25 July 2008


today is 25 july. which means .... only five months until christmas. it's not too early to start planning your gift for me.

i'm pursuing a new project. or more accurately, reviving an old one. i've owned and ridden motorcycles off and on for nearly forty years. but it's been fifteen years since i sold my last bike -- after a serious traffic accident, my ex told me "the bike goes, or i go". i obliged, sadly. but since she's now been an ex for over four years, that particular barrier no longer exists.

my first bike was a classic 1963 Triumph Bonneville 650. if i were to hear one today, i could still identify that distinctive sound. a cold start meant tapping the "tickler" a few times, essentially priming the carburator with fuel, which was a quirk on these brit bikes. it was even colored british racing green. i bought it for $600 cash from a guy named alan in tucson, az. when he later mailed me the owner's manual (this was a lot of bike for a virgin rider), he enclosed a note which i still remember: "hope you enjoy the wheel. best friend stole my girl, army after my ass, what next." recall that in 1969 the vietnam war and the military draft were on every young man's mind. but i loved that bike. sold it to a lucky guy in houston, tx, where i was attending a computer school and couldn't keep up with the insurance payments on a car and a bike both.

the second bike was another Bonneville, this time a 1970, brand new, having returned to tucson. the 650cc displacement suited me well -- easy to maneuver on city streets, but heavy enough not to get blown around on the open road. goldenrod colored, with a black nike-like swoosh accent. easy rider.

the third bike was a burgandy '82 Honda Silver Wing, full dress with fairings, windshield, hard shell saddlebags and interchangeable trunk/passenger seat. man, i loved that bike. in sunny tucson, while attending the UA, it was my only vehicle for nearly two years, and with wet weather gear in the bags, it was all i needed. i loved being able to pull into any crowded parking lot and find a triangle of open space available to slip my bike into, right near the theater or store or whatever. '82 was the last year that Honda made the Silver Wing in 500cc, after that they went to 650.

i loved that bike best of all. i could be in the rottenest mood in the world, and all i had to do was saddle up and go for a relaxing ride on the swooping curving paved desert roads around tucson, returning the wave of a friendly saguaro, hearing and seeing and smelling all that clean desert ... and things would be right with the world.

alas, my neat little touring bike and i were in two near-fatal accidents. in both cases, once in tucson and once in philadelphia, a little old lady in a big ol' oldsmobile/cadillac, left the oncoming lane and turned left in front of me. both women claimed they didn't see me coming, even with clear dry conditions and my headlight on. whatever.

the first driver nearly missed, tagging my tail and sending me head-on into the opposite curb. i was out cold for a few minutes, and ended up with severely strained ankles, road rash on one knee, and in a wheelchair for a while. which gave me a real appreciation for what people with disabilities contend with in our society, but that's another story. my saddle bags were destroyed, but i got the rest of the bike repaired and running again.

the second driver had better timing. i think she was leading me a little, since she arrived at the collision spot before i did, hitting my front wheel. again i went cartwheeling through the air, landing on the sidewalk, out cold. the chin guard on my fullface helmet was cracked, which gives you an idea of the impact (and the effect if there'd been no helmet.) this time a fractured clavicle, separated left shoulder, slight concussion. the responding ambulance crew did their best to kill me too, trying to insert an IV while the vehicle was negotiating a curving bumpy road to the ER. but it was at this hospital that i discovered divine morphine, after eight excruciating hours on a wooden backboard. aftermath, a couple of months with my arm in a sling.

alas, poor Silver Wing, you were beyond repair this time. after keeping you around for consolation for a year, i sold you for parts. sigh.

but now i'm in montana, where a motorcycle license is life long. i'm studying the manual, will take the written test and then the MSF (motorcycle safety foundation) course in lieu of a performance test, and will have my license without having to actually buy a bike. that will come later. it'll just be nice, very nice, to have that motorcycle endorsement on my driver's license again, knowing i can go rent a BMW and spend a day out cruising with a friend. and someday, either a Honda Gold Wing or a BMW touring bike. maybe after flying lessons.

that's my story, and i'm sticking to it.

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