Still riding at 90
Since the first time Frank Harvey got on a motorcycle over 20 years ago, he has travelled several hundred thousand kilometres on two wheels.
In fact, the 90-year-old Bay Roberts resident still takes his bike out for long rides. This year he has travelled to Gander, Eastport, Terra Nova and Glovertown.
But riding isn’t just a fun pastime for Frank; it’s an activity he has devoted his retired life. He used to spend a lot of time riding with his late wife, Mary. Now he rides with a few of his close friends.
“Every day we get a fine day, we’re gone,” Frank said from his home last week.
Since 1995, Frank has been a member of the Gold Wing Road Riders association. To become a member one has to be the owner of a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. Frank drives a GL 1800, the largest bike made by Honda.
In his mid-60s, Frank was retired and looking for a hobby. He used to run a machine shop, so he had plenty of experience working with metal. That is when he decided to fix up an old Honda V45.
The previous owner ran it off the road and struck a culvert. But instead of being disposed of, Frank decided he would take it on as a project.
“I said, ‘I must buy it and repair it,’” he explained. “And I did.”
It was then he decided to get his motorcycle license.
For practice, the former Upper Gullies resident went to the old rail beds in the community. He owned a cabin in the area and thought it was ideal for learning to ride.
Being in his 60s never slowed him down. Neither did being in his 70s and 80s. His love for bikes just continued to grow each time he hit the open road.
When he had a leak around the gasket of his bike, he decided to head to Honda for parts. He had no idea that would be the day he would purchase a brand new Gold Wing.
The sales person told him to take it for a spin, and he was hesitant at first.
“I told him, ‘I’m only a beginner,’” he said.
But the salesperson said that didn’t matter, so Frank decided to give it a test drive. When he returned, he bought the GL1500 on the spot.
That bike did a lot of sightseeing. He replaced it after putting some 100,000 kilometres on it. In fact, he put over 100,000 kilometres on the three Gold Wings he has owned. His current bike has over 140,000.
“We used to go down to the states,” Frank said of him and Mary, who died in February of this year. “She used to love it too.”
On one trip, the couple travelled 11,000 kilometres across 20 states.
He has also made several trips to other Canadian provinces, including one he will never forget to Prince Edward Island.
“I was having some pinstriping done,” Frank recalled. “So I walked down over the hill from the hotel to see if the bike was finished.”
It wasn’t. So he decided to head back up the hill to the hotel.
“Before I got up to the hotel, oh the hard pain in my chest,” he described. “I had to stop. By the time I got up to the hotel I had to sit on the patio. That’s where I really took sick.”
Frank had two significant arterial blockages. He had bypass surgery and took a new look on life. He started to eat better, and still does to this day.
“I threw something out this morning because it looked like it had too much fat in it.”
Unfortunately, because of his health issues, Frank no longer qualifies for travel insurance to go to the United States, so his trips have been limited in recent years.
A love story
Although his late wife didn’t ride a motorcycle, she was always on board when Frank rode. She shared his enthusiasm for the love of the road.
“She never once complained,” Frank said, smiling.
Mary was Frank’s second wife, but was with him throughout all his motorcycle days. The two held a special bond that dates back many years, and it led to a rekindling of their relationship.
“My second wife was my first girlfriend,” Frank laughed.
He drove a bus in Upper Gullies, and Mary worked for the same company. One day he decided to move on to bigger things for work, and left. That’s when he met his first wife, moved to Bay Roberts in 1953 and started a family. He stayed in Bay Roberts, which is where he and Mary lived as well.
When Frank attended his first motorcycle meet when he first began riding, he was given the award for the oldest rider. For years, he has taken home the same title. Frank is the oldest active member of the Gold Wing riding club in Atlantic Canada to still be taking his motorcycle out for spins. In fact, Frank reckons he might be the oldest in Canada.
But age is just a number to Frank, and has no intentions of putting down his kickstand permanently.
“I’ll take it one day at a time,” he said.
After he was finished chatting, he went to the shed in the backyard where the Gold Wing stays. As of last week, it had not taken its last trip of the year.
“It’s supposed to be nice Saturday,” Frank smiled. “I’ll take it out then. We don’t have many nice days left.”
Frank Harvey sits on his Honda Gold Wing GL1800 outside his home in Bay Roberts.