Tools for Adventure
What a beauty. It was Christmas Day. Most likely 1981. After having a hoot that past summer with a neighbour’s little fat-tired Honda 50 minibike, my brother and I had pestered my Dad briefly about a getting a dirt bike. Both of us knew it was a snowball’s chance in hell that we’d get one. My Mom after all, was an emergency nurse. She’d seen the worst outcomes of childhood recklessness during her long career and our expectations of getting something inherently viewed by many as a child-injuring machine bordered between fat-chance and never.
So a few months later, after opening what were likely great gifts that Christmas morning, it was utterly unexpected when my Dad said we should head out to the garage to see something. I distinctly remember that giddy anticipation build inside as we shuffled out through the breezeway in the cold - and then the shock. This was no Honda 50 minibike. This was a full-blown dual-purpose motorcycle!
It looked too big for me to get on, never mind ride. It was an honest-to-god 100cc engine! I think we started it up that day but couldn’t learn to ride for another few months until the snow had cleared. Patience was tested that winter.
Our bike was just about exactly what you see in the picture accompanying this post, except it was blue, not red. We had so much fun on that thing. I distinctly remember the first day. I was having trouble figuring out how to get out of first gear (I’d pull in the clutch lever and let it coast to a stop before switching to 2nd.. duhh). But a day later I was steaming across the lawn in 3rd or 4th. I’m nothing if not a quick learner.
I also remember cresting a hill on a dirt backroad close to home during one of the following summers and seeing a cop about half a mile away. I slammed on the brakes, did a u-turn and gunned it for home only to see him appear in my mirrors not 30 seconds later. I pulled over and received a stern and scary warning about what trouble I could face for driving without any sort of license. I was told to push it home. Which I did… until he was safely out of sight anyway. Then I kick-started it and booted home feeling like I had just narrowly escaped life imprisonment.
It was my one and only motorbike. But along with being a tool for adventure, thrills and mishaps, it also taught me about 2 cycle engines, spark plugs, air filters and the like. It brought me joy, disappointment, and (minor) injury. But not in equal measure. The joy outweighed everything else.
I wonder if my daughter has key memories that she will treasure when she’s older. Sometimes I worry that it was my job to provide those (as my Dad did), and that I came up short. I sure hope not. I’ll have to find out when she’s older. For now it’s inspired me to at least keep trying.