The “K” in Bike
About 42 years ago, this body of mine was often found on my motorcycle, coaxing some more speed out of my Honda. I was introduced to motorcycling at a very early age, and I enjoyed the wind in my face as much as anyone could.
My first bike was a tiny Honda 50, a little blue motorbike. Actually the tires on the “50” were about like bicycle tires. There is a story behind that Honda! I saw it first in 1963, parked in front of the LaJunta Tribune Democrat offices. One of the boys that delivered papers had purchased the first Honda in our county. He used it a short while to deliver the newspaper and then upgraded to a new one. I am not sure which bike he got next. Then one of the Plank brothers in Cheraw bought that little Honda from the dealer and used it to see if they liked motorcycle riding. They did, and traded it in for a larger model, a 300 Dream. The Somerfield boy bought it and did the same thing---tried it a while, and then got a 160 Honda. After seeing it at the dealer, I asked my mom if she would help me get it. We did! That first bike was mine in 1965. I was a big boy at 16, and this 50 cc bike was really too small, but I rode it and enjoyed it. It was all I could afford!
Oh, I was going to tell the story of the Honda in front of the newspaper office. Well, they used to stencil HONDA on the back of the seat in those early days. I saw that name on the back of this new motor bike. Having just heard the Beach Boys' new song “Rhonda” on the radio, I assumed that the owner of this little motorcycle had stenciled his girl’s name on the back of his bike. I mentioned that to a friend. How he laughed at me! I soon found out that Honda was not a girl’s name!
Okay, so I owned a Honda 50. Well, after it had been mine for a year or more, I had really worn several things out on it. It needed some parts--expensive parts! I had used it as a tool--going into the fields to get the cows, and riding it to school. I had no garage for the bike, so it sat out in all kinds of weather, just like my daddy’s tractors. I finally sold it for almost nothing, not willing to continue to ride the tiny thing. I was now into cars. The bike was behind me!
A man in our community was a football enthusiast. He wanted me to play for our high school team, but my car was out of commission, so I had no way to get to practices. He bought a Bridgestone 175 motorcycle, and told me I could ride it as long as I would play football. I agreed to the terms, and rode that new motorcycle for the entire season. It was great, but if his “recruiting scheme” had been discovered, the team would have been penalized, because it was nothing but a bribe to get me to play. Well, that is water under the bridge!
I didn’t ride again until I lived in Phoenix, in the fall of 1967. I found a Suzuki 80 that a man was selling really cheap. It had been in a small accident and would not run. I found the parts to fix it, and soon it was on the road. I drove it to work to save money on gas. At the time, gas was an outrageous price of 29.9 cents a gallon! My '56 Chevy drank gas like it was free, but this little bike was a “sipper!” It got like 50 miles to the gallon or more. I kept that one for a couple of months, and then sold it, so I could buy a really nice Honda 305 Dream. It was black and had everything you could hang on one at the time. It was really a smooth running bike. I had it when I got married.
People used to laugh and comment about Judy and her man. We would dress up in our white helmets, identical windbreakers, and get on the Honda for a cruise. They said, “That Judy would go to the end of the world with Lloyd!” Well, she nearly has!
The next bike in my life was at the mission, in 1981. Bruce Hawthorn made a deal with a man in Cincinnati for a Honda 350-4. I was the one who went after it. I brought the bike home, driving it in the cold weather all the way back to Barberton. I almost didn’t make it; the wind and rain almost wrecked me several times. But, I got home okay, and we enjoyed the bike many evenings. I also played with a 400 Honda that the mission purchased for the staff to ride. It was good recreation for us after a hard day of working at the mission.
Since 1981, I may have ridden a couple of bikes, just briefly, nothing to amount to very much. But the other day Judy came in, telling me how she had enjoyed riding a big black Harley with a man whose mother is in her care at the retirement home. She told me how smooth it was, how fun it was to be in the open air. This is coming from someone who doesn’t want the windows down on the car. This is from a woman who spends two hours combing her hair to go out to the store. This is from a person who is allergic to pollen and dust! But she was excited. “We need to get one of them!” she said. So I began to look at motorcycle ads in the classifieds. I found several and called about them. I tried to buy a Kawasaki 500, nearly new---only had 275 miles on it. But the bank would loan only 75% of its value. I didn’t have the 1400 dollars the bank wanted me to put down. I tried another avenue of revenue! My credit union. I have been a member there for 10 years, but they also wanted me to have 1200 dollars of the purchase price. So I thought I would check out the dealership, to see if they had any used big bikes. I wanted something that would carry my 250 lbs. and Judy on a cruising ride, plus a bike I could use to ride to work. Gas is now selling for $3.00 a gallon! We have to do something about this gas stuff!
Inside the showroom was a sea of chrome and color. Bikes of every size and price range were in this huge place…making my mouth water. I wanted to ride! Scott, the salesman, was patient as I flitted from the 1100 Yamaha to the 900 Kawasaki, and back again. He explained the benefits of each make and model. I wanted smooth. I wanted power, and I wanted comfort for Judy. He pointed to the Kawasaki 900, and we loved it. The price was what I thought to be acceptable, and the appearance was great. If there is such a thing as a perfect fit, it was the 900. Of course, I knew that this was a much heavier bike than I had ever ridden before. My previous rides had never been over 750 cc. Naturally, when you get on a 900 twin, the curb weight is much higher.
Our credit was okay, and we made the deal. I told the salesman he would have to throw in new matching helmets. We picked out the ones we liked and were on our way. Of course, this happened over a two-day span. Judy drove home in the van, following me as I drove my big bike for the first time. That is right---they did not even let me take a test ride. I am not sure I would have bought it had I ridden it first.
I don’t know if I can even give you an idea of what it was like to crank up the bike and feel the 900 cc engine as it vibrated beneath me. My heart began a new rhythm--and not a beat that felt so good. I felt like a person climbing a ladder that was shaky! But, as I have been known to do, I just kicked it into first gear, and acted like I was calm and cool. Second gear, third, and then onto the top gear---the bike had power to burn! I was now doing 65 on the four lane, Judy close behind. I turned onto Broadway, and made my way to our house. I was careful to turn, and brake, and do all of the right things, but my insides were all a tremble, if you know what I mean. It was excitement on steroids, something new and different, and there was a small fear that I might do something to damage the bike or hurt myself. But I arrived home okay. Judy was all smiles as she admired the bike and how nice it was and all.
“Wanna ride?” I asked her, as I removed my helmet and got a drink. “I think I could handle it okay.” So, she got her “culotte skirt” on, we adjusted her helmet strap and prepared for a ride. I had not carried a passenger for many years---hey, I had not even ridden for many years! But, that’s the way I am…I acted as if I knew all about it. And Judy trusted me!
We headed out of town towards the mountains. I planned to go to the curve where you leave Townsend and head up to Cades Cove, then turn around and come home. We had not eaten supper yet, and it was after seven in the evening, so it was ‘gittin’ hungry time.’
It was a beautiful evening, the temperature just perfect for a ride. The trees and grass were so green and fresh. We have had some rains that have really helped nature be at its best.
You must realize, we are not used to doing this. Our backs, legs, and necks---well, why not say it---our whole body was aching from the vibration, and the different position we were in on this ride. At the end of the 25 mile trip down to Townsend, we had to stop and rest our “sit-down-place,” and allow our legs to relax a bit! Judy laughed, saying that she didn’t think that this bike rode as good as a Harley! I agreed and said, “No, and it doesn’t cost as much as a Harley either!” So, we started back to Maryville.
As we came down Washington Av., we were approaching a string of eating-places. I pointed to a Chinese restaurant, and she said, “Yes!” So, I geared down, slowed, and began to turn into the driveway of the place. I was almost not even moving when the next thing I knew we were on the ground, the Kawa 900 was pinning my leg to the pavement! I had hit sand in the driveway, and had laid it down! My first thought was Judy! Was she okay?
You have to know Judy to understand. If she is in an accident, or falls, or sometimes if she sees someone else fall, she laughs. So, here I am pulling my leg out from under the bike, and she is dancing around, laughing. She was thrown off and landed on top of me, rolled clear and didn’t get a scratch. There was no damage at all to the bike, thankfully. It crossed my mind that, here I only had the bike for less than an hour, had 50 miles on it, and I had already wrecked it! But after I had stood it back up--which was a very hard job--we looked it over and there was no damage at all. A skid plate under the footboard took the skid as it was designed to do and we were fine.
As for me and my body, I had some painful abrasions on my elbow and knee with some really painful pulled muscles. I did not feel like dancing the next day!
What I have learned, most honorable teacher, is this…driveways and side streets may have treacherous sand or gravel on them and heavy bikes don’t like that!
As I get back into riding, I am sure I will learn other things about the bike. I was thinking of a name for this essay, when this came to mind…the “k” in bike stands for Kawasaki. But my daughter may say that it could stand for “krazy,” because she thinks that is what I am for getting a bike at my age.
Lloyd D. Lance
June 8, 2007
©USA 2007 all rights reserved
“A Backwards gLance” Book 11