Sunday, May 24, 2015

Getting Around in the Old Days

Suzuki 250 cc X6 like I had once upon a time
A comment by one of my blogger friends, on another blog, brought back memories.  She mentioned leaning into wind, in her biker days.  The comment took me back like it was yesterday to a time when I was a biker.

When I was young, I did not get a good summer job that paid out much, so that I could save up for a vehicle.  In fact, I had to work for my father for nothing, while my brothers got good jobs that paid well.  One brother worked as a roofer at one of the mills while my other brother worked for a contractor.

One summer my father taunted me by saying he would give me a camera for working for him for the summer.  I wanted to learn photography.  Well, he gave it to me, but only for three months, then took it back, and thought that was very funny.

When I went away to religious college as was expected of me, I was simmering in a deep need to get away from my father, my roots, everything.  Rebel!   To someone raised as I was, in almost total isolation and control, to rebel even a tiny bit was very daring.

I bought a motorcycle. I couldn't afford a car and I wanted freedom, to go somewhere. I paid $75 for a used Suzuki 250 X6.  It was very used, the paint chipped and the bike rusted, but my brother and I painted it baby blue and I hoped to travel around some, down in the Napa Valley area, just north of the bay, in California, where I briefly went to college.

It was a religious "conformist" college, no straying of thought allowed there.   Believe what you are told and do what you are told, or be expelled.

So they were not sure what to do with someone who rode a motorcycle up and down the many campus stairs to class (the college and its buildings were on a steep hill), and a woman at that.  Even the California highway patrol in that area seemed surprised to see a woman biker.  They stopped me frequently, just to chat.

I once rode that little bike all the way back home, to southern Oregon.  It's top speed was 60 mph, but achieving even 60 came with the price of enduring severe vibration.  On one coastal bridge, with high intermittent wind, I thought I was going to die.  I'd have to lean severely into the wind, but a sudden let up would throw myself and the bike nearly over.  By the time I got home, my face was welted from rain.  I had no goggles and no face shield for the old helmet I wore.

My brother thought it would be funny to add an air horn.  So he did.  I tried to use it once.  It stuck "on", blasting as I descended "the hill" from college, until it drained the battery.  I hid the bike down a ditch in the forest, covering it in branches, and walked all the way back up the hill to school.  This was not easy, because it was very heavy.  We had no cell phones then, to call for help and hitchhiking was out of the question, because this was the age and territory of the Zodiak killer.  Later my brother and I went back for it, with a borrowed truck.

I crashed it at least three times.  One time, I was avoiding a dog who ran in front of me.  I tried to run after the dog to see if it had been hurt, after I hit the curb and went flying, but realized I'd smashed my foot against the curb.  It healed after a time, but I think I may have broken a foot bone, because it took a lot of time.  I crashed it once coming around a corner into loose gravel, on a return from Mendocino, but the bank I hit was soft dirt and there was no damage to me, nor to the bike.  The other crash was when an old couple turned left in their car right in front of me. I could not believe it.  I had to lay the bike over to avoid a serious crash and my knee was severely torn up on the surface.  I still bear scars on my left knee cap from that crash.  The old couple did not even stop and drove off.  I had no health insurance at that time, so did not even go to the doctor.

The bike rarely worked after that episode with the air horn stuck on.  The entire electrical system got fried.  It needed a lot of everything.  I've ridden only a few times since then as I've not had access to a bike again, outside of once in Alaska, when a guy I met let me take his extremely powerful bike on run.  I am still endorsed.

13 comments :

  1. Oh the memories...
    We rode (over 700 km) to see the smaller portion's parents (my first meeting with them). Coming into Brisbane we followed a cattle truck. All of the cows had upset tummies, which splattered out of the truck and onto us. Losing it in the gravel is one thing, but I had visions of us losing it in the cow crap.
    It was a truly vile trip. We did the trip in a day, and I had a pack on my back and one in my arms, with instructions to keep my hand under the pack on my back so if we hit a bump the precious duck tail was unscrathed.
    When we pulled into his parents drive I looked around and could see no-one. So I thumped him. To discover later his parents were peeking out through the curtains.
    First sight of me? Covered in cow shit, thumping their precious boy...

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    1. Oh my gosh, EC. I can picture that. How awful, the worst thing to follow on a motorcycle! When I road behind that guy in Alaska, who eventually let me take his bike out on my own, for a high speed spin, he'd picked me up after I'd done a solo backpack trip. I wore my pack clutching him from behind tight as I could, but the pull of the wind on that backpack was terrible! I thought I'd be pulled off for sure.

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  2. They are dangerous vehicles. I once had use of a Honda 90, which I liked. The bike was upgraded to a Kawasaki 250 and it seemed too powerful to me. We didn't ride much on the roads, mostly in paddocks and bush tracks.

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    1. They are dangerous, Andrew. As I was driving home this evening, two guys zoomed by, at high speed, on bikes, both popped wheelies, one while standing, on a city street. Showing off.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your happenings back in the early 60's. Oh gosh, you lived to tell the tale :) good on you..what fun you must have had being 'free' as the wind.
    Have owned 2 motorbikes, a mini one which I used to do my 'rounds' on. Many years later we bought a big black one, that was fun, sold now.

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    1. Wow, you also, a former biker. Seems so many of us at one time were.

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  4. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. It breaks my heart how you were treated by your father. I can't imagine my father taunting me. I love the image of you riding the stairs and being stopped by cops for a chat. Thank heaven you never met the Zodiac killer, my dear. That was a frightening time.

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    1. It was a time. The son of a pastor who had lived in my home town was stabbed by the Zodiak, when attending the same college I did. He was with his girlfriend at Lake Berryessa, and the guy stabbed both of them. The girl died, but Brian survived.

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    2. I was at that college several years after the last killing but he had not been caught so that area remained on edge for many years over it.

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  5. What a story! When we changed our residency last year to Texas and I tranfered my driver's license, I didn't pay to have the motorcycle endorsement transferred as well. Doubt if I ever ride again so it wasn't worth the $$$. Your adventures were much more exciting then my riding days!

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    1. You rode too? I guess we all sowed some wild oats when younger. I haven't ridden in years either. Here in Oregon, you don't have to pay to renew the motorcycle endorsement check box. If we did, I wouldn't renew mine either.

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  6. Boy, you have had some interesting experiences. I only road a motorcycle once and I wrecked it in some woods. Didn't get hurt except for some bruises and never rode one again. My life is boring and I kind of like it that way.

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    1. There's a lot to be said for boring. Much safer!

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