68 Years On Motorcycles: A Love Story | MEGAPHONE

One Motorcyclist reader remembers a childhood spent on two wheels.

My earliest memories are motorcycle memories. The first is my dad taking me on his Harley-Davidson Sportster to a coffee shop where his friends would meet. I can still remember looking down at the gas cap, feeling the wind pulling at my little body. I never remember being afraid on a motorcycle.

My dad was a mechanic at the local Harley shop. I loved everything about that place—the smells, the sounds, the people who passed through. I remember men in white T-shirts and heavy black boots, with names like “Pop” and “Toto,” who seemed dangerous but always made me feel comfortable. I loved the sweet smell of GOJO hand cleaner and looked for any excuse to get my hands dirty.

Jackie Parks’ father spent his life on two wheels, and he always took his wife and two sons along for the ride. These are just a few snapshots from 68 years on bikes.

I love old bikes that have personality and sometimes a mind of their own. I can remember my dad kicking and kicking his Sportster, with an occasional backfire and a few choice words, before it finally started. I love that riding an old bike meant you had no choice but to get dirty. Even the best old bikes leaked a little oil that eventually ended up on your pant leg. Some days, even my mom wore oil splatters. Riders always seemed to have a hint of gas and oil mixed in with their Aqua Velva.

I can remember evenings at Junior’s house, where dad and Junior would tune a dual-carbureted Sportster for dragracing. I can remember them cranking the bike over and feeling my entire body shake. I also remember a deserted stretch of road next to the New Moon Drive-In Theater, where dad would make practice passes. I remember seeing him fly by with my heart about to pound out of my chest.

I love the racetrack, the smell of exhaust fumes mixed with hot dogs, the sound of open exhaust pipes, the joking and head games that made me feel drunk with excitement before I knew what drunk felt like. The racers walked with a confident swagger—or sometimes a limp—that meant business. I can remember pretty trophy girls handing the trophies out, from smallest to tallest.

I remember the yearly trip to the Houston Astrodome for the nationals. We would get there early for my favorite part: walking through the pits. All the racers I worshipped in the magazines were there. My hero was Mert Lawwill, and I’ll never forget watching him prepare for qualifying. I studied the way he moved, the way he talked, looking for any clue of what made him so fast. I watched the way he cut the tire tread with a razor blade. I couldn’t remember the capital cities of the United States, much to my teacher’s dismay, but just ask me the top 25 AMA professionals and which bikes they rode.

I love my mom and dad for making motorcycles the glue that held our family together. I love my dad for trusting me to ride before I could even touch the ground. He would hold me up while I let the clutch out and then catch me when I came around and coasted to a stop. I love my mom for understanding that there is risk in riding motorcycles and that there would be scrapes and bruises.

I love that my dad was young when we were young. We rode hard, didn’t hesitate to roost each other, and pushed each other the way we would have pushed anybody else. I learned everything I know about riding a motorcycle from chasing my dad through the trails we rode.

I love the fact that most of our weekends were spent together trail riding. We got lost, broke down, ran out of gas, ran out of daylight, but we never ran out of having fun. I still feel lost to this day when a weekend rolls around and I don’t have a ride planned.