Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Well, by the time you read this, our court date with the quack that put Reggie in a wheelchair and on a trike will be over, an’ I’ve learned a lot about how people who don’t ride look at those who do. I think they underestimate the pain, the trials and the misery we sometimes have to endure to do what we love. It’s like tryin’ to explain to a couch potato why an Olympic athlete trains so hard. Yeah, it causes Reggie pain to ride; sometimes to the point of tears, but to her, those short miles and minutes of freedom an’ enjoyment are worth the hours of torment she has to go through when they’re over. It’s a small taste of the life she had before.
People see all the television specials about motorcycle gangs, like the drivel I watched on the History Channel last week, and they think it applies to all of us. Yeah, there is a violent element out there, and always has been. There’s also a violent element in most areas of life, like actors, musicians, and even cops, both on duty and off. Does it mean they’re all bad? Hell no! It’s just human nature. Believe me, bad doctors kill and maim more people than bad bikers ever thought of, and with far less regard for their victims, but not all doctors are bad, either.
Reggie has been looking for kindred spirits to share the trials and triumphs of her new way of riding, and through the ’net, she has found an organization called The Life Rolls On Foundation, who do understand what she goes through, because they also ride heavily modified motorcycles and have varying degrees of disability, including being paraplegics. They ride because their disabilities have stolen their freedom to do so many things, but not the passion to do the few things left that they can do, despite the pain and exhaustion it causes them. I salute them, one and all, for the Herculean efforts it takes them to do what they do on a daily basis in addition to riding.
I used to see people in wheelchairs and think how sad it was, but never gave a thought to what it takes for them to do the mundane tasks that we take for granted. Have you ever flown and used the little cramped toilet on the plane? Think about how hard that would be for someone in a wheelchair! A trip to Hawaii? No way for Reggie unless we take the “Big Boat.” Hell, just taking a shower is a long, exhausting process.
The Dana Reeves Foundation (she’s the widow of actor Christopher Reeve) recently had Orange County Choppers build a wheelchair-accessible trike to show the public and to inspire riders who think they will never ride again. It demonstrated for handicapped people in general, and riders in particular, that as Bob Dylan once said, “Oh the times, they are a changin’.”
Reggie’s situation didn’t require quite as extensive a list of modifications as some because she still has the use of one leg, but pain issues do keep her from riding as much as she’d like to, and we hope to find someone with the knowledge and skill to eventually help with that aspect. Stem cell research probably won’t bring about a cure in our lifetime, but it may be a lifesaver for the next generation. I’ll probably catch some flack for that statement, but so be it. Walk a mile in my shoes, and all that.
I’ve seen a lot of contraptions; everything from sidecars where you can lock down a wheelchair, and steer, brake and shift with hand controls run by rods and bellcranks, to slightly modified 2-wheelers with “training wheels,” and all of them are a testament to someone’s will to keep doing what they love. A whole new industry is taking shape around this brave and determined group, and Harley-Davidson is joining in the stampede to build factory trikes, first through their partnership with Lehman, and now on their own. One of the pioneers is Champion; the kit I used when I built Reggie’s trike two years ago. There are a lot of companies like the folks at Freedom Rides in Lincoln, California, who we met at Arlen’s show in San Mateo last year, that will customize your ride to you, and Frankenstein Trikes, that sell innovative stuff to do it yourself. I know there are a lot of others out there that I failed to mention, and they’re located all across the country. Just go on the ’net and have a look around. They may get ya down, but don’t let ’em keep ya there!