Last weekend during the Super Swap Meet in Davenport, Iowa the AMCA (Antique Motorcycle Club of America) Ryan Mackey was picked by 30 judges as the winner of the “Free Harley Give Away Contest”. He was one of the ninety 18 to 25 year olds that wrote an essay for the contest which ran for October 1st 2008 through August 15th 2009. The prize for the contest is a 1942 Harley Davidson WLA bobber in pieces, and 2 months shop time at Carl’s Cycle Supply in Aberdeen, SD. As soon as Ryan finishes building the bike and rides it, he will get the title for the bike and get to keep it. Congrats to him for writing a beautiful essay that I reproduce below.
“My name is Ryan Mackey and I am 18 years old. Motorcycles have been a huge part of my life for a very long time. I first fell in love with vintage motorcycles watching my neighbor work on his shovelhead. Every time my brother and I heard the bike start up, we would run outside to watch him wrench on it and ride it away. I spent many nights dreaming about riding a bike like that some day.
My parents were very against motorcycles of any kind but after saving my hard earned money for years, realizing how much enthusiasm I had for motorcycles, my parents let me buy my first dirt bike when I was 11 not realizing what this would mean to me in the future. I could not of been happier with this bike and my life until a week before my fifteenth birthday when my world got flipped upside down. This is when I found out that my parents were getting divorced and my mom was moving out. This came as a huge surprise to both my brother and I. My family had always meant the world to me and to suddenly find out that we would never all be together again really shook me up. To make things worse, my brother who is three years older than me, and my best friend, was moving away to college in only a few months. I was totally lost as to what to do. None of my friends could relate to my situation and were stuck in the typical high school mindset of not caring about anything. I felt like there was nothing I could do to get away from things. Being only 15, I could not just go out for a drive or go dirt biking by myself. I was in very bad shape and came very close to going down a very bad path.
Thankfully my uncle realized this and knowing that I was into motorcycles and loved to work on my dirt bike, gave me a 1975 Harley-Davidson SX250 basket case that was in his barn to work on. I spent every moment I had working on this bike. Not only did it keep my mind off of everything that was going on, it saved me from getting into a lot of trouble like many kids my age did. After working on this bike for many months, I was still having a lot of trouble dealing with my parents being divorced and my brother being hundreds of miles away at school. Also around this time, my dog, which was my only steady companion through all of this, suddenly died.
Realizing how much working on this bike helped me deal with everything initially, I decided to buy a 1974 Honda CB750 that was not running just as a winter project to work on. Even though this was not a bike I ever pictured riding, it was all I could afford. Everyone I knew thought I was crazy spending money on something that I was not even allowed to ride. My parents refused to let me ride on the street, knowing how dangerous it can be. I told them that I did not care if I ever rode it, I just wanted to work on it and build a café racer. This bike became my life over the winter. I spent more time with it in the garage than I did hanging out with friends. I spent many Friday nights in the garage putting a new part on I just got in the mail. Everyone doubted my ability to build what I had planned. I was showing pictures of café racers to everyone to show what it would look like when I was done and they would just roll their eyes behind my back.
Much to everyone’s surprise, I rolled a very impressive looking café racer out of the garage in the spring. I had hundreds of hours into this bike and was so proud of it. I never once had any help in the building of the bike and loved every minute of it. My parents, realizing the amount of time I had in it, suprisingly let me get my motorcycle endorsement. To this day I still have both of these bikes and work on or ride them daily.
Looking back now, three and half years after my world came crashing down, it is amazing what I was able to accomplish thanks to motorcycles. I was able to stay clean and out of trouble. I also have been able to become an Eagle Scout and a Firefighter for a local volunteer department. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to me if I did not have motorcycles as therapy.
Winning this contest would mean much more to me than just getting to own my dream bike. I would be thrilled to be able to work alongside professionals and would try to learn as much as possible while building it. My dream one day is to open a motorcycle shop and this would definitely help me move in that direction. If I were to win the Harley, I would definitely keep it to one day pass it down to my son or daughter. Hopefully they would love motorcycles just as much as I do.
My goal after winning this contest would be to do everything I could to keep a similar contest going every year in hopes of getting more people my age into vintage motorcycles. I think this is a great, possibly life changing thing that you are doing for whoever is lucky enough to win” Ryan Mackey.