The Harley

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A couple of months ago, I announced that I had come up with a “Bucket List” of things I wanted to do or places I desired to see before I “kicked the bucket.”

Actually, it was a “barf bag list.” I decided to make this list while on an airline flight and, scrambling around for some paper on which to write, all I could find was an air sickness bag. So I made a “Barf Bag List,” a simple statement of things I’d like to do before I “choke.”

One of the statements I listed was, “I want to take a motorcycle course and learn to ride a Harley, even though my wife would never get on the motorcycle with me.”

I have purchased a used 1999 Harley-Davidson Road King (police edition) from someone who owned the bike for 10 years and is known for taking care of his “stuff.”

Reaction has been mixed.

Being a pastor, I really do not have a private life — not like most normal people, anyway. The average person can buy a suit, a car, or a house, go on vacation, go bungee jumping, and engage in all manner of activities and face nary a ripple of criticism. Pastors do not have that luxury.

There was a time, many years ago, if I traded cars or thought about buying a home, it would be a topic of conversation and might even be brought up at church board meetings.

“Well, I see we must be paying you handsomely, Pastor,” one man said, “since you were able to buy this nice, new 6-year-old Corvair.” Actually the Corvair — not to be confused with Corvette — had 150,000 miles, no air-conditioning, and used three quarts of re-constituted oil from Walmart every single day.

I didn’t purchase it either. The car was a gift for doing a series of services at a country church that couldn’t afford to pay me but had an old beat-up Corvair. Didn’t matter. I got no raise that year.

We almost didn’t buy a house because I was afraid of the flak that would accompany the purchase, until my wife said, “David, just show me where it says somewhere that we can never have anything nice.” We bought the house.

For the most part, I have gotten way past what people think or say. I have learned that, no matter what one says or does, there are those who stand ready to take potshots — usually from the cover of anonymity. It’s not that I don’t care what folks think, but I have learned not to be swayed by it so much.

Anyway, as I said, reaction has been mixed. Most of the women were aghast that I bought a motorcycle. Their concern was that I would plaster myself all over the highway.

I should add here that I have never actually ridden a motorcycle in my life. Except once. I was 15 and still carry the scar on my right leg that resulted from the crash.

The men, for the most part, gave me high fives and a “thumbs up.” Women are concerned about safety and men understand testosterone.

My wife was in agreement with the decision to buy the bike. All it required from me was an agreement to repaint the interior of the house and promise that I would never expect her to ride with me.

I was okay with that second part since it eliminates the back-seat driver syndrome.

She also insisted that I keep up my life insurance premiums. My mother-in-law told me that she could never brag to her friends again about “how smart you are.” Mostly, the men have urged me to “go for it.”

In a couple of weeks I will take a three-day course designed for people like me who have never ridden (successfully) a motorcycle.

My two older sons want to get a bike (my oldest purchased a Victory) and ride with me — or maybe not ride with me, but it’s a good excuse to tell their own wives.

The youngest son is a bit concerned that I will become one with the asphalt.

It’s a big, powerful, scary machine and I have no need for speed nor am I an adrenaline junkie. I respect the Harley. I even fear it, or at least I fear the possibilities. I intend to be very careful.

I have learned how to start it up and, every day, the roar and rumble of the distinctive Harley-Davidson sound emanates throughout the neighborhood. I have purchased most of the gear necessary to take the course and I have two Harley-Davidson T-shirts and two doo-rags which, my wife says, “make you look like a criminal.”
Cool. Every guy likes to be thought of as being a little dangerous.

I still have to pass the course, get my license, and actually learn how to ride the thing, which is much larger than the bike I will train on.

Still, one needs a challenge. And I have to be careful and be safe — after all, there are things I want to do and places I want to see before I choke.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. (www.ctkcec,org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and may be contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]