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.
(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.
Here's another advert for its 2008 sequel, Long Way Down.

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--
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.


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.