This week Dave McCallister from Alma, Michigan stopped by to share his story and enthusiasm for riding. His ever present riding companion and mascot, Road Kill, was with him. R.K.'s picture is below. Dave's a retired USAF Master Sergeant. Now he's a computer technician for a private college. Mixed in with all that, Dave rides with the Patriot Guard Riders.
I've had the privilege of training several folks who wanted to ride with this group. Many are veterans themselves. I thank them for what they've given and continue to give. People have different opinions about war and the military. No matter a person's beliefs, a fallen soldier and their family deserves the quiet dignity and grieving provided by the funeral. Some folks just can't seem to respect that. The Patriot Guard helps ensure the family gets what they need. Along the way they evidence their own honor to the fallen. That's a huge gift in my way of thinking.
Just a note here before I turn it over to Dave. Yes, Allen, there is another Harley gracing my blog!
The idea of riding a motorcycle never entered my mind until 2006. At the age of 44 I heard about a group desecrating military funerals of those killed in action with their protests. In February 2006, I joined the Patriot Guard Riders and started attending military funerals with them to ensure a dignified farewell for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Over the next few months, after hearing bikers exchange road stories/ lies, I thought, "Riding a motorcycle sounds like a lot of fun." I didn't want to get a bike until I went through the BRC as I didn't want to teach myself bad habits or learn bad habits from others. In July that year I passed the BRC, got my endorsement, and started looking for a new bike. I had it narrowed down to either an 07 Honda Shadow Aero in pearl white or a Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Low in pearl yellow. I sat on lots of different bikes, but only those two had hand and food controls that felt safe and comfortable to me.
HD got their 07's out before Honda, so I got the Sportster. Within the first week the BRC training paid off. I had to come to an emergency stop in a blind curve to prevent running into a car that wanted to get around a stopped semi trailer on the curve. Our front tires stopped about 6 feet from each other. Michigan subsidizes the BC (Thank you Michigan ABATE for that!), and after I stopped I thought, "That's the best $25 I ever spent!"
Since getting the bike, I regret waiting so late in life to discover the joys of riding a bike. I've ridden the bike 30,000 miles so far. I don't consider myself proficient though. I now know seven things in your first year of riding you shouldn't do to drop your bike at low speeds.
The last time was when dirty water from snow melt-off covered a road last year. The right six inches of my lane didn't have water, but had lots of stones. My thinking was that I would go to the left of the center line and ride slow since pot holes would be near the right part of my lane.. I slowed down to about 10 MPH to cross the water and I rode into the pot hole from hell that was about 2 feet long and I don't know how deep. The bike instantly slammed me to the pavement on the right side of the bike. If I hadn't added saddlebags and crash bars to the bike, my ankle probably would have been crushed. As it was, it was a struggle to get my foot out that was pinned underneath the bike (in the meantime cars were attempting to go around me while I was laying in the middle of the road.) Insert inappropriate words for print in your mind for those folks ignoring my situation.
The full face helmet suffered a small scratch and my chaps had a small hole at the knee from where I hit the pavement. If it weren't for my gear, the crash guards, and the saddlebags, things could have gotten ugly. It's been over a year since I last dropped the bike, so I guess I am getting better? I've gotten to the point where I can ride the bike on dirt trails without losing control :) Those who grew up riding dirt bikes (I didn't have that experience) may get a chuckle out of that, but to me that is a milestone achievement. Riding a 600 pound bike on dirt trails. My Road King riding partner who is a very experienced rider has got a chuckle out of egging me into riding on gravel and dirt and recently laughed and said, "You've come a long way Dave, ya' wussie."
Bikers (especially HD bike snobs) snicker at me because of my appearance, but I don't care. A bright yellow Harley and a bright yellow helmet. There is a phrase "Loud pipes save lives." My motto is "Loud colors save lives." There have been many instances where people were about to violate my right of way, but they backed off once they noticed my visually obnoxious helmet. I don't care about looking cool, I just want to minimize the risks when riding so I can ride another day.
And for those of you who think there is only just one brand of bike to ride. Two wheels is two wheels. If you are on two wheels (even if it is a scooter) you get a wave from me. You realize the magic of riding on 2 wheels that most don't in this country.
Dang, isn't is great to be riding on two wheels and smelling nature instead of being locked up in cage? In December 2006 I hauled my bike down to Atlanta and rode down to Florida. While taking a state highway from Lake Worth to Tampa, I rode through the citrus crop region. The wonderful smell of oranges pleased my olfactory senses for about 200 miles. The other day here in Michigan I smelled a sweet fragrance for 2 miles from something that I wouldn't have noticed if I was in a cage. You just can't experience something like that on 4 wheels. Ride long, and ride safe!
Thanks for sharing, Dave! I've been amazed and honored that riders have put forth the effort to be a part of Sharin' the Road. Next week look for a visit from Shannon. She comments here under the name Balisada. You'll see why she calls herself that in her post.
You're warmly invited to drop by to share your story. Maybe you had a great ride you'd just love to tell someone about. Campfire conversation wanders along a variety of subjects. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about it.
Miles and smiles,