Last week I was walking down a sidewalk in a little town
where I happened to be when I heard the familiar 'potato potato'
sound that one associates with the motorcycle that Harley
Davidson has been making for about a hundred years. I looked up
and saw I was correct, and that this motorcycle wasn't just any
Harley, it was a Heritage Springer.
produced the Springer in the late 90's they were cashing in on
the retro fad that the Boomers were fueling and I think they got
it just right. The Springer looks almost exactly like the
original Harleys of the late 40's and early 50's, with its
leather seat and saddlebags and the spring suspension at the
fork. And almost every time I see one it sends me on an instant
nostalgia trip to the time in my life that I owned and rode such
bought a 1949 Harley FLH in a town on the Ohio river one
February afternoon when I was 18, and I rode it the 120 cold
miles home in such a state of euphoria that I don't remember
being cold. The machine was a beautiful red color, it had loud
exhaust pipes and leather saddle bags and it glowed with chrome
and red reflectors. I kept it for four years and rode it way too
fast and leaned over way too far in the turns and looking back,
I'm very grateful it didn't kill me.
When I think
about the rides that I made on that motorcycle I can still
really feel the moment if I concentrate.
I'm at high
speed and the hair on my helmetless head waves hard in the wind,
while my hips twist, as I sway, first right, then left, through
the curves of a winding West Virginia back road. I lean the
Harley until the hinged foot board scrapes the road and I feel
my foot lift and hear the exhaust note change as the pipe and my
ear get closer to the blurred pavement. At night sparks shoot
back from the boards and it seems that rockets are chasing me
through the turns, or perhaps powering me through them.
The feeling of freedom that I associate with that
machine and the trips I made on it during those four years is
powerful, and made more intense I think, by the addition of the
twin feelings that are almost always present at such a time in a
young man's life. Invincibility and magic showed up at about the
same time as the Harley, and at18 years of life those two
imposters sat at my shoulders and whispered their lies to me and
I believed them. 'This is your life and it is all good and it
will never change. You will always feel just like this.'