Sometimes You Meet Somebody Who Just...
I'm on my way back home to Wyoming from Arizona and while stopped at a little campground in the Virgin River Gorge I ran in somebody who made an impression on me. Hopefully the moderators will understand the intent of this post and forgive the fact that it's not based on a Victory motorcycle. - Joe H.
Few of us will ever know hardship in the true sense of the word. Most of us will feel sorry for ourselves at times, but a scant fraction of those reading this will ever wonder where their next meal is going to come from or where they might find to sleep tonight. Should you or I indeed ever find ourselves pondering these things what would our response be? I would venture to guess that no matter what we think we’d do sitting here in our comfortable homes our actual response would probably be nothing near what our imagination could conjure up, we’re just not trained for it. When we look at the homeless population what we see isn’t the unfortunate but those that were unable to adapt to their rapidly changing life often because of substance abuse but also many times just because of circumstance.
Today I met a man who humble as he may be commanded my respect as soon as I became aware of his story, some of which I will relate to you here. His name is Joe and he hales from Wisconsin originally but now calls where ever the weather is warm his home. In today’s age of motorhomes and RV’s this wouldn’t seem unusual for a seventy-three year old man accept he pilots neither of these. Instead, Joe’s mode of transport is nothing other than a 2008 Harley Davidson FXR. Not the big touring model with the stereo and the cushy seat mind you but a bare bones stock Wide Glide with a small windshield and a very large wire basket tie wrapped to the luggage rack and back seat, here again not so odd in and of itself. Not unusual until you learn that Joe didn’t get his first real motorcycle as he called it until he was sixty-five years old, here is where my interest and respect began to pique. When I queried him as to how long he’d been on the road he told me seven years!! My surprise was obvious and he headed off my next question with the answer he’s grown accustomed to providing to those curious about his lifestyle, “Social Security doesn’t pay me enough to afford an apartment but it pays enough for gas for a bike, a tent and food.” A sad statement of fact but then again this is a man who has taken his predicament and is living a life that most so-called bikers could never muster the courage to do.
When I asked Joe what he did before he retired his response was non-committal and vague but he did tell me that in his younger years he had five years’ experience as a “street wino” followed by sobriety and many years working with drunks, his penance as he calls it for drinking so much when he was younger. His long time wife passed away eight years ago from cancer and left him as he says “broke”. Less than a year later he suffered a ruptured appendix that almost killed him and that’s when he says he found himself “really broke”. Selling his old Honda scooter and a beat up pickup truck gave him enough money for a 2009 Harley Davidson Sportster 883 and he left Wisconsin for the Natchez Trace and points south, he’s been doing it ever since. The Sportster 883 managed to squeak out 149,000 miles before the Harley dealership convinced him that he really should replace it with something with less miles. Instead of new they made a deal with him for the FXR that had only a couple thousand miles on it and now sports just over 50,000.
It was obvious that Joe wasn’t really comfortable talking about himself but he did enjoy talking about places he’d been. When I asked if I could take his picture he said sure “But I don’t understand why people want to do that.” I told him it was because I enjoy meeting interesting people and he rates right up there on that list.
We’ve all met bikers, real bikers, drug store bikers, instant bikers and wannabe bikers but few of us have ever met somebody who rides because it’s all he has left. Although Joe would probably be more comfortable living in a senior community with rich widows chasing him down every alley in hopes of landing him he makes the best of what God has provided him. As long as his health holds out he plans on spending the rest of his days following the warm weather in the winter and as he puts it “sponging off relatives from time to time.”
The reason I’m putting this down on paper so to speak is that given my present situation I find it uplifting to meet someone who has experienced hardship far more brutal than anything I have endured. Not so that I may look down upon that person and say “It sucks to be you” but rather so that I can strive to be somewhere near as courageous as they should the need arise.
If you should see Joe some day in a campground or in a parking lot take a few minutes out of your day to shake the hand of a man who served his country and now lives on the fringes.
God speed Joe and may your travels take you wherever your heart leads.
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Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.
2017 Cross Country
Stage 1 & Tri-Ovals