Garden art takes many forms, from the kitschy gnomes, toadstools, birdbaths, and sundials to the more pretentious neoclassical statuary and fountains to the bewildering postmodern sculptures of the sophisticates.

But none of those pieces hold a candle to what I had in my flower bed: an immaculate 1999 Harley Fat Boy resting upside down, enigmatically ensconced rubber-side-up amid the roses, agapanthus and four-o-clocks. Top that.

The story of how that bizarre and visually striking installation came to be started a year ago in December when a sucker-punch flood inundated the property and caught me so unaware that I didn’t have the chance to move the motorcycles out of the garage before the flood waters sealed them in. And thus, they sat in there marinating in water and the filth that flowed with it for the better part of two days.

Restoring the bikes to running condition involved draining water out of exhausts and intakes, and changing out motor fluids and fuel—a time-consuming and depressing ordeal.

So when the news broke that in this year of record-setting weather phenomena an El Niño was afoot, and it was the most potent in recorded history, I went into action. No two words strike fear into the hearts of Californians more than “El Niño”—not even “Richter scale.”

But this time around I was not going to get caught with my pants—or garage door—down. Though the drought-depleted Russian River was well within its banks and pitiful to behold, I knew it harbored, despite appearances, the menace of a dormant volcano, and I swore I would not get fooled again.

Thus began my engineering project to devise a path from the garage to the back patio, across the lawn, to the pavers leading to the steps of the back deck. I purchased a bunch of composite pavers, two-feet square, and built a road to bridge the gap, and constructed a stout ramp to give the machines rolling access to the deck level. It was a good plan, maybe even brilliant. I could then keep the bikes within my purview indefinitely without having to jump out of bed and ride them through water in the middle of the night to whatever temporary berth on higher ground I could arrange with a neighbor uptown as I’ve been obliged to do in the past. Sleep would be mine. The river could do its worst, but my scooters would be high and dry, tarped and visible from the kitchen window.

My primitive Appian Way complete, I fired the bikes, rode up the driveway and staged them on the patio for the final run over my road and up to the deck.

Now, it’s always a dicey proposition to ride a motorcycle up or down loading ramps, so as a precaution I asked My Personal Nurse to spot me while I did the deed with three bikes. She was game enough, but sensibly asked what exactly I meant by “spot me,” since she couldn’t exactly catch me if I fell or grab the back of the bike if it wandered off the ramp. “Just scream,” I clarified. “It’s more a matter of moral support, really. And it would be great to have a witness if I really screw the pooch on this caper.”

A few false starts and a few cracked boards later I had an FLHS, FLSTF, and a Triumph Bonneville all loaded onto the deck and strategically arrayed to allow some somewhat limited use of the deck in its customary role. To be thorough, I placed a board under the kickstands to distribute the weight across the redwood decking. Big mistake.

While securing a tarp over the FLHS, I inadvertently bumped it, and with the added height of the board under the kickstand it suddenly toppled over. It then dominoed into the Fat Boy, which then pitched off the deck and landed in the aforementioned rubber-side-up position.

Lovely as it was on an artistic level, I freaking freaked. I thereupon dashed quickly to the garage and assayed my collection of tow chains, come-alongs, and hydraulic jacks, to attack the predicament. And just as quickly realized that under the circumstances they were utterly useless in the challenge of righting the Fat Boy—as futile as trying to change a tire with a table saw.

So I essentially hit the panic button. I rang up a couple of biker buddies, and they rang up a couple more, and inside of half an hour, there were five of us admiring my garden art—and reaching a rapid consensus that the only way out of this pickle was brute force.

Three of us were in our 60s, but two were under 40 and remarkably strong, as it turned out. We positioned ourselves around the bike and then essentially did a deadlift of nearly 700 pounds, and deposited the bike back on the deck. My back is killing me. It will pass.

The Fat Boy, despite the trauma it had endured, had no more damage than a tweaked mirror—quickly fixed, and a busted turn signal lens—easily replaced.

They don’t call it Milwaukee iron for nothing.

It’s all right here in the diaries…


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