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Old 01-16-2014, 10:44 PM   #89
Gnarly Adventurer
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Joined: Oct 2012
Location: Madison, WI
Oddometer: 327
Thought it was practical, never thought it would be fun

When I went to college (in 1971), I had a car (Rambler American, convertible with fold down seats), but there was no place for it there and no use, either. Some of my dorm mates had motorcycles- Honda 175, Kaw MachIII, and I thought well, I could ride to class, park at the dorm in the motorcycle lot, and during the summer, when I needed to get to work, I could ride it to work. And I didn't really need it during the school year- but it might be nice. So I bought (don't laugh) a Harley/Aermacchi 250 for practical reasons, for 200 bucks, the weekend before Thanksgiving, having had my Mom put my car up for sale. In the three days before I had to ride 110 miles north to Chicago (in November) my dorm buddies got me up to 2nd gear doing circles in the parking lot. On Wednesday I headed north, with the temp about 40 degree and me entirely clueless as to windchill. After 15 miles I was shaking uncontrollably. Oh, and this was the first time I had the bike in either 3rd or 4th (top) gear, too, so I had lots of experience. I was on US 45, which was fairly deserted, since the parallel I-57 was just completed. I had no idea a person could get that cold. After 40 or 50 miles (don't have ANY idea how I did it) I got off and started pushing it, with the engine running, just to warm up. I alternatively pushed and rode for the next hour or more, and finally stopped for a hamburger and lots of coffee. I had still to do about another 35 miles by this time, which I did in one stretch, but there were flurries. I remember that about 2 miles from home, there were snow banks from an earlier storm, and I was thinking maybe I could just take a short nap in one of them. But I also recognized this was a bad thing. I made it home, and being of an inquiring mind even then (I am a research scientist now), I took my temperature. It was 92, which I later learned was the limit of consciousness. It was also about the lower limit of the thermometer. Well, I rode it back (or tried to) in Feb (after I got my license), on a warm (50F) weekend, but this time I had a tan K-Mart rubberized fabric rainsuit, which blocked the wind, and some warmer clothes under that. It only took 3 tries, because on the first I threw a rod bearing and on the second, my generator failed. I think I actually made it back in April. Then in June, coming home for summer, I broke some rings, and it smoked like crazy, but I made it home, and new rings were nothing compared to the thrown rod. For some inexplicable reason, I put about 20,000 miles on that POC over the next 3 years. I only had minor breakdowns like more generators (wires vibrated broken; I twisted them together to get home), and about 15 flat tires until I figured that the chrome rims were flaking into the tubes. When I sold it, I had nearly 30,000 miles on it, which is unreal for a HD-Aermacchi Sprint 250. I bought a 1966 BMW R50/2 and the change was unreal. I had no idea a bike could be so comfortable. But the Sprint did get me a job at college. I repeatedly applied for a mechanic position at the local 'any brand' shop, but they always said they needed someone with professional experience. So I would get back on the Sprint, kick it, and ride away. And repeat in a few months. After the 3rd time, they said, "Sure. Bring your toolbox in Monday" Stunned, I did that. Months later, I found out that the only reason I was hired was that every time I left, the Sprint started 1st kick, and the owner figured that anyone who could get a Sprint to start 1st kick, every time, had to know something!
Needless to say, somewhere along the way, actually very early, I discovered I really liked riding. 2 years later, after I got my first post-college job, I sold the R50/2 and bought an R75/5. I still ride that bike, 37 years later.

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