Years ago, I was terrified of everything motorcycle.
My fear had nothing to do with motorcycle clubs, their reputation or their notoriety. In fact, I didn’t even know such clubs existed and had since 1903.
As parents, Wayne and I were more concerned about the danger and risks motorcycles posed. We had both read newspaper articles about tragic motorcycle accidents where the poor biker never stood a chance.
Because of this, we said, “Absolutely not!” the first time one of our sons asked if he could get one. None of his three brothers even bothered to try after that.
Eventually I did learn that the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), is not only the largest in the nation, it is also the “umbrella” organization for local clubs and their events.
In the year 2015 (according to the online encyclopedia site, Wikipedia) the AMA estimated that an incredible 200,000 members in 1200 chartered groups were on its rolls.
Right around then, I also learned about the so-called “outlaw clubs. (I had, of course, heard of the “Hells’ Angels) but knew very little about them.) Apparently, the “outlaw” designation could simply mean the club chose not to be chartered under the AMA for whatever reason. But there were also some clubs with members who had caught the attention of law enforcement agencies who suspected them of having ties to organized crime.
Outlaw clubs have been around since the early and mid-40s. More than 60 had at some time or another been based across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands
But as I said, I was blissfully unaware of any of this for years. Motorcycles were not part of our lives and, or so I thought, never would be.
Until the day Wayne spotted a little red Honda scooter for sale on the side of the road, bought it and brought it home. I didn’t know then but our lives were about to change forever.
“It isn’t like a motorcycle,” he reassured me. “The grandkids will get a kick riding it around the yard.” (This from the same man who just a few years before had adamantly refused to allow his son to get a two-wheeled motorized vehicle.)
He was right, though, the scooter was a hit. The kids did love it.
That was the first step. A few very short weeks later, he popped into my office and said, “Let’s go get some pizza.”
I should have known then something was up. He didn’t believe in coming to my office unless it was for something important.
Over a pepperoni pizza, he started his sales pitch: “There’s a brand new bike ( I still remember he carefully didn’t utter the dreaded word “motorcycle.”
“It’s only ‘mumble-mumble’ dollars, brand spanking new, never been touched by anyone. I want to buy it.”
The next thing I knew, the bike was sitting in my garage. That was the day that truly began it all.
First, Wayne got his motorcycle license on the bike. It was a Honda Rebel 250, easy to maneuver, easy to ride. He passed and his brother Dennis decided to get his, too, using the same bike. He passed as well, then our sons lined up in the license queue.
It didn’t end there. Next, another brother, a brother-in-law, a cousin, and a son’s friend all took their turn. All passed.
Then came the bikes. One by one, each of them bought a motorcycle. All kinds, all brands Harleys, Hondas, Kawasakis, in every color imaginable with a wide range of CCs.
Our family started riding together every Sunday. This continued for a couple of years. One by one, bikes got sold, replaced by bigger and bigger bikes. For the next year or so I felt like our garage had a revolving door that bikes came in and out through.
Finally, Wayne stopped by for lunch at Pizza Hut again.
“Oh no,” I remember thinking. “Now what?”
He told me he wanted to buy a Honda Valkyrie. It was one of the biggest bikes Honda had at the time. “This is the last,” he promised.
He bought it and loved it. And in fact, it was my favorite of all the bikes he had.
So much time had elapsed since the bike mania started, one by one the family gang dwindled as bikes were sold and not replaced. Eventually, it was just Wayne and his brother. They rode together for a while then hooked up with another group of bikers. I even joined him for a very short time.
For the record, the Valkyrie was NOT his last bike.
He fell in love with a beautiful red Big Dog chopper (he had always admired choppers, and even converted two bikes to choppers as a project).
I think, though, the chopper is it. He, his brother and a few of their friends still ride together every Sunday. It is Wayne’s favorite day of the week. The only day he is not hard at work on some project or other. It is his day.
I remember when I was still at the paper, I got a concerned call from a visitor about a group of motorcycle riders he had seen. He warned about their negative experiences on the Mainland and cautioned us not to let that happen on Kauai.
I just laughed. The motorcycle riders he was talking about were Wayne and his friends. I wrote a column in response to the call sharing what I have learned about motorcycles and riders on Kauai after all these years.
I said our bikers were fathers, grandfathers, doctors, fishermen, plantation workers, lawyers, even police officers. All were hard-working, committed people. They took part in every single fundraising activity from Special Olympics to toys for keiki at Christmas time. They honored members who had passed on with special rides in tribute, attending their funerals, saying prayers along the way. Whenever asked, Kauai bikers turn out to help raise funds for any cause they hear about.
All of the Kauai bikers I have ever met are good friends, good people with good hearts.
I haven’t ridden with Wayne for quite a while for several reasons. But one of the memories I will cherish forever was the week we flew our Valkyrie over to the Big Island and spent a week cruising the island, laughing in the rain and spending time with my family. I will never forget that trip.
In closing, I want to say this to all Kauai bikers: The Irish have a saying, a blessing: “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face …” Aloha.
Rita De Silva is a former editor of The Garden Island and a Kapaa resident.