Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! I was just reminiscin’ about the “good ol’ days” while I was floatin’ around in Reggie’s swimmin’ pool; an icy Corona in one hand an’ my grandkids’ inflatable swimmies pulled as far up my arms as they’d go. Yeah, I swim like a bowlin’ ball, but with the weather still over 100 degrees here in Madtown, ya gotta cool off after a ride. Anyway, back to the good ol’ days. When I was a kid, I used ta head for the neighborhood public pool to cool off in the summer, an’ only a few of the well-to-do neighbors had their own pools. Unfortunately, they also had big, unfriendly dogs, but that’s another story. Now we can take an oversized plastic tub, set it up in an afternoon, pump 16,000 gallons of water into it an’ be swimmin’ in less than a day. Now that’s better than the “good ol’ days!”
I was wanderin’ around the mall the other day, waitin’ for Reggie, an’ a group of high school girls strolled by, gigglin’ and prancin’, an’ it suddenly occurred to me that back in the “good ol’ days,” girls didn’t look like that. Sure, there were cute ones for the football players, but except for us bad-boy types, the non-jocks were usually stuck with the not-so-cute ones. Now, they all seem to look like models for Seventeen magazine. An’ speakin’ of motorcycles (Oh, I wasn’t? Well… uh… I am now), back in the “good ol’ days,” motorcycles were, quite frankly, a pain in the ass. First, ya had to kick start ’em. If your sled was tuned to perfection this could be accomplished in a kick or two, but many’s the time I kicked myself into exhaustion in the school parkin’ lot, the local burger joint or anywhere else I was brave enough (or dumb enough) to shut the engine off. For a while, I had an old ’56 AJS 500cc single that kicked my young ass into low orbit on a regular basis. If ya didn’t start your stroke with the kicker in just the right position, it would kick back hard enough to break your leg if ya didn’t have it slightly bent. If ya did have it slightly bent, it’d settle for just puttin’ your knee into your chin. One of the best of my “good ol’ days” was when that temperamental old Limey went to live with somebody else.
Anyone who hasn’t been ridin’ very long just can’t fully appreciate a bike that starts with a button—first time, every time—and doesn’t leave ya stranded on the side of a country road in a rainstorm. At the time, there seemed to be no cure for wet points, so we watched real close for any lingerin’ clouds before we left on a ride. An’ how many riders still carry a plug wrench an’ a book of matches to dry out gas-fouled plugs because the “tickler” on your Amal carbs stuck an’ flooded the motor? Not many, I’d venture to guess. Lookin’ back, the “good ol’ days” weren’t all they’re cracked up to be…
I just started on a new chopper build, an I’ve been collectin’ parts for a while. Back in the “good ol’ days,” about the only source for aftermarket parts was the Jammer’s Handbook. Now, with the Internet, we have the whole world at our fingertips. Not only do all the major aftermarket companies have websites, but there’s also eBay, Craigslist, and far more sources than you can shake a stick at. Back in the day, I used to make my own custom parts because there was no other way to get ’em. Now, I make a lot of my own parts because I enjoy doin’ it. It takes me back to when we had nothin’ but a cracker box arc welder, a hammer an’ a cuttin’ torch (commonly called a blue-tipped hot wrench), an’ we made creative parts out of whatever was layin’ around. Sure, I could just order fender struts, oil tanks an’ everythin’ I need off the Internet, but they wouldn’t be custom, now would they? I just spent all day whippin’ up a one-off set of fender struts that nobody else has, just like we used to do it back in the day. Since I’m an old, retired guy, I can take all the time I want to get all my fabrication just the way I want it. When somebody asks, “Where did you get those?” it feels good to be able to say, “I made ’em!”
Before I finished this column I got some really bad news. A longtime friend, Ray Arena, was killed by a drunk driver in Arizona on his way home from a ride to Colorado. I can say “he was doing what he loved,” and he was, but that doesn’t lessen my rage toward the drunk cager who ran him down. Ray was a proud member of Soldiers for Jesus, and was heavily involved in Renaissance fairs. He leaves behind Audrey Rawlings Arena, his wife of 30 years and a wonderful lady. Reggie and I want to send our sincere condolences to Audrey, Ray’s family and to his brothers in Soldiers for Jesus. Ray touched a lot of lives, and will truly be missed by those lucky enough to know him. R.I.P., Brother. (Ridin’ in Paradise.)