The movie, and short-lived television series that followed, chronicles newspaper reporter James Bronson, from San Francisco after a friend commits suicide. James buys his friend’s motorcycle and – after his editor shoots down an idea for a story about motorcyclists – James decides to take to the open road.
Don was in seventh grade at the time, and he chose to follow through with that dream. Don’s father wasn’t too happy about the idea, Don said.His family moved from Lubbock in 1970 and settled in Canyon. Don worked for his dad who worked for Plains Builders in Amarillo. During his high school years, Don worked at Rex Reeves Elementary School as a custodian. “Motorcycles was an outlet for me, something I was involved with,” Don said. “I had to work after school to pay for my hobby.”
After his parents divorced, Don who still worked for his dad, lived other places in Utah, Nevada and Oregon, but always missed Canyon. “Canyon is just such a nice place. I’ve lived all over the country and always came back to Canyon,” Don said. His dad was a World War II veteran and was involved at Iwo Jima. His dad viewed Bronson as a long-haired hippie. The clean-cut, shaved marine veteran didn’t like that.
Dad was a self-taught engineer who designed and built many buildings. He wanted his son to finish college and when Don didn’t, he was a little disappointed. “I wish that I had, but I don’t regret the way I live my life,” Don said. “I live, breathe motorcycles.”
The two were still close, despite the small differences, and it’s evident that Don misses his father, who died a few years ago. “Dad wanted me to want to be a marine, but he didn’t want me to be a marine,” Don said. The two worked together, as well, and spent a lot of time together through that avenue.
After high school, Don attempted college on three separate occasions. He’s been a construction worker, truck driver, custodian, worked on airplanes and even at Bell Helicopter, including working on the V-22 Osprey. He even had a nickname, Pyroman. Unfortunately for Don, he couldn’t get a license plate on his motorcycle saying that. Growing up, Don and his father didn’t always see eye to eye because of Don’s love for Bronson.
On his recent trip to California, Don met two friends whom he met online because of his interest in the movie with replica bikes and such. They were able to see all the sites featured in the movie, such as the Bixby Creek Bridge and the beach adjacent to the bridge. As a child, Don could picture himself being Bronson and being at the site of many of the scenes, he felt like he lived it all over again, this time at the bridge, the beach, not just seeing them on television.
“It was a combination of the scenes, Big Sur and the fact of here I am, 40 years later, on a replica bike with a hat, dreaming about being Bronson,” Don said. “I was so hyped up. I was a kid on Christmas. I’m just glad for the experience we had.” While driving out there and back, Don also got a chance to think about his life and decisions he’s made. “I was driving out there reflecting on my life and how it reflected the character,” he said. “He would always try to help people.”
And as for Don’s philosophy on biking? It’s simple. “It’s just freedom, the wind in your face. It’s like flying on the ground,” Don said. “It’s like having wings.”