This whiskery Grey Beard Biker always gets a chuckle from people’s reactions to us bikers. We are cut from a different cloth, molded from a different piece of clay. We don’t always fit neatly into a specific box. We are all different, but we are all alike. Some of us have beards, some of us don’t. Some of us have tattoos, some of us don’t. Some of us have long hair, some of us, like yours truly, have none – preferring a nice shaved head (bald is, after all, beautiful!). Some of us ride metric crotch rockets, some of us don’t. Some of us wear leather vests, some of us don’t. But our love for being on two wheels unites us.
What the non-riders, who look quizzically at us, do not understand is the brotherhood nearly all bikers share with each other. While we are not all members of a motorcycle club (M/C), we are all members of the same club. That member of a 1% motorcycle club, riding along a highway on his stripped down bobber, will pull over to help a fellow rider on a BMW adventure bike. He will not leave him/her stranded. That’s the way bikers act.
Yours truly can go into any biker bar, anywhere in the country, walk up to another biker, shake hands, embrace in a man-hug, slap him on the back and enjoy a beer with him. Even though we have never met before, we know each other. We may well come from different socio-economic backgrounds, but the differences between us don’t push us into different corners of the same room. Instead, we will belly-up to the same bar, swap stories from the road, talk about our children and grandchildren, customizations we have done to our bikes, where we rode the previous weekend and where we plan to ride next weekend. We may swap phone numbers so we can enjoy a future ride together. The chance encounter may well lead to a long-lasting friendship. But even if it doesn’t, every time we see each other while out riding, we will call each other brothers.
First Impressions Can be Deceiving
This Grey Beard, bald headed, tattooed biker cannot easily be defined by someone making a cursory glance at his exterior. He doesn’t dress the way he does to make an impression – or to be someone he is not. A stranger may well think I am a construction worker who toils all day in the sun and associates with “less than desirable” people by night. And while their “less desirable” people may well be who I choose to hang out with, I am not a construction worker.
What a quick cursory glance at me cannot tell an outsider is that like many other bikers, I am a business professional. I have been in the software industry for nearly 30 years. Since the mid-1990s I have flown all over North America for work. During this time, I have logged nearly 3 million miles on American Airlines and another 1 million on Delta Airlines. I cover my tattoos with a long-sleeved dress shirt, put on a suit and tie, go into a boardroom and present complex business solutions to a group of executives who inevitably have no idea what my true passion is: riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles and hanging out with my brothers and sisters. But your Grey Beard Biker is not unlike other bikers. His fellow bikers come from a wide variety of professions: lawyers, media executives, business owners, firefighters, cops, bankers, teachers, company presidents, soldiers, farmers, truck drivers, builders, bar owners, mechanics and yes – construction workers. But at the end of the day, what defines us is not our profession, but rather our brotherhood.
Bringing Together Different People
Without my love of riding, there are a lot of people I would never have come to know. This reminds me of a time, in July 2017, when your Grey Beard Biker was coming back from a ride along Lake Superior, the north woods and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I was on my last couple days of a 10-day vacation, and had taken the high speed ferry across Lake Michigan. No trip to Milwaukee is complete without a stop at the Harley-Davidson Museum, so I made a quick stop there, before I headed back to Tennessee the next day. After going through the museum, we decided to grab lunch at the on-site restaurant. Sitting at the bar, enjoying a barley-pop, I noticed a fellow rider next to us with Night Stalker patches on his vest. Being that we live in Clarksville, the home of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (S.O.A.R./Night Stalkers) we struck up a conversation with Bulldog. It turns out that Bulldog knew our next door neighbor, Monk, and had served with him. We swapped numbers with Bulldog and added each other on Facebook. This has turned into a truly wonderful friendship – brotherhood. Coincidental timing and our mutual love of riding brought us together.
This past April, somewhat at Bulldog’s urging, but in truth because I wanted to see Bulldog again, I scheduled a weeklong vacation to ride the Twisted Sisters in the Hill Country of Texas – Bulldog’s stomping grounds. All told, eight bikes and nine riders left Clarksville and made the journey to Kerrville, Texas – our home base for riding the Hill Country.
One of the riders on our trip had been a long time friend of Grey Beard on Facebook. We had only met a couple times in person – and to say our political views were not aligned would be a major understatement. I am sure my unnamed friend was a little apprehensive about riding with a group of bikers for a week, with very divergent views. All of us, enjoyed our time together and while we did talk politics, there was a mutual respect for each other’s views and beliefs. I later read that my unnamed friend expressed a bit of anxiety about the ride – but that he believed stepping outside his comfort zone would be good. I am sure he would agree that it was a great experience and he would do it all over again. This is what brotherhood is all about!
I will share one more coincidental meeting we had on this trip. The day after arriving in Kerrville, Bulldog had arranged a meeting with a fellow Night Stalker who was going to ride with us that week. Sam, as a retired Night Stalker, also knew my next door neighbor and served at Fort Campbell. We struck up a conversation at a biker bar the first day and it turns out that he lives 25 miles west of us and had made the same journey to Texas we did. We traveled over 1,000 miles for a coincidental meeting and live in adjacent counties! Two more bikers had just become brothers and friends. All of this, would never have happened without a mutual love for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Grey Beard Biker has many brothers and sisters. He has met them during journeys all around the United States. These friendships will be enduring and will cause us to ride far and wide for “brotherhood reunions” – where we will meet new brothers and sisters. So I urge all people who look apprehensively at us bikers to do so with an open mind. We would inevitably help you out of a bind, we are perhaps the most generous single group of people with regards to charitable causes and when we are dressed in our business suits we are a lot more like you, than you would ever imagine – less, of course, the brotherhood.
#NightStalkers #Brotherhood #NSNQ