Columns » Front Porch

Motorcycle men



This morning, I dragged a lawn chair into my big dirt driveway, setting it under the broad canopy of oaks that filtered out the sun above. It was early May, but there were few mosquitos, no threat of rain and the air was quite cool. These were good signs, as today was going to be a busy one in the driveway: For my three sons, it was Motorcycle Maintenance Day.

By the time I'd settled into my chair, the "Papa Bear" bike was already positioned in its glory. In the past six years, Ryan's BMW 1200-R has ridden it from Alaska to this driveway and back twice. Dylan soon pushed his little vintage Honda 175, the "Baby Bear" of the three, from his nearby house and into its humble spot near the BMW. Dylan hadn't yet ridden it a mile, but the restoration was nearly complete. Finally, Paul uncovered "Mama Bear," a Kawasaki 650, from its tarp. Just last summer, he drove it down the Alcan Highway and across the Canadian Rockies from Homer, Alaska—every biker's dream trip. Stolen from Paul's garage in Durham and damaged, then recovered and bought back at auction, the bike has had its troubles, but Paul was within one good workday of getting back in the saddle

The driveway filled with toolboxes, spare parts, owners' manuals, and, of course, a 12-pack of beer. There was a mix of music coursing all day through reggae, Bob Dylan, rap, raunch, Harry Belafonte and rock. The beer disappeared alarmingly fast. Seated next to me on his appointed stool, my 2-year-old grandson provided sound effects—"vroom, vroom," he'd say. He paid attention but touched nothing, as though he knew that his role was to watch and learn.

The men worked straight through the day, helping each other or working on their own bikes side by side. At one point I believe I saw a come-along and all three pulling and pushing, followed by cheers—something to do with a swing arm and drive shaft, I believe.

I fear motorcycles. For years, I fought the good fight, pleading with my sons to reconsider but I always lost. They would listen to my worries and smile, giving me a gentle pat before hopping on their bikes again. I feared for their safety every time they revved up their engines. But today was Motorcycle Reconciliation Day. I spent the day admiring their passion,and their easy sharing of time and effort. I spent the day celebrating that my sons are careful riders and are still intact. With their laughter and love they filled this May day for me under these wide oaks. I vowed to say not another word against motorcycles—well, at least, until my grandson comes of age.

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