It’s sometime in the early 80’s and my first motorcycle riding experience was on a 70’s Kawasaki 350 dirt bike. I don’t even remember how I got that bike, I think I just swiped some money from my mom for it…I know, what a twat!
My next bike was a Honda Elsinore 125. I don’t remember the exact year of the bike and at the time, I didn’t care. The bike had no front brake and again, I didn’t care. It was my first taste of freedom.
The bike was owned by my friends parents, I don’t even know how I ended up with it. I do remember I traded it for an old huge Mercury 4 door car after about 6 months of owning it. Owning vehicles for a short time would be a ongoing theme in my life. I just get bored of things and after a few months I am ready to move on to something else.
I rode that bike all over the place. I didn’t even occur to me that I should be wearing a helmet at the time or any other protective gear for that matter (as I should have considering not having a rear brake). I just put on sunglasses and rode. I was just so friggin cool! Or so I thought.
My next riding experience was riding my friends 1980 Suzuki GS550. I also had another friend with a cruiser type bike that I would borrow from time to time so that I could ride with my GS550 friend (wish I could remember his name).
I lived in La Canada at the time which is at the base of the famous Angeles Crest Highway. If you are not familiar with Angeles Crest Highway, you ride a motorcycle and you live anywhere in southern California, you are missing out. One of the things we used to do was go up Angeles Crest and purposely get behind cars so that we could pass them.
Then I took a break from riding. It wasn’t on purpose, I just stopped riding.
Flash forward to 1998. My friend David bought a Suzuki TL1000. I never got to ride that bike, but I loved the way it looked and the way it sounded. I did ride on the back once, but of course felt stupid and didn’t enjoy it much.
After a while, David bought a Honda VFR (1998 or 1999, I can’t remember). David was a very close friend of mine (i will write about my friendship with David in another post) and he wanted someone to ride with. I did not have the money to buy a bike, so David loaned me the money. We searched together for the right bike and we found a 1997 Honda VFR (just like the one pictured above). It was so fun to be riding again. I loved that bike, I loved the way it sounded. That year of VFR had gear driven cams and it made for such a wonderful sound. The bike was not incredibly fast, but it was fast enough for me.
One of the first motorcycling “adventures” I ever had was on that bike. David wanted to go camping on the motorcycles, so we took a 3 day weekend and rode up to Sequoia National Park in California. We had no way of carrying anything on the bikes, so we packed up what we needed into big black garbage bags and used bungee cords to tie them to the bikes. We must have looked so ridiculous riding with those things, the bag on the back of my bike was almost to the top of my head. When we got to our campsite, we had no way of getting any wood for a fire. We found a big pile of wood and had to come up with a plan to get some back to our campsite. David used some rope to tie big bundles to our bikes and we went down the road dragging the wood, again, we must have looked ridiculous. David and I had such a great time. I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of motorcycle camping.
That VFR also gave me my first taste of getting hit by a car. I was going up Lyons Valley Road in Jamul California, which was a great little road with some nice twisties, coming around one of the corners, I see this car sitting at a stop sign at an intersection I was coming up to. I look at the driver and he looks right at me, but something was wrong, even though he was looking at me, I could tell that he wasn’t “seeing” me. Well, of course, he started pulling into the intersection. I did not have time to stop, so I actually gassed it and turned trying to avoid impact…I didn’t make it. I am certainly glad I gassed it as his bumper hit just behind my right foot. If I had not gassed it, I’m certain that that bumper would have hit my foot and caused who knows what damage. I think because of my mountain biking skills, I was able to absorb the impact and ride it out without going down.
I was pissed to say the least with a flurry of cuss words coming out of my mouth before I took off my helmet. How could this moron not have seem me??? I was on a red motorcycle with my high-beams on!
Turns out this driver was a 17 year old boy going to a church function. He was a mess and I actually felt sorry…for him. We went back to his house so he could call his mother and get the insurance information. I talked to his mother on the phone and she seemed really nice. I just couldn’t be mad at these people, why couldn’t they have been assholes, so I could be an asshole back?
In 1999 I got a job offer in the Seattle area, so off I went.
I moved up to Seattle in December, so I did not get too much riding done right away because of the rain and drizzle. I did get a really good riding suit that protected me from the elements really well. I also got a heated vest that protected me from the cold. It doesn’t get too cold in the Pacific Northwest, but being a California boy, it was very cold to me.
Eventually, I just would bundle up and ride in the wet. It was incredibly beautiful up in the NW, the roads were great! One of my routine rides was to head up Interstate 5 to Hwy 2 and head west. For those lucky enough to live near there, you know what you have and how great the riding is.
During my time living there, I also got my second taste of getting hit by a car. I was stopped at a signal that had red and green arrows for those turning left. I was first in line and when the light turned green for me, I started through the intersection. There was a car in the left-hand turn lane coming from the opposite direction and the lady saw the green light for going straight, but thought she could go ahead and turn left. Even though I was coming through the intersection, she just went ahead and went. This was the second time someone looked at me on my motorcycle and yet did not “see” me. By the time I realized that she was not going to yield, all I could do was lay the bike down. After I laid the bike down, she finally saw me and braked. The front end of her car ended up on top of my bike with me pinned underneath. I was able to get unpinned after a very short period. I was very lucky again that I did not really get hurt. My ankle hurt a bit, but I was able to move it without and munchy, crunchy sensations. My bike was actually pretty good too and I was able to ride it home (didn’t feel much like riding after that).
The insurance company ended up totaling the bike just because of all the damaged bodywork. I replaced the VFR with an identical 1997 VFR.
After a few months with that VFR, I decided it was time for a new bike. I had always been a fan of Kawasaki’s, so I purchased a new 2001 ZX9R. That was my first new bike and boy did I love it. I loved the sound of it and I loved the power. I also liked the more aggressive riding position verses the VFR.
I got my first real taste of speed on the ZX9. As those of you that live in the NW know, there are some long desolate roads available for some fun. I don’t remember which road I was on, but I do know it was long and straight and I decided to see how fast I could go. I ended up doing an indicated 175 mph…what a moron I was for doing that on a public road, but boy, was it fun!
After about a year in Seattle, I really was sick of the drizzle and decided to get my ass back to Southern California. I don’t mind rain too much, but I just can’t stand drizzle.
A friend of mine helped offered to help me move, so he would drive my car and I would ride my motorcycle. We packed up my stuff and headed south. We really didn’t have a plan as to how far we would go the first day, we just would go as far as we could. We ended up at his house in Concord California…it ended up being 824 miles, not quite an iron butt, but a long way on a ZX9.
I left my bike at his house and went the rest of the way in my car. I would come back a week later and pick up my bike.
More to come…