Nothing like that first day on the Harley

It’s always a day of celebration for me – the first time my Harley is awakened from its winter hibernation.

That day was last Saturday. Sandwiched between a Calhoun City softball game, Vardaman baseball game and some grass mowing, I backed my Heritage Softail out of the shed, shamefully wiped away some of the dust that had accumulated through the brutally cold winter and got it ready to ride.

Joel McNeece

An oil change was first on the priority list, a task that always makes me think of my late friend Tom McKelroy.
A longtime bank president in Memphis and Bruce at the end of his career, Tom and I would often get together this time of year for the spring oil change. Most might find it difficult to understand how you turn an oil change into a party, but Tom and I did.

I remember the day 13 years ago I bought this Harley at the Bumpus dealership in Memphis. It was hard to tell who was more excited, Tom or me.
For weeks prior I would stop by M&F?Bank on the Bruce Square, and Tom and I would pull out the Harley catalog and thumb through all the extras you could order with a new bike.

He took me to Bumpus on my first visit, showing me what he considered a shortcut avoiding most of the never-ending redlights on Germantown Parkway. I don’t know that it was any quicker getting to the dealership on Whitten Road, but there were fewer lights, so I stayed with the route for years following out of respect for Tom.

I didn’t have time Saturday to give the bike the cleaning it needs for the first ride, something Tom would have insisted on. I had to get to more ballgames so I gave it a quick wipe-down and hit the road. The highlight was cutting through the Reid Community en route to Vardaman. The bike seemed to float through the curves as the chrome drank up the sunlight.
The ride home was just as glorious with perfect temperatures. It was almost disappointing to arrive home, wanting the house to be a few miles farther down the road.

I got back out late Sunday afternoon for another cruise despite the overcast skies. I weaved through the countryside around Mt. Moriah and looped all around the northern end of Calhoun County. It whet my appetite for some more serious riding hopefully to come in the week’s ahead as more consistently dry weather has to be on the horizon.

I’ve grown concerned over the dark days of winter from tales from many of my friends revealing their intentions to possibly sell their bikes because they don’t have enough opportunities to ride like they once did. I can say that will never be me.

The feeling of sitting in that saddle last Saturday with the wind in my face, listening to that unmistakable rumble, the disappearing asphalt beneath my feet is a sensation I’m never going to relinquish no matter how few times a year it comes around.

Besides, Tom would never forgive me.

Email Joel McNeece at & follow him on Twitter @joelmcneece