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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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That's a very moving story! Kudos to Joe! I already have respect for him and am somewhat envious of his life style, albeit not necessarily of his choosing if he'd had alternatives.

Thanks for sharing!
 

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Great write-up JOE!

Joe (pictured) is doing what many other Americans are doing and that is getting by the best they can and I admire him for that. His generation is not know for being sluggards. The way I see it living on a motorcycle and staying in parks is far favorable to being in a inner city homeless shelter. That being said, I make it a point to stress the importance of saving for retirement to all the young people I meet. Social Security is and never was going to be a reliable and sufficient retirement.
 

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Thanks for that very well written story Foto Joe. Although Harley Joe made some poor choices in his life, at least he now chooses to live within his meager means, something too many Americans seem to have a problem doing. Considering his situation, I think a shafty metric bike would have been a better choice due to their dependability. But isn't that what life is about, making choices? The best choice being; Don't do stupid.
Bigmike got it right - don't count on Social Security to get you by in retirement, save, or better yet, invest well for that time. The best thing I ever did was hook up with a financial adviser.
 

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don't count on Social Security to get you by in retirement, save, or better yet, invest well for that time.
While I whole-heartedly agree with that, unfortunately for many, myself included, life's circumstances and/or lack of foresight get in the way and before one realizes it, it's too late.

Fortunately I came to my senses 10 years ago and as a result I'll at least have my/our home paid for within the next year. My vehicles are already free and clear. But even with that, I'll still need to work at least part-time to add to my/our SS in order to maintain some semblance of the lifestyle I/we now enjoy.

Hopefully our kids will learn from this.

(10 years ago I remarried for the third time):grin
 

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Social Security, Was never ment to live on... It was meant to supplement what you should have been saving during your working years...
 
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What an uplifting story! Joe's got it right even being dealt the hand he was. Make the best of life. You only have one.
 
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Social Security, Was never ment to live on... It was meant to supplement what you should have been saving during your working years...
shouda, couda, wouda .... it's easy to say that for those who did or who were fortunate enough to have arrived at the "golden age" with money in the bank. For others that for whatever reason, aren't that fortunate, SS is all there is. We've paid into it all of our working life. It should be enough to at least be equal to the government's own "minimum cost of living" aka poverty line.

I have no idea how much an individual in the USA gets on SS but here in Canada, it's considerably below the poverty line. Here we have CPP (Canada Pension Plan) and OAS (Old Age Security). I am receiving both as I'm well over the age of 65 and I'd be hard pressed to survive on that alone in this day and age.

Having said that, I am grateful to have it as there are many people in this world who don't even have that.
 

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I won't live to be old as Joe. But when I hear about these old dudes, or anyone really, who've taken what little they have and made something of it they can enjoy, it fills me with hope. I'm lucky enough to have rather arbitrarily subscribed to disability insurance that has carried me through the last six months. My wife has been promoted and almost doubled her income since last year. Despite all that I still get down, but then I hear stories like this and realize how lucky I really am.
 

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I won't live to be old as Joe.
Really? :eek I hope that's not true!

I used to say to myself that I couldn't imagine living to the age I am today ... yet here I am, knocking on 70s door and loving life. Now, I don't know how old "Joe" is but I'd guess he's pushing 80... maybe a bit more?? I fully expect to still be enjoying life and riding when I get there.
 
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Indeed God's speed to Joe...

An old Irish proverb.........

May the road rise to greet you, the wind be always at your back, the sun shine warm upon your face & the rain fall soft on your fields ....and until we meet my friend...may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
 

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Goodonya Joe,
keeping it simple,Ride On.
 

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I see Joe as a modern day cowboy...something I always wondered about doing myself. Especially on the stressful days when nothing seems go right.



Sent from Motorcycle.com Free App[/color
 

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Great story Joe! Thanks for sharing!

Reminds of when I met a guy at a bar on old Route 66 well away from any town of any size. His ride outside was a horse. He was riding from Arkansas to the Pacific Ocean. He got by doing odd jobs, sometimes he accepted a bit of charity, sometimes he came upon fairly fresh roadkill which he would stop, clean, then save for that nights camp and fire. His poor horse had a bad hoof and needed something to fix it. Not sure how that ever worked out because I only saw him one more time in the area and he hadn't worked it out yet. Sometimes he would take the country dirt roads and cross fields where he would have to cut and fix barbwire fencing to get through. He was too young to be retired but work was unavailable in his trade at the time so he figured he'd just hop on his horse and go see the Pacific Ocean.

Impromptu road trips can be the most memorable in my opinion. One time a buddy and I hitchhiked from MA to FL by way of Tennessee. I was 17 at the time but remember it like it was just last year. It was only a couple of weeks long trip but felt like a lifetime. Almost died from the cold in Virginia. Got thrown in jail too but it was a mistaken identity. Good thing a cop who knew the person they were looking for was on duty at the station house to confirm I was not their man, er, boy, er young man. The rest of the trip was full of drama like that. Some good some not so much. Now I'll be thinking about it all day...

Thanks again Joe!
 

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Super nice posts ... Thanks for all this positive and great story's

TaPaTaLk for VIC forum
 

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Excellent well written story that held my attention the whole way through . Very enjoyable . I am saving through a 401k , not much in it and will probably be long dead before I collect S.S. too , but you never know . Maybe if I stop drinking soon I will make it .:|
 

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Mags et al....Even though I was frugal to the extreme, I was getting nowhere trying to save for retirement until I hooked up with a financial adviser. You might want to look into doing that too. When the crash hit in '08, a lot of folks lost half to all of their investments--we lost only 15% and our adviser got it back in fairly short order.
 

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Thanks Ric , I will definitely look into that . I should have my home almost paid for by now , but since I just bought it in October , its tough to save money and live .... just doing the best I can right now .
 
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Mags et al....Even though I was frugal to the extreme, I was getting nowhere trying to save for retirement until I hooked up with a financial adviser. You might want to look into doing that too. When the crash hit in '08, a lot of folks lost half to all of their investments--we lost only 15% and our adviser got it back in fairly short order.
You only lose money in a crash, If you panic and sell...
I started investing right after i got out of Nam.. 1967, In Tax-Deferred mutual funds... Up's and downs no matter i put in the max the law allowed, I was abel to retire at 57, I can't tell you how many times over the years when the market went south that my adviser wanted g me to sell out.
But i had fate in the markets and stayed put...I believe in the 3 up 2 down, Do that for 30 or 40 years... And don't panic you'll beat the system..$$$$$$
 
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