When Chickens Come Home to Roost

by Thomas Day

The last time a member of my family owned a Harley Davidson was in 1966. It wasn’t even a real Harley. It was a 250 Harley Sprint that was made by an Italian company with an unpronounceable name and as much chance of surviving international competition as my last three employers. My brother bought the Sprint for $75, after the original owner decided it didn’t make much of a farm maintenance vehicle. The Sprint was a two-year-old disaster, but it was a lot cooler than the Cushman scooter that we’d been riding before the Harley came into our lives. After he cleaned off the farm mud, the bike sat in my parent’s garage for most of a year, suffering teenage mechanical inability and general neglect, before my brother managed to get it running well enough to ride it to my place. My father wanted that corner of his garage for something useful. My brother mistook me for someone who would be willing to donate yard space without expecting something in return. Man, did he mess up! In almost no time, we got the Sprint together and running and I put it on the local scrambles track. The Spanish two strokes arrived near the end of the Sprint’s last summer of life and it didn’t take very long for me to get tired of the taste of dirt. A year and a dozen races after the bike’s rebirth, you never saw a more wiped out motorcycle. During the following 30-some years, other than my occasional run-in with real Harley bikers, that was my family’s last experience with Harleys.

Sure, during the 80s I knew guys who had a Harley backed against a wall in their garage, leaking oil and waiting for a custom paint job that might never happen. In the 90s, just about every middle-aged, recently divorced guy bought a shiny new bag of Harley garage candy, hoping that expensive American iron really was a babe magnet. But members of my family either hated motorcycles or rode rice, fish-and-chips, or pasta-burners. Bean-burners, more accurately, two-strokes, the three of us who rode loved off-road bean-burners. Later, we burned synthetic beans. I was the first of my brothers to buy a street bike, and actually ride it on the street. Before that, the closest we’d come to being street legal was the moment before we stripped off the street hardware and “converted” what we’d bought to something closer to what we’d wanted. My first motorcycle with a legal and current registration was a 1979 Honda CX500 Deluxe. A twin, I grant you, but a pretty weird, Moto-Guzzi clone twin. From that purchase until this summer, the three of us chugged along as untrendy and un-babe-magnetic as middle-aged men can be.

Belatedly, after the fact, with a combination of embarrassment and arrogance, one of my brothers informed me that this past summer he’d spent an incredible wad on a 2001 Dyna Wide Glide. He was recovering from–you guessed it–a high dollar divorce-inspired cash-ectomy and felt a burning need to do something rash and adventurous. I guess. To me, a V-Max or an R1 or a Hayabusa is rash and adventurous. It’s tough to beat ten-second quarter-miles or cranking it to near-200 mph for rash and adventurous. But that’s just my uninformed opinion.

My Harley-owning brother raved about the raw power of his new acquisition. Unless I’m misreading the spec sheet, the fuel-injected Twin-Cam 88 (1450cc) turns out a fairly benign 62 hp with a max torque of 72 ft/lbs., while his porker weighs in at about 650lbs (dry). That’s a lot of pork per unit of torque. As a rash and adventurous comparison, the V-Max cranks out about 115 hp with an 80 ft/lb. torque peak, while still weighing in at about 600 lbs. I still say there is nothing meaner looking than a V-Max. Harley’s quote on the Dyna Wide Glide is “Going nowhere never made more sense.” Huh?

I can’t help myself. How about rephrasing that to “Going nowhere quickly never seemed more impossible?” Or something equally sarcastic and appropriate.

“Power” isn’t the reason my kid brother bought his new Harley. He bought a new Jeep, too. I never thought of a Jeep as a babe magnet, but anything’s possible. I guess. The thing these two toys have in common is expense. That’s the thing that most babe magnets have in common, come to think of it. Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong, but it seems to me that the last thing a guy who’s recently received a divorce-court-reaming should be looking for is a woman who’s attracted to his money.

I think somebody ought to be making a killing selling babe repellent to guys in this situation. But there’s no accounting for human nature. Especially to me, since I haven’t even figured out what people hear in country music, after 45 years of studying that phenomena.

There’s a connection between Harley buying and country music, too. Country songs are all about a guy crying in his empty beer glass because some babe ran off with his guitar, pickup truck, hunting dog, and all his hard-earned money. Buying a new Harley seems to be about getting all that stuff back, plus some new stuff, so that some babe will want to do it to him all over again. Go figure.

M.M.M.

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