The bond between a man and his machines can be unbreakable.
He was out to take a test ride on a Ducati motorcycle on the winding back roads of hilly, northwestern Connecticut. A two wheel veteran of over 50 years of motorcycle cruising, cross America trips, and dozens of bikes from Harleys to Hondas, he crested a long slow rise with a curve at the top. He noticed the truck hauling a car trailer moving toward him over the hilltop. 10,000, 50,000, maybe 500,000 trucks had zipped by him in all those years. In his words, “… the Ducati started to vibrate, then it shimmied, then it wobbled,” and he lost control. The trailer bumper caught him just below the knee and almost took his life.
An emergency helicopter ride where he made his peace with his maker, 21 operations and 14 months later, he’s walking on a saved leg that looks like a mash-up between a laboratory experiment and a leg that a 2nd grader might make out of clay.
My next door neighbor, good friend, and a veteran Connecticut Yankee, has had a trying year to say the least. But that only tells half the story. This man can fix your car and build you a garage. He can drive virtually any machine from a back hoe to an excavator, from a bulldozer to a loader. He can salvage anything and use it to good purpose. I mean anything. And money? He’s one of those throwback guys who know how to save a dollar by doing absolutely anything himself rather than pay someone his hard earned cash. Take down a 60 foot oak tree. Done. Lay a concrete foundation, he’ll set the footings. Repair storm damage to the house, easy. They don’t make men like this any more. At least I don’t think so.
And motorcycles. He drove, he repaired, he outfitted. He primed and prepped, played with engines, bought one for his daughter. And his son. And his wife. He maxed out at six cycles in his garage. And the Ducati? It was just a lark, a test drive, it wasn’t even his.
And so now? His motorcycle days are over, by his own admission. Slowly but surely, he’s going to trade, sell, barter them off. You get older, you have to give some things up and he even admitted to me that he felt, before the accident, that he might be coming to the end of his motorcycle days. His retrofitted, bionic, 21 operation, medical miracle leg just pushed him to that conclusion a bit earlier.
But don’t feel too bad. His family took some saved up money and bought him a present. A candy apple red 1957 Thunderbird. He took me for a ride with the top down. Everybody looked at us. Everybody.
Drive on, Rich, drive on.
Photos courtesy of the author.