Today is officially the first day of winter, and here in Manitoba, winter is a great time to reflect, to unwind, to scheme and to dream. Probably because a Manitoba winter lasts for about 11 months…
My first order of business is to get a few repairs done on my 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide. I managed to clock about 12,000 kilometres last summer, and also managed to run over a fairly large white fence post some idiot left in the middle of the road near my place, at the top of the only hill for miles. The bottom line was a busted saddlebag and a couple of deep scratches, to the tune of about $1,300 in damage.
I managed to keep the bike on two wheels and was able to ride out the rest of the season by giving the damaged parts some crude stitches with cable-ties. It will be good as new for next spring following some love at Harley-Davidson Winnipeg. That’s what insurance is for. I can’t say enough good things about this bike: It is smooth, fast, handsome and stylish. All things I am not.
The Street Glide will be ready for the 2018 riding season, which marks Harley-Davidson’s 115th anniversary. Every five years, they host a big party in Milwaukee that is an absolute blast – I’ve attended the 105 and 110 parties and God willing I’ll be there for the 115. My big brother, Allen, who is also a motorcycle enthusiast, lives in Ottawa and in 2013 we met up in Milwaukee for a ridiculously fun week.
We checked out the amazing Harley museum, which if you ask me is about the coolest place on earth. We also rode the tires off our bikes touring all the sights and took in a Kid Rock concert, which was made even better with a guest appearance from John Fogerty. It was easily one of the best weeks I can remember and I can’t wait to relive it all over again this summer.
This time, instead of meeting up with Allen in Milwaukee, I’m planning to ride to Ottawa and visit with my brother and his family before we head west. It really promises to be an awesome trip. Allen has been in Ottawa for about 10 years now and has many riding buddies out that way, and a couple of them are planning to join us on the ride to Milwaukee. Any brothers of my brother are my brothers. Previously I’ve ridden Road Kings to Milwaukee, but this will be my first trip on a Street Glide and I’m pumped.
A long time ago, Allen, who is quite a bit smarter than me, asked me what was bugging me and I told him I was having trouble sleeping. He said something to me I’ll never forget: “When I can’t sleep, I think about something I’m looking forward to instead of worrying about something that already happened.” Definitely words to live by. When my head hits the pillow this winter, I’ll be dreaming about Milwaukee!
My other plan for the year is to make a documentary that blends my passion for history and motorcycles.
I’m a proud made-in-Manitoba Metis. My family roots intersect with Louis Riel and, quite frankly, I idolize him and everything he stood for. He is the founder of Manitoba and a heroic rebel who fought to his death to protect the Metis. Without Riel, I would not be the same man I am today.
I’ve thought long and hard for many years about Riel and what he means to me. This summer, my 50th on Earth, I intend to ride for him. My friends and I have been fortunate to make a couple of TV shows in the past few years — Buy it, Fix it, Sell It and Willy’s Garage, both of which can be watched on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN). Making TV is a lot of fun and a chance to both entertain and educate others. It is also how I intend to pay tribute to Louis Riel.
My plan is to round up friends and family members who ride and create a new motorcycle club, the Riel Riders. I then hope to get out on the road this summer and follow the journey Riel took, from his time in Manitoba to his exile in Montana to his stay in a Quebec hospital and his fateful last days in Regina. This is the documentary of my dreams. In the film business, it’s called a passion project.
Along the way, we will meet up with other riders and perhaps even answer a question: Why do so many Metis men ride motorcycles? Is it because we have always felt a little out of place in this world?
Call me a dreamer, but I have a sneaking suspicion there will be many Riel Riders alongside me when this dream becomes a reality. Now all I need is a producer, a film crew and some funding…
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Hey Willy, maybe we should organize a CMG pub night when you’re in Ottawa. Hasn’t been one here in a long time. Keep us posted.