God Bless America

by Bill Hufnagle

July is here, marking at last the arrival of full-bore-motorcycle-riding season from the Gulf Coast all the way up into Canada. Spring has surrendered her fickle grip on the weather and we can look forward to a near-constant forecast of hot and humid, with some percentage chance of isolated thunderstorms. Ahh, the glory days of summer, picnics, and camping; canoe trips and hiking; and the freedom to ride our thundering metal steeds from sea to shining sea. For us who ride, these are some of the best of times. True gas prices are outrageously high, but filling the tank on your bike is still a bargain compared to the family car. Plus, how much more fun can you get from a gallon of gas than riding your bike?

The month of July starts off with one of my favorite holidays, Independence Day–fireworks displays, parades, barbeques, and gatherings with family and friends. The Fourth of July is such a grand birthday celebration for this tried-and-true union of unique states that forms our nation. While Memorial Day is for honoring our veterans, this special day in July–and this whole month–seems a most appropriate time to reflect on the blessing of freedom we enjoy.

As I write this column, it is the weekend that marks the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day and the passing of one of our great presidents: Ronald Reagan. It is a poignant time to be an American. The memories of past conflicts arrive at a time when we are still in the thick of the war on terror, still fighting the good fight to bring democracy to a country that was suppressed by an evil dictator for three decades. Clearly, there are strong comparisons between the war of today and the battles waged by our greatest generation. Contrast the attack on Pearl Harbor and the attacks of September 11, and Hitler’s final solution and the gassing of the Kurds and mass graves in the desert. Evil still exists in the world; it may wear a different mask and claim a different cause, but it is evil nonetheless. Again, it seems that America is still in the vanguard of the last, best hope of mankind, civilization, and the rule of law. Yet we are unlike the Americans of that simpler time since we are haunted by the experiences of Vietnam.

Compounding all of these deeply emotional current and historical affairs, we are in the midst of an election year, a time when almost anything that happens becomes fodder for some political campaign or agenda. We, as a free people, are the beneficiaries of the valiant and horrible price paid by so many young Americans of that greatest generation. They paid that price on the shores of France and across all the battlefields of World War II to maintain our right to choose our leaders and shape our future. We the people have the responsibility to hear all the voices within our democracy, to scrutinize what they say and what they don’t say. We the people need to find the truth amidst the spin, the posturing, and the rhetoric; we need to see through to the hidden agendas.

As I have watched and read the commentary on the life and times of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, I cannot help but note that few, if any, disparaging words are being voiced. In death we find the dignity to speak of the positive aspects of our past leaders. I believe the word is respect, something I think we should both give to and require from our elected officials. I look at the job of president and know that it is a job I would not want in a million years. It must be the most difficult job in the world, and while you are trying to do it to the best of your abilities, you can be well assured that many people will think they know better and would do better. With very few exceptions, I think by and large every president genuinely struggles to get it right every day, for thousands of decisions each day, all interacting with a world that has grown more complex each day. Consider it for a moment; would you want to do that job? If that job was a motorcycle, could you ride it full-out on a packed racetrack? If you look at it honestly, I am certain that you, like I, would say, “No thanks, I’ll keep my simpler life.”

As we go forward with our sacred process of presidential elections, we need to be wise citizens and truly respectful of the burden that we will place on the shoulders of a fellow citizen. We also need to keep an eye on the true prize–the maintenance of freedom and democracy, both at home and across the globe. This gift of freedom given to us and paid for by the sacrifices of our forbearers was not meant to be hoarded within our borders. This gift of freedom and democracy was meant to be a shining example to the world that there is a better way than kings, tyranny, and death camps. That lady who stands proudly in the New York Harbor holds her torch high to light the way to liberty, freedom, and justice. Let us not fail the tests facing us and squander the sacrifices of the brave Americans who came before us. Let us focus our sights on victory, for if we do, it will be ours.

When you celebrate this Fourth of July and every time you exercise the freedom to ride your motorcycle in this great land, remember those who have gone before. Thank each veteran you know and meet. And most certainly, express your thanks to all of the boys and girls in our armed forces that you meet. Remember that they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for you and your family. We the people need to be ever conscious that we have the freedom to disagree and debate political issues, and it has always been paid for at a high price–God Bless America! Oh, and by the way, do your part–register and vote.

Linda Leffel’s Hooray for the Red, White & Blue (Dip & Chips)

This recipe is from Linda Leffel of San Diego, CA. “Linda is President of the San Diego Chapter of Women In The Wind, a group that strives to educate its members in motorcycle safety and maintenance, unite women motorcyclists with friends of common interests, and promote a positive image to the public of women on motorcycles. Linda told me this recipe is “hot, sweet, spicy, patriotic, and great fun at a party, just like me and my Harley!”

1 package Philadelphia Cream Cheese (the “White”)
1/2 bottle Bronco Bob’s Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce (the “Red”) (Can be found at Cost Plus.)
1 bag Blue Corn Tortilla Chips ( the “Blue”)

Unwrap Cream Cheese and put on plate to soften at room temperature 1/2 hour before the party. Pour Raspberry Chipotle Sauce all over cream cheese.

Surround with blue chips, and stick a few into the mix to stand like little flags.

Makes 20 to 30 servings

Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire”, and has authored three cookbooks. Just released in 2003 is his latest book, “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”. The book includes 200 recipes from HOG members and Harley riders across America and an ample supply of Biker Billy’s own fiery recipes.

The book is endowed with Biker Billy’s unique biker banter. It is sure to bring the adventure and flavor of the open road to your table and family.

The illustrated book is published by Harvard Common Press and is available in bookstores everywhere for $19/95, or on Biker Billy’s web site where you can have it autographed. Check out www.bikerbilly.com where you can also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule.

Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003. Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.

M.M.M.

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