When I did my list of cars I've owned, I didn't include the other mode of motorized transportation I've used on many an occasion - motorcycles. I had always been around around two wheelers, minibikes and the like, and after I'd gotten started in programming for a bit, I picked up a Suzuki 450. I'm not exactly sure what possessed me to get one. Maybe it was my friend having one; I don't quite remember who got one first.
I had the 450 for a few years, and it was a solid learners bike. But it left a little to be desired for the long haul, and I finally upgraded to a Honda CB900F, very much like the one pictured above. What a beautiful, powerful and flexible bike. It could go plenty fast enough, yet was comfortable enough for the long haul. I drove it from Boston to Baltimore a couple of times, non-stop, without a problem. Well, save for the stupid Garden State Parkway tollbooths, where you had to stop every 5 miles to pay a quarter toll. It is a real drag fishing quarters out of your pocket every 10 minutes. I tried putting some quarters on the faring shelf, but one would pop off every expansion joint.
I was in one big accident while on my CB900F. A teenaged girl ran a red light and hit me broadside. Never even saw her, as I was pulling out from a parking space. Next thing I remember, I'm under the front bumper of the car, running inventory on my limbs. Luckily, nothing major was wrong with either me or my bike. Well, maybe not so much luck, as the fact I always rode "dressed for disaster", with a top notch helmet, leather jacket, heavy pants and leather boots, pretty much no matter what the weather. I had a slightly fractured ankle, and my bike needed some repairs, but that was it. I guess I flew up onto the hood of the car, smashed the windshield with my helmet and then rolled off. My guess is those girls in the car still see me flying around in their nightmares.
Other than that, no other accidents. I dropped the bike once in a rotary when I was cut off, but I just picked it back up and kept rolling. My girlfriend at the time thought I was a much better driver on the bike than in a car. She wasn't much of a motorcycle fan, but she got very comfortable riding with me and we did lots of riding around, using an intercom system for talking. She would even go so far as to nod off while sitting in back; I'd be driving along when I'd feel her helmet hit mine as she leaned up against me! The accident probably wouldn't have happened had it been later in the spring. I had just started riding again and my self-preservation instincts weren't completely honed to a razor's edge yet. I've always said that every driver should be forced to ride a bike for a bit. They'll learn!
She had some Harley driving friends, and we exchanged some good natured barbs. They'd chide me for riding a "rice burner" and I'd wear my t-shirt with the "I'd rather ride a rice-burner than push a Harley" imprint. We got along great, because when you get right down to it, they're still motorcycles. I would usually ride mine until it got too cold for it to start, and then I'd wheel it into the garage until spring.
But I made the mistake of selling my CB900F without already having a replacement for it, and now I'm not allowed to get one. My wife is petrified of them and never rode on mine. Her parent's fears had been too deeply instilled in her. I always think of that Harley commercial where the guy pumping gas into his minivan admires the Harley driven by another guy and says that he was going to get a Harley, but instead got a living room set. Sigh.
And tonight is the absolute perfect riding weather. Mid-70s, a little humid, with dry roads and no wind. I used to just take off on nights like these and find fun roads to ride down, and be gone for hours just riding. Ahh, I can feel it now. Some day again I'll get a bike again.
Anyway, here's the closest I get to doing that these days - riding with the windows down and the sunroof open, playing some tunes. And tonight there was a perfect story playing on the CD to go along with it - Richard Thompson's Vincent Black Lightning, 1952:
Oh says Red Molly to James "That's a fine motorbike.
A girl could feel special on any such like"
Says James to Red Molly "My hat's off to you
It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952.
And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme"
And he pulled her on behind and down to Boxhill they did ride
Oh says James to Red Molly "Here's a ring for your right hand
But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man.
For I've fought with the law since I was seventeen,
I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine.
Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22
And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you.
And if fate should break my stride
Then I'll give you my Vincent to ride" "Come down, come down, Red Molly" called Sergeant McRae
"For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery.
Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside.
Oh come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside"
When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left
He was running out of road, he was running out of breath
But he smiled to see her cry
He said "I'll give you my Vincent to ride" Says James "In my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl.
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeves won't do,
Ah, they don't have a soul like a Vincent 52"
Oh he reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
Said "I've got no further use for these.
I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome,
Swooping down from heaven to carry me home"
And he gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent to ride.