I decided it would be a good time to visit my parents in Rochester, 60 miles East of Buffalo. Frankly, I felt a pang of guilt for not having returned sooner. And what better way to get there than on the Hog? Sunday morning was glorious. Bright sunshine. Cool breeze. No rain forecast. So I strapped on my helmet and hit the road by 9 o’clock, deciding against the NYS Thruway in favor of two-lane side roads through farm country. 40 miles of smooth sailing. No traffic. No problems. Reveling in the feel of the road. Waving to farmers. Them waving back. Suddenly, 20 miles from home, the Hog lost all power. Just like a car running out of gas. Not to worry. I pulled over to the side of the road. Checked the gas tank. Nearly full. Oil. Full and clean. Okay, no problem. I kicked the starter pedal hard. Felt the strong engine compression. The Hog wanted to start. But didn’t. Or, couldn’t. I repeated the starting process a half-dozen times, to no avail. Indeed, on the last try, the compression fought back, bucked, and threw me over the handlebars. Landed on my you-know-what. Not fun. Maybe I had flooded the engine with each attempt? Exhausted, I climbed a nearby hillside, leaving the bike on the shoulder. Sat for 15 minutes. Returned to roadside for six fresh attempts. Same lack of results. Back up the hill to rest. Meanwhile, no cars passing by. Fell asleep on the hill. Had a dream. By the time I woke up, it was 3 o’clock. My dream-voice invaded my thoughts.
“What are you? A dummy? Check the battery, you dork!”
Why didn’t I think of that? I strode eagerly down the hill, Mr. Hog still sitting there, begging me to figure this out for his benefit, if not mine. Where do they hide the battery on this monster? I searched. And searched. And my dream-voice returned.
“Lift up the seat, you dummy-dork!”
Lo and behold, there was Mike the Road Hog's new battery, sitting neatly in its housing. With one wire hanging loose. It can’t be this easy, can it? I reconnected the wire, put the seat back down, kicked the starter pedal once, felt the instant explosion of power. Like a caged lion, ready to pounce. (Author’s Note: caged Hog doesn’t sound as good as caged Lion, does it?)
Next, helmet on. Visor down. Big smile. Patting Hog’s tank to profess my admiration. Clutch up. First gear. Clutch down. Take-off! Arrived home half-an-hour later. I pulled up in front of the house, parking the Hog on the grass between sidewalk and curb. Illegal? Small street. One-way. One block long. By then, the monster’s reverberation had attracted quite a bit of attention.
My Dad walked out onto the front porch to investigate. I waved. He didn’t wave back. He just stared. I waved again. Nothing. Ahhh, I get it. I still had on my helmet, complete with black sun visor. Removed the helmet. Walked up the steps to the porch. Looks of disbelief. Shame on me, but I hadn’t been home in months. My brush cut now long curls. Clean-shaven face now bearded. Conservative clothes now dirty jeans and tee-shirt. And don’t forget the boots. And bugs in the teeth. You get the idea. We went inside, where the family enjoyed the return of the prodigal son. Little brother included. It wasn’t until dinner that it started.
“Shave that beard. You look like a criminal.”
“Cut your hair. You look like a mensch.”
“Get some new clothes. You look like a hobo.”
“How do you expect to get a job, looking like that?”
Yeah, I left the next morning, more than eager to return to my life as an unemployed, criminal-mensch-hobo. As I prepared to kick Hog to life, my next door neighbor came running out with his Polaroid camera.
“Come on, Jeff. Smile. Put your feet up on the roll bars. You need a picture of this moment.”
A minute later, he handed me the instant photo which you see below.
The entire Spring was devoted to riding, mostly across the Peace Bridge to Canada. No helmet law there. Dangerous, to be sure. But nothing could beat the wind through your hair. Yes, the perceived immortality of youth! Before long, I replaced the single cop seat with a double seat, allowing Cass to sit behind me on the Hog. By the way, we’ve been married 49 years as of this writing! On one such day, we returned to my apartment, parked the Hog on the street in front of the bar below, and walked upstairs to grab a quick sandwich. We left our helmets on the Hog, mine hanging loose on a handlebar, hers strapped to the seat. Trusting. Lazy. Silly. We took our sandwiches out onto the upstairs porch, ready to enjoy lunch. Looking over the railing, we saw a panel truck pull up next to the Hog. The dude on the passenger side stepped out, looked around nonchalantly, grabbed at the helmets, and jumped back into the truck, my helmet in his hand. Cass’s stayed attached to the Hog.
We both screamed out, “Hey! Stop!”
But by then, the truck had disappeared down Bailey Avenue, heading towards campus. Cass and I ran down the stairs, where she tripped on the sidewalk, tearing up her knee. Trooper that she is, she got up and ran after the truck. And got the license number. We ran back upstairs and called the police. Turns out the station was right down the street.
“Would you like to fill out a report?” the officer asked.
“Sure, but the truck is on its way down Bailey Avenue as we speak! Can you send a car, quick?”
“Sorry, sir. We can’t do anything until you come in and fill out a report,” he answered.
“You gotta be kidding! They’re no more than a mile from your station!”
“Look, there’s nothing I can do about that. But if it’ll help, I can run a trace on the license plate and tell you who owns the truck,” he offered.
It took only a few minutes before I had the name, address, and phone number of the registered owner of the panel truck. A woman. First name, Candy. (Name changed to protect me in my later years, if you don’t mind.) I picked up the phone and dialed her number. She answered on the first ring.
“Is your name Candy?” I demanded.
“Who is this?”
“Someone in your truck just stole my motorcycle helmet. And I want it back.”
“Do you have any idea who you’re calling?” she hissed.
“Yeah. I’m calling you.”
A longer pause.
“I’m going to give you a piece of advice, friend. The owner of that truck is my husband. He’s the leader of the Road Hogs. And if I tell him you called here, HE WILL KILL YOU! And you won’t be the first.”
Click. Connection terminated. By her. Listen, I admit to being scared off. Is a helmet worth a life? My life? Nope. So that was the end of it. Or so I thought.
© Jeff Resnick 2018
All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved