My mother told me, “The day you get a motorcycle, is the day you move out of the house!” Some years later, I was looking for my first apartment, and lo and behold, the previous renter—my friend Wes—had a motorcycle to sell: a 1967 Honda CL350 Scrambler. So, after making a deal for the apartment and the motorcycle, I told my Mom, “Well Mom, I got an apartment.” She was happy for me, knowing that at 22 years old, it was well time for me to move out on my own. I then said, “And…” while springing out a helmet from behind the end table. She started to cry, then stormed out of her house, into her car and drove away—leaving me in the street feeling like an asshole. Well, I told myself, if you’re going to learn to ride a motorcycle, you need to learn really well.
I have dim recollections of starting subscriptions to five motorcycle magazines, buying a Clymer manual for the Honda, and getting my DMV permit. I have even dimmer memories of a few terrifying sessions in Montgomery Ward’s parking lot, trying to stay on the Honda while dodging light poles. But after a while, I got pretty good at kickstarting the two-cylinder beast and avoiding all of the cars who were waiting to take their shot at killing me.
I rode my Honda everywhere, but mostly from my apartment to work where Steele, a co-worker of mine who also rode, gave me pointers. It’s a strange and beguiling thing, the love affair with motorcycles. One that cannot be explained to anyone who has not experienced it themselves. Looking back at those days, having a bike was a great way to 1) have fun, 2) save money on gas, 3) get a parking space anywhere, and 4) be cool with the ladies (…oh yeah!). It was also a very easy way to seriously hurt or kill yourself. So all I had to be careful of was not falling off, and not allowing a car to take me out.
Some time later, another friend of mine, Terry, told me, “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ you will fall off, it’s a matter of ‘when’.” I didn’t want to believe him, but I secretly knew he was right. And sure enough, one day with a light rain that had brought all of the road oil to the surface, I met my match on a boulevard cloverleaf. I went down like a ton of bricks even though I was being ridiculously careful because I knew the oil would come to the surface. But it didn’t matter. Being on a downhill curve with oily pavement means only one thing…YOU’RE GOING DOWN! I probably fractured my foot that day, and my rear brake pedal was bent like a pretzel. But, outside of that, the Honda was none the worse for wear. But as for my psyche, she and I were no longer virgins and my wandering eye started lusting after larger displacement machines in my cycle mags from then on.
The saga continues in part 2.