Motorcycling & Writing
I first knew I’d be a writer of some kind as a fourth grade student. It was as if all the dark space in my brain was illuminated with the power of an aircraft searchlight revealing this one truth.
I'd stayed inside during recess to write a summary of a biography on Francis Scott Key, a young man with revolutionary patriotism and author of what would later become the national anthem of the USA, The Star Spangled Banner.
What ten year-old kid, who isn’t ill, stays inside during recess? Only one with a solitary focus and a new-found passion that he’d never felt before. It was to be the beginning of a life-long passion with writing, writing poorly, and gradually increasing my skills.
In later years I’d become a reporter and editor of my college newspaper, publishing in trade journals and small presses. I’d later write non-fiction books, blogs on varied topics, and start a life-long habit of journaling to discover new areas of life and how I felt about them.
Life on Two Wheels
I first learned to ride a motorcycle when I was fifteen years old. Legendary motorcycle raceway announcer Bruce Flanders lived across the street from my family in Southern California and it was he who planted the seed that later blossomed into a life-long passion for motorcycling.
It was as instantaneous a conversion as my introduction to writing had been. One ride on a Honda 100 enduro bike and I knew was hooked for life. The experience was like none I'd ever known.
Later in the summer of 1972, I attended Speed Week on the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, courtesy of the Flanders clanwho served as stewards at the event. Bruce manned the announcer’s booth at the starting line and also rode for Pops Yoshimura’s Kawasaki team, setting a world record for the stock tuned KZ-1000 at 141.703 m.p.h.
It was on these arid salt flats that I was quickly convinced that motorcycling was a way of life and not just a hobby. My eyes were are big as saucers as I wandered through the pits and inspection tents looking at bikes altered for speed and talking with people who knew something of life beyond the 9-5 home-to-office-and-back grind.
I felt as if I were walking among giants. Craig Breedlove was their testing his rocket car, The English Leather Special. I met Pops Yoshimura who only spoke Japanese and wasn’t a fan of the heat nor the environment and Bob Braverman, an astute designer and mechanic.
I quickly made friends with another teen and we rode everywhere we could on motorcycles for a week. The salt would cake up our knobby tires and the soles of our boots, but we didn’t care. We were on two-wheels and experiencing more freedom that wither of us thought possible. When the wind was above 10 m.p.h, speed trials were suspended and we’d have to make our own fun; that usually involved hanging out near the starting line or just commandeering a couple of bikes and taking off.
This was a time long before portable GPS units were commonly found on the handlebars and we were damn lucky we didn't get lost out on the endless flat and featureless landscape of the salt flats.
Later when I was 18, I flew on my own to England and lived near the Scottish border in the centuries old town of Hexham in Northumberland. It was there I pubbed around with new biker friends riding Nortons, Triumphs, and Hondas racing around the narrow lanes of Northern England. The entire experience of living in the UK in 1976, at age 18, completely immersed in a culture that revered motorcycling was pivotal in my development as a young adult.
Returning to Southern California, I quickly bought a new Suzuki GS400 and it quickly replaced my ’68 Camaro as my main source of transportation. But I was an unlicensed and untrained rider. Sure, I’d spent time on the motocross racetrack at Irwindale on Saturdays with Bruce learning how to corner and survive woopdydoos, but I was largely untrained and unskilled on the streets of Southern California.
I kept the Suzuki for a few years and sold it when I got married and moved away to attend college. That was to begin long drought in my riding experience; at times I wondered if I’d ever get back on two wheels again.
It wasn't until I'd been away from riding for two decades, raising a family and making a choice to minimize risk, that I decided it was time to reignite the passion that burned silently for a long time.
I purchased a 2000 BMW f650 GS and took the MSF’s Basic Rider Course at a local community college. I gained my M1 endorsement on my driver license and a year after, purchased another BMW – this time a former police bike, an R1100 RT that I rode on a solo tour the American Southwest in 2012.
But I wanted another GS and found a great deal on a pristine bike (the beauty at the top of this page), a 2000 R1150 GS that had been meticulously cared for by a BMW shop in Marin County, north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
When I can’t ride, I feel like a part of me is missing. It’s much like the feeling I get when I don’t publish to the web on any given day. I don’t like driving the Jeep Cherokee so much. In fact, for his 18th birthday, I gave my son Jay the Jeep for his use. I only use it when I have to and always with permission.
My life on two wheels makes me feel more like I'm doing my part for the environment and the added benefits of using the commuter lanes on highways and the ability to park almost anywhere make the experience even better.
My two passions are inextricably linked. I’ll be writing until my arthritic hands can no longer type. Likewise, I’ll be riding my motorcycles until I can no longer swing my leg over the back of a bike.
And even then, where both passions are concerned, it will take some convincing.