Mitch Daniels: My Ride

Governor Mitch Daniels outlines his agenda: Long rides on the motorcycle.

Editor’s Note: Indiana governor Mitch Daniels rides into the sunset this month, trading his gubernatorial duties for presidential powers (to a degree) as Purdue University’s leader. Here, Evan West’s June 2005 conversation with the biker-in-chief.
Here in Indiana, we like things that go fast. I’m no different. The first motorcycle I ever rode belonged to a friend, and I dumped it. I did a massive wheelie and was lucky not to smash into a wall. But I was undeterred.
I rode motorcycles all through my 20s. Then came a move, marriage, and children, and I had to go without one—no time, no money, and no permission. But I always had it in my mind that I would own a Harley-Davidson someday. I liked the way they looked, and I liked the noise. Now I own two of them. One is a Dyna Low Rider I bought shortly after I was elected, which is now painted up with the state flag of Indiana. Later, I was at a Harley store picking up a part, and there sat a Fat Boy—the baddest, blackest bike I’d ever seen. I only engage in frivolous impulse purchases about once every 10 years. That was one of them.
On a motorcycle, I get to meet a host of people I might not have met otherwise. A few years ago, I was on the Miracle Ride, a benefit for Riley Hospital, and up came these guys in leather jackets with lots of chains and studs. They were the Outlaws motorcycle gang. Everyone had a nickname like “Jersey Joe” or “Blackjack.” While I was talking to them, this big guy wearing a leather vest and no shirt walked up. I asked him if he was an Outlaw, too. “No,” he said, “I’m an anesthesiologist.” So I said, “Okay, Doc, meet Jersey Joe and Blackjack.” Riding brings people of every description together.
People who like this hobby talk about the sense of freedom they get from it. That’s especially true for me. It’s hard to be preoccupied with problems of state when you’re watching other vehicles on the road and enjoying the scenery. It’s the one time when I’m more or less a free man.”
This article appeared in the June 2010 issue.