You’ve heard it before, when you ask someone about their first time riding, usually a tale involving a Honda Trail 70 emerges. It is no different for me. I remember the warm, summer morning in Wisconsin, sitting in my grandma’s kitchen, listening to the adults talk about the price of gas, Jimmy Carter, and Uncle Joe’s antics at last night’s wedding dance. Not very riveting to a 7-year old (although Uncle Joe was entertaining).
I made my exit out the screen door and walked to my Uncle’s back property that was shaded by tall Spruce trees. I found my older cousin, Tommy wheeling a Honda 70 out of the shed. I always admired motorcycles, but here was one just my size, and red-my favorite color!
Tommy wheeled it over to me. “Wanna ride it?” he said with an excited grin. Me: “YES”!! Tommy kickstarted it to life. I asked, “what do I do”? He said, “just turn the throttle and go”. Me: “What’s the throttle”? He pointed to the right grip. I figured that was all I needed to know.
So I hopped on, grabbed the throttle and suddenly I found myself racing towards a tree 50 feet ahead, realizing I should have asked how to stop it. Well, the tree helped me out with that question. I laid on the ground, feeling dazed, and as Tommy picked up the little Honda, I realized I had just fallen in love with two wheels. “Let me try it again!” And that was that.
Since then, there have been some bikes in between and even some of the fat-wheeled variety. I had ridden a friend’s 3-wheeler and when I was 16, I saved up enough money to buy a used Suzuki quad. A two-stroke 500x. It was a beast and I was told you had to ride it fast or the plugs would burn out. So, ride fast I did.
We were camping up on our property in the northern woods of Minnesota. My dad’s friend Charlie, having had a few beers, asked to ride on the back of Suzy (my quad) with me. I was happy to oblige. I strapped up my open faced, red glitter helmet, we hopped on and rode out of camp, Charlie on the back, beer in hand, enjoying the nice little ride in nature.
Once out of camp, I got to the old dirt road that goes for miles, and opened her up. Flying fast in utter exhilaration at the speed of Suzy, I suddenly wondered why Charlie was not hanging on. I turned back to look and realized Charlie was no longer there.
I rode back and found him on the ground, beer still in hand but now all over his shirt, laughing and shaking his head. After getting back to camp, my dad nonchalantly said to Charlie…”I told you to hang on”.
Suzy was fun, but I couldn’t ride her on the streets so next up was a Yamaha Riva, a little 50 cc scooter my parents bought me. I was ecstatic. I never got a gift like that in my life and I couldn’t sleep the first few nights.
First thing in the morning I’d run out the garage to take her out for a ride down my street. I put a milk crate on the back and put my dog in it, riding her around town, which naturally, she loved.
I loved that little scooter, but I longed for it to go faster than the maxed out 45 mph. Soon enough, I sold the scooter for my first real bike. A Honda Interceptor 250.
I rode this bike all over town, and soon enough, I rode it out of town. That is what started to fuel my longing to ride to distant places on two wheels. There was no other freedom I ever felt like that, and I knew I wanted to do it forever.
Then it was dirt bikes. I was tired of hectic life in Los Angeles so I bought a Honda XR250 and started riding around the deserts of Southern California. It served my two passions: the outdoors, and two wheels.
I rode every trail I could find and even the ones I couldn’t find. Like the time I was lost in a Northern California forest for six hours, finally finding my way out at midnight on fumes under a full moon.
Fast forward to today. My garage has held a variety of bikes, but my favorite of them all, is my Triumph Bonneville T100. She has taken me many places far from home, just the two of us.
I’ve ridden from my home in Oakland, CA to Colorado, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, and Arizona mostly all on back roads to remote places. Many times hitting dirt roads, and not caring that I didn’t have any cell reception.
Bonnie and I have camped out and explored the most beautiful landscapes in the Southwest, meeting new friends or sometimes being completely alone. We’ve encountered monsoon-type rain, sand, dust storms, snow, locust swarms, and 117 degrees in the Mojave desert.
So many experiences, lessons learned, and true adventures. And they all started out with that warm, Wisconsin morning in 1977 when I saw that little red Honda being rolled out of the shed. One crash into a tree and I was hooked for life, go figure.
I imagine if you ride, you likely have a similar story. If you’ve read this far, let me know in the comments below what bike was the very first one you ever rode?
Much love to you all, stay safe!