Take me home, El Capitan!
A Motorcycling Legacy?... or Last of the Mohicans?

While my whole life revolves around motorcycling and I could no more give it up than I could give up breathing or cunnilingus, the sport has cost me dearly. My first (and only) street  accident in the first few months of my riding career put me in the hospital for 9 months followed by 2 years of rehab with a final result being a permanently f@#ed up knee, mental and physical scars, and neck issues which will last to infinity and beyond. Due to the aforementioned close encounter with a Buick, I eventually had to give up many things I lived for... tennis.. running.. karate.. climbing.. bicycling.  That was a dark period in my life. One I never think or talk about. Of course history will record that I got back in the saddle after my lengthy recuperation. Riding is simply in my genes... It's who I am.

A while back I got a call from my daughter warning me that my newly married 18 year old grandson, Christian would be calling soon wanting advice (and I suspect.. my blessing) on buying his first motorcycle.  After all.. I am the designated motorcyclist in the family and I am "mostly" respectable and I've survived for eons against all odds.  While I was not surprised this day would come,.. I'd been dreading it for a long time. I had already been asking myself... (after what happened to me)... "should I promote motorcycling within my family?"  Could my obsession with motorcycling be hereditary? While I awaited the inevitable call.. I pondered  my past, the possibilities of things to come, and my responsibilities as elder of the clan.

Stepping aboard the wayback machine, my memory struggles mightily into the distant past to a singular moment.. A life changing decision with implications that would resonate for generations to come. At 18 years young, after the birth of my only daughter, I chose to have a vasectomy. Why? For the simple reason that I never wanted a son or the trials and tribulations that come with one.. My own father, who was all about "family," pleaded with me not to do it.  After-all, I was the last to carry the family name.. The heir to the throne.. By default, I was Chingachgook... Last of the Mohicans.  Not that I have anything against male children, I just knew that statistically any son of mine would grow up to be just like me.. wild... a risk taker.. a rebel without a clue... a thrill seeker... any parent's worst nightmare and most certainly a motorcyclist with a damnable receding hairline.

Christian at 10 years old.. Future Motorcyclist?

Even then I knew I never wanted to go though what I put my parents through and I was too selfish to be a good a parent.  As it turned out, the vasectomy was probably the only good decision I ever made while in my teens. Today, over 40 years later I've got a grown daughter, two grown step-daughters, two wonderful grandsons, a wife that never wanted kids, and few regrets.  Amazingly, my pre-planned destiny almost worked.  I never had to face the heavy responsibility of spending my life raising a son  hell-bent on defying death for fun or the burden and guilt that my parents had to endure while nursing a damaged child.  Instead.. raising a daughter was all rainbows and unicorns.  Unfortunately... there was one major flaw in my plan to avoid male ascendant responsibility.  At 18, I never thought I'd live to be this old.  I didn't look far enough into the future to see that  I'd have grandkids. Christian and Bryson. Doh!

Of my two grandsons my youngest, Bryson, (17)  will probably grow up to be president.. He's much smarter and more grounded than I or Christian at that age. He already has a steady job.. his own car.. saves almost every penny he makes ..follows politics..(he wept when Obama was re-elected)..  is clean cut ..dresses well..  and to date doesn't have a single tattoo. Smart kid with no desire to ride a motorcycle. On the other end of the gene pool,  I always figured Christian would end up in a clock tower with a rifle. He's brash.. has already been arrested once or twice... can spend money faster than Congress..  lives for the next tattoo or piercing and if I didn't know better, he suffers from "IDGAF" syndrome just like his grandfather at that age.  I love them both dearly and I see both the best and worst of me in them.  Of the two, I fear for Christian on a daily basis as he seems to have inherited my "Caligula" gene.

A few days later I got the call... Christian made his obviously well-rehearsed pitch to convince me that getting a motorcycle was a good idea hoping I'd have his back since other family members (and his new wife) were 100% against it.. Even though I honestly didn't think he was mature enough to own a motorcycle, rather than shoot down his dreams and be accused of being an uncool grandpa, I listened intently. As someone who'd both loved everything about motorcycling and  as someone who'd seen what can go wrong  in a heartbeat and learned from it.  After just a few short minutes of back and forth, I could tell he wasn't liking what he was hearing.  Of course I talked about the obvious dangers, commitments, and expense of being a good motorcyclist.. Proper gear.. proper training.. positive attitude.. etc ... then I casually asked him what bike he was looking at as his first.. "A Gixxer 1000!!" he blurted enthusiastically.  Crikey. So much for being the cool grandpa.  My Iron Dome went up and I shot that idea right out of the sky telling him he needed to start small.. (like they do in Japan) and move up over time as skills progress..  End of conversation.

A week later, after what I would assume was a lot of back and forth between he, his wife, and his inner demons he called me back and wanted to borrow $100 to put towards a used scooter. Hmmm.. A good sign! Had he actually taken my advice? Or just realized how expensive a Gixxer 1000 is?  No matter. The $100 was all he needed to seal the deal as the other grandparents supposedly were chipping in on the balance. I asked if he had the proper safety gear and he said he had a helmet and would be buying a little at a time.. As that's what I did with my first bike.. I reluctantly agreed.

I sent him the money and a few days later he called to say he  was on his way to pick up the scooter..  I called him late the next day to see how he was liking it and after a moment of silence he told me he had already totaled it.... !!??...  It lasted  less than 24 hours... Just when I was about to ask him what happened he quickly said.. "Don't ask."   So I didn't.

Two months later he called me again and says he's saved up almost enough to buy another scooter and wants to borrow another $100 which is (again..) all he needs to make the deal happen.  Not a word about paying me back from the previous loan .. I told him "no".. I  reminded him to sign up for some safety classes and suggested that he read our "How-To Survive on Your Motorcycle" page on our website..

He must have acquired the needed money without my assistance as that night he bought the second scooter.. The next day he ran off a perfectly straight road and hit somebody's mailbox totaling the scooter and putting him in the hospital. Christian suffered a damaged spleen, broken ribs, collar bone, and pinched nerve in his back and leg.. A week after the accident I asked him what the f#@* happened....??"  He sheepishly claimed the front tire locked up sending him off the road.. Rrrrrrright... I deliberated his explanation for a whole micro-second before deciding I didn't believe him.. I asked him if he wanted me to inspect the scooter to see if their was any mechanical problems that might make a  replacement or even a lawsuit and large payout a possibility.. He asked me to forget about it.. Hmmm..  That's what I thought.. He simply was doing something stupid and wrecked. I guess it could have been worse.. He could have been on a Gixxer 1000.

Christian  was out of work for 9 months. He lost his job and his wife left him.  Ahh.. consequences.

I've seen him a few times since then and he's not mentioned motorcycles even once... I think .. no.. I hope he's realized that motorcycles are something he should avoid like Ebola on a warm stick. As I had suspected, he simply was not born a motorcyclist.
Over the years I've come to believe that the process of buying a motorcycle does not make you a motorcyclist. It just makes you a bike owner. A motorcyclist lives, works, and breaths to pursue the two-wheeled lifestyle.

In the back of my mind I had kinda hoped he'd eventually find the same love of motorcycling as his granddad.. That someday we could actually share the adventure of the open road in lieu of the son I chose not to have. Apparently it's just not in the stars.. or his genes and I haven't lost a single night's sleep over it. . In actuality I feel like I've dodged a bullet. Motorcycling is a wonderful thing... one of the greatest joys of my life, but it's not for everybody... So it is written...

"Great Spirit, Maker of All Life. A warrior goes to you swift and straight as an arrow shot into the sun. Welcome him and let him take his place at the council fire of my people. He is Uncas, my son. Tell them to be patient and ask death for speed; for they are all there but one - I, Chingachgook - Last of the Mohicans."

Christian (Left) and Bryson (Right)..

 
And that's all I've got to say about that....
Jerry D. Finley
Captain / Pirates' Lair