Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bikes, part I

I bought my first motorcycle in 1992, a 1982 Kawasaki 550 LTD.

I bought it from a coworker's husband at the pizza place I worked at, for $1000, paying $100 a month. I had never ridden a bike before, I just knew I wanted to, and the guy showed me how to ride when he sold it to me. It had a dead battery the day I went to get it, so he showed me how to push-start the bike by running alongside it, popping the clutch and hopping on. Looked easy enough...

I tried it, popped the clutch, the bike fired right up and dragged me straight into a parked pickup. No harm done (although the owner of the truck wanted me to give him fifty bucks, even though it was a non-running pile of crap. No, I didn't cough up).

That was the only time I ever laid that bike down. I rode it for 5 years (at one point it was my ONLY mode of transportation) and the only trouble it gave me was a blown fuse. I finally sold it to my buddy Steve for what I paid for it (well, 900 bucks and an iguana).

My next bike was a 1989 EX500, another Kawasaki, a little white sport bike. My friend DeeDee had bought it new, put 350 miles on it, and then parked it. I cashed out my piddly Sears 401K (about $2K) and gave her $1800 for it. What a steal! The bike was immaculate, and after cleaning the carbs (she had let it sit for a while) it ran like a champ. That bike took my fat ass up to 120mph in San Timoteo canyon, solid as a rock all the way. Unfortunately, I did dump that bike a couple of times...

The first time I was being followed by my buddy Shane, in his Honda Accord. I was stopped at a stop sign, and inched forward to get a better view of the road. Shane thought I was making the turn, and started to make the turn too. Smack! He knocked me across the lane and I wound up on my back in a daze. His friend got out and offered me a smoke (I had been quit for about 3 months, and started right back up that night... any excuse, eh?). I was fine, the bike was OK - needed some plastics work, which Shane took care of no problem.

The second time was a little more serious. I had been married for about 3 or 4 months, and my wife and I were living in her parents' cabin in Forest Falls. She was pregnant with our son at the time, which makes it even better. Anyway, I was heading to work and decided to take the canyon, a twisty road and a fun ride. I took a tight corner a little too fast, lost control and dumped it doing about 45. I was wearing a leather jacket and full-face helmet (which is why I still have my dazzling good looks) and tough jeans, but after I pitched into the roadside and tried to get up, something was wrong... my right shoulder felt weird, and my legs were a little scraped up. I was pretty pissed, my bike was a mess, and I wasn't feeling too good. I'd crushed my cigarettes, too, just to top it all off. I could have really done with one right then.

Some bystanders helped out - one even had a neck brace in his car which he insisted that I wear until the ambulance showed up. Once the ambulance got there, they didn't mess around - I was strapped straightaway onto a board, loaded onto a gurney and rushed to the hospital. At the hospital they asked about my injuries, so I told them I couldn't lift my right arm without a lot of pain ( I couldn't even let it hang it hurt so bad). Someone called my wife right about then. I cannot imagine what it must have felt like, knowing your hubby had gone to work on a motorcycle and then getting a phone call from a hospital ER that your husband had been admitted. "Oh, and by the way, could you please bring another set of pants? We had to cut his off of him..."

So, they X-rayed my spine, pronounced me fit to leave, and raised an eyebrow when I begged them for a sling. The next day, I went to my doctor, who realized I had separated my shoulder. The hospital called me a couple of days later, saying they had noticed a discrepancy with the X-ray at my right shoulder. Uh, yeah, thanks, it was separated.

What happened to the bike? Well a few days later, my father-in-law and I went to the yard to pick it up. It was pretty jacked up and needed a fair bit of work. My wife was not thrilled about me getting back on the horse, and we were broke, so I gave it to my friend Will (I still owed him for breaking a window at his house, so I gave him the bike and we called it quits).

I was very lucky that I hadn't been seriously injured, and was going to be a father, so I made a decision, and I stopped riding.

1982 KZ 550 LTD. Mine was blue like this, though by the time I was done, I had had the tank and side panels repainted dark metallic green. I always thought it was a good-looking bike, but looking at it now, damn that's a big seat!

1989 EX500. Mine was a pearl-white beauty just like this one. Ain't she pretty?

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