My early obsession with motorycles started with this picture. It is a picture my father gave to my mom back when they were still young. My mom still in high school, and my dad going to junior college.
The picture shows my dad in his late teens, decked out in leathers, posed on a dusty road in the desert. He looked to me like James Dean in The Wild Ones. however the picture predates the film, and was probably taken in the early fifties.
I always have viewed transport as freedom. The ability to turn gasoline and miles into adventure. That’s what this picture said to me.
My first bike was a 1969 Honda CB350 purchased with money saved specifically for this purchase. In California you could get your driving permit when you turned 15 1/2 years old. This allowed you to drive a car with a licensed driver over 18 years old on-board, or to drive a motorcycle with no one on-board.
I don’t know how that made sense to anyone, but I took full advantage of it. The story I carry around in my head is that I purchased the motorcycle as soon as I could get my hands on a drivers permit. That would have been in the spring of 1969.
I drove the bike around the Honda parking lot in Oakland to get used to it, and then pulled out onto Broadway Blvd., and drove it home to Walnut Creek. It was the first time I had been on a motorcycle. I have a picture from that time, however I don’t look anything like the leather jacketed picture of my dad. But I did have the leather boots and Levis. I was on my way.
Suddenly I had the means to go. Go anywhere. It was magical. Tie on a sleeping bag, carry a few clothes, put $50 in your pocket, and you could disappear for a week. My camping foods consisted of Orowheat whole wheat bread with walnuts and raisins, salami, and canned vegetables. And it didn’t hurt to be young and on the road. I was offered many free dinners from older campers that saw what I was about to eat, and took pity on me.
I discovered the coast highway, north, and south, of the SF Bay area. Big Sur, Carmel, Point Reyes, Guernville. All of the places I had seen on the map, but had never been to. I used to have a map of California on the wall of my room, with all of my trips marked in red. Big loops because I have an aversion to out and back trips.
I discovered coffee. For pocket change I could go into a diner, sit at the counter, and wrap my cold hands around a warm cup of coffee.
But, I longed for something cooler than the Honda. Something dark, and old, and well, more mythical.
The chance to do that came in a pile of boxes in an old barn in Walnut Creek, CA. One day, a friend told me that there was an old motorcycle stored in his grandfather’s barn. He didn’t know what kind, or what condition it was in. “Was I interested?”
So, one Saturday, my dad and I went to take a look. Buried in one corner of the old barn. Covered in dirt, straw, and old tools were the dismantled remains of and old motorcycle. But not just any motorcycle. It was an old Triumph. Not exactly like my dad’s old bike but close.
We rooted around, and most everything was there. I think the biggest missing piece was the headlight. I don’t remember what I paid for this pile of motorcycle parts, but whatever it was, it was worth it.
It turns out that it was the remains of a 1947 Triumph 3T 350cc motorcycle. There was no explanation of how it got there, or why it was in pieces. But it looked to be salvageable. You have to remember that this was about 1970, so 1947 wasn’t so long ago.
In past posts, I have written of how my dad encouraged me to be self reliant, and to be willing to take things apart to figure out how they work. I was ready to take on the challenge of getting the pile of parts back on the road.