Gary H.’s Harley Story

My mother and father and my cousin’s mother and father were brothers and sisters which made us double cousins. We were born 15 hours apart in the same hospital, the same hospital room and by the same doctor. That’s about as close to being brothers as you can get without actually being brothers. We celebrated almost every birthday together alternating between his house and my house. We started riding mini bikes and motorcycles when we were 12. Every couple of years we graduated to bigger bikes. We started out with Honda’s and Yamahas on gravel roads and gravel pits. We lived in Iowa so our riding time was limited to the warm months. We both wanted Harley’s so bad we could taste it!! I’d write all over my notebooks in school “Sportster”, Harley-Davidson, and draw choppers the best I could. The weekend we turned 18, in 1974, we both ordered new Sportsters. It wasn’t just any ordinary day… it was the day we had been waiting for our whole lives. Mine was blue and his was black. We both lived on farms so when the bikes came in I used my dad’s pickup to get mine and he used his dad’s truck to get his. Since it was in the dead of winter we couldn’t ride them home. We also had 8” over tubes installed on them. We were so excited we could hardly contain it. As a side note, when I went to my girlfriend’s house that night and told her about picking up the bikes… her response was “Oh”. I had been going steady with her for over a year but within 10 minutes I had my ring back and ended it! That bike was my dream and I didn’t need her lack of enthusiasm in my life.

We rode those Sporty’s everywhere. We were always together just as we grew up. We made the next step up to Super Glides then and we had those for several years. We went with 6” over tubes on those, had mag wheels on them, and a couple of different custom paint jobs. Those bikes went to Sturgis, and all over the place. As we got older and were married, the bikes took a back seat to raising kids and having careers. I ended up selling mine but he kept his and years later traded it for an old stock Panhead. He bought a couple more collector bikes of which one was a 1969 stock Electra Glide. In 2003, I bought a new Wide Glide and he bought a new Heritage Softtail. And riding together started again. Not as often, but we cherished every mile we rode. I liked his Heritage so much I bought one the following year. As the next few years went by we rode when we could and loved every minute of it. We thought of each other as brothers always had and always would. A couple of years later I moved up to an Ultra Classic but he stuck with his Heritage. Then he purchased a 1949 Indian that had been restored. He really enjoyed that bike. It seemed like he was tinkering with it all the time. Every time we rode together though he was on his Heritage and I was on my Ultra. One night in August of 2009, he was wrenching on the Indian, then taking it for a test ride, then more wrenching and more test rides. I received a phone call the next morning saying that he had died the night before when his bike went into a ditch and he had been thrown off striking a utility pole. I was in shock. This couldn’t have happened. We’d been riding bikes for over 40 years and there wasn’t any scenario that we hadn’t been through on a motorcycle. Hill climbing, ditch jumping, we had done it all. But… it did happen and he was gone. I searched the accident scene looking for some type of evidence that could tell me why…..but nothing. We gathered about 10 friends with bikes and rode to the funeral. We led the procession to the cemetery. I cried like a baby saying goodbye. Earlier in this story, I mentioned that he had that 1969 Electra Glide. I had tried many times to buy that from him but he wouldn’t sell it. A year after he passed, his wife gave me that bike. I am so honored to own it. I don’t ride it much….most of the time I just stare at and think of him.

Gary H.

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