Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About Free Wheelin'

Publisher Rathjen weighs in on different things pertaining to motorcycling. Sometimes a bit hard to the point and slightly abrasive, his Free Wheelin’ column is not afraid to make a stand on issues that he feels are of importance to riders and riding.

Name: Brian Rathjen

Current Rides:

Kawasaki KLR 650, BMW R1200GS

Favorite quote:

If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right.

- Henry Ford

Late Night TV

It’s 2:30 am and I sit staring at the TV. Nestled on the plush couch, Spenser T. Cat sleeping on my chest, I have the remote in hand.

“What did we do back in the day?” I think.

Well, we actually had to get up and change the channel manually. Why do I picture my grandpa’s rear end clad in beige pants pulled up to his chest with suspenders as he bent over to turn the channel? Thank God they finally invented the ‘clicker.’

Scanning into the deep dark reaches of the higher number channels my eyes catch a glimpse of something unexpected. I smile and hit the button.

FWSeaHuntYou know what else they did back in the late 50s and 60s? They did what I was about to do… watch Sea Hunt.

Some of you might be thinking… “I remember that show,” right about now.

Sea Hunt ran from 1958 to 1962 and for a while was the #1 show on television. For 155 episodes, filmed in glorious black & white, Mike Nelson, portrayed by screen legend Lloyd Bridges, SCUBA’d his way into various adventures.

Many of the plots ran along the same line with the soon familiar ‘less skilled’ diver getting trapped, wedged, buried, stuck or stranded… and Mike Nelson eventually getting them out. (My favorite is when he used a Coast Guard helicopter to pull a roll of steel cable off some mope who seemed to be trapped for many hours with one tank of air.)

Now that I have discovered this show - that had me enthralled when I was a tike - I tape (Do we still call it that in this digital age?) and make Shira watch them after Jeopardy.

Happy wife, happy life.

Just as I watch MotoGP with my full leathers on, I sometimes watch Sea Hunt with mask, snorkel and fins.

It hit me one night that Sea Hunt brought thousands of people into the underwater sport and without this show recreational diving might not have caught on as quickly as it did. In my mind the entire SCUBA industry should be thanking Lloyd Bridges and Ivan Tors, the producer.

We here in Motorcycleland have our own television show to thank.

How many riders do you think got into motorcycles and travel from watching Then Came Bronson? Like a gazzilion!

But the similarities of both shows hit me like a case of the bends.

FWBronsonConvoBronson’s ride was a short one compared to Mike Nelson’s – the pilot almost didn’t make it onto NBC’s schedule, but was extended into a feature film in Europe. Americans rode with Michael Parks for just one short season of 26 episodes airing between September 17, 1969 and April 1, 1970.

For the few Backroads’ readers who might not have been ‘Bronsonized’ the show was about a guy named Jim Bronson, a newspaperman who becomes disillusioned after the suicide of his best friend Nick; remarkably played by a then unknown young actor named Martin Sheen.

After his death Bronson ends up with Nick’s Harley and, after a heated argument with his editor, has “enough with the man!” and takes off on the bike for parts unknown.

I was eleven about this time and watched mesmerized as Bronson pulls up to a stoplight and has the conversation with a middle-age driver of a station wagon.

It is obvious the driver was everybody in the world trudging through life and living a life of quiet desperation.

Driver: Taking a trip?

Bronson: What's that?

Driver: Taking a trip?

Bronson: Yeah.

Driver: Where to?

Bronson: Oh, I don't know. Wherever I end up, I guess.

Driver: Man, I wish I was you.

Bronson: Really?

Driver: Yeah.

Bronson: Well, hang in there.

The light then changes and Bronson rides away and they cut to him heading along the Pacific Coast Highway – an unknown and exotic place to an 11 year old in an apartment in Woodside, Queens.

This scene changed my life – maybe yours too,

What Sea Hunt was to diving, Then Came Bronson was for riding and the motorcycle industry should be forever grateful to this show.

When you think about it both sports - riding and diving - are solitary in nature yet many times we do them in groups. Many riders dive and many divers ride and I think we have two television shows to thank for some of this.