One of my riding friends, Norm Smith, moved recently, permanently, to Switzerland. His wife Denise is Swiss and Washington D.C., home for Denise and Norm for the last decade or so, lost 2 good citizens.
I first met Norm on a GlobeRiders (http://www.globeriders.com/) Trip in 2004. Norm and I rode together for 65 days, from Shanghai, China to Munich, Germany. If you want to get to know someone well, ride with him/her on a daily basis for some time. Norm is a Champion, hands down. His riding skills were honed by many years of off-road competition all around the U.S. and Canada in his early years. He never lost the touch of riding off road and still does it well. Not only did he win the 1963 Corduroy in Canada (http://www.corduroyenduro.ca/), he became an off road champion everyone can read about or look up on the internet. But Norm is more than just an official page in a book; he received the Friend of the Marque award from BMW 2 years ago, too. All that makes Norm a great guy in many eyes but in my eyes he is a Champion of special caliber. He is my friend.
We visited Norm and Denise in their new home near Montreux, Suisse. Norm still has his passion for motorcycles but seems to start to replace it with learning about the best wines in the region. He gave us a tour of the best wineries he knows and we even had some wine tasting that was very real, without the pressure of ‘buy’ this wine.
What a great spot Norm picked to spend his evening of life. I admire his ability to adjust to all these new circumstances, to the new languages, even though he speaks French, German and Italian and of course English, quite well. Thank you for your hospitality, Norm and Denise. I salute the contentment you found in your new life. Thanks, Denise, for a wonderful diner from your own garden and the local product from your favorite sausage maker.
Norm is a guide for me in some ways; a guide to living as you get older and life starts to wear on your body. I still see Norm’s determination, his will is very strong. I see his passion in everything and I think that makes him or anybody else I admire a champion. A person who knows he/she is getting older, yet never gives up is what I admire. I see this in Norm. You are doing well indeed, Norm, my hat is off to you.
I have a few selected people in this world, all Champions. I like to stay in touch with them. I like to visit them, talk to them, and learn from them. These people have collected experiences not only in the motorcycle community, but in life, too. Life has made them the Champions I so admire. Each one of my Champions teaches me something. Each one has their own unique value; their personal aura is what attracts me to them. It may not be visible to everyone, but to me those people are very special.
The late Lyle Grimes comes to mind, too. Life was not so generous with Lyle yet he was so determined to make the best of it all and he showed it in never giving up. Lyle rode 1.2 million miles plus on a motorcycle before he passed away this year. I talked to Lyle many times, he treated me like a son and I learned from his friendly nature and generous personality. Lyle was a Champion for sure. Everybody loved this guy; everybody must have seen his aura, too. He always spoke kindly about everyone; he was never rude or abrasive. I can still see him in my mind and I think I always will remember him. Lyle and I had a little game; each time I saw him at a rally I greeted him with a kiss on the cheek, like they do in Italy. He pretended he did not like it but yet I know otherwise. Lyle and I had a good mental connection, he was a Champion. He was my friend. I will miss you, Lyle.
Only David Swisher has more miles riding a motorcycle. Dave is a living legend, one of my Champions. Dave and I have talked many times and he told me his life story. We talked about his struggle as a young man, his innovative application of mechanization in the early days of dairy farming and all that added up to what Dave is today. Yes, Dave is still counting his miles, presently over 1.75 million miles, but I am not counting his miles. Dave is my friend. Dave will always be a Champion whether he adds miles or not. David and Lyle were riding buddies for years and I am sure David feels the loss of Lyle the most.
Some people I admire don’t even know me well. Michelle Duff is one of those. Last time I met Michelle she was in Toronto at the yearly Motorcycle Show. She does not know me well enough to talk to me freely, I hear about her in the racing circuit of the generation that came before me. I admire her spirit, her independence, and I admire her for doing her thing no matter what society thinks or believes is proper. Good for you, Michelle! You are a Champion in my book.
Joe Katz, a very friendly, self-sufficient man opened my eyes to another level of motorcycle riding. Joe is no longer able to ride but he drives his new car to rallies now. Joe never owned a car before and all this is new to him. Joe Katz is still a motorcycle rider at heart; never mind that he rides his car now. He is an institution at most rallies and he is a true Champion.
We all are getting older, we all start to fail. Some of us more severely than others but yes, most of my Champions are older. Not that this is a requisite for being a Champion, not at all. Being of a more advanced age just brings more experience to the table. I like to learn and I like to learn from people that can give me a new, different view on life. I do not believe, just because years have gone by, that my Champions have nothing new to contribute. Just the opposite is true. We can all learn from each other, I seem to learn more from my friends who have gone through life and situations before me. I admire their knowledge, their experiences, let me learn from them. I hope I can be as gracious as Norm Smith, as determined as Lyle Grimes, as independent as Michelle Duff or as popular as Joe Katz, no matter my age, no matter my physical conditions. My Champions are always an inspiration to me.
I agree with Norm Smith who is now enjoying life with a glass of wine in his hand and 2 motorcycles in the garage which he now rides infrequently. Life is to be enjoyed.
L’Chaim, enjoy your age, enjoy life! And thank you all, even the ones I did not mention here, you are my Champions no matter what.