Some of you who have been reading this paper for several years
may remember a piece I wrote about my trip to Sturgis in 2000. Basically, I told how I had always had a fantasy about riding a bike to Sturgis – even though I had never ridden a bike. I went through the bike riding course at North Harris Junior College, bought a little Suzuki 800 Maurader, and after a few months to “master” my skills; I took off to Sturgis – alone, at age seventy eight. I made the trip fine, however, after I had been there for only a few days, I received word that my wife of 56 years had suddenly and completely unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack. Luckily I was staying at a really nice camp ground (No Name City), and the other campers and the owner of the campground took me under their wings and saw that I got back home with a minimum of confusion. Someone packed up my tent and shipped it to me; the owner of the campground arranged for my flight back home, and someone rode my bike back to Texas.
Well, this year I decided I would try it again. Since it took me five days to ride up there before, I decided to pull the bike this time and bought a little trailer – which I soon found out that my skills at backing a trailer were no better than my skills at riding a bike. I fixed that by adding a sign on the back of the trailer that pretty well explained everything. When I was practicing with the trailer (before the sign), all the truckers gave me the fist and the finger. After I added the sign, they all waved and gave me thumbs up.
You may also remember that I am retired from the military – just a plain old “get in line” Sergeant, who never did anything outstanding or heroic – but just happened to be there while three wars took place. Since there is an Air Force Base at Rapid City, SD., which is not too far from Sturgis, I decided I might try to get some better sleeping arrangements this time. So I wrote to the Air Base and sent them a copy of my retirement orders, and asked if they could find a place for me to sleep for a week while the rally was taking place.
Evidently there aren’t too many old 80 year old Veterans of three wars that are riding around on motorcycles anymore, and they jumped right on this. I received a call from the “Protocol Officer”, who said they would have a place for me and they had several activities planned for me. When I got there, they put me up in a suite that had a living room, bed room, frig stocked with beer, candy bars, soft drinks, etc., a large TV, a large bedroom, a nice bathroom, and a walk-in closet (I only had a small zipper bag). I had barely started unpacking and someone on the phone wanted to know if my accommodations were satisfactory. (Get this – I was sleeping in a 40 man, open bay, barracks when I retired – on a cot.)
The next morning an Officer came by and said if I would go with him, they wanted to get my picture standing by the B-1 Bomber that dropped the first bomb on Iraq (you remember the house they blew all to hell). Sure enough, they took me to the flight line, inspected my bike from top to bottom (even looked in the treads on the tires), and then took my picture. I was just about to get on my way to Sturgis and this same Office said there was going to be a parade of 200 bikes with a police escort take a 70 mile ride through the Black Hills and end up at the traveling Vietnam Wall which had been brought to Sturgis; and the Base Commander would like for me to ride at the front of the group with him.
By this time, I was beginning to feel like they had me mixed up with someone else, but what the hell, I was enjoying it. Sure enough, we went on this ride through the mountains and ended up in Sturgis. They had a little ceremony and then the Mayor of Sturgis got up on a little stage, and he recognized several of the military people for some things they had done. And then he said, “And we have with us today, a man who has served his country through three wars, is 80 years old, and rode his bike all the way to Sturgis to be here with us today”.
(I didn’t correct him about me trailering the bike.) They gave me a nice little certificate and a T-shirt.
All of this for an old Veteran who had never done anything more notable than to have sex with a midget one time in New Caladonia. So all you old Veterans – keep the faith, your 15 minutes of fame may come yet.
* Published in the November 2003 issue of Skunk Dots Biker News
Editor’s Comment: As I read this story from Julius, I was really touched. And so nobody gets left out - this particular story has been published in LARGER print – especially for all you “Old Vets” that Marine Captain O.L. Mitchell (retired) tells me about after his weekly visits to the V.A. Hospital in Houston. ~Skunk