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Learning life’s lessons

By Bill Hayes

We’ll See the World from My Harley:
Motorcycle Adventures and Human Relations

Dennis Miner

Outskirts Press, Inc., $12.95, 153 pp.

“So what are the most important of life’s lessons that I have definitely learned so far? Somewhere along the way I was told these things but I had to experience them for myself to really learn them.” —Dennis Miner.

It appears that biker-oriented print media is taking a bit of an optimistic upturn—a “kinder, gentler,” more laid-back approach to examinations of the various ins and outs of this lifestyle.

While TV still has us running guns, diving into drugs and engaging in casual wholesale homicide, the last few books I’ve read have been downright pleasant, comfortable, fun, like a relaxing beer-after-beer conversation with a brother at a table in a calm, well-worn bar.

We’ll See the World from My Harley: Motorcycle Adventures and Human Relations, the newest book by Dennis Miner, is that kind of easy “conversation.” The book’s title is a twist on the lyrics from the slightly obscure but classic 1972 tune, “Motorcycle Mama,” by a one-hit-wonder group named Sail­cat. (“We’ll see the world through my Harley… if the chain don’t break.”) The lightheartedness of the song carries its tone into the book.

Dennis Miner is for all intents and purposes a regular guy who developed a love for motorcycles and riding, a “country boy” who grew up in the Northern California town of Willits, the “gateway to the redwoods.” But he’s a regular guy who has a perception of life that isn’t particularly regular. I’ve always told new riders that they won’t have been a part of this lifestyle for even 10 minutes before they’ll begin to have “experiences and adventures.” It’s how you can translate those experiences and adventures into stories that separates the sages from the simple repeaters of anecdotes.

Dennis Miner proves to be very much a sage in this book. And he goes beyond just some entertaining yarns. He uses his experiences as launch pads for learning. Every adventure has a moral. Each episode has a beneficial bottom line.

But the lighthearted moments are some of the best. At the very start of the book, Dennis describes how, while riding, he is totally absorbed in thoughts about this book project. He perfectly projects the wild mental gymnastics that only bikers know; the cerebral revolving door that occurs when the objective, survival part of the brain works in beautiful unity with the side that is engaged in those happy, imaginative flights that make the miles go by easier:

“For the front cover I need a picture that goes with the title… Still stuck behind that truck, better stay in the right-hand lane a while longer… I need to get a picture of being on the bike, not standing next to it… Now I have another truck coming up behind us, and he’s gaining on me…”

What Dennis does is roll through life, absorb it, learn from it, and relate it to us through the eyes of a biker. We “talk” about the first bike he ever had, the first one he ever wrecked, the death of his best friend, the first job he ever had, the first one he ever got fired from (and why). We travel with him to some of the major events (I really appreciated his more-than-cynical comments about the beleaguered Four Corners Rally in the Durango area). We meet some of Dennis’ accident-prone and not-so-bright buddies and we get a couple of speeding tickets in the same day.

But through it all there is that homespun, tavern-table feel of a conversation rather than a literary work, and nowhere is that feeling stronger than in the chapter called “Balls & Fouls: a biker’s view of Internet dating.”

“After each of the Internet dating road trips, I’d find myself at the bar tellin’ the story to my friends over a pitcher of beer.”

For good reason. The stories are hilarious.

When he jumped into the Internet dating thing, Dennis was pretty straightforward and simple:

“When I signed up… I didn’t waste time figuring out the 64 levels of compatibility, as far as I was concerned, if they were willing to go on a motorcycle jaunt into the mountains with me then we were compatible.”

Dennis uses a cute identifying device that a friend of mine also uses to a highly sophisticated level: He applies appearance and personality-based nicknames to all those he comes in contact with. Particularly those of the opposite sex. Particularly those he has a relationship with. And in this case, those in particular who have emerged from the cyber-depths of the Internet dating world. We meet such lovelies as “Maid Service,” “Cajun Lady” and “Goddess of Doom.” We share their bike rides, their bedrooms and their bloopers.

Miner wraps up We’ll See the World from My Harley with a more serious and poignant slant, however. We survive “two strikes” with him—two nearly fatal bike wrecks. And we see the father’s heart that Dennis has as he expresses his love for his son and the domestic issues that have unfortunately hit so many of us between the eyes as we learn those lessons that life fires at us.

“It has been said by many mothers that motorcycles are the favored transportation on the Highway to Hell. Now I really don’t think that’s true, but then again, what do I know, I’ve been wrong before and I surely don’t know everything.”

Maybe so, Dennis, but you do know how to observe life, learn from it and entertain with it—and maybe just teach us a thing or two along the way.

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