Probably everyone remembers the first time they were on a motorcycle. For myself, I was probably 13 years old. We were living just outside of Williams Lake in a small neighborhood surrounded by logging trucks, ranches and the low rolling hills of the Cariboo Chilcotin. My buddy had two bikes: one was a little minibike that we were too big for, although that didn’t stop us from tearing up the backyard with it; the second bike was bigger and on that we would tear around the wild woodland hills. While the make and model of that bike have long since faded from my memory, I have but to close my eyes to hear the howling two-stroke engine and smell the fragrant aroma of exhaust and pine in the afternoon sun.
The bike wasn’t licensed to ride on the street, and at thirteen neither were we. Of course, the rule was that we had to push the bike to the trail head before we were allowed to ride. Then, as now, pushing a bike defeats the purpose of having a bike and so we rode it wherever it suited our purposes. There was, however, an RCMP officer who lived on our street and we never knew at what point he might appear. I think we had numerous warnings about safety and legality although I don’t recall getting into serious trouble. Still, next time you find yourself at the shop, ask James about his evasive maneuvers on the minibike when he noticed the constable’s squad car behind him. Granted, he was only about eight years old at the time and I’m still duly impressed by his moxie.
I can remember stuffing my head into helmets that were either too big or too small, scrambling onto the bike ahead of my buddy so I could drive first, kicking the engine over until it sputtered and whined into life and tearing off down the street with protective gear that consisted of tee shirts, cut off shorts and muddy sneakers.
Sometimes we would take it in turns to ride around a little circuit behind our houses, but as often as not, we’d just double up and get lost in the hills until we ran out of gas (happened to me back then, too) or it got too dark to see. Naturally, by the time that it was getting dark on the plateaus the trail home was already swathed in shadows. I do recall muttering my meager store of cuss words from the back of the bike, fiendishly holding on while careening down the mountainside dodging deadfalls in the dark. Needless to say, there were more than a few crashes. The real miracle is that we never broke any bones or anything serious on the bike. We’d putter home down the road under the orange glow of the street lights while the summer stars winked at us from a purple twilight. A little battered, a little bruised, a little bloody and grinning like idiots.
The next day we’d cut some neighborhood lawns, or rake some leaves, or scheme some way of getting some cash before we begged a ride into town to fill our jerry can up with gas so we could do it all over again. In some ways I’m still thirteen and just as happy now as I was then with a few dollars to put in the Radian to enjoy an afternoon of riding. In fact, having tasted draughts from the wells of both joy and sorrow, I would say that my moments on a motorcycle are now probably more treasured.
Undoubtedly, riding will always be gratifying. But I think that perhaps it is our stories that infuse riding with joy. The experiences of those first rides, distilled through the years into the intoxicating elixir of rich memories, are palpably present every time I sit on a motorcycle and they subtly permeate every ride. These same stories not only suffuse riding with enjoyment, but also fill our lives with depth and meaning. Indeed, it is our stories that make us who we are.
So then…what’s your story?
After all, our stories not only make us unique individuals, but also connect us to each other. And with a view of celebrating both uniqueness and community, at MotoVida we would love to hear your story. How did you fall in love with motorcycles and riding? What was your first bike? Your favorite ride? Whatever they are, your tales are worth sharing and well worth hearing. Drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your stories.