I recently had the opportunity to interview John Frala, whose life was drastically changed one Thursday night in June 2004. After leaving a popular bike night location on his Harley-Davidson Deuce, his trip was cut short by a car that made a left-hand turn in front of him. And of course, the operator of the car said they didn’t see him. In case you were wondering, no, John had not been drinking that night.
This story has been told many times before and not with an outcome as good as John’s. John may have been permanently disabled, but that has not prevented him from riding his motorcycle. John is a guiding light for all motorcycle riders and a true inspiration for disabled riders. At the time of this interview the weather was raining and cold but John’s attitude was outstanding as he stated, “I am not going to feel sorry for myself because I am glad to be alive. Losing my leg is not the end of my life; it just makes me appreciate the life I have.”
2004 was a bad year for accidents and we lost several riding buddies who are greatly missed. John is still with us and will not stop riding. As a matter of fact, he is currently building a custom trike that he showed me during our interview and I am eager to see the finished product.
CC: John, what is your occupation?
John: I have been unemployed since my crash but I’m looking now. I was in Tool and Die for 25 years.
CC: What are your hobbies?
John: I love wrenching on bikes, motorcycle fabrication, woodworking, fishing and camping to name a few. As a matter of fact, I just finished designing and building a trike rear-end.
CC: Why do you ride?
John: The same reason a dog rides with its head out the window; PURE FREEDOM.
CC: How long have you been riding?
John: Off and on for 36 years.
CC: What were your first bikes?
John: My first bike was a Rupp mini-bike, then I got a Honda CB500-4 that I chopped.
CC: How many bikes have you owned?
John: Not counting the mini-bike, it would be six.
CC: How many bikes do you currently own?
John: I currently have two bikes. A 1999 Harley-Davidson Road Glide and a 2002 Harley-Davidson Low Rider that I just put the trike rear-end on.
CC: What do you like most about your Road Glide?
John: It’s a couch with a motor. For an ”OLE MAN’S” bike it’s pretty darn good looking. Also my wife says the seat on this one has lots of love in it.
CC: What is your dream bike?
John: My Deuce was. It was my first Harley and I made it sharp and fast.
CC: What is your most memorable riding experience?
John: There isn’t just one. I was blessed to have a year in Frisco to ride up and down the coast and the mountains and I really enjoyed my 1,100 mile trip through the Black Hills guided by buddies who had been there many times. You know the list just goes on.
CC: What is your least memorable riding experience?
John: Least memorable…NO, least favorite YES. The day I got hit. lost my foot and had my beautiful Deuce totaled. Everyone bow your heads “Man I sure miss that bike.”
CC: To what motorcycle clubs and organizations do you belong?
John: I’ve never been into that kind of deal. While I support the causes I prefer to ride with my close friends. For obvious reasons I do what I can to promote motorcycle awareness.
CC: Which motorcycle rallies & events have you attended and which is your favorite?
John: I’ve only done Sturgis in ’03, and what a great time I had with the 11 buddies who went.
CC: Which is your favorite bike night location?
John: Russo’s. Frank and his family are great people and the folks who go there are riders. I went there after my crash on crutches before I got my foot and all I heard from everyone was “Damn, I’m glad your alive.” I actually called Frank to make sure it was OK. He said “Get yourself out here!”
CC: Do you have any tattoos?
John: I have three now and I’m still shopping. I have two wolves (loyalty to family) and my Bar & Shield. They all have special meaning.
CC: Do you have a favorite tattoo artist?
John: My three tattoos were done by different artists. There are many talented artists in KC but I’d like to have Chris at Purgatory do my next one.
CC: Do you prefer riding in a group or by yourself?
John: Sometimes you just have to blow the cobs out of your head by yourself. However, I prefer small groups of three to six bikes, although it’s a blast to get 15 or 20 of us together. though hard to stay together as some are hotrods and some are putters.
CC: Who are some of your closest riding buddies?
John: John Payne, Jeff Frankie, Eric Dirksen, Indian John McIntyre, Greg McDermott, Haven Simpson, Eric Gaddy, and there are many more who are all my brothers.
CC: Just for fun, which of your riding buddies is the best rider?
John: No one ever answers this one and I’m not going to be the first.
CC: Just for fun, which or your riding buddies is the worst rider?
John: My buddies might say it’s me given the condition of my body, but they know it’s not because of my skill level. Otherwise they wouldn’t ride with me. They’re all crazy but not stupid.
CC: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
John: I don’t know any strangers, only people I haven’t met yet. If you’re ever out and see some fool with a fake foot sitting up on the table or by the bar come on over and say hello. I encouraged my mother to take her first bike ride at 65; she now understands why I won’t quit riding.
By Dave Miller