It was bound to happen, and it did. Riding down some forgotten two lane blacktop in south Nebraska, I came up on a fellow Harley rider broke down.
Barfly was his name, and like me, he’d been riding for the better part of his life. He’d gone a lot of different ways than me – he actually used his college degree and owned a successful accounting firm in eastern Oklahoma. He’s a belt-and-suspenders type of guy and actually had everything he needed to make the fix on his bike except for one thing…
A 7 millimeter socket.
At some point since his 1999 had left Milwaukee, some poor soul had changed out a fuel line with some box-store hose clamp… with no screw slot and, of all things, metric. Guess which line ruptured on Barfly’s three day ride?
Yep. Guess what part he didn’t pack?
Yep. And it wasn’t for a lack of trying – Barfly had a full set of SAE stuff crammed down in his saddlebags. He had wire, tape, zip ties, even an extra plug and plug wires. Screwdrivers, Torx heads, Allen heads, you name it. Hell, he even had an extra coil.
Just no socket that fit this silly little hose clamp with slightly rounded edges.
We dug around in my kit for about three minutes, came up with the socket that we needed, and had his motor running fine in all of ten minutes. He decided that a hose clamp that fit his bike was smarter than one that didn’t fit his tools, so I swapped him one of mine in 3/8 inch.
Let me tell you, he was so well prepared, he even had a little GoJo to clean his hands and a clean towel to wipe them off.
We set there for a few minutes after the fix was in, smoking lunch and shooting the bull, and I’d told him all about Sturgis last week and my crazy idea of riding from South Georgia to South Dakota and back and he thought that was a dandy idea. He’s actually clocked nearly 8,000 miles this year and is somewhere over 200,000 for life and was as staunchly independent of a rider as I’ve ever met. No desire to ride with a club, no desire to be the tailgunner on a run.
He just wanted to get out of the office on Friday and ride any weekend he could. No wife, kids grown up and gone to West Texas and Utah, and until hunting season started in a few months, nothing else he’d rather do.
God bless him.
We exchanged phone numbers on that lonely stretch of state highway, knowing that more than likely, we’d never meet again, but for a few minutes, we were friends.
That’s what riding is all about. Some version of that exchange of help and friendship has gone on as long as men have traveled – whether they were traders on the Silk Road, sailors in the Atlantic, cowboys in the Old West, or old bikers on a two lane blacktop.
And that is what makes it so cool – that connection.
It’s hard to quantify that in today’s overconnected age – too many think only in terms of social media posts and online connections. In the end, riding comes down to a quiet society of guys that love to raise a little Hell but, deep down, they would give you the shirt off your back if you needed it.
Or a 7 millimeter socket.