Motorcycles Create Lifelong Friends
It started innocently enough, a new high school for a couple of freshmen that bumped into each other and discovered their families lived in close proximity. One afternoon after a quick bike ride to Greg’s I discovered dirt bikes for the first time in my young life. Yes, I had ridden one of the old Craftsman minibikes in my younger years, but after discovering “Whisky Throttle” I decided to hang back on motorized two wheels for a bit.
Standing in his cow pasture out back, Greg was schooling me on his skills and as I watched him jump and bash a few berms I thought, “This dude is crazy.” Next I’m sitting on this Yamaha 60 (a bit small for me) and was taken through the “One Down – Three Up” clutch cadence. I took off and began to feel the exhilaration of power by a simple twist of the wrist and that was it. I loved the feeling of riding on two wheels and motor, and was instantly hooked.
Greg and I continued to hang out until one day in the cow pasture Greg introduced me to another dirt biker, his cousin Nathan. If I considered Greg crazy, Nate was clearly insane – but for 14 year olds it was in a good way, somehow. Even though he was a little shorter than Greg and me, Nate was way faster and fearless on his bike. He started on a Benelli then graduated to small Honda’s.
The Boys and Early Toys
That Yamaha Mini Enduro 60 (scored on a 1972 Christmas haul) wasn’t Greg’s first bike, he actually started on a hand-me-down Indian minibike from his older brother in 1970. Greg and his dad rebuilt it and he was hooked. In 1975 Greg decided to get serious about motocross and yearned for a bigger and faster bike, so he bought a ‘74 Honda CR125 Red Stripe Elsinore.
Meanwhile, Nate had graduated to a 1971 Honda SL100 but the biggest change was in ‘73 when he started racing his cousin’s Yamaha 125. He then made the big move to a Honda XL175 Street Trail. As soon as it hit his garage he began stripping and tuning and along with Power Roll Industries created a fast four stroke back before it was the thing. He raced that modified XL175 until 75-76 and was actually featured on it in a MotoAction Magazine photo.
Like most, the three of us became fast friends and kept in touch, even though Nathan attended a different high school. We always gravitated around Bel-Ray, red clay and Hondas. Nate and Greg were full-on into competitive motocross after Greg picked up the Red Stripe CR125. It was beautiful and fast.
The Brothers in their Glorious Dirt Days. (Nate had most of the glory)
Around this time we all landed drivers licenses and began to discover a few things of great interest including cars and girls. Nate was a full time mechanic already, Greg had been playing guitar and bass and had started flexing his musical talents in a band, and I was dipping my toes in other future X-Game activities like BMX and skateboarding. We all had several “right brain” things going on, like photography, music, art and “X-Sports” but the common thread was always motorbikes. We were forced to work to support our growing motorcycle and car habits (and the girls) who made us crazy.
Nate continued racing through the mid 1970s on everything from YZ125s and 250’s graduating in the ‘80s and ‘90s to a sponsored Sport Ride on a Kawasaki KX420. The deal provided him with some of Billie Lile’s slightly used racing bikes. Dirt bikes were and still are in his DNA. In 1985 he bought a Honda CR500 and proceeded to crash it at Road Atlanta’s MX track breaking his foot in 5 places – on his anniversary no less (word has it his first wife was quite pissed about it). He took a break from racing but still has other enduro and MX bikes in the garage.
Now is a good time for…
X-Games & Right Brain Stuff
I seem to recall an incident at my parents’ place (where I was still living) in the early 1980’s. One hot bright Saturday soaking the sun and cooling off in our above ground pool, Greg gets a wild hair and decides to toss his trunks at me, leaving him in a “skinny dipping” state. I proceeded to toss them up onto the roof of our house – about 1.5 stories high (I believe alcohol may have been involved). Greg climbs out of the pool in said birthday suit and goes to my room for another bathing suit. When he comes back out I’ve ascended a ladder to the roof to retrieve his discarded garment. He looks up and yells “Jump in the pool!” I take a look at the 14 foot distance from the roof to the edge of the deep end and reply “I will if you will!” Greg proceeds to climb the ladder and without hesitation, and jumps out into the pool. Me not willing to forgo the dare, jump in right after him. The girls are screaming, we are laughing and my mom comes out and goes ballistic! We laughed our asses off… Later after a bit of sobriety we looked at the distance and realized we were lucky as hell we hadn’t ended up in the hospital. We had finally reached Nate’s level of insanity. Family is like that.
Takin It To The Streets (Thanks Doobies)
TAKIN IT TO THE STREETS
While racing motocross Nate found the need for more riding and in 1976 he bought a ‘72 Honda CB350 and had taken to street riding. The mechanic in him didn’t take long to begin modification including adding a King/Queen seat, a Kerker pipe and a sissy bar. I do recall chasing him down a country road one night in my car, a kind of game of chicken if you will. When I finally caught up to him he turned off his lights and was doing 65+ in the dark.
Like I said, Nate was the insane one but we were having damn good times!
Over the next 20 years Nate went through numerous Honda CB750Fs and a 1982 CB1100F as well as a Suzuki and a few Harleys. He continued racing in dirt but continued to expand his street bike stable, buying a new Harley Street Glide in 2007.
Nate goes through motorcycles like regular folks go through toothpaste.
Greg had taken a break from motorcycles but after much analysis and conversation with his cousin, in 2011 Greg reconnected his riding roots and picked up a 2009 Kawasaki Vulcan. He was back in the saddle alongside (or actually following) Nate on road trips.
Brothers for Life
Oftentimes riders will hear “it’s not a matter of if you crash on a bike but when,” and for dirt riders that’s pretty much a way of life. I have been fortunate in my time behind bars and except for a few instances of dropping my Street Glide during a poorly executed u-turn or two and tweaking an ankle, I’ve been fortunate. Nothing a “Pro-Rider Course” didn’t help.
Nate and Greg on the other hand raced and experienced more trips to the ER over the years as a result. Greg was run over at the start of a race and a kick stand spring sliced open his back (apparently not everyone had a milk crate). Another time he and Nate were chasing each other through the woods and Greg, in the lead, managed to nail a cable strung across a road which severely damaged a finger nearly ending his music career.
We could fill another article to journal the thrills, spills and chills of my friend Nathan Crowe. He’s spent countless hours in the ER for broken bones, starting from his feet on up to his sternum. He’s developed a bad back over the years as well. When it comes to Nate, Indiana Jones said it best- “It’s not the age, it’s the mileage.”
The three of us refuse to grow up.
Click Here for Part 2 of this #RideLife story…