In 1984 I had just read a magazine article titled “How to get anything you want.” Step one of the method was to announce to one an all what it was you wanted. I really couldn’t think of anything I really wanted but curious about the technique, decided riding a motorcycle sounded like fun, so announced at a business meeting in our Bloomington, Indiana branch one morning; “I’m interested in owning a motorcycle. Later that day, our delivery driver came to me and said, “I understand you’re interested in buying a motorcycle. I saw a good one for sale this morning by the entrance of the Woodland apartments.”

I drove by later that afternoon. It was a medium-sized 500 cc Honda but looked in excellent shape. A sign said the price was $600. I left a note saying, “If you don’t get any offers, I’ll give you $400.” Guess what? Yeah, I became a Honda motorcycle owner. I had to ask a friend to ride the bike to my main office in Columbus, Indiana, because I had never ridden a motorcycle before.

I kept the bike hidden in our Columbus warehouse because I knew my wife would kill me if she found out I had bought a motorcycle. Late one afternoon after all the employees has left for the day, I wheeled the Honda out onto our parking lot and rode it across the blacktop. After several cautious but successful crossings I decided to try the open road. What a breathtaking experience. Wind was pulling at my clothes. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. I gingerly stole a glace down at the speedometer and saw I was going 20 MPH.

Early in that motorcycle riding experience, I took a Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding course. It was taught by the ABATE organization. Abate is a group of mostly Harley-Davidson riders who do good things in offering safety seminars and skill training for motorcyclists. Their instruction was excellent. Participants who had ridden for years exclaimed that they learned techniques and skills, like counter steering, they never knew before.

The Abate instructors were all good guys, although at first glance the leather attire, menacing looking tattoos, and pierced body parts tended to scare off timid souls. ABATE officially stood for “A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education,” but secretly meant, “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments.” Their battle cry was against mandatory helmet laws, laws which I wholeheartedly supported.

A few weeks after my MSF riding course, the Bean Blossom Boogie hosted a week-long motorcycle gathering in Bean Blossom, Indiana. I heard it was a rather wild affair and curious, took my thirteen-year-old son, Brian, on the back of the Honda to check it out. Not wanting to pay the $50 camping fee, I hid the Honda in the weeds beside the road and walked in asking for Zach, an ABATE instructor I had met at the skills riding course.

I told Brian, “There’s going to be some shocking sights in there. Just look straight ahead. Be cool. And for gosh sakes, don’t tell your mother.”

Brian wore wrap-around sunglasses, which I thought looked rather dippy, but they hid his eyes which no doubt worked overtime taking in the sights.

At the entrance to the gathering, motorcyclists were rolling in, having their wrist bands checked by a volunteer. Most of the bikes were Hogs, the nickname for Harley-Davidsons. Almost all the leather clad, helmetless riders had a babe on the back seat with a case of beer in her lap. Someone had found a discarded couch by the roadside and dragged it near the entrance. On it sat three dudes, their feet buried up to the ankles in empty beer cans. Dust from the arriving traffic covered their heads, arms, and legs. One of the men had a sign. As each bike passed, he would hold it up: SHOW US YOUR T**S.” and most of the women did.

I found Zach and we had a brief chat. “Isn’t this something?” he said.

Yes Indeed, it was something.

My secret wasn’t kept long from my wife. One day driving somewhere in the car, she asked, “Do you have a motorcycle?”

To which I replied, “Oh sure. Yeah, right me?  I have a motorcycle. Me and my buddies terrorize the neighborhoods riding our Hogs.”

“Well, I didn’t think so,” she said. But Roseann Watson said she thought she saw you riding one.”

It wasn’t long after that that Brain let the truth out of the bag.

That 500cc Honda was the first of several motorcycles I owned. A new 900cc Yamaha became my next bike. That bike was totaled in a collision with a deer (see blog 8/07/2021 for that story). Three Honda Goldwings followed the Yamaha. The first purchased in 1987, the next in 1992, and the last one in 2004.

With each new Goldwing, I thought my present one was as good as it got, then I made the mistake of test riding a new model and discovered the more powerful engine, the better balance and stability was something I just had to have.

During my 37 years of riding, I’m sure I covered nearly 200,000 miles. The last Goldwing had over 70,000 miles on its odometer. My understanding wife used to allow me to ride off during the summers for two weeks exploring National parks and points of interest in the far west, south, east and into Canada and off-shore to Nova Scotia. What great memories I have now documented in a dozen different travel journals.

6 thoughts on “Motorcycles

  1. Jim, Where do you have all of your tattoos? Plenty of room in your saddle bags for a few bottles of Grey Goose.

  2. Good story. I started out with a 125 Honda, Later a 500 Honda
    and next was a Harley for several years. I remember
    Roseanne from our days in Columbus.

  3. Winter 1987, I had a middle-school away basketball game on a Saturday. With no one home to give me a ride, I called my dad at the office. “I need a ride to the game today.” “Oh? Ok,” he said a bit slowly. “Say, listen, do you happen to have a pair of long underwear? Snow pants? Winter coat? 2 pairs of gloves? Snow boots? A bandana? Good, put them all on and I’ll pick you up in 30 minutes.” I had no idea until my dad pulled into the driveway that he owned a motorcycle. When I walked into the basketball gym locker room, dressed like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Giant, the coach was in mid-sentence explaining how the players needed to dress extra warmly on winter mornings. “Now THIS guy knows how to dress when traveling to a winter game!”

  4. Jim,
    The new Gold Wings are automatics. I’m sure you’d love to own one.

  5. I’m impressed that you could read in 1884.

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