I remember the day as if it was just yesterday; typically clear and a little cool, like it should be in early spring before the sun takes control of the day. Saturdays were full of activity in those wonderfully free and irresponsible times of my early teens, when my sister’s high school friends would come to our house to “hang out”. This particular Saturday was special because Jim McCartle was bringing over his new motorcycle and I was looking forward to maybe getting a ride on it. I made a habit of “bugging” the guys who rode scooters until they let me ride with them around the neighborhood so I could show off to my buddies.
It was June of 1958 and the “thing” then was Vespa Scooters, “bobby socks”, shoe string neck ties, “duck tail” haircuts and of course ROCK and ROLL! If you were lucky enough to be growing up in those great old days you’ll reminisce right along with me for just a moment. I had and Uncle Gene, that rode a Harley “full dresser” and I’d seen an Indian once, but it was rare to see the “really cool guys with the bobbers”! There was a guy a few blocks away that had a Curtis “belt-drive” leaning up against his house, he could never get it to run, and I tried to convince my step-dad to buy it for me but that never happened. Jimmy Dean was on the scene and the “bad boy” image was just starting to be popular; you know, with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis leading the way!
I was sitting on the porch watching, drinking in the wonders of youthful excitement and carefully studying the behavior of my high school mentors, so I could be “cool” someday too, when Jim drove up on his glistening silver and black Triumph Tiger Cub! The look, the sound, the mysteriously intoxicating smell of a new bike, all overwhelmed my innocent impressions as I watched (in awe) as everyone swarmed to touch it and listen as Jim revved the engine again and again! All day I danced and whined with excited anticipation as each one, girls first of course, got a ride around the block on Jim’s T-20!
Then it happened, it was finally going to be my turn when Jim said, “sorry man, I’m really tired……wanta ride it around by yourself?..........think you can handle’er?” I didn’t know what to say! I had NEVER really driven anything like that; even though I had imagined it a million times……”OH YEAH” I said…..”I can drive it”! So Jim showed me about the clutch and the gas, how to reach the brake and “just leave it in 1st gear this time” he said.
As I launched away from the curb (nearly removing the 600 pound chrome “continental kit” from Tom Raynie’s 53’ Merc convert) I dove like a swallow averting a head-on with a barn pole. I regained control and headed down the street at break-neck acceleration as the “Cub” sang with new found power. I think everyone was surprised that I had actually made it all the way around the block (3 times) when I came around the corner and stopped in front of the house, I was so excited I was crying, and there was something different about me; I was “hooked” on the exhilaration of “riding”!
I don’t think it is something explainable, at least in mere words, how flesh and bone becomes united with internal combustion, cold metal and acceleration, but it happens! It’s “dope” of a sort and it’s the thread that weaves together the lives of millions of people these days. We are a tapestry, held together by an indefinable force of nature that “drives” us toward our own horizons. It’s not just the bike or riding either, it goes deeper than that, to the spirit I think. There is “something unique and significant” about bikers that has nothing to do with clothing, haircuts (or the lack of), language (or the lack of), manners (or the lack of), attitude (or the lack of), make, model, color, style or size of the bike they ride; it dwells in a deep conviction or consciousness that defines the entire community. You might call it a creed or even a cult, maybe even a religion, to go out on a limb. At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, there is one thing that remains; “the biker’s code”.
It’s the identity of the secret, the code, and we see it everywhere today in the news and at the movies. There are fictional codes like DeVinci’s and literal codes like Military Justice; and it is the substance of every individual and their culture. It’s the nugget that drew me to the “culture of bikers” when I got home from the Viet Nam War.
“I lived by the code” and stood next to others who “died by the code” in Viet Nam, so when I got home in 67’ I sought out brothers and sisters who knew the code and held it close to their heart, and protected it; It seemed to us America had “lost it” so we held it high and took it to another level. We started building a culture whose transportation was unique, style was undeniable and reputation was aggressive. Somehow we took a wrong turn along the way, some of us, I admit I was one. I got wrapped up in that sub-culture that went “outlaw”, down the rough roads of addiction and hard partying, but I found the way out, through Jesus Christ, years ago. The code is still there though, it never left me and I never left it.
The code says this:
• NEVER leave a brother behind, NEVER. (that goes for the galls too)
• NEVER choose to regard an “outsider” over your brother (or sister).
• NEVER rip off, lie to or backstab your brother.
• DO everything and anything you can to help your brother out.
• DO the right thing, always.
• RESPECT your brother (and sister); the living and the dead.
• RESPECT your brother’s (and sister’s) right to be individuals.
• BE true to yourself, be true to your brother, and be true to the code.
Not everyone that rides knows the code and similarly some know the code but don’t respect it, so be careful who you trust. It’s nearly impossible to tell the “pretenders” from the real deal until “it” happens; you know what I mean, when you get left behind or someone rips you off in a bike deal that goes bad. Then there is the inevitable, the instantaneous incident when fate meets reality and you REALLY NEED some to help, but nobody steps up. You’ll know who’s honest about their convictions and true to the code; they’ll be there when you need them, and when you don’t. The thing is you might find the “real deal” doesn’t always look like what you think it should, while the pretender is everything you imagined would be the ideal example. Sorry, but real life is twisted! No one is “PERFECT” but while we are on this ride it always makes good sense to follow some one who consistently stays on the right course, if you get my drift.
There has been an explosion of interest in riding lately, so much so that it’s hard to keep up with all the changes. There are new bikes and new interests, different groups and clubs to think about, some have different codes they go by (or no code at all) and particular agendas they peddle for profit or recognition; you see their leadership compromising the ideals of their code or dividing over issues of integrity, so pay close attention. They come and they go, but if they are legitimate and genuine hard times will only make them stronger.
There is a great paradigm we share as Americans; it’s the assimilation of differing ideals and cultures into being united under one government. There’s the one code (America) which is built from another greater code, which formed the ideals of our government, Christian Freedom. So when I survey the values and standards set forth by the two codes, you know what, it‘s easy to see where the Biker’s Code got it’s formation! So I guess if I’m true to my self, one code is really all three!
Every day I see new riders but sadly, daily there are those we loose. The truth is that it’s DANGEROUS out there!
Ride safe, uphold the truth, learn the code and live it!
I loved this, Rev Rich! I am wondering... Is there a code that exists in the Church today? One similar to the biker's, one that maybe some have forgotten, ignored, compromised, and even refused? It seems to me that sometimes the ones whom I expect to be there for me when I need them are the very ones who disappear- and yet there are others who do not look the part but always seem to come through- Peace Brother!