It had been a long day of beautiful riding through California twisties as I made my way to a backwoods party with a variety of clubs and independents. It was evening before I pulled into camp, kicked Bear over onto his side stand and was shaking off the road dust when a longtime acquaintance came up and gave me a hug. “I heard you were full-time now,” he nodded towards the Bear. “I wanted to come see your rig.” We hadn’t seen each other for quite a while, but as the president of a three-piece, 1% motorcycle club, he knew a thing or two about living on the road and I was looking forward to swapping notes. “It looks good. You got it outfitted pretty good, too?” he asked. Instantly I knew there was a test in my immediate future as he began inching around the aging Heritage with gear strapped to every hard surface, inspecting my handiwork. “Yeah, I think so. Everything I need is with me.” His eyes narrowed and I knew the challenge was about to begin.
“Ya got your computer in there too, then?” I nodded. He shook his head in amazement. “Your tire’s pretty slick there, lady. That ain’t cool.” I acknowledged that he was right and told him about sliding through the rainy Utah canyons on my way out, but explained that I was waiting for some cash to drift my way and new rubber was first on the list of purchases once it did. “You got tools?” Again, I nodded, but explained it was a very basic kit. Enough to get simple stuff handled, but nothing in depth. “You don’t have a blow dryer or any of that girlie crap in there, do ya?” he asked disgustedly. Shook my head, laughing. “What about a sewing kit?” With this, I smiled. “Yessir, I do. Just like my tool kit, it’s pretty basic, but I can stitch up enough to make me socially acceptable if I have to,” and this is where he put his nose up in the air and stood tall. “Bet it ain’t like mine. I got a good one… all kinds of different needles, some curved, kinda like hooks and all stainless steel. Good thread, too. With my lifestyle, I gotta have ’em. One of our guys gets shot, I can’t just take him to a hospital. We gotta take care of our own, so I gotta be able to stitch ’em up.”
Instantly the term “sewing kit” took a turn in a direction I hadn’t really considered before and I looked at my friend in a new light. Here I was, discussing the inconsequential concerns of a wardrobe malfunction and he was describing the tools and skills needed to save a club brother’s life. Looking into his eyes I saw a different side of the man standing next to me. I’d always known him as a father and a husband, a biker and a friend and, yes, I had always respected him as the president of his club and knew generally of the responsibilities that came with the position, but to imagine him as a roadside surgeon tending to his members after a shootout was just not a scene I had visualized before. Leaning on my bike and chatting about mileage and engine woes while discussing the differences between my wayward, laid-back lifestyle and the reality of his serious, outlaw world was a juxtaposition that boggled my mind and intensified my already huge respect for the senior rider.
Since that time, we still see each other a few times a year and he always comes out to look at my bike, ask where I’ve been lately and get caught up on each other’s lives. I’ve gotten a new bike since those days so he wants to know how many miles I’ve racked up and what issues I’ve had with the engine. The last time I saw him he told me his old bike is still trying to kill him, an ongoing issue for the last several years, but they’ve struck a peace accord of sorts. He promised to stop abusing the old girl and replace some parts now and then if she’ll stop throwing him off in the dirt. He wasn’t limping as bad this time, so it seems to be working out. I forgot to ask if he’s had to break out the sewing kit lately, though.