May 20 • 11:17 AM

Pictures speak a thousand words

May 28, 2008
"Harry Truman was president, gasoline cost 12 cents a gallon, and at the age of 17 my dad paid $275 for his first Harley. The year was 1945..."

Thus I began a piece I wrote for the 'Motoring Down Memory Lane' section of HOG Tales Magazine—a publication for members of the Harley Owners Group worldwide.

The editors were pretty excited about the piece, and so was I after hearing from them.

I'd written it after we got back from the 90th Harley Davidson Anniversary bash in Milwaukee. It was one of the most awesome experiences of my life—and who'd-a-thunk-it—a motorcycle rally with MY PARENTS. It's true.

By then, I'd purchased my first bike—a 1990 Sportster which I fell madly in love with, leaky front fork, oily chain and all. Ironically, when I broke the news to the folks that I was following in Dad's footsteps, they were at Bike Week in Daytona. I kid you not. This was in 1994. My dad was 66.

"You did what?" he says incredulously.

"I bought a Harley," I chuckle in reply.

"You better be careful with that thing," he chokes out. I know he and Mom will need some time to wrap their brains around the revelation. It's one of those 'do as I say, not as I do' type things.

Later, after they embraced the idea we took a road trip up to Tobermorey in the Bruce Peninsula to celebrate my mom's 70th birthday. My dad was 75. He rode his Harley, my mom on the back. I rode my trusty, leaky Sporty and Rod rode his Honda 900. Like the MasterCard commercial, it went something like this: 'Bungie cords, one dollar. Broken right mirror when Catherine dumped her bike in the parking lot, twenty-five. Memories, Priceless.'

I'm not the only Minolli sister with a bike. Virginia, the youngest, has a Sportster too. For a while, we rode around the area together taking day trips here and there. I also frequently rode to her Clarkston home, backpack stuffed with weekend supplies, and from there we'd hit the road. Virg was actually the pioneer in the realm of two-wheeled transportation. When she went off to study mechanical engineering at Stanford University, she was on a budget but needed some wheels. She bought a 350 Yamaha with a broken starter. She needed to jump start it each and every time. I still crack up picturing her running alongside the bike and popping the clutch, hopping on and zooming down the road. When I'd visit her, I'd jump on the back and off we'd go. The folks' reaction to her news went about the same as mine. "You did what????" "You better be careful on that thing."

Still, they let it go as best they could. They were in Michigan, she was in California. She was, after all, a Minolli. It's just the way it is. We were raised with motorcycles.

After the first bike, my dad owned a couple more. He bought a 1946 Knucklehead when he was in his 20s. The former owner threw in a leather cap and goggles and a custom leather kidney belt, complete with studs, that my dad still has to this day. For kicks and grins us girls try it on now and then just to see if we can still get it around us.

My dad quit riding for a while after a 1940s-era classic he bought was stolen from our garage when I was in junior high school. He was painstakingly restoring the bike, and would bring it out every now and then and take it for a ride. The little neighborhood kids would line up at the curb (next door the McAuliffe family had nine kids alone) and after making sure everyone had permission from their folks, my dad would give each kid a ride around the block. It was a huge thrill...especially for us.

When it was stolen, he was devastated. About 20 years later, when he retired at age 63, he bought a Harley as a little retirement present. He rode it home to Livonia from the dealership in Flint. My sisters' and my reaction was similar to his upon hearing our news: "You did what????" This past October my dad turned 80. He still rides.

I'm pictured here with my dad at the 90th Harley rally, he's wearing the classic cap, I'm wearing the kidney belt. It's worth a thousand words, not to mention a million bucks to me. Dig out your photos and send them in to our 'Me and My Dad' photo contest. Take the chance to speak your thousand words.

Email Catherine at

Castle Creek
Milnes Ford
05 - 20 - 19
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