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Grasshopper Soup: His Harley is a girl guru

TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; The thunder of motorcycle exhaust pipes can intrude upon our mountain tranquility and devour it like a pack of wolves who cannot get their fill. And it only takes one to spoil a natural mountain high.

Renoand#8217;s Street Vibrations was no exception. It was ruined late Friday with a fatal shooting at The Nugget in Sparks, and a state of emergency declared there. A substantial minority of about 40 and#8220;onesand#8221; were involved. Most bikers had better things to do than fight.

I envy the good rebel, motorcycle lifestyle, but the blasting of motorcycle engines erupts in sharp contrast to the main reason most of us live in the Tahoe Basin, for the peace and quiet. The outlaws migrating in herds of loud bikes through Tahoe can be extremely rude with their throttles at times, even the good guys.



But then my brother James showed up on his 2006 Soft Tail Deluxe, sequential port injection Harley Davidson named Swami Priscillananda, with a Hindu religious symbol on the gas tank. Priscilla changed my opinion of motorcycle thunder like a union boss or corporate lobbyist bribing me with a million dollars to abandon my ideals.

My kickback reward was a two day ride around Lake Tahoe via Emerald Bay and Crystal Bay on Priscillaand#8217;s back seat. She was a pleasure to ride, and she made sure to treat us to the necessary stops for a good yoga stretch, and she was never loud.



James fell in love with Priscilla and her sleek, glossy blue, white and chrome body after a week of test rides, even though he wanted a more macho-looking bike. Priscillaand#8217;s first owner, a Beverly Hills hairstylist who named her and drove her less than 15,000 miles, wisely sold him the bike to fly to India and live the rest of his life in a Hindu ashram, as far away as possible from Beverly Hills values.

Tahoe bound on his new Harley, James stopped for some soul searching where his beautiful girlfriend, Vicki Johnson, had been killed in a motorcycle accident when they were both 20 years old. Another guy had been driving, took a curve too fast, leaned the bike over, caught a foot pedal on the asphalt, lost control and slammed into a telephone pole. When James heard the news he went numb and was never able to cry. His lack of emotion has haunted him ever since. Vickiand#8217;s memory was so painful to recall it almost prevented him from dragging Priscilla to visit the scene, but Priscilla guided him to the spot where he parked, dropped the kickstand, got off the bike and waited for what he did not know. Alone with a memory, his captive tears ran free like healing waters.

But he was not alone. A man in the yard of a home across the street became a little suspicious of the stranger in the leather jacket and chaps checking out the neighborhood. He walked over to James as they began to talk. As destiny would have it, the man turned out to be the second person on the scene who found Vicki 28 years ago. He told James that Vicki, and the driver of the bike, had both died instantly. As they talked, the two strangers traveled back in time to that sad day together and returned as good friends.

What are the chances of such an encounter, on a weekday morning, after so many years?

James did not ride Priscilla all the way from Marina Del Rey for Street Vibrations. His journey was to soul vibrations sought, and found, at the site of Vickiand#8217;s death, with family and friends and a swim in Lake Tahoe, which is always good medicine.

Our epic ride enhanced my Tahoe experience more than I thought it could. The patented, custom Harley Davidson thunder is now a welcome sound, like the chant of OM, and, thanks to Swami Priscillananda, will never bother me again. OK, almost never.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 28 years.


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