Fond, Funny Memories At The Passing Of A Friend


Recently a message on social media brought me the sad news that my dear friend Steven O’Brien, affectionately known as “Wedgie,” had passed away. Having been in my orbit for close to 40 years, and a major part of my formative motorcycle and travel years, it was a huge personal loss. Memories of racing to London on our Japanese 550cc four-cylinder sport bikes, strafing the lanes of England, he in the saddle of his big Ducati V-twin and me on my Laverda triple will be always be there to remind me of my fun loving, gregarious friend. With his laugh, demeanor, his zest and love for life, Wedgie was, without a doubt, one of the largest personalities you could ever hope to meet.

To honor Wedgie’s life, his passing, and our friendship (he’s pictured above right, with my NC friend Bob Williams), I want to share an excerpt from a series I’m working on about our first travels to North America in 1984. Rest in Peace Mate…you are going to be missed.

An excerpt from the Wibbly/Wedgie chronicles as we traveled America-

Hindsight always allows us to see the series of events leading to crazy situations that we have no power to influence as they are happening. As they say in America, “Shit happens.” Arriving in San Diego late in the day, we spent a beautiful, uncomfortable night sleeping on an old wooden pier downtown near the USS Midway Museum. With bright lights and non-stop commercial planes coming in low, it was a busy night, but all part of the travel experience, and thankfully, we managed a few hours of shuteye. With a plan to hit the famous California beaches, we diligently located a Trailways bus station and secured our backpacks and valuables in a locker.

Taking only some cash, the pot we had been gifted in an earlier adventure, and our beach towels, we headed off for the Nirvana we had dreamt about so many times while damp, broke, and stoned in the middle of the British winter.

Our day was fantastic. Swimming, body surfing, getting high, and marveling that the girls had tans, no hair on their armpits or legs, and positively zero interest in a couple of pasty, white Englishmen in very untrendy beach wear. Maybe it was my mother’s flowery towel, or the fact we were so high we were unable to speak, but there’s no room for rumination, as this story has to get somewhere. Leaving the beach with our sandy toes scrunching in our flip-flops and damp towels over our shoulders, we made our way back to the bus station to retrieve our belongings. The sun was dipping in the California sky, the golden orange burning on the buildings, making us feel we were in a movie…until we were. Well, a nightmare, actually. The bus station was locked and we were left standing on the San Diego streets in damp shorts and t-shirts, with about seven bucks to our names, and no passports, money, or clothes. Oooops!

We tried to get a room in a couple of hotels, but apparently without ID, money, credit cards, and a briefcase full of character references, there was no checking in. We managed to find a few nutritious calories with our remaining dollars at a convenience store and wandered around wondering where we could spend the night. As luck would have it, we found a sort of large shoe mat type of thing in the doorway of a small strip mall building and laid down to spend a cold, miserable night huddling under our damp towels: Although it was a little more comfortable than all the surrounding concrete. The long night passed eventually, and after finally liberating our possessions from the bus station locker, we located a small, fleabag hotel and made sure we secured a room before heading back to the beach. You can always tell a quality hotel by how many times the padlock mechanism has been re-drilled and re-installed; this one was a gem. It had a shower and a bed though, and after our shop doorway it could have been the Taj Mahal. 

The beach was extra crowded, as the large orange thing we rarely saw growing up in England wasn’t hidden by the previous day’s clouds, and we experienced a new sensation called heat. Blistering heat, actually. It was my birthday, so we made sure to smoke a monstrously large joint, and then (perhaps combined with the fatigue of a night without sleep and getting to experience how one’s clothes must feel in a washing machine as we attempted body surfing) we did the decent thing and passed out on the beach.

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Now for all you kids at home getting ready to rush out, get sleep deprived, stoned, and beaten up body surfing before passing out in the blazing sunshine, there is one serious part of the equation not to miss out on. Sunscreen. Well actually, you need to miss out on sunscreen and it really helps if your skin is pale white and with no recent exposure to the sun. Because, as you will see, these were the ingredients needed to finish this story.

Waking up some hours later, the gravity of our new situation was quickly apparent. Staring down at my lobster red stomach and legs was only superseded in shock value by turning and looking at Wedgie’s face and body. It was worse than my legs, closely resembling “The Thing,” a popular movie of the day. Someone must have been playing away from home in my family lineage, as I actually tan and go quite dark in the sun, but the immediate pain I felt told me that wasn’t going to be too helpful this day. Shuffling back to our hotel room we picked up a case of the watery stuff that Americans called beer in those days, tried to shower, and ended up sitting around our pleasure palace naked. It was far too painful to have the water hit our skin, or wear clothes. For the sake of those with a weaker constitution, we draped towels over our dangly bits and worked on emptying all the tins of liquid in the cardboard case.

Some time later, the beer-flavored water had run out and it was time to go in search of more. I spotted a neon sign indicating a bar less than 100 yards from our room out of the window, so it didn’t take long (even for us) to figure out our next move. Except for one problem. With Wedgie’s face already looking like it might fall off at any moment, and some rather odd skin bubbles surfacing on the burnt parts of our bodies, clothing was not an option. No Problem. Wedgie went diving into his rucksack and came out with two pairs of silk boxer shorts. If you are tending to the side of disbelief that this could be so, we had been involved in a great hitchhiking race from Winnipeg to Calgary in earlier Wibbly/Wedgie chronicles. Wedgie had the tent, sleeping bag, stove, life raft, helicopter-landing pad etc., so he was well prepared. I’m not quite sure if there’s a paragraph in the Boy Scout Handbook about always traveling with two pairs of silk boxer shorts in case of sunburn when needing more beer, but maybe that’s where it came from.

Nimbling down the warm sidewalk barefoot in our silk boxer shorts, we mused about it being California and how we didn’t think anyone would even notice, or care. We stepped into the bar. The rest of this memory is a little vague but the next moment is in full 4k. The barman, Drew, came over to introduce himself, and we ordered a couple of beers. As he came mincing back to collect the money, Captain Obvious here pulled him in closer to ask a private question. I had noticed that the bar was full of sailors, with one old lady with dirty, dyed blond hair, a disinterested look on her face, and drawing heavily on a cigarette while standing next to the juke box. Drew was a polite, round-faced fellow, with equally round glasses and sort of reminded me of Elton John. Leaning in for intimacy, I asked him quietly, “is everyone in here gay?” He looked straight at me, and then the Wedge standing next to me, and said, “everyone in here except you, him, and her, and she’s a lesbian.” The moment will never leave me.

With that out of the way, we sat down, started drinking and had a thoroughly splendid evening enjoying free beer and lively conversation. We played pool with Police Sheriffs and generally did what we did best, getting pissed at the pub. We told stories, had fun, and when it was time to leave, one of our two-dozen new best friends invited us to a party. Slurring like Dudley Moore in the movie “Arthur” (popular in 1981 for anyone old enough to remember, or maybe you’ve seen the Russell Brand remake), I asked him if there would be any women there. “Well, some of them will look like women.” We decided it was time to pack it in and bid Drew et all a fond adieu.

The following morning, I’m not sure if the hangover was worse than the sunburn, or vice versa…suffice to say it was the start of a rough day and part of the now difficult decision we had to make as we headed east: To continue to travel together or split up to move faster and reconnect in Miami. Well, dear reader, there is a small incident in a Mexican whorehouse on the horizon, as we took a trip across the border to deal with, so sit tight and I’ll announce the decision in the next installment.

Neale Bayly


NE Ga Motorsports


  1. David

    Sincere condolences on your friend Wedgie’s passing.

  2. Caroline Beere

    Can’t wait for the next instalment, My brother Steve certainly lived a fun adventurous life , This is so funny 😆 Great memories.

  3. Nate Harris

    Wedgie sounds like he was a hoot to be with, rolling with the punches. They say you die twice, the first time when your body dies, and again when you are thought of for the last time. Keep Wedgie alive buddy.


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