Friday, March 9, 2012

Royal Enfield's gentle voice from the Pacific silenced

Lawrence J. Read and his Royal Enfield in Tonga.
It was a time, in 2008, when Internet message boards devoted to Royal Enfield motorcycles were filled with discussions of how to make the Bullet speedier.

Along came a voice from a small island in the South Pacific, suggesting, in effect, that we were already going too fast.

Intentionally or not, Lawrence J. Read, writing from the tiny island of Vav'u, in the Tonga Islands, became the spokesman for the opinion that rushing through life was unnecessary. Maybe even unwise.

Fascinated by his point of view, I contacted him and he was kind enough to expand on his life and views in a post on this blog titled "Royal Enfield's Calm Voice From Paradise."

I continued to follow his writing on the Royal Enfield Yahoo Message Group, but I lost track of him when he moved over to the Royal Enfield USA Forum. He made many friends there. He felt comfortable there. He mentioned his wife of 28 years, Malia, and children 'Ana Malia and Phillip. He began building a Royal Enfield rickshaw, which would be powered by an electric motor — and even slower than a Bullet!

I didn't realize that, on November 14, 2009 Lawrence Read passed away, in the wake of a motorcycle accident the month before.

I didn't know of his death until a friend of Mr. Read and his wife Malia emailed me recently to ask how much I thought a Royal Enfield should sell for on the island of Tonga. Its owner had died.

How many Royal Enfields could there be, on an island in the South Pacific?

Checking back, I saw on the Royal Enfield USA Forum that Mr. Read had been found by the side of the road, unconscious, in early October, 2009. He had spent five woozy days in the hospital with no recollection of the accident. When he got out, typically, his first concern was for his Royal Enfield, which had suffered only minor damage in the crash. At first, Mr. Read thought an animal might have crossed his path causing the crash, but he came to blame it on a sudden deflation of the rear tire.

He seemed confident that he was recovered, aside from some bandages. On Oct. 24, 2009, he wrote to a fellow enthusiast on the mainland:

"Here in Tonga, any mods are unimportant as just having bike to ride means so much more. And I suppose that's how life should be — people important, everything else to help them out.  There is this tendency left over to try to make the best of each thing, but having a bike is such a fine thing — there is no local money for one and the cost of getting even a poor one here is so ridiculous, that I'm quite happy with what I have.  I have a weird feeling that things there will someday be pretty much the same way."

Less than a month later, he was gone. The news unleashed a wave of condolence messages on the Royal Enfield USA Forum.  I missed it all, perhaps still distracted by my own mother's passing in September, 2009.

Most on the Royal Enfield Yahoo Message Group apparently learned of his death in November, 2010, in a post by member Tom Lyons. Ironically, Lyons is the prime mover behind ACE Performance Bullets,  the most successful group ever at making Bullets go faster than ever. There is no real barrier between lovers of Royal Enfields.

Mr. Read had written of death, making fun of his own wide ranging posts on the Internet. In 2008, he wrote:

"Heh, heh ...picture me sitting their with my neighbor and two missionaries and they're telling me that God is an old man with a white beard, sitting up in left field somewhere with a nice wife (sort of like me) and Lord Jesus is there with him, also with a nice wife, and that if I mind my Ps and Qs and join them, I can be up there with them, with my nice wife, and we will all be gods together. Hell, I hated being an chemical company exec, why would I want to be a god?

"Reminds me of the cult followers from Southern California a few years back, group of guys, I guess, all took poison and lay dead on the floor together because they knew there was a space ship out there just waiting to pick them up and give them new life.

"When I die they will carve on my tombstone:

    Here lies LJR
    He was the best ever
    At dragging a thread
    Off Topic!

"Lawrence J. Read, Vava'u, Tonga Islands, South Pacific"

On Oct. 26, 2009 came his final post on the Royal Enfield USA Forum:

"I've been a Forum member for over two years now and seen it go various ways.  Humor, serious dialogue, most of us just aren't that consistent, nor want to be. Cabo is one of the more consistent members, but there are others.  I do wonder what happened to a few, but guess they dropped off somewhere and don't worry about it.  The one consistent trend is the bikes themselves, and I continue to learn a lot."

Godspeed, Mr. Read.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3/09/2012

    Thanks for posting this. LJ was a real leading light on the US Enfield forum. His stories about his life and family were captivating as was his gentle good humor. His sudden death was shocking to us. He was a rare bird indeed.
    Chuck D


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