A flood of memories at the passing of a dear friend


The news shocked me, as I awoke to the text from his wife Lena that simply stated, “Mike has passed away”. The message had arrived just after 5am EST, and I sat on the edge of the bed, stunned and momentarily unable to move. “This can’t be,” I wondered aloud, as Lisa woke up to the news as well. “I was just over there the other day, visiting with Mike while Lena ran out to do some shopping. He seemed to feel pretty good, was in good spirits. I’m shocked.” I honestly thought Mike would make it through the holidays, and into early 2024, January or February. But now he was gone, in an overnight. The tears began to flow.

I called Lena immediately, unable to find the words, but wanting to speak with the wife of my dear friend and motorcycle riding brother, to find out more details, and offer any assistance we could be to the family. She informed me that Mike had breathed his last about 4am, with two of their three children present, the oldest catching a flight for home. “It was peaceful and quick,” Lena told me. I recalled the grief of goodbyes with my high school friend Aaron Smith, the passing of my beloved father in late 2021, and the sadness rushed back in with the knowledge that my friend Mike had joined them in death.

The older I get, the more goodbyes I seem to be saying.

Rob, Mike and Lena at Rob’s 60th birthday party in September.

Mike Hinton and I first met in early 2000, when I served at a nearby church that he and his family attended. Being motorcycle riders, we found an instant camaraderie, and started riding together with others in the church as well as a local CMA chapter. Our kids were all about the same age, so they grew up hanging out at each other‘s homes, and our wives struck up a friendship as well.

Mike and his family only lived a few miles from us, and in the years that followed, he and I began to take more rides and even road trips together. Our personalities and riding styles just meshed well with each other, and he became much more than just a “road brother“. Mike became one of my best friends.

We took many short road trips around most of the southern states across that decade, then dreamed up a big cross country excursion in 2010. As we planned routes and stops, I remember anticipating riding portions of the fabled Route 66, of visiting places like Cadillac Ranch, Winslow AZ, and other locales immortalized in road songs. Over maps, Mike mused, “The best part will be the people we’ll meet.” That simple statement struck me, and changed my whole perspective on the trip. Sure, we visited many amazing places, never got to others, but the people we met truly became the best part of that 10-day, 3300 mile journey.

Thank you, Mike.

The grizzled road warriors after 10 days of pavement pounding.

In many respects, Mike was the big brother I never had. Being four years my elder, his wit and wisdom so often reoriented my thinking and perspective about circumstances and events. He was a quieter personality than me, but I often followed his lead on ride suggestions and things to do together, looking up to him and admiring his views and insights. Dare I say that Mike became a bit of a mentor to me? I’ve not thought of our friendship that way before, but in my reflections, I believe he became exactly that in my life. And I’m now even more grateful for having known him.

Mike spent his career in law enforcement, but never grew jaded toward those he interacted with out in public. In fact, because of his Christian faith, Mike always endeavored to see the good in people, whatever difficult circumstances they may have found themselves in. As members of a local Christian Motorcyclists Association chapter, Mike even rode with us to local prisons, where we would host Bible studies for inmates, talk to and pray with them, and offer encouragement as they tried to turn their lives around. Mike definitely believed in redemption for people’s souls as well as their personal lives. Oh, and he was a uniformed motor officer, riding the county’s Kawasakis and Harleys for most of his years on the force. By his retirement, Mike was among the most respected police officers in Gwinnett County.

Contributing to the “artwork” at Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas.

Mike’s first battle with cancer came in 2012 when a tumor was discovered in his colon, and several inches of his lower intestines had to be removed. I was there with him through that hospital stay and home recovery, and Mike in turn was there for me the following year, with my first diagnosis of and treatment for bladder cancer. Our friendship deepened with another bond that knit us together, that of being cancer fighters.

Mike owned a series of incredible motorcycles, from a 1980 Yamaha XS1100 that he rode through all 159 counties in Georgia across a year, then a Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad, a couple of Harley-Davidson Ultras, an Indian Scout, a Suzuki V-Strom 650, a Honda NC750X, and most recently, a Harley Tri-Glide as his health and strength began to falter. Mike loved to ride, and stayed in the saddle as long as he could. And when he felt up to it, we’d text or talk, then go take a ride together.

Mike taking a picture of his brother taking a picture, in Luckenbach, Texas.

One of Mike’s greatest joys in recent years was a road trip across south Texas that he and his younger brother Doug got to make together. Mike wrote about it for Road Dirt. They rode hundreds of miles across the Lone Star State on a pair of Indian Scouts, traversing the south Texas hill country, riding the famed Twisted Sisters loop, and making a stop in Luckenbach, made famous in the old Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings country hit from the 1970s. Mike spoke fondly about that brothers trip for the rest of his days.

Mike’s family was a riding family. Lena rode pillion for years, then got her license and her own bikes to chase Mike around on. Their kids grew up on the back of whatever motorcycle Mike was riding at the time, the oldest son Ryan taking up motorcycling himself. They were a model family of love, goodness, godliness and motorcycles. His wife adored him, and his kids loved and looked up to him. The love and adoration was mutual.

Mike suited up to ride one sub-freezing morning, February 2022.

The cancer returned with a vengeance in recent years, spreading to his lungs, his liver, lymph nodes and then his brain stem. Over the past couple of years, Mike and Lena tried many different treatment options, but ultimately the growing monster within would prevail. He was terminal, and through the grief and suffering, Mike faced his impending end with dignity, grace and courage. He was at peace, joyful even, and faced his last days with the hope his faith gave him, hope of healing, wholeness and his true home in Heaven with his Savior.

I share that faith, and that same hope. But as I sit here writing this, I am overwhelmed with sadness that my friend Mike is no longer with us. I am flooded with memories of rides, sights, meals taken together, conversations over campfires, and long days in the saddle trailing my friend across the U.S. I miss my road brother. But as a brother in Jesus Christ, I “do not grieve as those who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). I look forward to seeing Mike again, hearing his funny southern chuckle, and hanging out with my old friend, made forever young, “in the sweet by and by.”

Goodbye Mike, for now.

Riding some open, undulating highway in lower Alabama, chasing my friend south toward the Gulf coast. Cherished memories.


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  1. Dani

    Well said of the finest of men. We talked of riding many times and I regret it never happened. He was a giant of a man in a normal body. Heaven gained a great one, he will be missed.

    • Rob Brooks

      Yes he was, and yes he will be. Good word, Daniel.

  2. Scott

    Godspeed Mike. Commonalities here as a Christian, motorcyclist and cancer survivor. Prayers for family and friends.
    Scott Bolton – Cumming, GA

    • Rob Brooks

      Blessings on ya, Scott, and prayers for your health and strength.

  3. Hoss

    A few of the strong warriors for Christ leave a trail, very few, if any, will see how their life Impacted the world around them. I’m here to tell you all from the beginning till the end Mike led. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

    “When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.” John 6:5-6
    Mike Hinton was neither the most selfless nor sharpest tool on God’s workbench. But Jesus Changed him, from the inside out. With a rebuilt heart and mind, new insight, new purpose and new plans. Thoughts came to a sinners mind that shocked and excited him. Nurtured with faith, those thoughts for God, combined with faithful actions, produced results that brought great glory to God. It’s so like Jesus to take our little and make more. Lord, use me BIG but keep me small!

    He stepped on shore. Touched His face, held His hand and walked with Him! Mike knows! Prayers for Lena and the Hinton family as they celebrate the memories, laughter and tears!

    • Rob Brooks

      Well-said, Hoss, and a fitting tribute.

  4. Craig Wiliams


    Last Wednesday I was on a text to a friend of 46 years, and on Friday he suffered a stroke and passed on Christmas Day. Brother its life, but man o man, losing friends that have been so close to you over the years, makes you look inward. Prayer brother and lots of them.

    • Rob Brooks

      Thank you Craig, and prayers for you in the loss of your dear friend.
      In the grief with you,


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