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December 11, 2017
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The biker’s way; Motorcycling is a frame of mind

TRR photos by Jonathan Fox

By Joseph P. Befumo

To readers of a certain generation—we who were born under the Truman or Eisenhower administrations—mere utterance of the word motorcycle could invoke no other image but that of a young Marlon Brando: shades, comb, black leather jacket (“The Wild One,” 1953). Teen boys gazed admiringly. Young girls giggled nervously. Shopkeepers cringed and police officers scowled whenever a biker rolled into town…

Curiosity. Surprise. Nervousness. Admiration. Whatever your particular visceral reaction, almost everyone feels something when the earth rumbles and a herd of Harleys stampede into view.

Today, of course, most people probably know someone who rides, and understand, intellectually at least, that (to quote the ever-insightful George Carlin), today’s riders are: “Dentists and bureaucrats and… software designers….”

Nevertheless, there’s still some primal essence in us that recognizes that something about these people is different. And so there is.

Recently at an open house at Baer Sport Center in Honesdale, PA, a Harley-Davidson, Polaris, and Victory dealership, I had the privilege to meet numerous intriguing individuals, and hear many absorbing stories. Each conversation always included these two questions: “How many miles do you ride each year?” (most average about 5,000 miles annually—pretty impressive in a part of the country with such a limited riding season.) and “What are your favorite routes and/or destinations?” (More about that later.)

None of the interviews that sunny day encapsulated the biker spirit as succinctly as Chief Joseph Graywolf of Damascus, PA. Here is a man who has been riding motorcycles for as long as I’ve been alive (Truman administration, remember).

When I posed the first question to Chief Graywolf, he paused, almost as if perplexed that anyone would even ask so outlandish a thing. He thought a moment before replying: “Just as much as I please.”

From anyone else I might have taken this as a wiseacre response, but somehow I knew that this was not a man who would waste my time or his own with frivolous evasions. I had a sense that his answer was more profound than superficial interpretation would suggest, and I filed it away for subsequent analysis.

Expecting a similarly vague and philosophical response, I nonetheless fired off my second question: Favorite destinations?

This time his companion, Melanie, provided an immediate, concrete, and very revealing answer: “Once, he woke up and said he wanted to go for breakfast at this great little diner we know about, so off we went—on a four hundred mile ride….”