Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. In a small town we will often see someone for years, smile, say hello, how’s it going, and move on. We may recognize these people, but never know their names; we may know their names, but never who they are, where they came from, what they believed in.
Steve Schlesier, 56, was known as Motorcycle Steve. He was a wild, crazy, funny, generous, humble, wise and spiritual man. Throughout his 30 decades of living in or near the Nederland area he lived with other street people under a tunnel in Boulder; he lived in various tipis and campgrounds in the area, he lived on Magnolia Road, in Ward, up Caribou and finally, in a trailer on a friend’s property in Nederland.
He died in a motorcycle accident on March 19, 2017, hit by a truck, and most of his friends would say that’s how he would have wanted to go; either that or in his sleep. Some of them say he knew he was nearing the end of his life.
At a memorial held at Calvary Chapel last Sunday, April 2, Steve’s friends filled the church, all of them shocked and saddened by his death, and many of them wanting to say something about the man that so many people didn’t know that much about.
Steve grew up in Colorado, moved to Texas and then back to Colorado when his father retired from the Army. After ten years of ups and downs, he decided that living a more remote life suited him best.
His sister says, “Steve was a changed man from the troubled boy I knew growing up. He seems to have finally settled into his skin and found a sense of peace. When I looked into his trailer I was fascinated with the many treasures he had and how crafty and creative he was with his trailer and other belongings. He had a knack of fixing up his trailer and trucks while creatively providing himself solar energy to run his DVD player and turn table.
“I believe he is a changed man because of the community you all have here. I see how your small community embraces everyone, even those who may be different. It is that sense of community, I am quite certain, that made Steve the man he became today.”
For the past three years, Steve attended Sunday morning services at Calvary Chapel. He sat in a chair that was saved for him, in the back of the room. He had a smile for everyone and everyone smiled back, but members of the congregation say that was about all they knew about him. They did know that he was religious about studying his bible, that he often quoted scripture, often changing the names of the books: Peter to Pedro.
Pastor Doug Gibney said that the last time he saw Steve, it was after a church service and Steve had come to speak to him, but the two men were interrupted and Steve left, patting him on the shoulder, saying he would talk to Doug next week.
“The people in our lives come and go, some stay for a season,” says Doug. “I knew Steve three short years and I know he came into our lives for a reason. What was it? I’ll never know what was on his mind. We didn’t know him well, we knew him as Motorcycle Steve but we knew there was much more to him. He believed in God and knew that he was going somewhere and I hope he has the most beautiful, shiny motorcycle now.”
Steve told one of his friends that the cold was getting to him, that he was thinking of going south. The two men met in Boulder 30 years ago and had kept in touch ever since. He was a steadfast and true friend.
As Steve’s friends remembered stories about him, those who came to celebrate his life learned more about the man they had grown to love.
Marty Covey says he and Steve met back in 1984 when Marty worked at the Sinclair Station on 8th and Pearl. Steve drove up on his motorcycle and Marty describes him as, “One wild and crazy guy. We ended up working on the bike and drinking beers and hanging out. He lived in Ward then, but we would see each other every couple of months. He was a friend. He never forgot my name and he never took a handshake, he always needed a hug.”
The two men lost track of each other but then last September Marty and his wife moved to Nederland and one day he heard the voice he knew was Steve’s. Marty said he was relieved he was still alive.
“He never wore his helmet and always drove too fast. I found out he went to church every Sunday and he recited scripture to me. He knew it well. If there ever was a problem, he was there to mend the wounds and console me with words from the Bible. I am glad I got to see him again. I am going to come to church every Sunday. That’s what he would have wanted for all of us.”
Nederland resident Steve Glessing also remembers the days of being a street person in Boulder. He remembers that at one time, Steve was a professional drag racer in Denver and when he stopped driving the cars, he took up motorcycles.
“Steve was his own character, which was always lively. He did what he wanted when he wanted.”
Three years ago, Steve moved into a small trailer on May Jarril’s property. During those years, Steve became a protector of her land and a story teller to her granddaughter.
“Steve knew he was on the way out…he had health problems and was in pain. One thing he wanted to do was donate his body parts and right now someone else has his cornea.
“Steve had a low energy footprint and there is a lot everybody could learn from his trailer. He was like a gypsy, ready to go at all times. He was also fiercely independent and self-reliant.”
May played a Bartok piece on the cello, a Romanian folk dance. One of Steve’s motorcycle buddies whistled Amazing Grace strong and clear, which was an amazing feat.
Steve was part of a group of people who didn’t need much money to take care of each other, compassion was their bond, friendship their promise. As evidenced at Steve’s memorial, those bonds are strong and have endured for decades.
Motorcycle Steve is now free to ride the heavens, according to St. Pedro.