Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Three Things

I have two Triumph motorcycles. I’ve owned bikes since the sixties, when I flew into Frankfurt, hopped a train to Copenhagen, Denmark, and bought my first motorcycle – a brand new 1969 Triumph 650.  A 650 was considered a big bike in those days. 

I traveled all over Europe on it. I remember when I rented a room from a communist party member in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, when it was under Tito. Sometime in the middle of the night I looked out of my window and saw cars lined up in a semi-circle with their headlights on my bike and a crowd of people walking around inspecting it.

I was several stories up and couldn’t have gotten down in time if there was a problem, but some of the guys looked up and saw me leaning out of the window watching them. It was obvious that they were just admiring the motorcycle and they didn’t even touch it. I had more trouble in Switzerland with theft than in Yugoslavia. But that bike was unique in those days in Europe and particularly in a communist country.  

I rode that bike through nine countries by myself, because my riding buddy didn’t show up at the Hoffbrau House in Munich, Germany, on the date we were scheduled to meet there. He had flown in earlier. He claimed he fell in love with a German girl and she had him locked in her bedroom. Knowing him, she didn’t need a lock. So after too many mugs of German beer, I took off on my own. Someday I’ll write about that trip. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

All of this is to say that even as an old “dude”, I still enjoy riding a motorcycle.  I’ve taken a few spills hill climbing, worn the obligatory cast on my leg, and I’ve done some other very stupid things when I was young, but I think I’ve learned a thing or two.  Now I ride like an old guy…you know, at five miles per hour with my left turn blinker on. Actually, that’s a very good way to get killed.

I just got my newer Triumph out of the shop today and I was thinking about how much I enjoy riding through the Sierras on a motorcycle. While riding, I thought that there are three major things that make my life bearable living so far from family and friends high in the Sierra Mountain range. That has always been my gripe … being too far from my kids, grandkids and friends, but I do have three things that make it palatable. There are actually more than three, but these three hit me as I rode home from the bike shop.

The first of the three is a good wife. You have to have a wife that you respect and one that respects you. You both have to be able to laugh freely. She has to be trustworthy. She has to “have your back,” she has to share your “world view” and religious belief, and she has to be a true partner. I have that with Gayle.

The second thing … gotta have a dog.  I have a great miniature Australian Shepherd, who has been molded into the perfect dog for Gayle and me. Gayle claims to not like him, but that’s B.S. She just doesn’t like him staring at her and that’s what herding dogs do. They can’t help it. I love the little sucker. Dakota is my buddy.

And the third thing is a motorcycle. That bike sets me free. There’s no better way to experience the beauty of the Sierras than on a bike, where all of your senses are open to absorb the richness of the environment. Riding in a car doesn’t do it. Even walking through the forest, as I do daily, doesn’t match riding a motorcycle through the mountains. Walking through the woods is like sipping beer. Riding through the forest on a motorcycle is like guzzling beer. There is a time for each. And a beer after a ride is not just a reward, but a means of flushing the bugs out of your teeth.


  1. I hope you all notice Ralph writes more about the bike than me...and on our 19th anniversary too.

  2. Do you think that if I give Gayle a ride on my motorcycle she'll be happy?

  3. Thanks for reminding me, Gayle. Our 20th is coming up on the first.

  4. Congratulations, Chuck. Say "hi" to Linda for us.