19 April 2008

Motorcycles are just a phase

Photo taken from the internet of a KM100
Mikes bike was of the same vintage

Thinking back, I'm not really sure why Mike took it upon himself to do it. Laid back and affable, Mike Stotts was the older neighbor kid who lived across the street from me.

One day after school in the early springtime, I was out riding my Tecumseh powered mini-bike around the trails that snaked endlessly behind the homes in the development where we lived back in the mid 70's, when I ran into Mike riding his Kawasaki KM100 (just like the one pictured above, lights and everything) around the playground soccer field of my school. I don't remember how the conversation progressed, but for some reason, Mike decided that it was time for me to learn how to ride a real motorcycle. Volunteering his beautiful blue bike to the cause, I do remember one specific phrase, it was the first time that I had ever heard those particular words grouped together like that, and in the following minutes I had learned exactly what they meant. "One up, Three down" he said simply enough. "Let out the clutch nice and slow, and don't forget to cut the throttle between shifts." That was my first formal riding lesson.

My mini bike sat idle, resting up against the soccer goal post, as Mike watched me patiently riding lap after lap on his bike around the track that surrounded the soccer field. Eventually my neighbor asked for his bike back and I followed his taillight as we made our way home through the darkening woods of what remained of the day. All the way back, with my little Tecumseh chuffing away, trying to keep up with the sweet smell of that two stroke exhaust, my wily little adolescent brain began scheming about how I was going to convince Dad that I needed a real motorcycle. Dad was my best bet, after all, Mom was too against those hideous contraptions after spending the last year or so picking rocks out of my skin and pouring Hydrogen Peroxide over all of my fresh wounds. I wish that I could recall what I said, because in about a month's time, my parents had found me a used Honda XR75.

Another internet photo, my little bike looked
exactly like this one. Red stripe down the
gas tank and all.

One memory that sticks with me like it was just yesterday, was that first ride from my house to my best friend Billy Backer's to show off the new ride. Racing down the single track that ran between the backyards of my neighborhood, my heart pounding with satisfaction for the next couple of blocks as my little grey dirt bike rolled over the rocks and potholes that so often spelled my doom on the mini bike.

When I arrived, Billy and I stared at the beautiful piece of machinery sitting in his driveway, marveling at the technical wizardry of a real working suspension, clutch levers, and kick starters until his Mother would eventually call us into the house for popcorn during our weekly "Dukes of Hazard" night. Some time shortly after all of the excitement of my new bike had settled, I recall overhearing my Dad consoling my Mother, "Don't worry, motorcycles are just a phase, he'll grow out of it." They seemed rather confident that as I got older I would eventually move on to other interests.

Riding home from work tonight, while battling a 20 mile per hour headwind in the middle of a hailstorm, those awkward first laps around the soccer field crept into my thoughts along with my beautiful little Honda, and also my father's reassuring words to my mother about me and my "phases". I eventually grew out of the phases of the Dukes of Hazard, and bell bottoms, and long hair; but as I sat there leaning the bike into the cold angry breath of a Mid-April hailstorm, the ice pellets ricocheting off the face shield of my buffeting helmet, and my electric vest keeping the warmth against my torso, I had an epiphany; the realization that I have been here so many times before that I am no longer uncomfortable in this element, that this in fact just one of the many exciting challenges that we motorcyclists face day by day, week by week and year by year.

Through the decades that have seen the once long brown hair in my helmet now cut short with flecks of grey beginning to peak through, I sat there leaning, reflecting on the years, all those countless rides, some that I can't recall and others, I can never forget. All of those rides that have brought me to this one, in this hailstorm, I found myself thinking out loud inside the roaring din of my helmet, "This is one hell of a phase Dad!"


irondad said...

In universal time it may be just a phase. Between dirt bikes and street bikes mine's lasted about 45 years, so far. It could have been worse. We could have been stamp collectors or something.

Desert MotoRat said...

Great post, reminds me of my first bike. I bought a '78 Kawasaki KZ 650 when I turned 16 (a little much for a first bike). I had to keep it in a friends garage because my parents would have killed me if they knew about it. They finally found out about it when I left for college and they gave it away (they wouldn't even sell it and give me the money).

Earl Thomas said...

Irondad, I think that I would have failed miserably at anything other than motorcycles, I'm afraid that my stamp collection would dwindle a little bit, every time I needed to mail something. What good is there in collecting something if I can't use it right?

Desert motorat, I am fortunate that as much as they frowned on most of my ambitions, my parents always supported my choices with a grimace and a sigh. Come to think of it, they paid for all of my motorcycles up until I started riding on the street.
My Mother actually gets excited about most of my bikes now.

Lance said...

Really enjoyed your post, Earl! I just started getting interested in riding bikes recently, but they were around me in my younger days since my Dad was very into them, and now the phase has matured in me such that I am now riding and enjoying the experience. Thanks for writing!

Sojourner rides said...

What an interesting story--and excellent post. I could feel the glee and joy on that young boy's first motorcycle ride. Whatever you said to your parents must have been convincing--no amount of asking would have budged my parents!

Earl Thomas said...

Sojourner: Thanks, as I recall the day that dad brought the bike home, I still feel the same quickening of the heart that I felt over three decades ago.