Matt Haynes was bundled into the sidecar of a shiny burnt orange and garnet Harley-Davidson motorcycle recently for the ride of a lifetime, roaring off with several dozen other Harley aficionados as he fulfilled one of the final items on his "bucket list" of dreams.
For nearly an hour, Haynes, 20, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and members of the North Carolina-based Carolina Faith Riders wandered the back roads that hug Lake Murray, taking in the fall foliage and lake views before celebrating with a pizza lunch Tonella's Pizza Kitchen in Irmo.
With a brisk breeze and temperatures hovering in the 50s, it was a spine-tingling ride, but at the end of the tour, Haynes declared the ride a success with one word: "Cool!" It was a feel-good moment for the Carolina Faith Riders, who had volunteered to help fulfill Haynes' wish, and for Smokey McCurry, of Bostic, N.C., and his 7-year-old daughter, LeLa, the usual occupant of her father's sidecar. When they heard about Haynes and his "bucket list," they agreed to join the Faith Riders for the three-hour ride to Irmo, where they gathered with Haynes' family and friends at Dutch Fork Middle School.
McCurry, a soft-spoken, gentle giant of a man with a white mustache and goatee and signature Harley clothing, looked like he stepped out of Hollywood central casting when he strode up to Haynes and grinned, "I'll be your pilot." Mike Gettys, founder of the Carolina Faith Riders, a ministry of Campfield Memorial Baptist Church in Ellenboro, N.C., told Haynes, "We are just happy we can have a part in fulfilling one of your dreams."
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Haynes handed out bracelets that said "Live your Bucket List." Haynes was joined on the ride by his mother, Angela, and younger brother Robbie. His physician, Dr. Fred Piehl, led the caravan in a stylish black Infiniti G37 convertible, riding with the top down to capture the feel of the wind in his hair as well.
Matt Haynes' father, Richard, followed in one of the vehicles that wound behind the motorcycles.
"Smokey, if he starts leaning this way, pull his arm," Haynes' mother said, before hopping aboard the back of another Harley and riding just behind her son.
Nearby, friends of Angela Haynes, all of whom work for S.C. Oncology Associates in Columbia, wiped away tears as they watched the procession of motorcycles and pondered how much this day meant to Matt Haynes' mother.
"We have been best friends for 15 years," said Julie Demare.
Matt Haynes was diagnosed with the degenerative muscle-wasting disease when he was 6 and he knows that the life expectancy of those who suffer from the disease is usually about 25, his mother said.
That prompted him to create his "bucket list," which included trips to Disney World and Disneyland -- already completed -- and an upcoming trip to Alaska in 2011.
Matt Haynes doesn't dwell on his disability, his mother said. Instead, after graduating from Dutch Fork High School, he decided to volunteer with the orthopedically disabled class at Dutch Fork Middle School. He helps youngsters with the computer, math and reading, said teacher Bobbie Showalter.
On this day, there was no thought of mortality, just the simple joy of fulfilling a wish on a beautiful day.
"You couldn't have picked a colder day to take a ride, could you? Charlene Race, an assistant in the orthopedically disabled class at Dutch Fork Middle School, teased Haynes. "Holy smoke."