A Boy and His Machine – My Harley-Davidson Experience

Everyone should experience that “first Harley-Davidson” feeling. I hate to utter the words but yes, it changed my life, but in my case it was for more than one reason. I’ve been riding motorcycles since the ’70s and at the tender and impressionable young age of 12 years old I got my first – a Harley-Davidson X90. This would be the very beginning of a boy and his machine; teaching me the basics of riding and giving me the hands-on understanding of simple mechanics. There are few things I remember about being 12 and the awkwardness in my teens, and there are a few things I’d like to forget. But not the part of riding my first motorcycle – which happened to be a Harley. So was my first Harley-Davidson that experience of a lifetime I speak of? Sort of. But the real experience would come much later in life. Like way after puberty.

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

1974 Harley-Davidson 90

For the next 32 years I went through a long list of motorcycles, many of which I wish I had back. I owned a little of everything (okay, a lot of everything totaling 30+) including many different makes and models, but it wasn’t until 2006 that I purchased my second Harley-Davidson – an 883 Custom. Was this Sportster the one that changed my life? Yes and no. This bike gave me my first taste of riding that traditional 45° V-twin engine that is so well-loved within the Harley-Davidson community. I liked riding this motorcycle to the point that I realized I needed a bike that would be the one that gave me that feeling. So my second Harley was good, but… By August of 2007 I found a used 2001 Heritage Softail in a beautiful Jade Pearl that just blew me away. This, my friends is the Harley-Davidson that gave me that “first Harley-Davidson” feeling. This motorcycle completely change my whole way of thinking when it came to riding bikes. I finally found a motorcycle that fit me like a good pair of boots. This bike was made for me. It’s like someone at the Harley Factory sat down a said, “we need to build a bike for this guy” and they did. Little did I know they had been building this bike for many years and I just didn’t know it. I do now. This is the bike that opened my eyes to the community around the brand and the motorcycle that Harley-Davidson has built.

As I’ve said before, I’ve ridden a lot of motorcycles and never before have I experienced someone walking over to me at the gas station and asking me “where are you headed?” As if I’m living on my Harley with a bed-roll, sleeping on picnic tables and writing my blog on brown paper bags. When actually I’m headed to Subway for lunch. It’s that mystique of the brand that is Harley-Davidson and it brings people – men, women and children – over to tell me what a beautiful bike I have. It’s almost as if they are missing something in their lives and want to live vicariously through me. I’ve never experienced that with any other motorcycle I’ve owned. I’m okay with that.

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But more importantly, this bike allowed me to travel outside of that invisible 150 mile radius all the other bikes I’ve owned kept me within. Well, those bikes didn’t keep me there, but it’s all about wanting to ride further and being comfortable doing it. Like a boot, remember? It was on this Heritage I made my first trip to Sturgis. Good times with good people. So it was my third Harley-Davidson that gave me that “first Harley-Davidson” feeling. It’s this bike that put me smack-dab into a culture and lifestyle that I didn’t even know existed, and to think I prided myself for having my fingers on the pulse of all things motorcycle for over 30 years. At least as much as you can being from Kansas and all. I rode that Heritage Softail almost 80,000 miles. It was a tough day when I traded her in for a 2002 Road King. Tough. A lot of miles and a lot of memories behind that windshield. Wow, it’s difficult to even think about it, and it’s funny how I never felt that way about the others. But I quickly found out the Road King was more than capable, and after 3 more trips to Sturgis (among other places) and 45,000 miles in two years, I traded it for a 2006 Ultra Classic. I’m looking forward to the many miles and many more memories on this one. So I must say it isn’t always the first one that means the most; it’s finding the right one. And when you do, you’ll feel it.

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It’s been a great ride and for a motorcycle guy like me, Harley-Davidson has pushed me to ride more miles than I ever thought I would. It’s amazing when two worlds and two wheels collide, and for that I thank The Motor Company.

And now I am editing this post with the latest, a 2007 Road King. Yes, I’m back on a Road King!  10/25/2016

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