Rebuilding the Indian – A memoir by Fred Haefele
As a relatively new biker with limited mechanical skills, I was able to identify with parts of Fred’s story. Like his Chaz, I too have an individual who has been my guide to responsible motorcycling, repair, and maintenance. I’ve also met an eclectic mix of characters through biking that I’m sure I’d never have met otherwise. I was less able to empathize with the idea of dealing with the cold weather in Montana, but still found those sections to be interesting reading.
The angst of becoming a father again after 20 years was far less entertaining. Haefele constantly distracts the reader from the bike restoration with side trips and flashbacks about his dysfunctional first marriage and the equally dysfunctional relationship with the children of that union. He also spends too many words on nonrestoration issues about his current marriage and finances. If the restoration of the motorcycle is supposed to be a metaphor for his life, then the connection is weak and uninteresting.
The gems of this book are the tales of treks to out of the way places to see unique and, often possibly dangerous, people, the search for elusive parts and agonizing over whether to take the less onerous road of reproduction parts. But like gems in nature, they are buried under a heavy burden, and rare and hard to find. But like the elusive gem stones found in nature, the ones in this book are worth digging for.
I learned things about Indian motorcycles, and about eccentric motorcycle enthusiasts. The book touches on the dichotomy of being a homeowner, husband, expectant father and a biker. A more skillful approach to this element would have turned a mediocre book into a classic of the genre.
As it is, it’s worth spending the few evenings it will take to read it.
— Guy Wheatley