Sometimes they cuss a little too much, their jokes are a bit crude and their hands are usually greasy, but my friends are always full of surprises.
That was certainly the case with my buddy "Evel" Dave Radey last weekend.
If you're part of the local car or motorcycle scene you've probably seen him out there -- he's typically either roaring around dressed like Evel Knievel on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle or tooting the horn in his Dodge Charger, which is painted up to replicate the General Lee -- but take my word for it, the only thing evil about 'Evel' Dave is his machines.
A few years back a young lady named Virginia struck up a conversation with Radey at a car show and they became fast friends. Virginia has special needs and I was totally impressed with how much time he had for her, patiently answering all her questions, allowing her to sit in the car and toot the horn, and just generally being a really nice guy. The pair became unlikely pals and ever since that first meeting, it's common to see Virginia hop off a transit bus at one of the many events we attend each summer and set up beside Radey's car.
On Canada Day their friendship blossomed. Radey and his lady, Barb Miller, picked up Virginia at her inner-city apartment in the General Lee and took her to the Manitoba Mopar Association's annual Canada Day car show at Kildonan Park. I showed up a bit late, as usual, and there was Virginia sitting in the driver's seat of Radey's Charger with the biggest smile you've ever seen on her face.
"Hi Willy," Virginia said as soon as she spotted me. "Dave drove me here in the General Lee."
I already knew the answer to the question but I asked it anyway.
"Are you having fun?"
"This is the best Canada Day ever," Virginia replied as she smiled into my camera. The excitement in her eyes was obvious and it was all I could do to hold back the tears.
Later that night as we watched the Bombers beat Hamilton, I asked Radey why he took Virginia to the car show.
"The way I see it, people like Virginia probably don't get too many opportunities to have the same kind of fun we do," he said after pondering my question for a moment. "The smile on her face when we picked her up made it totally worthwhile."
It's hard to believe seven years have passed since I met Radey at a car show in Dugald back in 2004. He had just put the finishing touches on the General Lee; he restored it himself on the dirt floor of his father Richard's garage. We discovered that in addition to practically being neighbours, we had much in common, including a passion for cars, motorcycles, music and the occasional cold beer.
Since that day we have become best buddies and played countless gigs together in a band we created called The Gearheads. We've also starred together in two seasons of a TV show, restored a few cool rides including the Chickenmobile, attended countless car shows and motorcycle rallies together and drank more beer than either of us care to remember.
Throughout our friendship I've learned many things about my friend and a few things about myself. Sometimes folks probably figure we play in a band and build these flashy cars and motorcycles because we have some sort of strange affinity for attention, but the reality is that we do it because we love to entertain. There's just something about seeing kids of all ages smile and wave when we arrive at a show that totally warms our hearts, and it's what keeps us motivated.
On Saturday we headed to Stonewall to spend the day with the Bondslave Motorcycle Club at their annual rally. Before you get the wrong idea, make no mistake about it, these folks aren't outlaw bikers, but rather a close-knit group of Christians who just happen to ride motorcycles. Radey and I have become friends with the Bondslave members over the years and their annual rally is among our favourite events. The truth is we were initially a bit reluctant to hang out with these guys. Sure, we're both God-fearing country boys, but we didn't want faith forced on us and feared these dudes would judge us for our lifestyles. The reality couldn't have been further from the truth. You'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer, more down-to-earth group than the Bondslave members and their friends, families and supporters. If they do any preaching, it's obviously behind closed doors.
One of the highlights of the day was the grass motorcycle drags. Basically, throughout the afternoon, riders line up on a variety of motorcycles and race one another head to head down an eighth-mile drag strip mowed into a grassy field. Radey won all eight of his races, beating out guys on much more powerful machines than his 883cc Harley-Davidson that he customized to look just like the bike Evel Knievel used to jump over buses on. It was a total riot watching him clean up in the dirt and, like he always does, Radey won the event with total grace, praising the other competitors for putting forth their best efforts. Later at the awards ceremony, Radey not only received a trophy for his racing prowess, but also took home the best in show trophy. For the entire day youngsters were literally chasing Radey around the rally site, asking questions, posing for photos with his "Evel" motorcycle and generally having fun. Radey was his typical patient self.
Throughout the weekend I was reminded that there are many dudes like my pal "Evel" Dave Radey in the local motorcycle and car hobby community. As much as we like the feeling of accomplishment we get when we build and race our mean machines, the real reason we do it is for you. If all we did was hide our cool machines in the garage, how much fun would that be?