The late Jerry Mosier astride a more modern K1200S with author son Oliver.
I didn’t even like soccer. I still don’t like soccer. But like most kids in the suburbs, I played it. A stopgap before baseball—my true love.
We calmly stretched as a team, until an inexplicable ruckus disrupted that calm. It sounded like a plane landing between the goalposts.
A man in black approached from the distance—full leather from the neck down. His yellow helmet was almost as disquieting. He lifted his visor and began speaking—to me. My teammates snickered.
“I rode my bike. Mom’s on her way.”
My coach observed the display and said, “Ollie, it looks like your dad quit his day job.”
My dad found a spot in the stands alongside the other parents and lit up a Cuban cigar. That was Jerry Mosier, my father. He didn’t embarrass me much—that wasn’t his style—but this moment lived on in infamy. My 13-year-old self couldn’t accept the possibility, the reality, that my father was “a cool guy.”
The late Jerry Mosier posing with his beloved BMW R75/6.
My dad loved his toys: snowblowers, lawnmowers, chainsaws and generators. Not exactly Legos, but to him, toys one and all. His beloved motorcycles were at the top of the list. Both of them—there were always two.
“Didn’t you wash that bike yesterday?”
“Nope, twas the other one.”
He cleaned them constantly—no, religiously. “The other one” was his textbook answer to any washing inquiry. I wondered if the impetus for owning two motorcycles was so he could clean either with impunity. I spent many summer afternoons beside him, crouching in the driveway with a sponge in one hand and a chamois in the other. Together we’d clean either the BMW or the Ducati. John Sterling’s booming voice on WCBS narrated the ubiquitous Yankees game in the background. In between scrubs, Dad would pinch the hose and ask, “Score?”
As the suds dripped down the bike, we’d wait for John to answer.
Jerry Mosier was no “weekend rider,” the pejorative label used to describe the motorcyclist who’s more bent on the idea of owning a bike than of actually riding it. The motorcycle is merely a means to an end: a means of getting coffee once a month—if the weather is perfect.
Not my dad.
He’d bike into New York City to meet a client. Ride up to New Hampshire for the Laconia Classic. Speed through rural Pennsylvania to visit his 90-year-old grandmother. Riding was a way of life.
As an avid rider, he needed every accoutrement, no matter how silly. When you’re not riding, you need people to know where you’d rather be. This meant BMW shirts, hats, belts, pins, patches, coffee mugs and coffee-table books. Not to mention those things that were actually necessary, like Kevlar-lined jeans, Arai helmets and a seemingly endless collection of leather jackets. The right side of our garage was solely the province of his motorcycles.
My favorite bike was his vintage 1975 BMW R75/6. He rode it once in our town’s Fourth of July parade. What a thrill!
I never embraced motorcycles the way he wanted. My dad shared his passions and hobbies with me, his only son. Mom didn’t want me on the back of a bike until I turned 18. I only got on for the nominal ride around the block. Not the trip up and down the East Coast visiting ballparks, like he’d always imagined us doing. On the back of his bike or, better yet, riding side-by-side on two motorcycles. It just wasn’t my thing.
When my dad was 53, he died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. I was 21. Now, when I see a motorcycle, for a moment I think it’s him. I see him before my brain tells me otherwise. Now, I wish I were on that bike.
I’ve still never ridden alone on a motorcycle. Don’t know when I will. If I will. How my dad would have loved the opportunity to convince me; to make the case for the motorcycle.
I can say it now: Adolescent embarrassments aside, my dad was a cool guy.