Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! If you’re like me, you’re racin’ through life so fast, lookin’ where you’re goin’, that you seldom look over your shoulder to see where you’ve been. In some aspects, life’s a lot more complicated now, but in others, it’s a lot simpler. One thing that makes life simpler is the technology. We have phones that are amazing. One of my best bros, Tom Honeycutt, and I were in Monterey, lookin’ for a liquor store. Knowin’ me, that’s far from amazing, but we weren’t havin’ much luck. We pulled over, and he told his phone to find the closest liquor store, and bingo, there it was, only two blocks away! Patrón time, here we come!
What makes life more complicated is learnin’ how to make the damn phone do what you want it to do. Kids now were born into technology, and know how to make stuff work that totally confounds us old dogs, but if you put them on an ol’ Knucklehead that quits 10 miles from the dead center of nowhere, they’d probably never figure out the problem! Now this isn’t about phones, but that’s just one example. Motorcycles are the same way. You can buy a brand new Harley, put gas in it, and with proper care, ride it over a 100,000 miles without havin’ to push it or leave it under a tree in the middle of nowhere.
Lately, the road ahead of me is getting shorter, which makes me tend to look over my shoulder a lot, rememberin’ the good times and bad, the friends I’ve lost over the years, and the ones who have stuck with me down that road.
My road on two wheels started with me ridin’ on the tank of my dad’s old Flathead 80 back around 1951 or ’52. Mom didn’t like motorcycles, but dad was born into it, since my grandparents and uncles all rode. I guess I was born into it as well, because in my 68 years, I’ve only been without a motorcycle of some kind a couple of times, and not for long.
When I was in seventh grade, about 1962, my dad brought home an old Honda 50 in boxes, and gave it to me along with a repair manual (which I still have). I put it together, and was the only kid in junior high with a motorcycle, or what passed as one at the time. I used to run home from school when mom wasn’t home, get the Honda, and ride it back to school. That little red Honda made me the BMOC of Tioga Jr. High. That’s one of my favorite over my shoulder memories.
Another good memory was when I horse traded for an old AJS 500 one-lung Limey bike that had been a Hare and Hound (now called Motocross) racer. It was the most temperamental piece of devil-spawned iron on the planet, but it was big, fast, and I loved it, even if it did put me in low orbit now and then when I kicked it over. The first thing I did was ride it over to my girlfriend’s house, without lights, plates, or any other lawful requirements, and proudly parked it on the sidewalk in front of her house, where it proceeded to mark its territory with an oil spill reminiscent of the Exxon Valdez. Her father came out with a brush, laundry soap, and a bag of cat litter, which led to two hours of scrubbing. Since he eventually (and grudgingly) became my father-in-law, I’m glad I stuck around and cleaned up my mess.
Some years passed, with a lot of different sizes and brands under my faded Levis, but of all the bikes I’ve had, the only one I hated was a 750 Hondamatic. I got it in a trade, as usual, and it was the most gutless, worthless excuse for transportation I can imagine to this day. To make matters worse, if you washed it, somehow water always seeped into the points cover and it wouldn’t start until you pulled the cheesy-ass cover and dried out the points. That one only lasted two weeks at my house, which was stretching my patience to the limit.
By the 70’s, I’d moved up to Harleys, and started going to “real biker events.” My all-time favorite was the old Hanford Bike Fest. It was put on by the MMA, and security was provided by the Hell’s Angels. They locked the gates about dark, and nobody got in or out. It was drunken debauchery at its finest, with streaker rides by chicks on Sportsters, burnouts lasting into the wee hours, and an amazingly great time for everybody with enough guts to attend! You never knew what would happen next. One time, the band was playin’, and none other than Billy Idol stepped out of the crowd an’ joined them onstage for a jam session. The wet T-shirt contest always turned into a naked free-for-all, with bottles passed from the screamin’ crowd to the girls on stage, who proceeded to do all sorts of nasty things the drunker they got. It was pure biker nirvana, and I really miss it, but all I have to do is look over my shoulder, and there it is, alive and well in my R.A.M… (That’s a technological term, ya know!)