Motorcycle Code

Having no chance of being a rocket scientist or even a motorcycle mechanic, it took me a while to understand people have different priorities, values, and responses to life-threatening events.

One day, Blue Eyes showed up at my apartment and asked to borrow $1,000.

She was my best friend (still is) “Sure,” I said, “Mind if I ask what for?”

“I need help to buy a Honda 500 that I plan on riding to California.”

I wrote her a check and, several hours later, she pulled up on a Honda 500, the custom model with the teardrop tank.

We both worked fall through spring for different enterprises and had the summer off. I’d never been on a motorcycle in my life. This sounded like a real adventure, so I took a look at a Goldwing 1000. It was too much money and too much bike for me. I tried a 750 and thought it was too big and bulky. So I got a Honda 500 cruiser model myself.

I know. I know. By today’s standards, unless you are a wuss, no one buys a motorcycle with less than 1,000cc displacement. But this was a while ago and a shaft-drive, water-cooled Honda 500 was a fairly cool bike at the time. Or at least I thought so.

Sometime later, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere on U.S. 50 in Nevada cruising along at 70 on our Honda 500s. The air temperature was maybe 300 degrees and we needed a break. Up ahead, we saw a roadhouse sitting back a couple of hundred yards from the asphalt. With the exception of a concrete hardstand for the gas pumps, the entire approach to the roadhouse was loose gravel.

Gravel and motorcycles are not a good mixture. We geared down and stuck our legs outboard for balance. We made the roadhouse with no problem and backed our motorcycles into a parking place. As was our custom, we sat at the bar and ordered beers and burgers.

Blues Eyes wanted to review my encounter with a state trooper earlier in the day. Not being a fan of irony, I did not wish to review the incident.

Seems I may have been going a tad more rapidly than allowed and got pulled over. Blue Eyes was a mile or so behind me. The trooper was maybe 40 and looking at the bike more than me.

“Going a little fast there, huh?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Keep a lid on it, huh?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Cool bike. You like the shaft drive?

“Yeah, wonderful power transfer, comfortable ride.”

We kept talking about the bike. Blue Eyes pulled up behind us. The trooper was still talking about the bike. He hadn’t looked at my license yet. He takes a look at her and then looks carefully at my “learner’s permit.” And then he goes over and asks for her license. He looks up at me starts laughing. Blues Eyes catches on immediately and starts laughing too.

They are still snickering, “Great bikes,” he says and hands me back my learner’s permit, “You make sure he slows down, Ma’am, you’re responsible for him.”

Okay, so the truth is that I couldn’t get the bike through the pylons to pass the motorcycle test, and was traveling the West on a learner’s permit. Sitting at the bar, we both started laughing again about an adult who couldn’t legally operate his bike without his friend’s supervision. Two more beers later ,we walked out of the roadhouse pulling on our leathers and helmets in a blast of bright heat.

I looked over at the hardstand and two scruffy looking dirtbags on Harleys were gassing up. They locked in on Blue Eyes immediately. I tried to look big and mean, something that doesn’t exactly work when you are on a Honda 500.

“Hey you,” I said to her before switching the ignition, “watch the gravel.”

She looked at me and nodded.

I slowly applied gas and ever so carefully eased out into the gravel. As I passed the hardstand, I stared steely-eyed at the two dirtbags. They stared back. The gravel was tricky, made all the more tricky by three beers. As Blue Eyes passed the hardstand, her front wheel started to wobble. When she was about a 100 feet beyond the hardstand, I looked back in my mirror and saw her flying off her bike and crashing to the ground on her back.

I stopped my bike, threw down the kickstand and started running back to where she was lying motionless on the ground. The two criminals were running toward her from the hardstand. Her bike was piled up on its side forty feet in front of her. As I’m running toward my friend, the criminals run right past her.

I watched in amazement as these two scruffy bastards pickup up her bike and put it on its center stand.

On the ground I can see her begin to move, a good sign.

As I ran by them, to get to my friend, one looked over at me and said, “The bike is okay, man.”