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About Postcards from the Hedge

Always on the cutting edge of the motorcycle industry, Bill Heald’s Postcards from the Hedge provides readers with an exceptional look into all things motorcycle. From racing to design to day-to-day riding, Heald has a grasp on it all.

Name: Bill Heald

Current Rides: Honda VFR and V45 Magna, Kawasaki Ninja 500, Triumph Street Triple R

Favorite quote:

The Wand chooses the Wizard Mr. Potter. It is not always clear why.

- Mr. Ollivander in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The Meticulous Musician

"Pants are overrated."

-Lyle Lovett, March 3, 2019 New London, CT

I've had a very chaotic life. It's been grand in its way, but it's certainly had its turbulence as well. As with most lives, there's been light and darkness in good measure, but more than anything else it's been unpredictable. Today I share one of the charmed aspects, and how sometimes you get nudges from the past that can be so helpful in the present when you had no idea you needed a mental refresher. Case in point: the spouse and I, along with three of her friends, braved an impending snowpocalypse to see a concert with none other than Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt, who put on an absolutely stellar evening of music and conversation in a classically restored Garde Arts Center in Connecticut. This was my first time seeing Mr. Hiatt, who was fabulous, and the first time I've seen Lyle in concert since the '90s. I met Mr. Lovett in the late '80s on the set of a film called DOA shot in Austin where I was in school, and I was already a fan. He was visiting the set and his friend Dennis Quaid, and I was the Camera Intern, and during a late meal I talked with Lyle a bit and found him to be as friendly and warm as he was talented (which is really saying something). Be patient, the motorcycle part is coming. HedgeLovett

Years later I was working on a film starring the amazing Julia Roberts and danged if I didn't encounter Lyle again as he visited Ms. Roberts. Romance ensued, and there was a marriage (Lyle and Julia; I was not involved). It was at this time I discovered that Lyle was an avid motorcyclist, and low and behold the story expanded when I met one of the best I've ever known in the motorcycle scribbling trade, one Tim Carrithers. At the time Tim was an Editor at Motorcyclist and a gentleman who's considerable abilities as a rider were only equaled by his skills at putting experiences into words in a feature article. Oh, and he's also a smashing bloke. Anyway, for a while, Tim went to work for Lyle handling the two-wheeled machines he took on the road with him, and in his own way was a trusted part of his "Large Band."

Tim and I became friends, and on one Honda-related bus ride in Ohio, after he returned to journalism full-time, I asked him about what kind of rider Lyle was. He passed on one of those observations that fit the subject perfectly, and Tim once again (as is his wont) captured the personality of the rider with a single anecdote. He told me Lyle had a meticulous pre-flight ritual he performed before motoring off, and in particular, Tim noticed the great precision he applied to adjusting his mirrors. Think about this for a moment: how many of us, especially when on trips, just load the bike up and head off, and at some point glance at a mirror and notice you've got a great shot of the third lane of traffic over instead of behind the bike. Mirrors have a tendency to get whacked by stuff when parked, probably because they stick out further than any other component and are (usually) easily altered. It's a simple thing but so revealing, and if you devote time to this chore it makes sense to give the entire bike a real quick once-over before every mission.

What brought this story back to me when I saw Lyle in concert was a moment when he paused to meticulously tune his guitar before a song, and I marveled at how carefully and perfectly he did it even though it took a bit of time. John Hiatt waited patiently, the crowd was whisper-quiet, I watched in fascination as he achieved perfect harmony with the strings and I thought about how such thoughtful adjustment was a personality trait. How perfect his mirrors must be before he rides off into the sunset like the cowboy he is, and no doubt how tuned his saddle must be when he rides his favorite horse at the end of the day as well. Such attention to detail is one reason why Lyle is a consummate singer/songwriter/entertainer, and it's clear he applies this focus in negotiating a motorcycle. This is a great thing to keep in mind if, like me, you tend to get a tad sloppy with things when you do a certain activity for years and years. Whether it's checking your equipment before a dive, doing your preflight inspection before firing up the Cessna, doing a once-over before you unleash the Troy-Bilt on an unsuspecting lawn or loading up the Honda for another day on the road, getting in the moment and focusing on the machine you're about to trust with your safety is never a waste of time. I'm lucky because now, whenever I do such a ritual, I have a song in my head as well. It's not always a Lyle Lovett tune, either. Sometimes it's John Hiatt. Man, the dude is good.