A real passion for learning

Published 9:14 am Wednesday, August 9, 2017

By Joel McNeece

Doug Orlando has a passion for learning that’s quite contagious.

I spent a couple hours at his backyard shop in the Drivers Flat Community in northern Calhoun County last Friday. I could’ve stayed for a week listening to him talk about the intricacies of building his Douglas Kustoms’ motorcycle trikes.

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Doug is an engineer, which comes through in his attention to detail in every aspect of his work. But he’s also an artist, educator, and I would suggest somewhat a philosopher.

“I have a thirst for learning,” he said. “I like to learn everything I can learn about anything I’m doing.”

I met Doug at this year’s Bruce Sawmill Festival where he was showing the latest of his trike builds in the annual car show. As a lifelong motorcycle rider, I’ve never been a big fan of trikes, blowing them off as “old man rides.” Real fun requires only two wheels, I thought. That was before I saw Doug’s work of art.

At first sight, I was struck by the length of his trike. It has a 52-degree rake that screams chopper, but while long, still has a muscular design that’s amplified when he turns the ignition.

Similar to my old disdain of trikes, I was never a fan of flat black, but Doug’s trike makes it sexy. Throw in the sharp gold “Douglas Kustoms” logo and it oozes coolness.

Doug said he loves the “sinister” look of it. That was odd to hear from a Sunday School teacher, and he admitted he hoped “people don’t get the wrong idea.”

Doug walked me through every aspect of his build, from his picturesque drawings in an old notebook to each weld on the ingenious frame. Listening to him talk about bending every piece of steel, fabricating every component, assembling the Volkswagen pancake engine, artfully painting, and even sewing the leather seat himself, left me inspired I could do the same.

I couldn’t, but Doug makes a believer of us all.

I was awed just turning in his driveway at the wooded landscape he had carved out for the home. He built most everything on the property, which appeared straight off the pages of a magazine.

His garage was spotless. Then he took me to his next door workshop which was less so, but astonishing due to the realization of what he accomplishes with a large variety of tools.

An Air Force veteran who has experienced life all over the globe, Doug’s stories are endless and endlessly entertaining. What started out as a conversation about motorcycles progressed to food and restaurants, travel, education, fishing, soccer, community service and even politics.

“If you’re interested in something, just pick a project and make a mess. There are always things to be learned from it,” Doug said.

Joel McNeece is the publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at joelmcneece@gmail.com.