My First Motorcycle

When I was in the eight grade, my best friend in Lake Arrowhead, California, bought a Honda Super 90. It looked like a ‘real’ bike because it was not a step-through. We would roar all over the curvy mountain roads, no helmet, no license, no muffler and of course, no brains. My last year of high school, I was transferred to a much larger school, and had limited friends. Rex Zedalis was a year younger and we became friends when I had to take junior english as a senior ( don’t ask ). We hung out, were on the basketball team together, would lift weights in his backyard and putt around in his 1948 GMC pick-up truck. He had one friend named Clyde, who lived on the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks ( the south side ). Oh…,and one more thing, Clyde had a motorcycle. Back in those days, California did not require a helmet and his daily uniform was black boots, jeans and a white t-shirt ( yes!, he had a pack of ‘Camel Cigarettes’ rolled up in his sleeve ). This was someone I wanted to know.

Clyde had a ‘real’ motorcycle. Not a little bike…, Nope!…, he had a Honda 305 Scrambler. In the 60’s, this was a fair-sized machine and would push 80 mph. The scrambler was the ‘high pipe’ version of the popular ‘Super Hawk’ model. It looked right and sounded even better. You could remove the baffles in the pipes, and replace them with an open or closed device. Closed was good if you were passing the local ‘patrol’. Open was a tad bit loud, but always seemed to be the most popular option. Clyde let me ride it once and I was hooked. I informed my father that I was getting a bike. His reply was: “Go ahead and buy a motorcycle, and while you’re at it, start looking for another place to live”. Yup!…, my dad was a, “His way or the highway” guy. There would be no motorcycle in ‘his’ house. I decided to finish out my senior year at Eisenhower High School and be satisfied ‘sneaking’ rides on Clyde’s Honda.

College was next on the agenda, so buying a bike would have to wait. I always wanted to be an architect, and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, was the school of choice. I signed up for 23 credit hours, and ‘jumped’ in. As the school year progressed, I spent most of my time skipping class and sneaking off to Santa Barbara to surf. The University of California had a college there and it was a ‘party’ town ( so much for my grades ). My last quarter at Cal Poly, I dropped down to only 9 units and had lots of free time ( Yes, I became ‘draft’ bait ). Then it happened. A guy in the next dorm ran out of money and decided to sell his 1964 Honda 250 Scrambler. It was just like Clyde’s, only with a smaller engine, Oh!, and it was silver/blue, my favorite color. I scraped the money together and it was time to ride. The Central California Coast and the Monterey Peninsula were my ‘oyster’, I never looked back.

Informing my parents that I was not only flunking out of college, but also had just bought a motorcycle…, well…, I was invited to not return home and given the phone number of my aunt in Pasadena. She had a basement apartment that I moved into and then I went to work for Coca-Cola Bottling Company in downtown Los Angeles ( thanks Pop! ). My architecture career was put on hold. I did have a motorcycle to ride in the hills of LA, so things kinda evened out.

At the end of summer, I needed to find a Junior College that would accept me. Back in my hometown, San Bernardino Valley College said yes, and I signed up. Lucky for me, unlucky for my mom, dad decided to run off with his secretary, so I moved back into my old room ( talk about a flash-back ). My mom was cool with the ‘having a bike’ thing, so naturally I bought another one. I stepped up in the engine department and got a 1965 Triumph Bonneville. This was a 650cc twin carb bike, that in those days would outrun a Harley Sportster. Yeah…, it was plenty fast. In the next two years before I got drafted, I managed to rack up 18 traffic violations ( once, I got six from the same officer, on the same day! ). The only thing that saved me from getting my licence pulled, was the fact that my dad and I had the same name ( except for the Jr ). All of my tickets went on his record. I was overseas when he was stopped for a minor infraction. He pleaded innocent to the Judge and was promptly hit with all 19 tickets ( guess I forgot to pay them as well ). From what I was told, his screaming could be heard for miles. Hey!…, it wasn’t my idea to give me the same name, so I kinda see it as his fault.

My mom wrote to me in Hawaii, where I was stationed, and recounted the horrible details of my dad having to pay for all my traffic tickets. Oh Yeah!.., they were all on a my bike ( he might have been right about that ‘no motorcycle’ thing ). I didn’t really care at the time, because I was thousands of miles away, riding a 1967 Triumph TR6-R. This is the single carb version of the Bonneville, and only slightly slower. The riding weather was perfect in the islands. I’d put my fins on the tank rack and head for my favorite bodysurfing beach, called Makapu’u, on the eastern end of Oahu. Except for being in the Army, surfing and riding motorcycles in Hawaii, is a very nice combo, and I highly recommend it.

I was finally released from the Army and I returned to Solana Beach California, in the North County of San Diego. My first two thoughts were: 1) Buy another motorcycle ( a BSA 650 Lightening this time ), and: 2) Keep a lookout for my dad. He’ll be the guy with a hand full of old traffic tickets and some kind of IOU slip. Good ‘ol pop

( post script ) Years later, just before my dad passed, I visited him in Arizona. There in his garage was a bright red Honda 175 Scrambler. He rode it around the hills of Prescott and out to his favorite fishing hole. That was almost twenty years ago and to this day, I still wear his old open face helmet. Thanks pop, for everything.

“Sometimes you get shown the light in the strangest of places, you just have to look at it right”., by Jerry Garcia


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