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Review - The Old Man and the Harley

Updated on February 15, 2014

A Last Ride Through our Father’s America

The Old Man and the Harley is the name of a book that I read recently, written by John J. Newkirk. The book captivated me. To be completely honest, it doesn’t look like the sort of book that I would normally be interested in. I guess the old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover is proven once again.


The Old Man and the Harley
The Old Man and the Harley

The book made its way into my hands through my husband who had borrowed it from a friend. He has a group of friends that ride together. They all ride Harleys so I figured motorcycles must be the theme of the book.

As my husband was reading, he related things to me which piqued my interest. Laying the book down after he had finished, he turned to me and said that I should read it. He saw me hesitate slightly and quickly said that the book isn’t just about motorcycles and bikers, adding that he thought I would really enjoy the book. So I agreed to read it.

I realize that this is not a new book. In fact, it was published 2 years ago. Since I had never heard of the book until I read it, I thought perhaps others may have missed it as well.

None of the popular reviewer quotes come to mind. It isn’t a real page turner and I could put it down, but I knew immediately that I wanted to read the entire book. As I finished the last chapter, although I was alone, I said out loud, ‘wow.’

For a number of reasons, this book intrigued me. So I went to read reviews online. Although many of the reviewers mentioned they like the book, even quoting from its pages, I didn’t read anything from them that showed me that the book had an impact on them like it did me.


Jack dubbed it The Raspberry.
Jack dubbed it The Raspberry.
The World's Fair, 1939, New York
The World's Fair, 1939, New York
The World's Fair, 1939, San Francisco
The World's Fair, 1939, San Francisco

The reviews I read centered on the 2 main story lines. The first is about the father, the old man, who bought a 10 year old Harley back in 1939. His wish was to see both the World’s Fair in New York and the one in San Francisco.

We follow his journey on the old Harley across the country. The second story line features the son who attempts to recreate the journey years later. Woven through these story lines are side stories about family members and how life ultimately becomes history.

What I thought was missing in these reviews was the heart of the story. Now, I’m no editor and I write pretty much how I talk. So, for me to say that this book is literary brilliance is way off the mark. I’ve never even written a book review.

Maybe if I had read the reviews before reading the book instead of afterward, I wouldn’t feel that they missed the real intent of the book.

Perhaps they intentionally left out the intent, to allow the reader to reach their own conclusions. I hope that is the case.

The Flying Tigers
The Flying Tigers

Part Adventure. Part History. All American.

The America that was, is the backdrop for the story line that focuses on Jack, who is the old man of the title. He is just young pup at the time. Jack is 19 and it is the last summer of his youth. His adventure across the country fills the pages with the ideals and inspiration of the America that used to be. Jack introduces us to his family, and to Scarsdale Jack who flew with the Flying Tigers, and is an American Hero.

We met real people, not just caricatures. We see a way of life that is all but gone. Americans, who lived the values that today, we seem to have misplaced. They still have something to teach us. It is their ingenuity and their spirit that is needed by Americans today. This generation, dubbed The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw, is barely remembered today. They are the parents of the Baby Boomers.

Their sacrifices and their sense of right and wrong are, for the most part, mere foot notes in some history book.  Jack’s story brings this generation to life. 

John is Jack’s son and the subject of the second story line.  John grew up loved but always felt like he never quite measured up to the old man.  He seeks this cross country trip to assuage those feelings and to learn how to say goodbye to the old man.  What he learns along the way surprises him.  We don’t meet very many people in this part of the story but we surely see the contrast and the similarities between the America of 1939 and the America of today.  Plagued with the same demons that most of us carry around, John inevitably faces his inner adversaries and embraces his life.  To me, this is the heart of the story. 

Excerpts from the book


Deception told me that faith is a sign of weakness –and that I should worship the planet instead of its Creator. And he would have me believe that the heart has gone out of our country, that is has seen its zenith, and that we have squandered the brilliance of our youth.

If defeatism thinks my people can be broken in just one generation, then he has grossly underestimated us. We may not always live up to our ideals, but show me a people who have ever set higher ones.

The heart has not gone out of my country. The brilliance of its youth is reborn with each generation that values freedom, honor and respect –and I believe out greatest generation is yet to come.

Ours is not a time for surrender. It is a time for choosing.



Scarsdale Jack

The old man’s cousin and American Hero, of the legendary Flying Tigers

Publisher's Review

The Old Man and the Harley



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    • profile image

      darwin 

      7 years ago

      cool bike how much

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Thank you Karen, I'm glad you liked it. Very nice of you to comment.

    • Karen Ellis profile image

      Karen Ellis 

      8 years ago from Central Oregon

      Very nice read, thanks.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, MaryRenee. It was a great read. Thank you for reading my hub and for your nice comments.

    • profile image

      MaryRenee 

      8 years ago

      Joni, thanks for sharing this hub! I've heard of this book before ,it seems like a great read! :)

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Thank you JamaGenee. Your comment are sincerely appreciated. What you said... one person' journey won't be the same as another's.......is an analogy of us all. We are all on the same journey yet our adventures are unique. Glad you stopped by.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      8 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      This sounds like a book that would make me say "wow" at the end too. I love stories that take us back in time and then contrast the journey with the present. Even faithfully following the same route, one person's journey won't be the same as another's, especially when they're from different generations. Please tell your husband "Thank you" for bringing this book to your attention, and thanks to you for bringing it to ours. ;D

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Thank you for your comments heart4theword. I know the 'Son's of God' well. My husband was instrumental in helping to get a charter started around here. Bikers are some of the nicest people I know.

    • heart4theword profile image

      heart4theword 

      8 years ago from hub

      Know allot of Harley riders. The ones I know, are Christian Harley Owners:) Some of them ride for the "Son's of God." They do enjoy getting out, to enjoy the scenery:)

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Cool! thank you. Please let me know how you like the book when you are done reading it.

    • John B Badd profile image

      John B Badd 

      8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      I ordered a coppy though your page. Hope u get the kick back and not HubPages :)

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Thanks John, in that case, you are sure to like the book. Thank you for stopping by.

    • John B Badd profile image

      John B Badd 

      8 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Sounds like a good book Joni. I love Harleys and America so it has two things going for it.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Cool carolina muscle. I'd be interested to hear what you think about the book. Thanks for your comments.

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 

      8 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I enjoyed this review.. I'll check it out!

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      billy, thank you for reading it. I think you would like the book. If you do read it, let me know what you think when you are done with it. I'd really be interested.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 

      8 years ago

      A great review Joni I need to get it - it reminded me a little of Kerouac's On the road too - the journey etc.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      You are so welcome Michael. And I thank you for your nice comments.

    • Michael Adams1959 profile image

      Isaiah Michael 

      8 years ago from Wherever God leads us.

      Man what memories I had an uncle with one of those old Harley's, what memories that came flooding my thoughts, thanks for the memories!

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Glad you liked it Kaie. I can just imagine how much fun your brother's friend had. Those stories must be fascinating. Thanks for your comment and for the forward.

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 

      8 years ago

      I know a few old men with Harleys........... oops; don't tell them I said that! My brothers best friend spent 2 years traveling around the world on his Harley after he retired from the police force.......... his stories are fabulous, and I am going to forward this link to him........

      Thank you, this was fun!

      K

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Sure they will Joe, but before that they'll have to rewrite the highlights just like they did back then. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Joezap profile image

      Joezap 

      8 years ago from Washington rainy coast

      The good ‘ole days! I wonder if anyone will ever write about our time as “The good ‘ole days”? You know .... They’ll say ... “Back when a Mc Donalds hamburger only cost a dollar instead of 10 since the Obama days”

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      dahoglund, I thought it was a very good read. Surprised myself at how much I enjoyed the book. Thought I'd share. Thank you for commenting.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Sound like a good read.It sounds like much of what made the TV show "route 66" popular. That is seeing the lief in different communities. Things have changed even from the 1960's, let alone from the 1930's.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for commenting CYBERSUPE. Didn't intend to make you weep in the morning. :-)

      It was era of possibilities to be sure. You would enjoy the book.

    • CYBERSUPE profile image

      CYBERSUPE 

      8 years ago from MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

      Thanks for the memories---I was just a little boy in 1939 and the World Fair pictures brought tears to my eyes, as I remember those wonderful years that are now long gone. Thanks Joni

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