I don't know what first sparked my interest in motorcycles when I was a kid. It might have been an older neighborhood kid who was always tinkering with his broken down Harley in his garage. Living two doors away, we knew what time he came home every night. The loud rumble could be heard two blocks away. It became a standing joke in my family. We'd look at each other when we heard his bike and exclaim, "Paul's home!"
Mini-bikes were a big craze in the late 60's. They were miniature motorcycles with lawn mower engines on them for power. The problem with them was they weren't street-legal and there were very few places to ride one in Struthers, my hometown, a suburb of Youngstown, Ohio.
As much as I begged and pleaded, my folks never gave in to me to let me have anything on two wheels other than a bicycle. I did sneak a ride or two on some friend's mini-bikes and it instantly transformed me into feeling like Peter Fonda in the "Easy Rider" movie. Feeling the wind through your hair and enjoying the freedom of the open road. The Steppenwolf song, "Born To Be Wild" immediately began playing in my head....."Get your motor runnin', headed down the highway, lookin' for adventure and whatever comes our way..."
When I was thirteen or fourteen, my Uncle Jack got a Honda 750 and I immediately became his passenger for Sunday rides all over Northeastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. I loved every minute of it and can recall many rides in detail. It seemed to awaken all my senses. A couple bucks worth of gas and a cheeseburger and Coke at some Greasy Spoon Restaurant gave us a whole day of enjoyment for less than five dollars. What a deal!
My parents remained adament about not allowing me to get a motorcycle. In the Spring of my Senior year, when I was eighteen and totally responsible for my own actions and debt, I purchased my first bike. a brand-new Honda 360 CL. It was a combination road and off-road motorcycle. High exhaust pipes and a lot of ground clearance made it possible to take it anywhere and I did. I really learned to ride well off-road before I put too many miles on it on a busy highway. I gained confidence and respected the power I had underneath me. I saw the results of what happened to a lot of kids I knew when they showed off or drove too fast for conditions.
That Summer, my buddy, Greg and I headed out on our motorcycles to Gainesville, Georgia, where my Uncle Jack and his family had moved to a couple of years earlier. We hit torrential rain the ENTIRE way down South. The cheapo rain suit I bought didn't last fifty miles. I bumped my leg again the hot exhaust pipe and a small hole was burned into the rain suit. The wind started blowing into the hole and before you knew it, the complete rain gear was ripped from my body at 60 M.P.H.! Shazam! We stopped periodically under overpasses to empty out our boots and wring out our shirts. We made it in one full day. A distance of about 750 miles. Ahh, to be young again! I could never drive that many miles on a motorcycle in one day today. I used my turn signals as foot rests from time to time, just to change my position.
Greg and I had many adventures during our week stay in Northern Georgia. I'll have to go into detail in a future post about that. We headed back home riding side by side. By now we were so attuned to each other's riding style, all we had to was nod our head in the direction we want to go in. We moved in formation like The Blue Angels, gliding in and out of the lanes on the interstate. We made it as far as Cincinnati and fatigue took over. we pulled into a Rest Area and slept on picnic tables for a couple of hours only to be awakened by a State Trooper tapping us on the bottom of our boots with his night stick, telling us we couldn't sleep there. We made the final push home, five hours of "White Line Fever".
Until recently, I've had a motorcycle. I moved up to bigger and better ones over the years. I've traveled to most of the USA on a Honda Gold Wing Touring Motorcycle. There's no better way to take in the country. A bike allows a panoramic view of your surroundings and you can always feel that rush of wind through your hair, albeit, these days there's less of it to blow around. Plus, you can always play that music in your head without a stereo, "Get your motor runnin'..."