Contrarian Bastard: Reg Kittrelle

Old Dogs Drool

The last time I regularly appeared on these pages you were headed WFO through your 30s and 40s. But that was almost 20 years ago. Those 30s and 40s have become 50s and 60s, and WFO has gone from ‘Wide Fucking Open!’ to ‘We’re Freaking Out!’ due to our advancing age.

Well, we’re not alone. According to a recently released Motorcycle Industry Council report, the median age for U.S. motorcycle riders — as of 2018 — is 50. This is up three years from 2014, and five years greater than in 2012. Additionally, the largest segment of riders — at about 39 percent — are those of us over 50.

Feel better now? Well, probably not, so let’s take a closer look at what being an “old” rider really means.

Right, wrong or otherwise, 50 has become one of life’s course markers. Make it to this age and —according to experts (ha!) such as Hallmark— you are old, meaning that you get flooded with ‘Over The Hill’ cards, AARP assaults your mailbox and store clerks calling you ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am.’ Maybe the biggest issue I have with “old” is that it’s mostly used in the pejorative, synonymous with ‘obsolete,’ and we too often buy into it. Hey, some new social media quiz says we’re ‘old,’ so I guess we need to start acting like it.

What a load of crap.

At 11 dog years I easily fit into the ‘old’ mold, but it’s not the obsolete, over-the-hill category. Rather, I prefer the experienced, worthy of respect, and the conqueror-of-many-hills grouping. Yes, I’ve all the ache-and-pain residuals that life has dealt but, oddly enough, I take a bit of pride in keeping those nuisances at bay by not giving into them … with a bit of help from Advil now and then. I certainly can’t compete with my younger self; booze gives me killer hangovers, I don’t bounce back as quickly from pulled muscles, and my hearing is …well… terrible. Yet I’m still here. I still ride. I still look forward to what I might find beyond the next turn. I am an old motorcycle rider, and I am proud of it.

If you’re wondering, it’s a Flathead Harley in a trike frame, an old meter maid bike I keep threatening to rebuild. It’s what old dogs do.

Old age is not unlike an old motorcycle in that it takes a bit more maintenance to keep moving forward. In this and future columns, I’m going to take a close look at what it means to be an older motorcycle rider, and how we can keep riding well into our 70s, and maybe even our 80s – which is my target. I’m not going to go all preachy and pedantic on you, I’ll just be discussing real-world stuff. Simple stuff, actually, but you might be surprised by how it can prepare you for an extended riding career.

A big part of this ‘maintenance’ has to do with your helmet-holder, that roundish thing that sits on your shoulders. Too often we let our age — not the way we feel, just the number — determine how we act and ride. When that age number starts beating us up, we think slower, walk slower and ride less assertively. Listen carefully to Toby Keith’s song Don’t Let The Old Man In and you’ll hear this bit of wisdom:

Ask yourself how old you’d be

If you didn’t know the day you were born

By the way, octogenarian Clint Eastwood was Keith’s inspiration for this song.

There’s not a set of rules telling us how we should act at our age… that’s one of its benefits. (Except there’s usually a spouse that’s sure to tell us when we’re making an ass of ourselves.) This gives us the freedom to make up, and live by, our own rules.

For me, the #1 Rule of old age is Quit Complaining. Nothing shouts ‘Shelf Life Expired’ louder than a couple of old farts having the ‘poor me’ conversation. Yes, I care about the health of my friends, but when geriatric bleating dominates, I’m gone. Rule of Thumb: Unless you have a kick-ass hero story to go along with it, I really don’t want to hear about your bad back, wonky knee or how poorly you sleep. Everyone — all of us — can complain about these and similar things.

My book, about to go into a second printing.

In fact, unless you’ve lived your life in a plastic bubble, it’s probably impossible to get old without a full menu of less-than-perfect parts. Really, though, no one cares all that much. Do you want to hear about the problem with my right shoulder? You don’t. So what makes you think anyone cares about your woes? Cut the complaining. It really does nothing more than reinforce the complaint, and screams, “I’m old, poor me!” It’s a bit like target fixation; focus on the negative and you’re sure to suffer its consequences.

Till next month, let me leave you with this:

Old age is not a disease or pitiful condition. It is a status we’ve attained, and if we’ve lived properly, it is worthy of respect.

If you’d care to explain to Kittrelle why his existence on this planet is no longer required, or any other pithy comments, you can email him directly at reg.kittrelle@comcast.net

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