Dodging the RoadkillClarksville, TN – I spent my career in the spotlight.  Forty years in broadcasting.  The last eighteen years as the owner of a radio station, and the host of a morning talk show.  I was right in the middle of everything.

Over the course of my career, I “hob-knobbed” with the rich and famous.  Rock stars, politicians, entertainers and more.  There was nobody I couldn’t hang out with. There wasn’t a politician or public official I couldn’t interview.

In 2012 I sold my radio station and looked forward to “slowing down”.  No more going to bed by 9:00pm so I could “rise and shine” by 4:30am, then sound like I was on top of the world by 6:00am.

I loved what I did for a living, but to be honest, the last couple of years of my career, I was burnt to a crisp.  I was worn out.  Tired of it all.  Sick of the politics.  After all, Clarksville is a small town, with small town politics.

It was time to go.  And so I went.

For the first six months it was AWESOME!  I stayed up late, slept late and didn’t do a damn thing.

Then, that got old and I realized that I wasn’t as prepared for retirement as I thought I was.  I had no motivation, no drive, no interest in anything. I didn’t have any financial concerns, I was healthy and had just bought a place in Nashville for my wife and I to enjoy the “big city.” So why was I so miserable?  I didn’t have any reason to feel so bad.

But I did.

Hank Motorcycle

I realized that some people who I thought were my friends, apparently weren’t.  They disappeared.  Wouldn’t return phone calls.  Invites to go to lunch and just “catch up” were declined for one reason or another.  People I had done business with for years and years just didn’t want anything to do with me, it seemed.

The phone stopped ringing.  I was insignificant.  I was no big deal.  No longer a big fish in a small pond.  I realized that for the most part, maybe some of those relationships were phony.  Maybe they were just using me to have access to the radio station and I thought I was smarter than that.  I wasn’t, and I was embarrassed and humiliated.  Was my career a joke?

The brain is a powerful muscle.  You think a lot of things when you’re depressed.

So, I had to take my share of responsibility for how phony those relationships were.  I realized I wasn’t who I thought I was in the community, and among my peers, and I found myself slipping into some serious depression.  I rarely left the house and spent a lot of time just laying in bed.  It was a real challenge to just take a shower and do a few chores around the house.

Depression is real and it’s a bitch. You just feel helpless, hopeless and worthless.

Then one day, I went to meet a friend for lunch and he asked me to pick him up at the local Harley-Davidson dealership.  When I got there, they were wheeling his bike out of the shop.  I said, “is that yours?” he said “yes” and I said,  “what the hell?”  He then proceeded to name all the people my age who rode motorcycles and I just shook my head and thought, “what am I missing?”

So my curiosity was now peaked and I began to research.  I studied over 150 hours worth of videos, blogs and more to learn more about the motorcycle culture, the bikes, the people and the “journey.”

I took the safety class to see if I could still ride a motorcycle, and if I still had the confidence to do so.

I did.

Then I started test riding various models and narrowed my search to two brands of Harley-Davidson touring bikes.

Meanwhile, I had reconnected with a mentor of mine in Texas.  He has been a biker since 1965 and he guided me through the process of purchasing my bike.  He also told me that it was a culture, a brotherhood, a journey.  It wasn’t just a motorcycle.  It was family.

So one year ago today, I bought a 2016 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special, and put over 30,000 miles on it.  I made two trips to Texas, three trips to Gulf Shores Alabama, and a week-long journey to Florida, Georgia and back through the amazing Smokey Mountains and yes I rode the famous Tail of the Dragon.

Was I running from something?  Did I have a death wish?  Suddenly I had a passion for something again.  Suddenly I was meeting new people, making new friends.  Suddenly, I wasn’t so depressed about the past and was excited about the future.

If you ride, then you know the feeling of straddling a high powered motorcycle and taking to the open road.  Just you and God and the great outdoors.  Your senses are peaked.  Your adrenaline is pumping through your body.  You’re pushing limits you haven’t pushed in years.  That sense of danger lurking on the perimeter of your life.  At any moment, things could go bad, but you don’t care.

On the many travels I’ve made in the past year, I’ve been amazed at the people I’ve met on the road.  That motorcycle just attracts attention.  Young and old. Everybody wants to see the bike.  To be up close and dream of what could be, or what has been.

I was excited about something again.  I couldn’t wait to ride again.  The friends I’ve been making are genuine.  They don’t want anything from me.  They just want to ride.  We’re brought together through a motorcycle.  There’s nothing like it!  #brotherhood

I know the dangers of riding a motorcycle.  Everybody wants to tell me their story of someone they knew, who was killed on one.  I would like to think that those stories, in some small way, is your attempt to show some concern for my safety, but seriously, I could be killed driving down I-24 to Nashville for dinner.

I’ve gotten over the past, and come to grips with what once was and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I’ve turned in another direction and I’m excited and I feel good and I don’t care what anybody thinks about it.

Depression is real.  I know.  Please support those who are struggling with it.  Encourage them, love them, get them involved in something.  Anything.

I was lucky, I bought a motorcycle.