More MS news articles for Aug 2001

Barney Fife, eat your heart out … sidecar is the way to go

Friday, August 10, 2001
Evansville Courier & Press 

I don’t know what you did Monday night, but I rode in a Gold Wing motorcycle sidecar.
It was great. Never been so aired out in my life.

I wrote that one of my favorite TV episodes is the one on “The Andy Griffith Show” in which the Mayberry PD invests in that particular piece of rolling stock.

If Barney Fife could take off down the road in a sidecar, I reasoned, so can I.

Enter Dwight Beard.

The 63-year-old Newburgh man is retired after 39 years in the school system. His wife, Joan, has multiple sclerosis and is unable to walk. He got the sidecar two years ago so she could be comfortable on their frequent motorcycle trips.

Joan has an electric scooter that Beard stores in the rear of his rig.

“When we get to the fishing hole or the park or wherever it is we’re going, she can get around on her own,” Beard says. “At first, she wasn’t so sure about the sidecar, but now she’s so comfortable she goes to sleep. Shoot, my 85-year-old mother comes along every now and again.”

In the television show, Barney never lets on about how hard it is to attach a sidecar.

“I had an expert do the work and it was in his shop for two weeks,” says Beard, who’s ridden motorcycles most of his life. “You’ve got to have special attachment rods and you really have to be sure the alignment is perfect. It’s definitely not something you can slap on in 30 minutes.”

Sidecars, Beard tells me, are affectionately known as hacks. He knows of at least a half dozen in Warrick County.

“We went to a hack convention in North Vernon (Indiana) that brought ’em in from as far away as Michigan. One guy had a stuffed chair in the sidecar. When he pulled in, his wife was sitting back reading the newspaper like she was in her living room.”

It’s time to ride. Beard opens the nose cone and I step inside.

My compartment is surprisingly roomy. You could fit five or six orange construction cones in here.

Unlike what happened to Barney, the sidecar does not separate from the main frame upon takeoff.

“I paid too much money for that to happen,” Beard says as we go zoom.

He takes me on a tour of reclaimed mine property near Chandler, Ind. We stop at a stripper pit to take in the sunset.

“Back when I was in education, there would be an hour between meetings and I’d hop on the motorcycle and come out here. No better way to relax.”

It’s a very comfortable ride. My driver says the five-speed Gold Wing sometimes drifts a bit when he applies the brakes, but I don’t notice.

Motoring along at 55 miles per hour, I can’t get the police-vehicle image out of my mind. I feel like we should be chasing something. Or at least on patrol.

Beard says the sidecar weighs around a quarter-ton. Balance in the rear end is achieved, he goes on, with 75 pounds of carefully placed buckshot.

Dozens of people wave at us. One guy stops watering his yard and salutes.

Beard takes me past a long stretch of corn and soybeans.

“You come by at night and on a motorcycle and it smells twice as sweet. I don’t why that is, but it’s true.”

He’s right. Traveling this way brings out the best in even weeds.

Dwight Beard says it best as we head for home.

“If you’re going to have a toy, have a toy.”