Ticket to Ride

Photo courtesy of Mark Derkin, 2008

Photo courtesy of Mark Derkin, 2008

I didn’t really know my dad as a motorcyclist.

Sure, hisĀ  cross-country trip – you know, the one that I’m attempting to replicate and remix – was a ride from Toledo to LA for the purpose of attending my wedding, but his fascination with bikes both predated me AND took place largely after I left home.

He rode quite a bit in the 1970s, he always told me. He was particularly find of telling me about his 1955 Indian, to which he strapped a movie camera and set off across the country in who knows what year. But by the time I came along in 1976, he had two kids and two more to come, so riding was off the table for the time being.

His self-imposed riding moratorium was interrupted, briefly, when he bought a 1970s-era Yamaha 750 at an auction in the late 1980s, but that experiment ended abruptly when a friend of the family burned her leg on the exhaust pipe. Into storage the bike went, and it rests there to this day. In fact, one of my dad’s stated goals was to fix it up with me, but like so many other things, we never really got around to it.

Fast-forward, then, to 2008 – I was living in California and about to be married, and my dad was turning 60; coincidentally, these events were scheduled to take place within two weeks of each other. So what did my dad, the erstwhile cycle enthusiast do? He bought his 2008 Honda VTX1300 and, within two weeks, was at our doorstep in Ojai, having just trekked cross-country by himself.

He proceeded, of course, to ride home that summer and to enjoy riding for the rest of his life.

I got my motorcycle license in December of 2011 after taking California’s Motorcycle Safety Course – sadly, though, we were never together and ready to ride, when he was well enough, to go out together.

In many ways, then, this project is another way to get to know my dad, even if it is posthumously. Riding was something he enjoyed but kept largely to himself. He shared almost every other aspect of his life, both struggle and triumph, with me and the rest of his family, but riding was personal. It was a romanticized pursuit that he liked to call “wind therapy” – in fact, one of his last text messages to me mentioned riding from Toledo to Ann Arbor for an appointment to learn about a clinical trial to treat his multiple myeloma.

He passed away less than two months later. As it turned out, modern medicine couldn’t extend his life beyond the average life expectancy of his disease. But riding – well, maybe riding extended his life in a way that can’t be measured in months or years.

I’m pretty sure that, if he were here, he would say it did.




One Response to Ticket to Ride

  1. Erin says:

    Hey Blue – This is going to sound weird, but in a way, I feel privileged to learn of your father’s death through this beautiful journal. I’m really proud of you right now.

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