Motorcycles are in my blood, in my DNA. I’ve seen them under a microscope, floating in my blood stream, riding the highways and byways of my veins and arteries. Microscopic sport bikes, cruisers, old classics, inherited from my mother and father, racing through my circulatory system, dodging in and out of the red cell traffic, avoiding the white cell cops.
I was born to ride.
Okay, so “in my blood” may be a bit of a stretch, but I did come from a motorcycle riding family, and riding is one of my great passions, in fact my favorite pastime. My father was a rider back in his youth, a “greaser” in the late 1950s, riding a ’54 Triumph Tiger 500 with my mom hanging on for dear life. The old TV series “Happy Days” could have based their “Fonz” character on him. (He rode all the way to 78 years old, before hanging up the helmet.) The bike had chopped fenders, a chrome frame, removable baffles, and a pink peanut tank. He sold that bike before joining the Air Force, and no photos remain of it. Pity. He even rode while stationed on the island of Okinawa, hopping up Cushmans and running aviation fuel in them, blasting along rough roads between the base and local villages and towns.
As children in the 1970s, my younger brothers and I saw various bikes come and go in Dad’s workshop- I remember a ’67 Triumph TR6, a ‘68 Bonneville, and enough extra parts hanging from pegs on the walls to practically build another. We rode minibikes and dirtbikes, cutting miles of trails through the woods behind our north Georgia home. I even got to ride Dad’s Triumph up and down the street when I was old enough, under his watchful, and Mom’s worried, eyes of course. Hunting, fishing, camping, riding- we enjoyed the ideal boyhood.
Once I got my driver’s license, I bought my first car, a ’73 Ford Pinto, and left behind two wheels for four. Girls, cruising, graduation, college, grad school, marriage, working world, children- motorcycling became a faded memory, fond recollections from a storied childhood.
Then in 1996, it happened. Driving home one afternoon from work, I saw a shiny black and chrome Honda V65 Magna at the end of a driveway, with a “FOR SALE” sign on it. Something deep, something old, awakened inside me. I pulled over to gawk at this pristine piece of moto art on two wheels. It was beautiful. I was hooked. I drove by it every day for about a week, slowing down, lingering over it, devising ways to come up with the cash to buy it, but more important, how to talk my wife into letting me buy it. Then one day it was gone, but the beast had been reawakened in me. I wanted to ride again, I had to ride again.
After some clever, persuasive appeals (translate: incessant begging & groveling), Lisa reluctantly gave the “green light”, and my quest began. I wisely enrolled in an MSF beginner riding course, searched the classifieds for weeks, and finally found a deep blue ’93 Suzuki VS800 Intruder with low miles. I purchased the bike, took the MSF experienced rider course on it, and began to “feed the need”. I discovered some other guys in the church we attended that rode, joined a local riding chapter, rode to a couple of “Bike Weeks”, and generally immersed myself in the world of motorcycling. I loved riding, enjoyed the freedom of the open road, found many opportunities to make new friends, and enjoy God’s great outdoors, while riding my motorbike.
But as can sometimes happen with even a good thing, my life got a little unbalanced. While still very involved with my family activities and duties, I had begun to spend too much of my free time riding, leaving my wife and our girls behind. Lisa began to resent my motorcycle riding, but kept her feelings to herself. I of course, was completely oblivious, thinking everything was right with my little world.
I took a new job in January of 2000, just two towns over. Riding home one afternoon in April, a left-turner in a sedan at a stop sign thought he found a gap in north-bound traffic, and jumped out. Instead, he found me. Scrubbing off as much speed as humanly possible in the split seconds, I still hit him at his left front headlight, and sailed over my handlebars and his hood. Two broken-up legs, four surgeries, and six months at the hands of “physical terrorists” left me wondering if I would ever walk right again, much less ride again. Yet on the one-year anniversary of my accident, I borrowed a bike from a friend, and spent the day “getting back in the saddle” with another rider friend. Unbeknownst to my wife, who upon finding out was none too happy with neither me nor my “partners in crime.”
Sensing the inevitable though, Lisa eventually gave in to my desire to ride again, declaring, “I’ve got a fat insurance policy on you now, so if you get yourself killed, I’ll grieve, but I’m moving to Tahiti.” Gotta love that woman! A fellow rider at my church knew a Yamaha Motors executive who was selling his motorcycle, a 1998 Royal Star Tour Classic. It had been a company bike given to him, and he racked up about 5100 miles on it, slathered it in over $3000 worth of chrome and accessories…then garaged it and bought a Harley! All his riding buddies rode Harleys, so he was selling the Royal Star. Imagine that- a Yamaha executive ditching the company bike to ride the competition. Priceless.
He heard my story, called me on the phone one afternoon, and shocked me when he stated, “I’ll let you have the bike for what I’ve got in it.” Wow! I called my wife, exclaiming, “I found it! My new bike! Call the bank…” And the rest, as they say, is history. Over 17 years, 90,000 miles, and countless roads later, I’m still riding that old Royal Star, have owned a series of sport bikes, a new-gen Triumph Bonneville, and various other fixer-uppers that have passed through my garage in recent years. On a bike, on blacktop, I find a peace, a balance, a synergy, not found in many other activities. I feel focused and refreshed at the same time. It’s hard to explain really, how riding can bring all of one’s senses to bear, seem to merge man and machine, and yet create total calm in the midst of constantly changing environments and situations. It’s been called “the zone”, “moto-nirvana”, “flow”, etc. That place of being perfectly focused, perfectly dialed-in, and yet perfectly tranquil on a bike. It’s almost spiritual. I can’t get enough of it. I just call it addiction. And the only cure is another ride. Always has been, since my childhood, always will be.
Motorcycles are in my blood.
Where’s my helmet…?