Friday, June 19, 2009

Love The Beast

“There’s not a lot of room for bonding with objects and even people sometimes. I think that’s tragic.”

--Dr. Phil McGraw

In 1990, when I was eight years old and still living on the now shut down naval base in Philadelphia, I met a neighbor down the street who was washing his red cruiser style motorcycle. I don’t remember the make, model, or year—I just remember hearing it rev and wanting a ride.

He then called to his three children, who were scattered in different places on the very small backstreet in the neighborhood, and proceeded to give them each a ride around the block, one by one. After everyone took a turn, he called out to me and asked if I wanted a ride.

I wanted one alright.

But I also remember feeling apprehension that my mother would find out what I'd done, and for some reason that scared me. The machine itself also left me with a weird mix of exhilaration and terror—it was so much bigger than I was. In the end, I chose not to take his offer.

image 1230348388-1
(A 1990 Honda Gold Wing, with similar color and style to that first motorcycle.)

The years passed, and I completely forgot about the experience.

A little more than a decade later, I was twenty and attending college at BYU. I was broke, but dying for some means of transportation. Up until that point, I had owned two indisputable lemons—a beat up 1990 Plymouth Sundance and a crappy little Indian-made (as in the country) moped. I was ready for something better.

So I started browsing the BYUWilk Board,” where students essentially place 3X5 index-card-classified ads with promotions of everything from vehicles to used hair dryers. And that’s when I saw an advertisement for this—
CM450 (USA) image
A 1982 Honda CM 450.

Asking price? $850.

Did I have the money? Barely.

Did I own a helmet, leathers, license, insurance, or even the ability to ride it from the selling location to my apartment three blocks away? Absolutely not.

My life until I acquired that bike? An endless torment of misery.

It took me a half an hour to get it home after I bought it. I was still unsure of which side was the clutch and which was the brake. When I finally got it home, I parked it and stared at it for another half an hour.

I was in love.

Its greasy smell, its loud engine, and its amazingly fast pick-up—I'd never felt that way before about any piece of machinery.

When I sold it three and a half years later to help recover the costs of tuition and impeding surgery fees—I was graduating and I had also blown out my knee—I wept.

Nevertheless, after only a brief year’s stay in Florida post graduation, I was back in Utah and broke once again.

I did have a truck, but the summer I bought it, I drove from Florida to Ontario, Canada and back. When I left Florida, I put an additional 2,500 miles on it. I was racking up the mileage, and I knew that if I kept up the pace, I would ruin my truck—a vehicle that would have to last me through grad and post-grad school.

While contemplating different ways to spare my truck, I was walking through the library and came across a documentary I had never heard of, The Long Way Round, with Ewan McGregor, of Star Wars fame, and Charlie Boorman.

http://www.canyonchasers.net/blog/uploads/general/lwr.jpg
(The cover art for their same autobiography that accompanied the 2004 film version.)

The film was a six hour ode to cross-country motorbiking. Charlie and Ewan took their bikes all the way from London, England to the furthermost eastern tip of Russia. There, they hopped a flight to Alaska, drove through Canada, and then the United States, finally ending into New York City.

Here, watch an advertisement for it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk_Qkz_5ti8

http://www.due-south.co.za/images/long_way_down_large.jpg
Here's another advert for its 2008 sequel, Long Way Down.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_gf3vM9CQQ

I saw the first film, and I got an idea of how I was going to "save my truck." I was going to buy a beast.

I knew that I couldn't afford the fancy BMW's pictured above. Now that I think about it, I couldn't really afford anything, as I had just barely gotten a job as a security guard. But I had $1200 in the bank I was eyeballing with the express purpose of acquiring a motorcycle.

I knew I couldn't settle for anything less than 900cc. My Honda 450 had been a great vehicle, and I loved it. But I learned a few things about having a bike with that small of an engine. One, it was too light--even moderate wind could blow me dangerously out of control. Two, it was too small--I felt like a bug when I went around semis. Three, driving uphill, the engine was pathetic. And finally, its top speed was 70 miles an hour on the freeway.

So I began looking through the KSL ads (a local online classified for Salt Lake City), searching for my beast. And then I came across this--

http://www.motorcycleminnesota.com/080107/28/i1.jpg
A 1982 Yamaha XJ 1100 Maxim (Mine is confederate red.).

It was love all over again.

For the last two summers I've driven this, and only this. Wind, rain, sunshine--I can't get enough of it.

Maybe someday I'll finally get one of those fancy BMW GS 1200 Adventurers, but until then, I'll love my Beast.

4 comments:

Heidi said...

Oooh. I like this love story. But I have a fondness for the moped--I mean, I "helped" put it together! I always wondered how you fared with it. Wise upgrade for you.

Tenille said...

I believe I am still experiencing the aforementioned strange combination of exhilaration and terror...

Sara Lyn said...

I loved that "crappy little Indian-made" moped. In fact, I was just thinking about it the other night when I went to see "17 Again." I thought, "This is the type of movie Becky would have taken me to see on her moped. Good times." Thanks. :)

Becky said...

Heidi and Sara: I loved that little moped too, but I was ashamed of it--ashamed of what it couldn't do and how easily it died. It only lived three years from start to finish.

Besides, the more I rode, and the more confidence I got, the more I realized big bikes were the only way for me to go. That moped had only a 50cc engine--nowadays, my bike is 1100cc (22X as large) and I still think it's not enough.

Tink: When I very first started to ride, I tried to take my motorcycle out on the highway. I rode a total of one mile before I got off the freeway, pulled into a gas station, and balled my eyes out. I was scared out of my wits, and I realized I had essentially just spent $850 to pee my pants.

The feeling passed, but I think everyone feels that way about something. I can't stand to rock climb because of it. I don't like to dangle by a half an inch of rope.