~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


"Crash" c1995

I freely admit to being at least a little and maybe a lot stuck in the past. Some people are like that. I'm a bit of a retro-grouch or worse according to some folks. More on that later.

Over the years I've crossed paths with some serious retro-grouches and one of the best ones was my late buddy "Crash." Crash, who's real name was Bob, stood a good bit past six feet tall and when I first met him was generally imposing in many ways from his wild hair to his mangled fingers. He was a Harley rider and a 1%er way before it was cool, like about 1958 or so. In the late 70s he still frightened most people who didn't know him personally. Funny thing though, little kids loved him, they seemed to see right through the rough exterior to the guy who would get down on the floor and talk to them about their world like it was his world.

In the late 1950's, drafted out of high school by a pro football team because of his size and strength, Crash quickly found he lacked the actual skills needed to play pro ball and got cut from the squad right away. Leaving training camp with some money in his pocket he did what any slightly aimless guy would do in the late '50s, he bought a used Harley and became one big, mean, ornery cuss on a motorcycle. He fell in with questionable people and from what I know, out did them on more than one occasion when it came to being tough. I asked him if he'd ever joined one of the well known gangs of the time and he said no, he preferred to ride alone and drink with whomever was around. When a fight broke out he'd side with whomever was buying the drinks that night, even if the fight was against the guys he had been drinking with the night before. When you're big enough and mean enough and strong enough I guess you can play like that.

One time drinking with some guys and discussing the acquisition of motorcycle parts at the Midnight Parts Company an outsider stated that his bike was so secure in his garage that no one could steal it. Wrong boast. Late in the evening Crash followed the guy home to see where he lived. The next evening Crash and a couple of other guys broke into the guy's garage, disassembled the well secured bike, and left it in pieces all over the garage floor. Said Crash as he told me the story "We didn't want his #$%$ bike, we just wanted to prove we could take it if we wanted it."

I asked him once how he got his nickname, nearly everyone who knew him, even his wife, called him "Crash." He said way back when, he'd been riding fast and a car made a left turn in front of him and he hit it square in the side. He and the car were both totalled. Riding buddies said it was the best crash they'd ever seen. The name stuck.

When Crash and I hung out together it was later in his life after he had parked the bike and kinda sorta settled down to a wife and kids and the benign hobby of building radio controlled model airplanes. He'd built model airplanes as a kid the way many kids did in the past and as an old guy, looking for some way to relax that was socially acceptable, he returned to building models. His chopped '48 Harley sat out behind his house in a shed, under a tarp, just in case the solid citizen thing didn't take though. He finally sold the bike a number of years back when crippled by arthritis and assorted ailments, it was clear to him that he'd not be able to ride it again even if he wanted to. He told me after the Harley was gone he regretted selling the machine even if he couldn't ride it. Sad day.

Crash would often sit at the counter of the little store I owned in those days and we'd swap stories about bikes and riding. Although his wild days were long behind him he really didn't understand my choices in modern bikes, my penchant for 400 mile day rides with no tavern stops, and my lack of a good black leather jacket. And his stories were always way more interesting than mine as mine didn't normally include bar fights, guns, and breaking both of someone's collar bones because "it takes the fight right out of them."

Crash was always scornful of my German and Japanese bikes and as we'd argue bikes and riding he always come back to the statement that one day I'd "have to grow a pair" and buy a Harley. I told him I didn't need a Harley to be tough and I'd kick his a--- any time I darn well pleased. It was a friendly and running joke between us for a long time and we both knew it was bull. I never doubted and I'm sure he didn't, that he could have sent me into the next life with one punch.

When I did finally get around to buying a new Harley in 1986 I snapped a picture of it and took the picture with me on a trip to visit family and friends in California. Standing and shooting the breeze at the model airplane field with Crash I proudly pulled out the picture of my new '86 Softail Custom and showed it to him. "Bah" he snorted derisively, "A new one. There hasn't been a REAL Harley-Davidson since '48." He was serious too. You see, for some folks, right or wrong, the old ways and old stuff are still the best or at least the most reflective of what they were and who they still are. People like Crash are genuine individuals and remain individuals to the very end. Crash has been gone a few years now and he is missed by many people. R.I.P. my friend. I still say I could have kicked your a--- any time I wanted to.

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