Posted 7/05/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
Irvin Hendrickson, known to many in the area as “Frosty,” rode his Harley, along with several others, in this year’s Freedom Fest parade, a tradition stretching back pretty far in Tioga’s history.
Hendrickson, who turns 90 years old this September, and the bikers who rode with him in the parade celebrate freedom by riding Harleys on the open roads of America.
The octogenarian has been riding Harleys in a family of bikers that now has a third generation starting out on their first bikes.
And it all started with Frosty.
“He’s the leader of the pack,” said his daughter-in-law Debbie Davidson.
Going and going
At his age, most riders would have long given it up, but Hendrickson keeps going with the help from his family.
When they ride, they have at least one ahead of him and one behind him so he’s got a couple pairs of eyes on him.
Davidson said his reflexes are surprisingly fast for a man his age.
On a ride near Killdeer last year, she was the front rider and had to stop suddenly for a deer in the road. She looked back in her rear view mirror fearing her father-in-law wouldn’t stop fast enough.
But he reacted quickly and brought his bike to a stop, she said.
They’ve had to make some other adjustments as well. Hendrickson can no longer handle the weight of a two-wheeler, so he now rides a three-wheeled “trike.”
When Hendrickson was put on oxygen, he figured that was the end of his riding days. But his son, Dan, rigged up a dispenser that runs off the battery on his bike.
So, he just straps his tank on, and off he goes.
Hendrickson bought his first bike, a smaller Harley, way back in 1952.
“It was pretty well trashed by the time I got it,” he recalled.
He rode it for a couple of years before upgrading to a larger bike.
He wanted to take his family riding so he hooked a sidecar to it, and he’d take his wife or one of his sons along with him on rides.
“The rules were different back then,” he said.
Since that time, he’s owned more motorcycles than he can recall, including Honda and Suzuki bikes.
It’s hard to ride motorcycles for over 60 years without a few battle scars.
Back in the mid-1980s, Hendrickson was riding down a highway in Washington in the early morning hours on his way to his job at a warehouse.
By the time he saw the porcupine in the road, he had no time to stop. He hit the animal and skidded sideways.
He was knocked out.
When he came to, he couldn’t find his bike. He didn’t break anything, but he was scraped up pretty bad. He knew he needed to get to a hospital.
“I lost a lot of skin,” he said.
He tried to flag some people down, but no one would stop. Considering it was still pretty dark and he looked banged up, he said he wasn’t surprised.
“I guess I don’t really blame them,” he said.
He eventually found his bike when he spotted the tail light glowing in a ditch and he rode home to get his pickup so he could get himself to the hospital.
He went back to work shortly after and ended up having to go home when he developed a splitting headache.
He learned later he had blood clots in his brain and would need surgery. The operation went well, and he has a couple plates in his head where they cut into his skull.
It could have been a lot worse.
“I was so lucky I was wearing my helmet that day,” he said.
He’s never been out on the highway without one since.
Hendrickson, along with Davidson and Dan Hendrickson, went down to the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally last year, which brought thousands of bikers from around the world.
Dan Hendrickson said it would take a couple hours just to go down Main Street Sturgis. It was just stop-and-go all along the river of Harleys.
“We were about to burn the clutch out on the bikes,” Dan said.
His father was right there with them, having fun at the historic biker event.
Davidson said bikers often gather around to see the old man that just keeps riding after all these years, and to hear all his stories from decades of adventure on the road.
And he has no plans on stopping.
Hendrickson said he will ride in the Freedom Fest parade for as long as he’s alive.
“You just can’t keep a good man down,” Davidson said.