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Nov 4, 2010

A Brief History

In the early sixties I was witness to the surfer-Honda craze and the media attention directed to the Hell’s Angels. Motorcycles were an elusive, exotic dream for a 12 year old. Two years later I became keenly aware of Triumph motorcycles, seeing Bob Dylan wearing that tee shirt on the cover of his watershed album  Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan was fastly becoming the cultural guide, leading us to the social justice, political rebellion, world changing times that we know as the sixties. If Triumph motorcycles were cool with Bob Dylan, they certainly were cool with me.

Associating ‘Rebel’ with motorcycle was easy for my parents – They’d seen the Marlon Brando and James Dean films and read about the Harley Davidson hooligans in Life magazine, so when my 19 year old brother rolled up the driveway with his new cut-pipes, loud as hell Honda CL305 – they kicked him out of the house. As he roared off to his future with a few clothes strapped to his seat, I was filled with awe and apprehension like never since.

Times change and so did my parents. A couple of years later, on my 16th birthday, I was gifted a horribly ugly, brand new Honda 90 scrambler! Not only did this create a rift between my brother and I, but I couldn’t believe how lame and ignorant my parents could be… Hodaka. I said Hodaka, not Honda. While I was secretly ‘stoked’ and ‘jazzed’  to have a motorcycle of any make, I also knew I’d be the laughing stock of my fledgling motocross-crazed buddies. Honda 90…

Motocross was just beginning to take hold in America in 1967  and once in that year we got to see the renowned Europeans race at Carlsbad (California). But the more common motorcycle racing in those days was thundering Triumphs, Nortons and BSAs on half-mile dirt tracks like Ascot park, or TT races nearby at Southbay Speedway. We’d go every Sunday. A friend of a friend was allowed by his father to drop out of high school and pursue a career in racing. He was sponsored by a Triumph dealer and it was thrilling to be in the pits and just be near him as he’d prepare to ‘throw it sideways’ at 80 miles an hour, kicking up a rooster tail of dirt, mixing it up with the grown men as a seventeen year old prodigy. Earl Barker – I have no idea what became of him.

My Honda 90 and I left for New Orleans at graduation and within a few years I’d worked my way up several motorcycles to a 250cc Kawasaki Green-Streak. Later I had a Bultaco and another horrible Honda (CL350), and for a few days I owned a very tricked-out Yamaha RD400. OMG ! That thing was fast !!

I was very much in love with my girlfriend (now my wife) and my when buddy took that RD400 around the block, instead of congratulating me on purchasing a safe, stable, reasonably sized motorcycle, he announced loudly in front of my adult daughter and wife-to-be, that I’d surely kill myself on ‘that thing’. The women made me sell it within days.

Sixteen years have passed since I sold that Yamaha, and time does change people, but still… Imagine my surprise (and delight) when my wife signed a check so I could by this:

Let’s get started !

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