For so long, I stayed away from riding.
My earliest memories of a motorcycle were small flashes of images; I can’t quite tell you who was on the motorcycle – or if it was my father or godfather riding – but I can remember the fear of the noise it made.
I can’t put my finger on this memory… can’t even date it. It’s too vague.
My next close encounter of riding was with a 1993 red Vespa. I strapped on the helmet and started to get nervous. My friend was younger than me and was riding this thing like a champ. The closest thing I felt to riding a motorcycle was at age 12. I throw my leg over the bike and my hand squeezes tight on the throttle.
I remember I was scared and I felt the bike pulling away from me but for some reason I couldn’t let go. I tried to control it but I began to wobble and shortly after that I went face first into the asphalt. Luckily the helmet was on because as I slid against the ground my head dragged – leaving some deep gravel scars that would have been deep lacerations had it been my face. While all this was happening the handle bars dug deep into my chest. I took off my helmet and ran, clinching my chest all the way home.
The next time I had anything to do with a motorcycle was heading to the hospital. My uncle, an avid rider, had a terrible accident and the family was asked to say our last goodbyes. This was the first family death I experienced. The only thing I knew was that my badass uncle made a mistake on his motorcycle and it cost him his life.
For years afterwards, I never had the urge to ride. My father and other uncles still rode, but I never wanted to.
I stepped into the world of acting in the most unorthodox way; I showed up to my first audition and got the part. One of the first questions they asked was if I could ride.
“I can, but I need work,” I said, having flashes of me sliding my head across the asphalt again. Good thing they couldn’t read my mind and see my experience consisted of a Vespa when I was 12.
A motto I’ve stuck to for years now has been, “Fake it until you make it.”
Now I am here trying to fake it until I make it… but now faking could be the death of me!
Transitioning hasn’t been easy for me. After getting past all the pain of missing out on significant missions with my battalion and trying to reinvent myself in the civilian world, I’ve had a thirst for something.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I have always been missing something since being in combat. I’ve fought fires, fought inmates, chased escaped convicts…
Nothing has really filled the void until now.
I took a riding course through Harley Davison which taught me enough to get more comfortable behind the bike… The course was done in a safe location with no oncoming traffic. After that, I took a ride with a buddy of mine for two hours. It didn’t take long for me to understand why this is addicting and why so many Veterans found comfort in this one act.
The fear and feeling of riding is what gets me.
Better said, it’s my heightened sense of awareness, the adrenaline and understanding how vulnerable it is to be out there riding. After coming home from combat, I have chased this feeling.
I’ve secretly been trying to find myself again… you are never really alive until you have willingly placed yourself in harm’s way.
It’s a powerful feeling to willingly put yourself in harms way knowing you have buddies to the left and right of you. The camaraderie developed through deployments in Battalion is the equivalent to a lifetime of friendship in the civilian world. The boys that share the road with you is no different.
These are some of the boys of “Killer Mans Sons Motorcycle Club” KMSMC is a 75th Ranger Battalion heavy MC supporting families of the fallen, brothers in need, and some with serious medical conditions. They follow the by laws of the 3 patch, But only members past or present of the 75th Ranger Regiment can prospect. They still live the creed of the Ranger Regiment but they quoted saying “The MC adds another level or brotherhood.” Testament to the appealing nature of the life style.
Note: I, the writer is not a patched in member or prospect of the KMSMC, I have many Ranger Buddies who ride for the MC and wanted to give them a shout out for what they do for their own community. R.L.T.W.
Riding is that for me. In two hours, I visualized it all. I saw my life with riding and what it has turned into, taking my wife on romantic dinner dates, riding alone to relax and think of life’s plan, and then I saw what could be the worst-case scenario.
I had taken a call from a close buddy of mine. He knew my struggles with assimilation. While in the Border Patrol academy, I slept too little and drank too much; I wasn’t ready to move on from my friends’ deaths and was letting it slowly kill me through alcohol and reckless self-destruction.
We became close and he was actually the reason I went and got counseling when I did.
He called and his tone was different. He was just the first responder on a horrible motorcycle accident, and all he wanted to do was tell someone. Someone that might know what it feels like. Someone who has experienced hardship. He witnessed a family going out for a ride, and one of the family members laid down his bike.
Unfortunately this individual didn’t make it.
My partner told me in explicit details what he witnessed and felt all the emotions of the family watching over him while he tended to the patient. It was all in my head… the scene and the pain…
This call has forever been in my head…
Chris Smilo on the left, Me on the right. After graduating DHS Border Patrol, Search, Trauma and Rescue selection (BORSTAR)
As I ride now with my buddy from True North Motor Company, I can’t help but thinking of all these memories. All these lives who have been touched and broken from this vice that’s in between my legs…
“Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.”
Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Photo was taken directly after my first 2 hour ride with Jess from True North Motor Company.
So I ride… I ride with respect to the road and the upmost respect to the machine that heals my thirst for a thrill…. I maintain the thoughts and experiences from my past because they keep me true to the nature of this beast… Life is a delicate one… You can tip toe your way to the grave always chasing your fix… Or you can accept the fact Life is a ride… None of us know the end of our road and all we can do is let the wind fill our lungs, acknowledge its beauty and ride it with a smile on your face until it kills you…
My friends, if you decide to take a further look into the culture of the Motorcycle I ask for you to see it as such. This is a life style that is to be taken serious for the well being of you and your family… For those who currently ride… keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down…
Members of KMSMC… My Ranger Buddies… Wild Dudes Living the Creed….
A few of the boys from Alpha Company 2nd of the 75th Ranger Regiment, Afghanistan 2007