I love the bumper sticker that reads “Put something exciting between your legs.” In 1961 I bought a 1942 Harley for fifty dollars. I had to do it in secret because my father said I could only have a motorcycle over his dead body. One morning my father was having coffee at the local drug store with Mr. Wood, who had a son, Billy, who was a classmate of mine. “Frank,” he says, “my son wants to buy a motorcycle. I told him that no father in his right mind would ever let his son get something as dangerous as a motorcycle. Then he tells me, your son has one, so it must be okay.” After Frank spilled his coffee he assured Mr. Wood that his son Billy must be mistaken.
As soon as my father got home that night he immediately sought me out and confronted me with, “Where’s the motorcycle?” I knew right then and there that I was busted. Just like the time when I cut down the cherry tree I knew I had no other choice but to tell the truth. At this point, the Harley had already broken down and was over at a friend’s house. To make a long story short, I got to keep the HOG. Even my father knew the value of a Harley. I brought the bike home the next day and put it down in the basement for the winter. During the winter, I took it completely apart and rebuilt everything. It would’ve been a great plan except for the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing and so when I put it all back together it wouldn’t start. I immediately called my friend Rip for a consultation. He came right over, but he couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t start either. He told me he just happened to have a ’47 engine from a trike he was working on in his garage and would be willing to sell it to me. I bought the trike engine and soon I was back on the road again.
I drove the Harley everywhere throughout my senior year and then sold it for $125 when I graduated. Smart move I thought at the time. Although today it would be worth about $15,000 to $20,000.
Forty years later, I’m having a discussion with the cable guy who was installing new cable wire throughout my condo. Besides his Master’s degree in psychology, he was also an expert on Harleys. After talking with his associate he told me they thought that my ’42 Harley might be worth upwards of $75,000 today. I don’t know if he knew what he was talking about, but the new cable is not working yet.
I later learned that if I had bought Harley stock back then, I would be a millionaire today. I did buy the stock in 1996 though, and it has enjoyed a forty percent annual return through 2001. My favorite model was always the Night Train until Harley came out with the Street Bob in 2006. But today I can only dream, as my wife refuses to let me buy one. I do have a Harley Visa though, which gives away a new Harley every month as part of its rewards program. Maybe if I’m lucky enough to win one she will let me keep it. Then I will only have to deal with the condo commandos, who do not allow motorcycles. I can honestly say that I don’t know what their reasoning is. But, you also have to be sixteen to play billiards at the condo, so I guess somehow it all makes sense. I plan to be in Milwaukee for Harley’s 100th anniversary; see you there.
I recently bought a twenty-five dollar chance on a Fat Boy at a local nautical flea market. It was for a good cause but I didn’t win. Maybe it was for the better though. Parking it at the condo would have been a problem, as I mentioned above. On the other hand, maybe Harley’s in-house counsel would be willing to challenge the condo policy for me should I ever win a bike.
There is hope though, as the condo board is currently planning to reconsider whether we should allow pick-up trucks and motorcycles to be parked in the garage. In preliminary board discussions about the issue of the motorcycles, no one could really say for sure why they’d been banned thirty years ago when the condo was originally built. Bob, a member of the board, felt it might’ve had something to do with the noise factor. Obviously, he has much better hearing than I do if he can hear a motorcycle or car driving around the garage from his eighteenth floor apartment.