Opinion: Riding with Heart

Sam Miron’s only been riding a motorcycle for the last three years, several decades after getting his licence, but he wanted to make a Big Trip. Like, a 5,000-kilometre Big Trip from Vancouver to his home in Cobourg, Ontario.

It’s a bucket list thing to do now that he’s approaching 70 years old, so he started planning and preparing the 2008 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe that he bought last year. He budgeted about $4,000 for the trip, including $900 for trucking the bike to Vancouver, and then flying out there to ride it home. The plan was to take 10 days and be home in time for Father’s Day this Sunday.

Sam’s dad died in 2012 from a heart attack and his mom died from heart ailments last year, one month after his mother-in-law died from a heart attack. Sam put the word out about his upcoming trip and asked for supporters to help raise $5,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada – a dollar for each kilometre.

The bike was loaded on a trailer on June 4 and when he flew out to Vancouver on June 8, Sam had already raised $3,500 for the Ride with Heart. And when he got there – there was no waiting motorcycle.

I called him that afternoon, just to check that he’d arrived okay and his bike was ready for the ride. He was in his hotel room and he wasn’t happy.

“I just spoke with the driver. He’s in Alberta,” said Sam. “The trailer broke down and it’s in a compound in northern Ontario. He didn’t even tell the broker. They don’t know when it will get here but it will probably be at least another 10 days.”

Ten days of sitting in a Vancouver hotel room and maybe longer just wasn’t an option. Sam’s a realtor in Cobourg and while he could take some extra time away from his work, there was still no guarantee the bike would ever arrive. Besides, he’d landed with only a carry-on bag – his clothes and equipment were all with the bike – so he was already thinking of flying home and giving up on the Ride with Heart.

Sam arrived in Vancouver ready to start his ride, his Softail Deluxe did not.

But then Harley-Davidson found out about the stranded motorcycle and stepped in to help.

“When I got the call, I was flabbergasted,” said Sam. “I thought it was a prank.”

Aleks Bulat, the Customer Experience Lead for Harley-Davidson Canada, phoned Sam and told him Harley wanted to help him get back on the road. She made a bunch of calls and arranged for people from Thunder Bay Harley-Davidson to drive the three hours up to the storage compound near Geraldton, free the bike from the open car-hauler trailer (where it was wedged behind another vehicle), and return it to the store. Then the original trucking broker arranged for the bike to be delivered from there direct to Edmonton.

In the meantime, Barnes Harley-Davidson lent Sam a 2021 Heritage Softail to take from their store in Langley, B.C., to their store in South Edmonton – an 1,100-kilometre ride over the Rockies through Kamloops and Jasper.

Barnes Harley-Davidson lent Sam a 2021 Heritage Softail to take from their store in Langley, B.C., to their store in South Edmonton.

That’s right: Lent. As in, no charge. And when the bike arrived on Sunday afternoon, the service manager came from home to help offload it and get him on his way.

“This has been enlightening,” said Sam when I called him last night. He’d already reached Dryden, Ontario, at the end of 711 km since the morning and the longest riding day of his life so far. He had to cross Manitoba without staying the night, otherwise he’d have had to quarantine there for 14 days.

Sam was preparing to ride today to Thunder Bay, to thank the store staff for their help.

“I have a hard time accepting help from people, but this has all been remarkable and I don’t really know what to say. I told my daughter about this and she gave me some great advice. She said, ‘Dad, just say thank you and then shut the F up.’”

Harley’s Aleks Bulat says no thanks are needed, adding that “Harley-Davidson Canada was happy to be part of the team of people working together in reuniting Sam Miron with his Softail, so he could continue his fund-raising journey across Canada.”

Sam said the 2021 Softail was a pleasure to ride but he was happy to be back on his own bike, which was like reuniting with an old friend. He was also happy to be reunited with his luggage. He stepped off the plane in shorts, so bought a riding jacket and a pair of jeans at a thrift store in Langley, and a new helmet, but rode through rain and sleet in the Rockies wearing just running shoes with no rain gear.

Now he’s on the road home and has been writing updates each day on his Facebook page. He’s raised almost $6,000 for Heart and Stroke so, with his newfound confidence in the generosity of people, he’s upped the target to $10,000. If you’d like to contribute, you can donate here.

Sam is back on his 2008 Softail Deluxe and finishing the ride home to Coburg, ON.

If everything goes as expected – and it certainly hasn’t so far – Sam will be home this weekend in time to visit his parents’ grave in Peterborough on Sunday. When I first spoke with him a couple of weeks ago, he thought he might come home and tick the trip off his bucket list, then sell his motorcycle to buy a convertible; his wife is nervous to ride on a bike. Now, that plan is very much on hold.

“I don’t want to stop riding – I’m having too much fun,” he says. “And of course, now I could never ride anything but a Harley. It’s Harley all the way for me.”


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