It was June, 1976. I was nine years old. My mother had just remarried and we were still feeling our way around, trying to get used to our new living situation. My stepfather treated us well and included me in everything and did his best to make it an easy transition.
He was an auto mechanic and he’d always take me down to the shop. I’d hang out with him and his friends. After work, they’d all work on their race cars. I’d never seen one before, but I’d do my best to give a hand. I got in the way more than I helped, but they were all patient and treated me like one of the guys.
One day he ended up with a dirt bike. I’d seen motorcycles on the street before, but never up close. My stepfather asked if I wanted to go for a ride, and showed me all the parts not to touch because they’d be hot. I was a small kid – too small to ride on the back, so he threw me on the front. I held on to the cross bar and put my feet on the cylinder head. We were off! We rode through the woods and came home an hour or so later.
It may have been the most fun I’d ever had. Nearly every day for the rest of that summer, we’d head down to the shop, either me going in with him or riding down later on my bicycle. We’d work on the cars – again, this usually included me getting in the way and breaking something, meeting my mother for lunch, hanging out with the guys, and riding through the woods on the bike. I was still on the small side, but by the end of summer I’d graduated to riding on the back.
At summer’s end, he sold the dirt bike and bought some old Triumph motorcycle. I don’t know what model exactly, but it vibrated like crazy and my feet were always numb when we got back from a ride. It was a pattern that would continue for years. He’d have some car or motorcycle for a while, sell it and move on to something else. Then he’d start the process all over again.
That whole summer was spent at the shop, at the races, or on the motorcycle. I went from never having seen a racecar and never having been on a motorcycle, to “this is now my life.” It was a big change and a lot of fun.
I realized a few things that summer: Bikes are cheaper than cars. Motorcycles are more fun than baseball. It doesn’t take a lot to have fun, just a beat-up motorcycle and warm weather.