Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Motorcycle

The perfect vehicle for joining together both transportation and recreation is the motorcycle.  Back in the 1960’s a friend inherited a motorcycle shop from an uncle and he asked me to help him with some cleanup around there in exchange for one of the bikes.  It had been closed for about two years due to his uncle’s illness, and things were a mess, but we were both excited about eventually hitting the road for some fun.

The store was oddly shaped and we commented to each other more than once that it seemed much smaller on the inside than it looked on the outside.  One afternoon as we were talking about it, we decided to actually measure the building.  We were in for a surprise.  The northeast wall of the building was about eight feet shorter on the inside than the outside wall.  It didn’t take us long to determine there was a wall hiding a room on the other side.

Edd and I made quick work of opening a hole in that wall, and on the other side we discovered eight 1939 Harley’s with sidecars still in crates.  They were all painted a military grayish/greenish/brownish and looked as though they may have been surplus stock, or possibly “diverted” stock.  Either way, they were in the room we had discovered.  We took serial numbers and contacted Harley-Davidson and the United States Army, but no record of their existence could be found.  A bit of paperwork later, and Edd was the owner of seven of these machines, and I was the owner of the eighth one.

Oh, the work.  Restoring these vintage bikes wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.  Learning to ride one wasn’t easy either, but it was worth it.  Luckily for us, there were a number of ex-servicemen still around who had experience with some of the odd features of these rare motorcycles.

Over the next few years I did some trading around of motorcycles starting with trading the Harley for an Indian Chief (plus some cash).  The Indian was traded away for something else (also with some cash), and eventually I ended up with an almost new Harley (and a lot of cash). 

One day I was riding the motorcycle to work when I realized I needed to sell the bike and make a car my main form of transportation.  I was making the transition from westbound Interstate Loop 820 to southbound I35W on the north side of Fort Worth, and I was high on the long curving overpass when I spotted a skunk up ahead.  I moved to the left, and so did the skunk.  I moved to the right, and so did the skunk.  I moved back to the left, and so did the skunk.  Finally I just held on and ran over the skunk.  I really didn’t have much choice in the matter.  I returned home to let my employer know I wouldn’t be coming in for a couple of days, as I needed to get rid of a certain odor. 

While the odor eventually disappeared from my body (I threw my clothes away), the motorcycle was a different story altogether.  Each time I tried to ride it, as it warmed up the smell of skunk returned.  I completely dissembled the bike and washed each individual part in tomato juice and baking soda, but after reassembling my very clean bike, the odor returned just as strong as ever.

I advertised the motorcycle in a local newspaper, and went through a long list of potential buyers before I found one who didn’t mind the smell.  In fact, he liked it.  He was a biker from a nearby club (don’t ask), and his handle was “Skunk.”  Perfect.  I saw Skunk riding that bike a few times over the next few years, and once I saw it parked outside a store I was entering.  As I walked by it, there was no doubt who owned it.  It had been over three years, but the smell was still there. 

When I was preparing to leave Texas to move to California, Skunk stopped by my home just to chat.  I hadn’t spoken to him since the day he purchased my bike, so I thought it was unusual for him to show up at my door, but there he was.  He said he was getting married in a couple of months, and he was inviting me to the wedding.  He told me that bike had changed his life.  I didn’t ask details, but I went to the wedding. 

And what a wedding it was.  Everything was black and/or white.  Nothing smelled good.  Nothing.  And the happy couple rode off on that same smelly motorcycle leaving behind a trail anyone could follow, if they were brave enough.

I’ve stayed almost exclusively with cars ever since.