This is a difficult column to write. It is with mixed emotions that I tell you that this is my last column. The time has come for me to bid you farewell. I have been with THUNDER PRESS for about 17 years, and all good things must come to an end. I have met and worked with some terrific people. Maybe after the dust settles I will be able to chime in with a story or two. I love to talk about road trips I have taken, and I love to read about other bikers’ adventures. It seems fitting to end my column-writing career with an expanded birthday greeting. Don’t you think so?… Happy birthday to all of us who celebrate in December—including myself. Happy birthday to Reg Kittrelle, founder of THUNDER PRESS. Reg, thank you for bringing me on your team when you published ASPHALT ANGELS. You allowed me to co-edit and write for the magazine. Also, thank you for founding THUNDER PRESS. I have had years of rewarding experiences. Thank you for being a friend. Happy birthday to Colleen Ferrigan in Santa Cruz and to Forrest “Trees” Linderman in Watsonville. You two have something in common besides sharing a December birthday. Both of you have hung up your chaps. I have been thinking along those lines lately, but it is hard. I think riding gets into our blood and stays there all the rest of our years. I know that someday I will be sitting in a rocking chair but believing I am scooting across Texas. Happy birthday to Mike Oliverio in Shingle Springs and a member of the IHR campout. Mike, I really hope to see you next Labor Day. Happy birthday to Linda Fernandez in Vacaville. Linda, I will see you soon at Sam’s birthday party. Happy birthday to Alice Warren in Santa Cruz. Alice, I have not seen you in such a long time. The last time we met was at Street Vibrations when I committed a huge faux pas. Mea culpa. Happy birthday to Dennis Hinsz in Lovell, Wyoming. Dennis, I am sorry that we did not get to meet during one of my road trips through Wyoming. The last time I was there, the wind between Cheyenne and Evanston was horrendous. I will never forget it. Friends had complained about Wyoming wind to me before, and I didn’t know what they were talking about. All of my previous trips through there were mild. I thought Pocatello, Idaho, was windy, but hey, now I know. Happy birthday to Nick Yee in Palo Alto. Thank you for staying in touch these last few years. I have always enjoyed hearing from you. Happy birthday to celebrity riders John Walsh and Brad Pitt. I want to close this final birthday greeting in tribute to and in memory of Juan Majan and the Hot Chocolate Gang. Juan was a longtime president of the Viet Nam Vets MC in Freedom. He became seriously ill with cancer and suffered greatly. He was very popular with members of his club, but his physical incapacities required his retirement from his leadership position. The pains he suffered with cancer paled in comparison with the pains he suffered when first one son and then the other died. He would never be the same. Juan was one of the first friends to reach out to me when my daughter died. Although we were miles apart, he stood by me with a sensitivity and empathy known only to those who have walked in those shoes. Something else Juan and I shared was our birthdate. We both celebrated on December 4. Juan died a few years ago, and I have missed him. Why the Hot Chocolate Gang, you ask? I cannot begin to think how many years ago we crossed paths—15 or 16, I think. I was riding alone, and when I left Watsonville, it was downright nippy. I wore full leathers. I rode over Pacheco Pass by Casa De Fruta and by San Luis Reservoir before the heat hit me. It was sweltering. I pulled into the first gas station just outside of Santa Nella and couldn’t rip those leathers off fast enough. There were three or four men at a picnic table where they had parked their bikes. They were drinking something cold but said that they normally drank hot chocolate. We visited for a while, and I made a note of their names. I gave them a shout out in my next column and dubbed them “the Hot Chocolate Gang.” Now and throughout all of these years, we have stayed in touch. The “Gang” was larger than the three or four men that I met that day, but time has taken its toll and many of them have died. I hate to say goodbye, and I will remember them always… I hate to say goodbye to all y’all as well, so instead I will say au revoir, auf wiedersehen, arrivederci and adios.


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