Real bikers never take this phrase for granted: It's not a matter of "if" but "when."
Bikers are the rowdies of the road. Fast and dangerous. Gerald "Jester" Cleveland II was no exception.
Jester and fellow members of Bikers Against Child Abuse, or BACA, are bonded in their efforts to protect children from abuse. They also share a unique custom, greeting one another with a hug and a couple of slaps on the BACA patch stitched on the back of their leather vests. It's a loyal display of brotherhood and respect for the dangers of the road. They never know when the greeting will be their last.
Bryan "Torque" Johnson remembers the last time he and his friend Jester shared the embrace.
On March 1, as Jester finished breakfast with others at the state BACA meeting in Kerrville, Texas, he said his goodbye.
"He stood up and said, 'I have to go,' " Torque said. "There was a certain place at a certain point in time he had to be."
Jester left the conference, heading up State Highway 16 on his 2001 Harley-Davidson. At 10:40 a.m. Sunday, four miles north of Kerrville, he stopped on the highway and made a U-turn. Another car, trying to pass him, couldn't stop in time.
Jester died at the scene. He was 33.
Nearly 900 people paid their respects at Jester's weekend funeral at North Davis Church of Christ in Arlington. They came from as far as Los Angeles and Louisiana. His wife, Jill "Jilly Bean" Cleveland, sat in the front row.
"He changed the lives of many people. Just look how many are here today," said Jester's 15-year-old son, Colton Cleveland, as he looked around the church full of black vested and do-ragged bikers.
A former Fort Worth chapter president and sitting state vice president of BACA, Jester was revered not only for his jokes but also his seriousness in taking care of abused children.
"BACA is not what we do. It's who we are," said Mark "Trappy" Hanna, the Fort Worth president. "Jester embodied it in every facet of his being."
The nonprofit BACA works with advocacy groups to identify abused children who need empowering. The children are adopted into the biker group, given their own leather vest, a road name and a group of friends for life.
The average BACA member will put 8,000 to 10,000 miles on the road a year. At every mile something can go wrong. Jester knew the consequences, but he rode for the children.
He'd drive all night for his trucking job, drop off the trailer, take a shower and ride to San Antonio to an adoption.
Three days after the accident, 100 bikers escorted Jester's body from a Kerrville funeral home to North Texas.
His sister Vicki "Sunshine" Leigh thanked the BACA contingent for their support.
"Your strength this week has been tremendous," she told the bikers. "I was resentful of the time he committed to be the strong, inspirational man you all knew."
But she knew it made her brother happy. "It's the one thing that made him feel good about his life," she said.
At Saturday's funeral service, BACA members Jason "Rowdy" Simpson and Robert "Slider" Avance stood sentry by their brother's coffin as they remembered his comedic antics.
At BACA adoptions Jester would do anything to put a smile on a child's face, including dancing the infamous macarena with 10-year-olds.
During a class at the state meeting, one instructor showed a group photo of bikers with their arms crossed, looking tough. And then there was Jester.
"Jester stood there striking a pose with his finger halfway up his nose." Torque said.
Alice "willow" Cooper, who prefers the lowercase "w," remembered one of her first rides with Jester. He found himself splayed on the pavement on Interstate 35. He got up yelling, "I'm Superman, I'm Superman," willow said.
"He's sitting there on the side of the road while I was picking gravel off his elbow," she recalled.
At the scene of the March 1 crash, with the crowd of BACA mourners thinning out and the roadside memorial already growing, Torque found a piece of Jester's clothing that had fallen out of his saddlebag during the wreck.
Torque stopped at the yellow stripe where the cloth lay. He bent down to pick it up and said he could hear Jester laughing at him as he stood "in the middle of the highway holding up his dirty underwear."
At the end of Saturday's ceremony, pallbearers escorted Jester's coffin from the chapel to the hearse. Three hundred bikes lined their route on both sides, engines revving with chest-thumping thunder.
The pallbearers loaded the coffin in the black hearse for Jester's final ride. He had a bottle of Crown Royal at his side, a cigar between his fingers and his BACA family riding alongside him.
Gerald "Jester" Cleveland II is survived by his wife, Jill "Jilly Bean" Cleveland, 31, a son, Colton Cleveland, 15, and a daughter, Callie C. Cleveland, 3, all of Arlington; three sisters, Vicki "Sunshine" Leigh, 38, of Grand Prairie, Daneen Simon, 34, of Winnie, Texas, and Robin Hebert, 39, of Port Arthur; his parents, Darlene Pierce of Lake Charles, La., and Gerald Cleveland.
A fund has been established at Comerica Bank for his family. Donations may be made to the Gerald L. Cleveland 2nd Memorial Fund, Account No. 1881278541, 4200 S. Cooper St., Suite 100, Arlington, Texas 76015.
During Saturday's service, Bryan "Torque" Johnson read the BACA creed, which he said was lived in full by Gerald "Jester" Cleveland II. The creed states in part:
"I won't give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and showed up for all wounded children. I must go until I drop, ride until I give out, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me, for He will see my BACA backpatch and know that I am one of His. I am a member of Bikers Against Child Abuse, and this is my creed."