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Like many leather-clad bikers, Charlie Kennedy can rattle off quotes from “Easy Rider” and “The Wild One” — Hollywood classics that helped introduce the motorcycle subculture to mainstream America. But lest you think Kennedy is some backwater, flag-waving, scruffy-haired outlaw, consider that he studied Nietzsche in college, reads up on artificial intelligence for fun, and is as comfortable discussing the literary merits of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert Pirsig, as he is deconstructing the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996. On most days, Kennedy, 54, can be found in either the Washington, D.C., or Tysons Corner, Va., office of San Francisco-based Morrison & Foerster, where he is a telecommunications partner. He is the author of several books on telecommunications law and is on the adjunct faculty at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, where on Friday evenings he lets students bring beer to class, provided they bring him one. But when he’s not practicing or teaching the law — and sometimes when he is — he has his mind on something nearer and dearer to his heart: the motorcycle. Not one motorcycle in particular, but motorcycles in the general sense. Yes, he’s a Harley-riding lawyer. He’s certainly not the only one, but his roots in the pastime probably run deeper than most. He has nurtured this passion for more than 35 years, dating back to when he was a 17-year-old freshman at Florida State University in Tallahassee. To hear him tell it, it began simply enough. A friend of his turned him on to riding. After getting his bearings by taking a few trial runs on his friend’s bike, he struck out and bought a Honda 65. He had caught the bug. “It’s just exhilarating,” says Kennedy. “Malcolm Forbes said if you’re going to take a car you may as well mail yourself there. And it’s true. You’re exposed to the feel and smell of the air and you have a tremendous sense of freedom. You have a tremendous sense of control.” Since that first bike, Kennedy has moved on to bigger, and certainly better, pedigrees. He is currently the proud owner of a 1997 light blue — or “candy-ass blue,” depending on which of his friends you ask — Harley-Davidson low-rider, and a classic, though not quite street-legal, 1977 Triumph. The British bike resides in the basement of his two-story Vienna, Va., home. A self-described rebel during his youth, Kennedy moved from Syracuse, N.Y., to Miami after his junior year in high school. He seriously considered skipping college altogether, but in the end enrolled at FSU, where as a philosophy major he fell in love with Nietzsche, as well as his future wife. After a brief stint in the Air Force, he moved to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago Law School, graduating in 1976. He came to Washington just over 10 years ago to work for the company now known as Verizon. Today, Kennedy is no hellion. A newly promoted partner at Morrison & Foerster, where he has spent the last five years, he never speeds, he’s soft-spoken, and when he’s not in the office or on the bike, he’s a voracious reader, as evidenced during a recent visit to his home. A wall of books lines one side of his study. Most are history texts, but literary works also abound, Ezra Pound among them. On another wall is a photo his daughter took from the back of his motorcycle. It shows a staggered line of Harleys on a charity ride. With his daughter now off at college and his two sons out in the working world, Kennedy does most of his riding alone these days. His wife has never enjoyed it much. On workdays when the weather’s nice and he has to make the trip into Washington, he revs up the bike, hits the HOV lane, and beelines for the firm’s Pennsylvania Avenue offices. But the bulk of Kennedy’s riding is done on the weekends near his home. He’s certainly not alone. Over the years, as the region has prospered and grown, so has the number of motorcycles on the road, most of them belonging to wealthy businessmen, lawyers, and dot-com entrepreneurs. Sound odd? Not in this part of the country. “Doctors, lawyers, dentists — they all derive some psychic benefit from the outlaw image,” explains Kennedy. “We lead lives of comfort and routine. You can go out once on the weekend and pretend you’re the object of fear and desperate excitement. It’s a silly thing to admit, but there’s a little bit of that in all weekend bikers.” TAKING THE TOUR The Patriot Harley-Davidson shop on Lee Highway in Fairfax, Va., opened its doors two years ago. It’s ground zero for all Harley activity in the vicinity, and so it becomes the first stop on our tour. Kennedy wears all black — black denim jeans, black cowboy boots, and a black T-shirt from the Crow Bar, an old motorcycle hangout in D.C. that closed in 1998. He sports a black leather jacket and black riding gloves. His beard — a neat beard, not a biker’s beard — is almost completely white. “It’s hard for me to look like a hard-core biker,” he says. “I don’t have the tattoos. My beard is less than three feet long. Also, a lot of them weigh as much as their bikes. They’re quite formidable characters.” We saddle up, pull out of the driveway, and after a few turns are heading up a quiet stretch of Vale Road. We rumble up narrow lanes, staying clear of new Vienna — the Vienna of strip malls, cookie-cutter housing developments, and Mexican theme restaurants. The wind is cold, but so far no rain has fallen. Not optimal riding conditions, he warns, but any riding day is a good day. “Imagine you’re here on a warm and beautiful day,” he grins back from the front, “instead of freezing your ass off.” We cross into Fairfax and pull into the driveway of Patriot Harley-Davidson. Inside, there are motorbikes, accessories, a repair shop; outside, bearded men hover proudly around bikes in the parking lot. Still, there is something distinctly soft about the place. On sale inside are designer sunglasses and such other trinkets as champagne glasses adorned with Harley insignias, lighters, belt buckles, and the usual assortment of leather clothes. In the waiting area outside the repair shop, bike owners lounge on comfy couches waiting like expectant fathers, watching a big-screen TV and helping themselves to free samples of various flavored coffees. It’s the caffe latte of biker hangouts. Kennedy wanders up through the bikes giving a crash course on the differences in Harley models: from sportsters to low-riders to touring bikes. Kennedy comes here often enough. In addition to being a retail outlet, the shop is also home to the Fairfax Chapter of the Harley Owners Group, or HOG. Founded just three years ago, it already boasts 500 members, according to the group’s Web site. Meetings are held the second Wednesday of each month, starting at 7:30 p.m. The riders in the group aren’t exactly Hell’s Angels. The Fairfax HOG spends a good deal of time in the classroom learning safe group riding techniques and how to properly execute the duties of road captain, among other lessons. When the group does go riding, it’s not always just for thrills. On Saturday, April 7, for example, the group hosted an Adopt-a-Spot, where members cleaned trash on Route 50 and around Fairfax City Hall. The group also bands together every Memorial Day weekend to ride in the Rolling Thunder procession. A quarter of a million bikers routinely descend on Washington for the event, which starts at the Pentagon and ends at the Vietnam Memorial. Kennedy himself has completed the tour three years straight, starting when he bought this, his first Harley. Before that, he owned a 1986 BMW motorcycle. And before that, he rode a Triumph. “There’s something about a Harley,” he explains. “It is deliberately unsophisticated. There is the feeling as though you’re doing something simpler than other things you do in your life. It’s all very retro and relaxed.” There are certainly cheaper bikes, and faster ones, and ones that will probably even last longer. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a bike with more character, with that same rattle-your-teeth engine purr a Harley-Davidson produces. Also, it’s like riding a piece of history. “It looks mean, and if there’s any part of you that longs for anarchy — and there should be in everyone — there’s a little bit of that in it.” One of Kennedy’s favorite films, no surprise, is “Easy Rider,” the 1960s road film starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper and their trademark Harley Choppers — bikes that have been modified to make them quicker and lighter. We watch the film’s opening scene, and then head down to the basement to inspect Kennedy’s other treasure: the Triumph motorcycle that he and his younger son are restoring — a routine many Triumph owners know well. “It’s an excellent training in automotive mechanics and electrical systems,” Kennedy says. “You get to know it because you’re fixing it all the time.” Once the bike is up and running, he says, he’ll hand it over to the younger son. “Some families keep fine china. We’ve got a motorcycle,” he says. If all goes as planned and his daughter remains at the University of Montana in Bozeman for the summer, Kennedy will do something he’s always wanted to try: riding cross-country. To Kennedy, it’s more than just a Harley, it’s a philosophy. “Just kick back and enjoy the ride,” he explains. “Live to ride, ride to live, as the bikers say. They say keep the rubber side down, which is also excellent advice.”

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