A Memorial Day Ride to Remember

Memories of the Future

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Jack Lewis, Malia Alyssa Lewis

Most years, I do something for veterans on Memorial Day weekend. The federal holiday honors our nation’s war dead (still stacking up), but this year was for family. A man should keep his family close.

Mine isn’t, so I picked up a K1600GT road warbler from South Sound BMW in Fife, Washington, and headed south toward Daughtergirl’s house in Oregon.

Around Joint Base Lewis-McChord, I eased up next to a Harley-Davidson Road King Classic, new enough to sport a paper license plate from Destination H-D, just across the freeway from SSBMW. Other than launching from the same town at about the same time, we were motonomically polarized. Alongside the internetworkable GT, this heck-for-leather Harley looked like the surrey with the fringe on top (and saints preserve me from ever strapping silver conchos across my ass), but we had the weekend in common. Also new bikes and sunny roads—and his pair of vintage, polished Corcoran jump boots said Memorial Day meant as much to him as anybody.

At a claimed 703 lbs. ready to ride, the “GT and a half” qualifies as a Big Damn Bike, but it’s as light on its feet as Fred Berry in his prime. Packing a couple hundred pounds less Wing loading than Honda’s sixer, the GT will cut a two-up U-turn tighter and more confidently than most bikes will solo.

In white livery, it also packs the presence of a cop bike. I found this out when I eased up on a Suzuki V-Strom around Vancouver, checking out the LD appurtenances and its rider’s grizzled pink Aero-stich. He immediately slowed and moved right, then glanced carefully over and finally waved. At the next exit, Kermit the Lunatic Adventurer demanded answers I was unqualified to deliver: “How would the six do for slaying continents twice a week?”

“Too easy for you,” I told the only guy to officially finish an Iron Butt Rally on a Honda Silver Wing, “and it doesn’t carry enough fuel.”

“How much?”

“’Bout 6 gallons, is all.”

He grinned, but I only clocked 32 mpg on my first tank.

Skimming over the Columbia River in light traffic, with rain on my windshield and plenty of gas in the tank, I fizzed straight on through Portland, out the south end and down to Newberg to hand-deliver a Mother’s Day present (late, as usual; call it “the personal touch”) and some European licorices to my stepdad Paul. I’m steadily bribing him in the hopes that he’ll show me how to rebuild the tranny on my R69S, a real BMW. Seriously: six cylinders? That’s three whole motorcycles’ worth!

Sure makes the road easier, though.

Back to Portland, then, where Daughtergirl graciously moved to the sofa in deference to her old man’s old back. My kid is everything, and not just to me: Teamster, motorcyclist, student, activist, caretaker. Her walls are asplash with protest posters the way a toddler’s bed overflows with stuffed toys, but her friends seem kind and there is real laughter in that house. A father couldn’t ask for more.

Well, maybe one thing more. With four college women in a one-bath house, one wakes early or pees in the backyard, but what a feast they laid on that night! For someone’s birthday, skirt steak from the corner carniceria joined asparagus, pineapple, onions and yams on the grill, backstopped by zucchini fritters, barbecued chicken and chocolate cake. I sure don’t remember eating like that when I was in college, walking to school through the snow, uphill, both ways...

Maybe it’s just that I couldn’t cook worth a damn.

Today’s collegians even have microbrews, which may salve the sting of not having much of an economy to graduate into.

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