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The End of the Road
A motorcycle enthusiast who found community with Jewish bikers looks back on the ride.
Wishing you all a warm and festive holiday.
This week I’m happy to share a guest post from Ned Porges. I met Ned when I worked at the JTNews/Jewish Transcript. He was always there for our annual kosher wine tastings, and I reported on his involvement with the Tribe, Seattle’s Jewish motorcycle club, which is the subject of this essay. Specifically, I remember reporting on the Tribe’s annual visit to the Kline Galland Home, where the elderly residents would come out and meet the menches on their hogs. I was always fascinated by the existence of a kind, Jewish, mitzvah-oriented Hells Angels here in Seattle. So when Ned sent me a draft of this tribute to the group and his lifelong love of riding I felt a sense of nostalgia. Ned retiring from riding? Exactly how much time has passed since I first wrote about the Tribe? Could we slow things down a bit?
I hope you enjoy this tribute to a special Seattle Jewish group. Thanks to Ned for sharing.
Riding into the Sunset
By Ned Porges
One day, around the year 2000, I read a short article in Seattle’s Jewish Transcript, the community newspaper that existed from 1924 through 2015. It was about a Jewish motorcycle club that was forming. I was one of the first to join.
The group became known as Shevet — the Tribe in Hebrew. We met the last Sunday of every month at a Bellevue bagel place, rain or shine. The Tribe was a highly compatible group that grew to about 25 members and included bikes of all types and members of all professions from all parts of the city, all Jewish. Once a year I would lead the group on a mystery ride. The destinations were always a secret. We rode out to a wind farm, a private motorcycle collection, wineries, and more. We celebrated Shabbat (bring your leftover challah and wine), Hanukkah (bring your leftover candles) and participated in Purim carnivals at the Stroum JCC where kids climbed onto our bikes. We held rabbinical Spring Bike Blessings with mini mezuzahs attached and went on a Jewish Motorcyclist Alliance Ride-to-Remember, a fundraiser for the Holocaust Museum, in Southern California. Hundreds of other Jewish bikers from around the country assembled, all of them “yiddisher menschen.”
My fascination with motorcycles goes back to the end of WWII, around 1946, when I was four years old. My family had recently moved to Queens, New York City, and my father, a high school teacher, had a student come to our house for the weekend to help rebuild our 1939 Chevy motor. Parts were laid out on the driveway, and my job was to attach labels. The student had a dark blue motorcycle with a sidecar. At the end of the day, my father asked the student to give me a ride. I was hooked. This was the beginning of a long road of fond memories ahead.
Still a child, though, I couldn’t quite ride a motorcycle yet. While bicycles were in short supply after the war, my grandfather bought me a 24-inch red and white Schwinn as a reward for finding the afikomen one Passover. In those days, I used it on my Long Island Press newspaper delivery route and received a Boy Scout Merit Badge for completing a 100-mile journey. So I rode to my grandparents’ home in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and back to Queens one weekend. This involved crossing to Staten Island and Perth Amboy aboard two ferries. My guide was a folding map from a local Shell station back when they were free at gas stations.
But I was captivated by the idea of a Harley-Davidson, like the ones advertised on the back of Boy’s Life magazine that showed a smiling boy delivering newspapers on his 125cc Hummer. Upon arrival in the fall of 1958 at the University of Denver, one of the first things I did was buy a used 1954 bright orange Harley Hummer just like the ad on the back cover. Cost was $100. There were other motor bikes on campus, such as Yamahas and Hondas. All of them far out-performed my humble Hummer, so I sold it to another student. I even made a little money buying and selling motorcycles to other students. Motorcycles were by now in my blood, in my genes, and a central pillar of my biology.
Other priorities, however, pushed motorcycles to the background of my life. After raising children and achieving a successful academic and real estate career, I had an underlying desire to get back on a motorcycle saddle. A two-wheel driver license endorsement was required. The class instructor had a Honda Pacific Coast, aka PC800–an elegant, quiet, sophisticated motorcycle. I immediately bought my own and joined a PC800 national club that sponsored rides up and down US 99, the Pacific Coast Highway from Washington down to the Mexican border. But that club eventually dissolved after diminishing participation by its almost all senior citizen riders.
I was elated when I read the article in the Jewish Transcript looking for Jewish bikers. This was a dream come true. I traded my 1989 Honda PC800 for a BMW 1200 CLC. This bike was now my ultimate cruiser. It had heated seats and hand grips, cruise control, radio, ABS brakes, and more. I loved this machine. I rode it to California a couple times and then to Alaska with a cousin from Boston. Shortly after that trip, my cousin’s son called to tell me that his father had passed away. But before he died, he left a note saying thanks for the motorcycle trip to Alaska, his dream adventure of a lifetime. Also, he said how much he enjoyed meeting and riding with Seattle Tribe members.
Over the years, the Tribe membership changed. Many moved, some moved on to other pursuits, and three members passed away. I changed. At our annual dinner, I was recognized as an original Tribe member and one of the oldest. They awarded me a patch. By this point, I was near my 80th birthday. Coronavirus had shut down the world and I hardly rode that beautiful, large BMW. The Tribe motorcycle club was no longer familiar: new meeting place, new faces, new bikes. I felt my passion for motorcycling wane, and I sold the BMW. However, not yet fully ready to give up on two wheels, I replaced the Beamer with a red Yamaha 400cc scooter. It was “twist-and-go” peppy, quiet, with up-to-date technology. But that too, sat under cover next to the garage. It had less than 1,500 miles. Just having passed my 81st year, I faced reality. My riding days were over. I sold the Yamaha to an enthusiastic mid-50s dad who wanted to get back on two wheels just like I did some 30 years ago.
It was a lifetime of good memories and adventures, from newspaper delivery to Boy Scouts, from college years to adulthood. But mostly for the friendships made with fellow Jewish motorcycle aficionados. Insofar as motorcycling, it’s the end of the road for me.
Or maybe the end is just around the corner. I am considering an electric bike. My wife, Phyllis, says, “Give it up. It’s time to move on.”
She may be right. Perhaps it is the end of the road.
Thanks for the memories. And ride safe.
This week’s parasha is Vayeshev.
Candlelighting in Seattle is at 4:00 p.m.
The Mercaz Events Committee is so pleased to invite to our annual Mercaz Chanukah Party! Monday, December 19th, 2022 at 5pm, at Seattle Hebrew Academy. Please join us for candles, cocktails, sushi, live jazz, lakes, donuts, photobooth, chess, poker and more! There will be a separate kid party in the gym with supervision and a baby toddler room set up in the early childhood rooms with babysitters. Please sign up here: https://tinyurl.com/jazzofages
From the WSJHS staff and board of directors to Jewish Washington: we appreciate the community so very much and are grateful for all your participation this past year. Keep on making history and we look forward to seeing you in 2023!
Shout out to Lisa & Ed Kuh for being great neighbors! —Claudia Hartley
Shoutout to Dan Strauss for getting cafe streets legislation over the finish line. —Greg Scruggs
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