When Frank Palmer approached me about reading his book Wow! What A Ride! I thought I knew what to expect. It would be a compilation of stories that span his riding experience. And always eager to learn about how others enjoy life or two, or three, wheels, I accepted.
The book arrived shortly, and my first moments were invested in taking in the front and back cover. I must admit that a bike book with a big flag on the cover gave it two plusses already, and I had yet to even open the book.
But I felt my heart sink a little bit when I scanned the three-page table of contents. I braced myself for a very factual evaluation of each bike listed in chronological order of its purchase. It covered a dozen bikes and nearly five decades of riding.
To be honest, I was hoping for something that was more a blend of bike facts and narratives. But now, I was worried that Frank and his technical prowess would put me in way over my head. However, the picture on the first page after the table of contents hooked me: little Frank on his first wheeled vehicle at about the age of 4 or 5.
Off On the Right Path
Before I had even officially reached chapter one, Frank had won my undivided attention. The forward is a summary of his life up to his first bike. But there is far more information than that to be absorbed.
We soon meet Frank and his band of buddies, but we are also inspired to think back to our own youth. The world was a far different place for a 10 to 15-year-old some 40 plus years ago. And if you were fortunate enough to live it, Frank will take you on a trip down memory lane—or an old dirt memory trial.
For those who missed out on life before video games, helicopter parents, and the ability to learn from your own mistakes, even the painful ones, Frank will show you what you missed.
Understanding Frank’s Calendar
After a few chapters, I was starting to understand that time in Frank’s world was marked by the bikes he was riding at the time. But his book is about far more than just those bikes.
Blended in with the bikes are tales from school, his first job in a tiny town, and how a group of young men in his industrial arts class helped him get past one of the worst moments in his life, the loss of his father. His stories are real-life and appeal to anyone, rider or not. Quite literally, the motorcycles are just the vehicle that provided Frank with his fantastic journey and the lessons he has so kindly shared with readers.
By this point, I felt more like I was reading a letter. Ok, I’m old. Maybe some would say an email from a childhood friend. We were catching up on where life had taken us, almost like we were at a reunion or had just crossed paths with each other, climbing off of our bikes at some random gas station.
By page 53, Frank’s gifts for storytelling, writing, and relating thoughts and feelings had convinced me that we were old friends, kindred spirits, or something along those lines. But we were certainly no longer strangers.
Seeing Life From a New Perspective
I think we all enjoy living vicariously when given the opportunity. And Frank is willing to share his stories about the people and places that made each bike and the moments shared on them such memorable life experiences.
If you are reading this, you get that being on a bike is a life-altering experience. Sure it can take you places, but anything with wheels can physically take you places, even a cage.
The experiences on a bike are more about the freedom that your mind enjoys from its well-protected perch inside a helmet. And even if you are not a full-face helmet guy or gal, I understand that you still appreciate and understand that Zen state of mind that comes when you throw your leg over a bike. I just happened to be the type of person that likes the confined world inside my helmet.
For some ironic reason, that small space inside my helmet channels my focus to truly see and experience all that is around me. So enjoy the ride however it works best for you—just please do it safely and make the most of every minute, as Frank does.
A Man with a Mission
I don’t want to reveal too many of the treasures you will discover as you read WWAR! because many things will make you stop and think, and digest the information Frank provides. Like a fine seven-course gourmet meal, this book is not to be rushed. It is best savored and pondered to appreciate its full flavor and all of the complexities and nuisances.
In broad strokes, I feel that patriotism, generosity, and human kindness are words not used often enough in today’s world. And this book makes you give them some thought. But the most significant concept here is that these are not just words to Frank. They are actions. And reading about some of his experiences in the latter section of the book is nothing short of immensely inspiring.
Even More Common Ground
Each time I reached a part in the book where it made me smile or chuckle or simply sit in silence and contemplate what I had just read, I was thankful for the opportunity. And I was also glad that I was reminded to look beyond the cover and table of contents before judging a book. That advice covers human beings as well.
Life today is fast-paced and busy. We often fail to invest the time to really know a person or even get a realistic glimpse of who they are. But taking this journey, this ride of a lifetime, has reminded me of that important lesson.
Invest the time to look deeper and find the treasures along the way. Meet people, share experiences, and give back to those who have given so much for the life we often take for granted.
One More Like-Minded Experience in Art Appreciation
And on a final note, I am glad to know that I am not the only experienced (read here older, maybe even much older) rider who found a moment of childlike excitement enticing a fine piece of Italian artwork to crack 130! Wow! What A Ride! And thank you, Frank, for sharing these experiences, memories, and priceless moments with us.
A Must-Read Book
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a new outlook on life, the world, and how we all have the ability to make a difference. WWAR! is much more than a just story about bikes, just as every biker is much more than what the cage dwellers assume when they look at us and often turn away with a slight expression of disgust.
So get a copy of your own and head out on this journey with Frank—because like in life, it is often more about getting there than the final destination.