As I pulled up to the pumps, I was scanning each station for the shortest line. I saw an empty car at the end pump and hopefully assumed that the driver had finished and was paying with cash at the window. I was topping off the bike for a day trip and was trying to get in and out of the gas station as quickly as possible.
I watched as an elderly gentleman slowly ambled toward the car from the pay window. He seemed to take forever, but I thought that once he reached his car I’d have the pump. My irritation grew as I realized he was returning to begin fueling his vehicle. I checked the other pumps, but decided my prospects were no better at any of the others. I started to reconsider as I watched the old man try to open the gas cap, then realize he had to return to the driver seat to release the catch. I again checked the other pumps to see if one of them looked promising enough to lure me away.
Motion caught my eye as I looked forward to see the aged driver shuffling toward me, his eyes fixed on the gleaming valve covers of my Valkyrie’s engine.
“What is that,” he asked.
I’ve had this happen before. I figured this old gentleman rode bikes in his day, but would have seen nothing like the 1500cc flat six nestled between my legs.
What is that?” he inquired.
“A Valkyrie,” I answered.
“It’s got 6 cylinders?” he asked as he counted my pipes.
“Yes sir,” I answered. “It’s a 1500 flat-six.”
“Well I used to ride some 45s back in my day,” he told me.
As we continued to chat, I gathered that the bikes he rode were the 45 cubic inch Harleys from the 1940s. As his tank slowly filled he regaled me with some of his adventures from an earlier time. There were races, close calls on dirt and gravel roads where cattle roamed free range and the challenge of machines with hand shifts and foot clutches.
For a short time he was young again, finding two-wheeled adventure with friends long gone. And I was fortunate enough to be with him for those too few short moments.
Before he left to pay for his gas, I invited him to join us at Dougaloo’s on Friday nights for out Bike Night meetings. I have little doubt some of the others there would also enjoy his tales of a previous biking era. But I could see in his eyes he wouldn’t make it. This was a rare moment brought about by an opportune meeting at the gas pumps.
I’m glad now that none of the other pumps was empty. I can’t remember enjoying the wait for a pump more. And all too soon, such opportunities will be gone. I’m fortunate to have experienced this one.
－ Guy Wheatley