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Bill Hawkins

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Les is more

Bill Hawkins 9/23/04


From David Baker


I grew up riding bikes as a kid and quit when I came to the US as an 18 year old. I never touched a motorcycle again for 22 years when I turned 40, at which time I bought an RT. Since I'd never had a motorcycle license endorsement in the US, I hadn't even ridden the bike. I rode it home anyway, and shortly thereafter I attended a meeting of the BMW Club of Nashville. They announced a ride and I figured "what the heck" I'll go. All that to say that I knew no one at this point who rode a motorcycle.


It turned out to be a pretty adventuresome ride and we spread out pretty quickly and I ended up in a group of four bikes. One of the bikes was distinctive, regardless of the position he was in, and it was due to some lights the rider had hooked up to make him more visible. At one point on this ride we all rolled our bikes onto a ferry in Kentucky, and I used that opportunity to look up this rider and ask about the lights.


I introduced myself to Bill Hawkins that day, almost exactly four years ago, and we struck up a friendship. He'd retired early, had lots of time on his hands, was a great rider, and a fun companion. He was absolutely fearless about mechanical things and helped me a lot. He was also game to go most anywhere, too.


So we rode all over the place together, just the two of us. Our first UnRally was coming up (in Gunnison, Colorado), and I knew I wanted to ride there with Bill. He gladly agreed, and asked if David Bearden could go with his. Bearden was his long time riding partner over the years. And from that trip on we were a threesome, riding tens of thousands of miles together. We laughed together, repeated countless stories, and incessantly gave each other shit at every opportunity. I can't tell you how many riding experiences we had through rain, snow, heat, and mechanical break downs. We rode poorly and skillfully, and never hesitated to point out both conditions. smile.gif


Anyway, Bill died a couple of hours ago and I've been crying pretty hard over it. He went to France about a month ago, renting a villa and riding all over creation. It was always a dream of his to do this, and we strongly encouraged it. In fact Bearden just got back last night from riding with him for 10 days on a rented 12GS. The neighbor hadn't seen him in a bit and grew worried--that's when they found him, dead apparently of a heart attack (he's had some trouble in his earlier years and both Bearden and I were prepared to administer aid and medication should something happen on one of our rides).


Bill had gotten a little introspective with both Bearden and I recently, and so perhaps he saw it coming. I'd kept in touch with Will Hawkins, his son and my attorney, and we joked about whether he'd find some love interest in France and never come back. But we had no idea he'd not come back because he died.


I keep breaking down as I write this. Bill was over at the house a lot. He was a friend. And he is a very large part of bringing me back to riding. I know he never posted here much, but many of you knew this good man who loved life and was content to stay in the background. He leaves a son here in Nashville, a daughter in Atlanta, and several grandkids.


Bill, I love you man, and I'll really miss you. Motorcycling is going to be tough, because so many things are going to remind me of you.


Even going through my pictures it's hard to find a trip that does not involve Bill. Here are a few pictures of the hundreds I have.


Here's a trip the four of us took together. Bill is on the left, then Bearden, then Julie, then me:




Here's Bill one of our trips to the Smoky Mountains. Jake, this was the one where we introduced you to Georgia:




Here's Bill on an 8 day trip that he and I took to the Copper Canyon, Mexico, a year ago:




And here's Bill on the Cherohala Parkway:




You may remember that Ghost Train Video I shot a couple months ago. This is me at the beginning; then I pick up Bearden; the last half is Bill on his GS, as it starts to rain. I'll share it with you again here.




Bill, I'm going to really miss you. I hope that video is an appropriate send off.


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