his life, and went to church on Sundays. He would never have been confused with a character on Sons of Anarchy. But he was a hard-core biker.
The other day I was talking with my business partner Ty. He’s a lawyer and the closest he’s ever been to a motorcycle is when he walks through my shop. He had just watched (again) the TV special “Smartest Guys in the Room” about the Enron debacle. There’s a scene in the show where Fastow and Shilling and some other ersatz bigwigs are out on some adventure ride in the desert jumping their shiny, expensive dirt bike toys off little hills to prove their manhood — like tribal scream therapy for rich guys.
Ty’s comment was something like, “How stupid. Grown men playing action sports trying to prove how tough they are.”
I said, “Hey. Just a minute. I’ve been doing stuff like that my whole life.”
He said, “Yeah, but the difference is I know you’ve been doing it your whole life. You didn’t do it once just to brag about it.”
Thanks. I guess. I’m not sure but I guess he has a point. I’ve been at it my whole life but I haven’t done nearly enough of it the last 20 years. So here’s to you, Dad. I might not get it on my tombstone, but I’m going to do a lot more of it in the future.