Hastings group surprises soldier with cycleFor $150, Josh Jacobsen bought his first motorcycle from a neighbor in Northfield. He pushed it home that day, and likely had no idea that would be the closest he’d come to riding it for almost 20 years.
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
For $150, Josh Jacobsen bought his first motorcycle from a neighbor in Northfield. He pushed it home that day, and likely had no idea that would be the closest he’d come to riding it for almost 20 years.
Jacobsen figured that he and his father, who operates an automobile restoration business, would be able to get the bike running with a few turns of a wrench.
He was wrong. The motor itself had seized up. His dreams of riding the bright orange bike around were dashed. Before long, the bike was stuck in a couple cardboard boxes, shoved deeper into the garage and almost forgotten about.
Jacobsen enlisted in the Army, went to college, got married, got deployed and served in Iraq for 16 months. He then bought a home near White Bear Lake, and that was the turning point for his motorcycle.
His parents, Marcia and Gale, politely encouraged their son to get rid of all of his stuff from their garage. Now that Jacobsen finally had a house, they figured he’d have room for things like that dusty old orange motorcycle.
Sure enough, the boxes containing the 1972 Yamaha R5C made their way into his garage, where they sat, again.
Over the years, Jacobsen had worked with a number of local law enforcement agencies through the DARE program. He’d fly his Blackhawk helicopter to DARE functions and strike up a conversation with local officers. One of the people he met and befriended over the years is Hastings resident and police officer Tim Connell.
As they shared stories over the years, Connell, who loves motorcycles, learned of Jacobsen’s bike and its story. So, when Jacobsen was deployed about a year ago and sent to Afghanistan, Connell got an idea. He wanted to fix up Jacobsen’s motorcycle, and he knew just the place to do it.
Midnight Motorcycles had opened in Hastings, and Connell quickly became a fixture there. Late last fall, Connell picked up those boxes containing the bike and dropped it all off at the motorcycle shop, where staff had agreed to help out with the project.
The boxes were sorted through at the shop.
“We didn’t know, really, what we were getting,” Connell said. “I told him we would repair it for him. I told him that we would take care of it. We decided we were going to do the project, and it just grew on us. Everyone starting have a vision. We just fell in love with the project. It was such a cool story, because he had never ridden it.”
Meanwhile, Jacobsen was flying his Blackhawk around Afghanistan’s Helmand Province at a moment’s notice to pick up wounded soldiers. All hours of the day he had a radio next to him, and when it would go off, he’d be in the air within seven minutes.
“You live in your (flight) clothes, with a radio next to your ear,” he said. “It was all about saving our brothers out there. If they needed us, we were going to come get them.”
Jacobsen, who stayed in touch with his wife, Anne, during the deployment, knew that Connell was working on the project, but he didn’t know the extent of the work. From what he had heard, the handlebars weren’t right. Parts were hard to come by. It was a real challenge for the team rebuilding the bike. His hopes, in other words, weren’t real high.
What he didn’t know was that the project had really taken root, and had really progressed. The bike had been put back together completely and it was running. The bike, still with its original paint, was then given to Hastings resident Paris Pasch for detailing duties. Pasch polished it up and got every piece shining.
By late April, with his deployment over, Jacobsen was flying back home to Minnesota. He spent time with Anne and their son, Elijah, and then got an invitation to come to Hastings to see the shop where his bike had been worked on. They needed some more parts from Jacobsen, they told him, and Connell asked him to bring the parts to Hastings.
Eventually, Connell and the staff at Midnight Motorcycles welcomed Jacobsen and a brief tour began. All the while, Jacobsen’s eyes were dashing around the rooms looking for his bike.
“I knew it was going to be in pieces, but I wanted to see it,” Jacobsen said.
As the tour continued, Connell excused himself. He went back to the showroom floor, wheeled out Jacobsen’s bike and got it ready. Adam Miller, the owner of Midnight Motorcycles, then concluded the tour and brought Jacobsen to the showroom.
When he entered the room, Jacobsen noticed the bike right away.
“I came around the corner, and there was this orange and black motorcycle that looked like mine would look like when it was done. I thought ‘It can’t be mine. Mine is still in pieces.’”
The keychain, though, gave it away. When Jacobsen bought the bike, the key was on a green plastic keychain, and that exact same keychain was in the fully assembled bike before his eyes.
“I didn’t think it was my bike until I saw the keychain on it,” he said. “I saw that keychain, and that’s when I realized it was my bike. At that point, I was speechless. I almost came to tears, but I was able to hold it back.”
Connell and the crew from the shop all got lumps in their throats, too.
“He was totally speechless,” Connell said of Jacobsen. We caught him off guard, which was cool.”
A few days later, Jacobsen, 34, returned to Hastings with a trailer for the motorcycle. He’s now got it in his garage and is going to leave it there until he can take the safety course again and get his license. When he returned to pick up the bike, the shop cooked out some burgers, threw a little party and was then thanked, profusely, by Jacobsen.
“It’s just an amazing thing for someone to donate that much time and effort into something for no monetary gain,” Jacobsen said. “You feel a debt of gratitude. You know you can’t repay it, but you know the people who put that kind of effort into something, they’re not looking for any monetary gain, anyway.
“I said ‘Thank you’ so many times. The level of gratitude I have … there’s no way to convey all that into words.”
The work itself was a real group effort at the shop. Everyone had a role, from Miller, the shop owner, to employees Darek Pugh, Glenn Hinton and Brandon Murphy.
Jacobsen presented the shop and Connell with flags that had flown over Afghanistan.
Connell and the staff were humbled by the praise Jacobsen gave them.
“He was out there, scared every time that chopper left the ground,” Connell said. “To do that, day-in and day-out, never knowing when that call is coming – I can’t imagine what it is like.”
While the project is over, Connell can’t imagine sitting idly by while soldiers return from duty.
“I’m sure we’d be happy to tackle another one, if we get the chance,” he said. “This was just our way of thanking him for what he did, and the sacrifice he made. It’s too bad we can’t do it for every soldier who comes back.”