A family affair

After the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled many of the activities Roman Fritz, left, enjoyed, he started riding motorcycles with his dad.

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COOS COUNTY ─ “I don’t know if it was my second mid-life crisis or not, but I always wanted to get a Harley-Davidson,” James Fritz laughed as he looked back on how he tackled pandemic restrictions. Though he made jokes about chasing a dream he held since he was a child, the activity has strengthened the bond he has with his son.

Fritz has always been close with his 16-year-old son, Roman, who attends North Bend High School. A two-season athlete who participates in 4-H, Fritz said that Roman’s life changed drastically – like everyone’s – when the pandemic shut everything down.

“The darn pandemic pulled the rug out from underneath us for everything we wanted to do,” he said.

His son was scheduled to attend the National Archery Tournament through 4-H in Nebraska over the summer, which was cancelled.

“I was trying to figure out what we can do since his athletics got shut down at North Bend High School,” Fritz said. “We’re athletic and outdoorsy … maybe not his dad so much, but definitely the kid… I looked for something we can do that wasn’t dependent on other organizations. The motorcycle presented itself as a way to have freedom on the open road.”

By the time summer rolled around, Fritz reminisced of the days when he had a motorcycle 35 years ago. He said he got rid of it “when I became an adult and responsible and safety conscious, but even in the middle of a pandemic what can you do? A motorcycle is one of those things where you can socially distance, you’re already wearing a mask with a full-face helmet.”

Wanting to get Roman involved with the hobby, Fritz got his motorcycle endorsement first. Then he set up a motorcycle skills obstacle course in the parking lot at Southwestern Oregon Community College. He purchased soccer cones from Walmart and set up a slalom, as well as other patterns to teach his son how to swerve, make turns, “all of the discipline skills you have to learn for motorcycle riding,” he said.

Then Fritz purchased Roman a 250 CC motorcycle.

“It’s a Honda Dual Sport 250 because I figured if I got him a motorcycle, I’ll get him a city thing that you can take off-road and on-road and that would be the end of it,” Fritz said. “Boy, was I wrong.”

He explained that his 6’3” son quickly outgrew the bike and “he started licking his chops to ride Dad’s Harley-Davidson.”

“So, we got the biggest motorcycle for a tall kid because he is still growing,” Fritz said, stating that his son is expected to continue his growth spurt until he is around 6’7”. “We got him a Yamaha Razor, which is a really long motorcycle with a huge engine and a modern chopper, with front wheels sticking out a little further. It is a ginormous bike for tall people so he isn’t crammed and can reach out with his arms.”

Fritz wanted to find a bike his son “wouldn’t kill himself on,” stating this one is a “cruiser-style motorcycle” which is loud but slow-moving.

“But it’s styled like a young person would want,” he added. “It’s not your grandfather’s Harley Davidson.”

When asked how his son reacted to the new bike, Fritz said he jumped out of his skin, “did summersaults and everything. He loves the bike.”

Because motorcycles are dangerous, Fritz had tried to mitigate that risk by teaching his son how to be a responsible motorcycle rider. This has been done by applying similar discipline to firearms training.

“He approaches this as an adult,” Fritz said. “I know he is 16, so I keep an eye on that, but he’s doing a responsible job with it that I respect and appreciate. He makes me proud.”

As an older parent, Fritz hopes to continue riding motorcycles with his son for as long as he can, though recognizes that it has a “shelf-life for older Americans. I hope we can do stuff in his young adulthood before his dad has to hang up the bike.”

To other parents who might be looking for pandemic-era activities to keep the family connected, Fritz pointed to the county’s hiking trails and beaches.

“There are a million things to do outdoors that can be a bonding experience whether it is hunting, fishing or hiking,” he said. “Anything you can do for your child to spend time with them, to show you care, to show your love. Even if that is riding motorcycles.”

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