As It Happens

New Jersey biker rescues a stranded Bruce Springsteen

Dan Barkalow wouldn't hesitate to help anyone stuck on the side of the road. But the anyone in this case turned out to be a big someone: The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen.
Dan Barkalow (left) with Bruce Springsteen. IOn Friday, Barkalow and his friend were riding after a Veterans Day event with the Freehold American Legion, in Wall Township, New Jersey, when they pulled over to help a stranded motorcyclist who turned out to be The Boss. (Ryan Bailey/The Associated Press)

When Dan Barkalow pulled over his motorcycle, he thought he was just helping a stranded fellow biker — a stranger who'd run into trouble.
Turned out it wasn't a stranger though. It was his town's most popular former resident: Bruce Springsteen.
Dan Barkalow spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off from Freehold, New Jersey. Here's some of their conversation.

Carol Off: Dan what was your first reaction when you saw this biker on the side of the road?

I said, 'Hey, I think I know you.' You just kind of smile and shrug your shoulders. Good guy.- Dan Barkalow

Dan Barkalow: Like I always do whenever I see the biker stranded. We usually stop and see if we can assist him in any way. I just did the same thing. This one happened to be Bruce Springsteen.

CO: How long before you realized who the biker was?

DB: Pretty much instantaneously. As soon as I got off my motorcycle and looked at him, I realized it was Bruce. My buddy, same reaction.

CO:  And so what did you say?

DB: I said, "Hey, I think I know you." You just kind of smile and shrug your shoulders. Good guy.

CO: What was wrong with his bike?

He rode on the back of my buddy's bike — a Trans-Am [with] three wheels. We figured that was the safest place to put him. We didn't want to hurt Bruce.- Dan Barkalow

DB: For some reason, the charging system went out on it, so the battery was dead, unfortunately. We tried to fix it, but couldn't get it going. We just asked him, we said, "Listen, we're going up the road, get a beer. Do you want to go with us?" He said, "Sure." He had to wait for his ride. So he got on the back of one of our bikes and we proceeded to go to the nearest restaurant. And so we kinda snuck him in and just sat there and talked for about maybe a half-hour, 45 minutes.

Dan Barkalow stands to the right of Bruce Springsteen (centre), flanked by his friends Bob Griggs (far left) and Ryan Bailey (far right). (Courtesy of Dan Barkalow)

CO: Whose bike did he ride on the back of?

DB: He rode on the back of my buddy's bike. He's got a bike called a Trans-Am and it has three wheels. We figured that was the safest place to put him. We didn't want to hurt Bruce.

CO: [laughs] You don't want that on your record, that you did something to The Boss.

DB: Yeah, we didn't want to hurt The Boss.

CO: And how did he feel about being on the three-wheeler?

DB: Aw, he didn't care. He was a perfect gentleman the whole time. He's really nice — really nice guy.

CO: So you rode to a roadside place?

DB: It's a place in Farmingdale, called Mulligan's.

CO: But you guys were pretty cool — you weren't going to get all excited.

DB: Nah, no. He comes around Freehold quite often. Most of the time nobody bothers him. Actually, none of this would have been necessary, if my daughter didn't happen to post that picture on Facebook. And it just got kind of crazy after that. She took the picture off my phone and put it on Facebook and then it just blew up from there.

CO: Well, I would do that, if it was my dad. I'm sorry about that. I think your daughter had a point there.

DB: Perhaps.

CO: So you went to this restaurant and you had a beer. What was it like, that half an hour you sat around with Bruce Springsteen?

DB: He just sat down and he was just one of the guys. We talked about some of the old days. I was born and raised here, 55 years [ago]. He was born here. And we just talked about some old Freehold days. And we talked about motorcycles.

The home where Bruce Springsteen has said he wrote the album "Born to Run" is seen Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, in Long Branch, N.J. (Mel Evans/AP)

CO: What did he say about growing up in Freehold, New Jersey?

DB: Well, we knew some mutual people and we asked him about some of his concerts. We asked him how can he go for five hours in one concert. He said he's kind of used to it 'cause he's been doing it for so long. But, to me, that's pretty impressive.

CO: Have you been to one of his performances?

DB: Yes, I have, yeah. I've been to a couple of 'em.

CO: Are you a big fan?

DB: Uh, I'm a fan, yeah — more of his earlier stuff. But, yeah, I'm definitely a fan.

Bruce Springsteen, left, performs with Steve Van Zandt in 2012 during their Wrecking Ball tour at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. (Doug Hood/Asbury Park Press/AP)

CO: So then you had the drinks and then what happened?

DB: His ride showed up and he went back to retrieve his bike. That's pretty much it.

If we didn't stop and assist him, I'm sure he would have been fine. As I said, we would stop for anybody.- Dan Barkalow

CO: OK. So who picked up the tab?

DB: Uh, actually Bruce did. We offered. But he insisted.

CO: What did your wife say about this encounter?

DB: At first she didn't believe me and then I showed her the picture. Bruce is a pretty low key guy. If we didn't stop and assist him, I'm sure he would have been fine [laughs]. But it was nice it was Bruce. As I said, we would stop for anybody.

For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Dan Barkalow.