I spent most of my younger years sleeping in an old Starcraft pop-up camper in the back yard. Cutting grass with a push mower to make some change to put gas in my Harley-Davidson 90. Saving (?) a little money to go to the pool hall to play snooker and have a cherry 7-up. Not the kind already made, but the kind that was made right in front of you. The old men playing dominos in the background was cool and once in a while spending a nickel in the pinball machine. But in between I was out in the field by the house riding and dreaming of bigger bikes and just living the life of a small town boy.
In the summer of 1975 we took the long 22 mile drive to nearby Council Grove to buy my first real motorcycle, a Yamaha DT 175. I had already memorized the brochure and there wasn’t much Steve the owner of the dealership couldn’t tell me that I didn’t already know and besides I was too excited to hear a word he said. He gave me some oil and some stickers and all that went into the car with my mother who brought me and from there she followed me the 22 miles home. You know when you’re small town when your mother follows you home in the car as you ride home with no motorcycle license. My best friend Russ already had the DT 250 and he was just as excited to see the bike as I was riding it.
This was it. This is all I need. A 175 with plenty of power, lights and turn signals. Mirrors and a horn and I’m set. At fourteen I was thinking “this will be the last bike I’ll own and that’s it!” Who was I kidding? This was just the beginning of a life of confusion and mixed feelings about all things two wheels. Girls are one thing, but the life of motorcycles still haunts me! So, living my summers in a pop-up camper in the yard with gas money from mowing, and life is good. This was actually the beginning of what has become a long process of riding and learning. Something of which I have yet to finish. I probably won’t anytime soon as this process is still going on to this day.
But at the time I felt that my world was complete. It took my riding skills to another level. Cornering in the dirt and taking on more difficult trails and on occasion catching a little air was the piece I had been missing. We had some trails out behind the grain elevator where some of us rode. Back then it seemed like a big place and it was cut out from the railroad tracks that had been long ago removed. But in reality it was a small spot to keep us occupied. But the DT 175 was capable of climbing and jumping or just plugging along slowly on the trail. Long hours of riding before have now become longer. Wheelies and power slides are now the norm and I’m looking good in my JT Racing gloves and my Jofa mouth-guard and Carrera goggles. How lucky am I!
I can’t express how important this time in my life was. I wasn’t really into team sports in high school and motorcycles became my way of life. I never got tired of riding. I never complained of the blisters on my hands. Mud, dirt , rocks and rain, I was out there. Smiling the whole time.
We all have started somewhere with our love for two wheels. Some of us have found it’s not for us while some of us can’t live without it. I ride for many reasons and will for as long as I can. I read a long time ago on a t-shirt: “I live, love, breathe, dream, eat and sleep motorcycles” or something like that. But I must admit at fourteen years old I might have also been thinking of girls too!