In the fevered dreams of my pre-hormonal, prepubescent youth, my deeply felt lust focused on two material desires: I wanted a tent and a mini-bike. It was such a disappointment to dream about these things and then awake to the realization that no, I didn’t really own them. I eventually would actually obtain a tent, but I never did get the mini-bike. Which is just as well. Because eventually I got something even better–an actual motorcycle.
It was just after my freshman year at BYU. I had about six months before I would leave on my mission, and I needed a job to earn some money. And I managed to get a very good job sterilizing surgical instruments at the local hospital. But I needed a way to get there. My family always had only a single family car, so that was of no help. My teenage brain then came up with the brilliant idea that would solve this little dilemma–get a used motorcycle!
Normally I’m guessing my parents would clearly rebuff such a scheme. But it really was an economical solution to the problem. And my parents were children of the Depression, and if there was anything they supported whole heartedly it was efforts to earn actual money. (I remember when I first approached my folks about an opportunity to inherit someone’s paper route. Since I was still underage, I assumed they would nix the idea. I was surprised at the enthusiasm they expressed in favor of it, so I pulled the trigger and worked that route for years.)
So with the plan in motion, I started to look for a bike to buy. Of course, I had never actually ridden on a motorcycle. I knew in principle how everything worked, but knowing the theory and actually doing it are separate things. The first bike I rode, I went a short ways down the street and then promptly dumped the bike and myself over the curb into the grass along the sidewalk. Not only was that supremely embarrassing, but I was afraid my mother would nix the whole thing after witnessing that little performance. (Sort of like when Ralphie “shot his eye out” with his bb gun in A Christmas Story.)
But things looked up after that. I bought the bike, learned how to actually ride it, and passed the license examination. So I became the proud owner of a Honda 350 with a custom blue metallic paint job.
Starting it was a bit of an adventure. The kickstarter had such a deep groove worn into it that it was useless. There was an electric starter, but it was anemic and wouldn’t usually start the engine by itself. So I’d run with it for five to ten yards, pop the clutch and simultaneously push the starter button. It sounds ridiculous, but I got so used to it it just became second nature.
In addition to being transportation to work, I also drove it to church. I have to admit I got a kick out of showing up at church on a motorcycle; there was just something a little oxymoronic about that juxtaposition of imagery. I have to admit, I felt very cool showing up for Church on my motorcycle.
I didn’t go on any really long trips with it. The furthest I went was when my friends and I drove up to Rockford. I remember it was windy and the wind was blowing me all over the road.
I was sad to leave it behind when I left for my mission. Often I would fantasize about it as a missionary–the freedom of movement it would represent, and the fact that I could drive it and be alone. I really missed that bike for those two years. When I came home, I drove it for a couple of more months, until I returned to BYU for the long haul. At that point it had served its purpose, and I think my parents got rid of it for me.
(If you want to see a picture of me on my beloved bike, see the bottom of this post. This was in 1977 when I was 18 years old.)
Tell us about your biking experiences. Any Temple Riders out there? Anyone go to Sturgis? Any harrowing accidents? Arguments with spouses over whether to even buy one?