It couldn’t be said that he was a big man. As a matter of fact, I guessed him to be less than 5′ tall, but I’ve heard you shrink some as you age. Maybe the effects of cancer and the treatments had something to do with his current stature, too. As he sat straight and sure from astride his pearl white Can-Am, though, you would have thought him to be 6 feet tall. And judging by his fixed gaze and proud smile, you knew Bill was feeling bulletproof. He turned the key and pushed assorted buttons to show off the various features like heated grips and seat, and showed how the windshield could be raised and lowered before he hopped down from his beast and started displaying all the storage options hidden within the body of the unit.
Riding for 63 years, Bill has worked for various Honda dealerships, spent a year in Vietnam, and has traveled the states. He lusted after the H-D Sportster since he was a kid, but he was a go-fast kinda guy and felt a Harley wasn’t really right for him until he finally got a wild hair a few years back and drove from his home in Peoria, Arizona, to Barnett’s H-D in El Paso. Known as the biggest dealership in the states, it was the only shop he could find that had the model and color bike he wanted at the time so he made the 450-mile trip early one morning. He chuckled as he told how he drove up with a trailer and told them to load it up. He never even test rode it, just turned around and high-tailed it back home with his treasure in tow. He loves that bike, but he recently dropped it outside his doc’s office and couldn’t right it without help. The resulting leg wound caused his wife to throw such a fit he promised he wouldn’t ride it again. It’s for sale now, along with the 2006 Royal Enfield, which he also loves. He has a couple of other bikes, one stashed at his son’s place, and he’s looking to dispose of them all since he figures it’s OK, the trade off of the newly acquired Can-Am Spyder is worth them all. The reclaimed freedom of the road that he was worried he’d lost has given him a whole new lease on life and he can’t wipe the huge grin off his face. Trips to Florida to visit family are already in the works, and his wife has been busily shopping and strategizing packing space.
“I’ve been doing Rio Doso for 17 years. Haven’t missed a year,” he beams. “Used to stay at a hotel that was $108, which was pretty spendy at the time, especially for that part of town and for the fact that I didn’t even like the room, so I went out and found another place and now that ol’ gal, Emma is her name, I think, she calls me up every year and asks me, ‘OK Bill, what are we doing this year?’ And I just tell her yep; I’ll be there. And I will, but I was pretty worried about it this year. Wasn’t sure I could do it. It’s a good event, way up in the mountains and they have great entertainment, a really good stand-up comedian, a world champion yodeler and fiddle player. I buy their tapes, not because they’re good quality videos, but because they’re really not, but just because they sound good and sometimes I just want to listen to them. They remind me of the nice times I’ve been having up there for years. It’s such a beautiful place, good people.”
His wife stopped riding with him awhile back due to concerns that she’d throw him off balance as he grew weaker, a non-issue now with the three-wheeler, so she’s planning to make the New Mexico trip with him this fall. As he continues to show off the accouterments of the dream machine, he mentions the trailer he plans to purchase to tow behind them as they set out to see America like they did when they were young.
“You have no idea how much space you need when you’re dragging a woman around with you. She has a ton of clothes and needs a bunch of crap.” He just shakes his head. She lets fly a school-girl giggle and pats her hair as she bats her eyes and purrs “Oh Billy…” She still believes in the man who set her world on fire all those years ago. Even at 78 years old, he can spark the love light in his woman’s eyes and she’s happy to cling to him from the passenger pad as he picks a new direction for the next phase of their life along the back roads.