The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Motorcycle Fever

I couldn't have been more than 6 when I first straddled a motorcycle. It wasn't running, of course, just propped up against the wall of a garage down the street from my father's bike shop. Another of those pop-up memories of mine. And just as real, just as full of emotion. A Fall day, the empty lot with a dead leaf carpet of brown and red and dull gold. Overcast, cold but tolerably so, no wind. And quiet.

It's one of the few pop-up memories that has a known trigger. Though it often haunts me on its own terms. All I have to do is see a motorcycle. Nothing more.

Like most young boys, I was intrigued by anything with wheels. And motors. Which could take me places. I blame it on the railroad. I lived a block from the Long Island Railroad tracks in my early days. Just commuters mostly, a little freight, not much industry on east Long Island at that time. Mostly farming, maybe some commercial fishing. I don't know. But to a young boy, it was the railroad to the Wild West and adventure.

I had seen old movies on our TV with motorcycle cops. Very impressive images. Big men riding big motorcycles, racing after cars, daring. That later morphed into the rebel image. Marlon Brando in "Wild One" epitomized this image for years. Well, until the biker movies of the 60s.

This song didn't help either...
The Terror of Highway 101

My brother bought a motorcycle, a used Triumph Bonneville, when I was 14. I rode on the back a few times. Something I hate to do. It's not the same, it's not actually riding, you're just baggage. Just an additional weight.

I acquired an Allstate scooter from a brother-in-law when I was 15. He claimed it was beefed up. He was probably lying. It was ugly but I didn't care. It wasn't cool but I didn't care. It had two wheels and a motor. It was freedom. It lasted a month until my father insisted I give it back. He was opposed to these dangerous things. Another reason to desire them.

I would not own a motorcycle or scooter until I was in my last two years in the Navy. My first year in, a friend and I rented these little Japanese buzzbomb mopeds and rode them full out down the coastal highway south of L.A. No helmets, no sense of mortality, no thought of anything but the rush. Owning any kind of vehicle while in the Navy is difficult. I was on a Destroyer and I was out to sea often, vehicles need to be tended to, parked somewhere, secure. It took some time but I figured out the logistics eventually.

A Triumph Daytona (500cc twin), then a Bonneville, then a BSA Spitfire Mk II. Oh, I loved that BSA. It has its own story. That story is bittersweet.

I hungered after Harleys, like all good American boys, but could never find the resources to buy one. The British bikes were good substitutes.

Once you ride, once you commit to it, it never leaves you. I used to take rides across Los Angeles, I have no idea just where. I would fill the tank, pick a freeway, or a fairly open road, and just go. Sometimes up into the Hollywood Hills, or out to the east, or up toward Santa Barbara along the coast. The engine's vibration sets a rhythm inside you, you merge with it, and you just go. Destination is unimportant, it's all about the journey.

After I left the Navy, after the BSA was gone, life intruded. There would be a couple more bikes but good sense and responsibility would pressure me to give them up.

I still hunger after Harleys. I still want that feeling of freedom. I still miss the ride.


The Logistician said...

Riding a bike is a special experience. I had a very small bike, a Honda 160 if I remember correctly, which would struggle up to 95 mph, in 1971 - 1972. Fortunately, I am the only person who I know who had a bike for any period of time, and did not take a spill on it. Close though, with a gal holding on when it started to rain unexpectedly, and we hit an oil spot. Still can't believe that I pulled that bike back up with her on it! We were going down... Yikes!

Shortly thereafter, I stopped riding it and ultimately sold it.

Michael said...

I actually want a motorcycle, and not a car. I have a feeling it's because I'm striving to be different (again), but I just think it's more practical than a big, bulky car that your whole family takes advantage of, that requires a whole individual building known as a car wash to cleanse it, that needs to park in specified spaces.

Plus, motorcycles are cool.


The Jules said...

Nice choices of bike.

There's often something that resonates with me form your posts Douglas. Not only am I a biker, so I agree with the feeling never leaving you, but just last week I was learning to play the Terror of Highway 101 on the uke.

I would say what are the chances of that, but seeing as it's actually happened, it's 1 in 1 :-)

Douglas said...

Log - Each size of bike has its own specialness. British bikes are not Harleys, Japanese bikes aren't either of those. I am reminded of truck commercials, though. Bigger, better, badder.

Michael - Something in my mind thinks "A Ride across China", a story of a young man's journey by motorcycle. Just kidding. Motorcycles suited my personality. They are terrible transportation choices except where climates are favorable.

Jules - On a uke? Somehow that seems a bit sacrilegious. But fun.

Anonymous said...

Douglas, riding a bike is an experience unlike any other. You will see a photo of my first on NR, a wonderful 1953 Matchless 350cc. Damn thing was so heavy, when I dropped it I had to get help to pick it up again. I had a number of others, AJS, Ariel Square Four 1000cc, Triumph Daytona (Snap) that was my last street bike when it was repossessed :-( I understand exactly what you are saying about the BSAs, had friends with them, it wasn't so much having a bike, as a love affair. I also spent 1 year riding as a novice (aged 18) on a J.A.P. (not Japanese - John Andrew Prestwich design - 1920s) 500cc single on the quarter mile speedway, that was awesome, gave up, was never any good at it. Only came first once because the other 3 had fallen off... LOL

Bikes, are another world.


Douglas said...

AV - those one-lunger 500s would knock out all your fillings. I vaguely recall the J.A.P. and we all dreamed about ASF's. You had more nerve than me, doing that track thing. I was a cruiser type, rarely took the big risk... unless I was drunk. then I did really stupid things.

Anonymous said...

Douglas, LOL, didn't we all...

Speedway for me was a regular Saturday night thing, I loved the smell of the ethanol, the excitement of the four bikes on the track, also my home track, Ruapuna, was home to three world champions; Barry Briggs, 5x; Ronnie Moore, 2x and Ivan mauger, 5x. That of course gave me added impetus when I became of age to emulate ones heros... I never did, spent more time picking myself up from the track than riding, LOL


Anonymous said...

wordify - gyknests, I guess is a breeding place for gynecologists.