I just bought a nice new dirt bike this weekend and while riding yesterday it got me thinking of my first bike. That first motorcycle changed my life and got me started into riding. The right bike at the right time can change ones life and cause one to pursue a life of riding. ...and was I lucky enough to get that bike?!!? Boy oh...I did and I rode that lil' dirt bike everywhere growing up and I'm sure that the freedom and adventure given to me thru that bike by my Mom and Dad buying it for me surely changed my life as well as my outlook on life. So...ya know that I love telling stories so let's sit down, rewind a few decades and go motorcycling with lil' Ron.
It was the summer of 1985 and all things were Madonna, Ronald Reagan, no more 7th grade, my Dad's big red Dodge truck, and me still being young enough to not be worrying about girls. ...those were the days. I was 13yrs old and had always wanted a motorcycle but for almost a year I'd been doing a full court press on Mom and Dad and had been begging, pleading, and dropping hints just like Ralphie on the great movie A Christmas Story. ...I suppose this is my Lil' Red Rider BB gun story. I'd even resorted to vandalism by writing in spray paint on my dad's buildings and tool sheds "I WANT A MOTORCYCLE!!!". I shoulda got an ass whooping!!!! ...everywhere you looked was spray painted "I WANT A MOTORCYCLE!!!" But Mom and Dad were awesome and I had a great childhood so they finally felt that I was ready for a bike and off we went looking. We stopped at the local Suzuki shop and they had nothing my size. I remember stopping there once when I was 5 or 6yrs old and looking up in amazement at this huge dirt bike that I wondered who in the world was tall enough to ride it. I swear the footpeg seemed like it was as tall as my chin!!! Up to my chin!!!! The wheels and tires were gigantic!!! It just gave me a sense of wonderment of how one could go anywhere on a motorcycle. ....just one of those childhood memories. Anywho...on we went. We stopped at the local Yamaha shop and again no luck. ...all the bikes there were too big as well. With my young age and size and inexperience I was in need of an 80~100cc bike. No bike was bought on that weekend so I had to wait til the following weekend as my dad worked all week in the coal mines. ...bless his heart, he worked long and hard and still found time to raise a huge garden and would come home from a long day of working, covered in coal dust, and would clean up and then he and Mom would go off to work in the garden until late in the evening. They'd get me to work sometimes in the garden picking up rocks or planting potatoes or picking weeds with them but more often than not I'd slip off with my dog Prince on some adventure in the hills around the house. ...I did say that I needed an ass whooping didn't I??? The following weekend we saw a used bike being sold at an intersection and I was dead set on it. ...it looked like a YZ85 or something similar. Dad said we'd stop on the way back from grocery shopping in town. I complained that it might get sold before we got back. "Relax." Dad said. Ha!! Relax???? How can one relax???? Y'all know a little boy can't relax when the bike of his dreams is being sold alongside the road!!! ...I didn't even know what kind of dirt bike it was then but I was sure that it was that very dream bike. So, on the back way home we approached the little intersection and with anticipation boiling over I stretched and strained looking over the front seats for my soon-to-be ride buuuut...it was gone. ...heartbreak. Simple heartbreak.... The world was over. That was the only bike for sell in the world it seemed to this poor defeated (and spoiled) kid riding in the backseat. I whined and pouted all the way home. ...did I say that I needed an ass whooping??!? The next week dragged along and poor Lil' Ron was still not riding. All his friends were out riding and there I was stuck. I'd hear the braaaap braaaap braaaap of a distant bike blazing up the little road that we lived on and I'd rush out to see it. Smoke pouring outta the exhaust pipe and it's whine getting closer. And there passing me would be one or more of my school buddies off on some big adventure. ...I just knew it!!! Where were they going???!!? What mountains were they climbing???!!? Oooohhhh....my life sucked.... I looked at my bicycle in disgust. ...peddling had lost its thing about a year ago for me. You can only ride a bicycle so long making vrooom vrooom braaap noises pretending you're twisting the throttle before depression sets in. Sigh.... Oh...I fantasized about double jumps and never-ending wheelies and races across Baja and multi day adventure rides all that week. Actually all that previous school year I'd been in a daze about dirt bikes. Hey...I'm an only child and developed a good imagination. So anywho, the weekend finally came and Dad, Mom, and I loaded up in the truck and off we went to the little town of Grundy Virginia, about 25min from home to the Honda shop there. And there they were!!! All those bikes lined up side by side in those amazingly beautiful mid-80's color schemes consisting of sky blue seats and dark blaze orange plastic fenders and gas tanks with sun yellow number and side plates. Oooohhhh....those color schemes will forever be my favorite of any bike. Even to this day I'd take that color if only the current manufactures would listen to my pleas and bring back those designs. ...perhaps I should spray paint that request on their buildings???? Anywho...what was I saying? Oh yeah...bikes lined up for miles!!! Miles I tell ya!!! Hey, I was in a bike shop and I was little and excited and there were about a dozen bikes lined up...y'all bikers know the feeling. Bikes for miles!!! CR's and XR's everywhere and across from them was the cool Honda Odyssey's that looked awesome...this was before ATV's became big and hit the scene. ...but my mind was razor focused on a bike. And then I saw her... Tucked into that long line of bikes....there she was. A pretty little XR100R. Oh, to me it was the perfect size. And the best bike ever...I just knew it!!! Now, I didn't know anything about bikes at that time. Nothing!! I didn't know about four strokes vs two strokes...all I knew was that bikes looked fun and that I had to have one. The little XR was sandwiched between a CR125 which looked huge and an XR80R. Luckily we got the 100...the 80 would've been too small for me engine wise. It had the same frame and all but I would've been hard on those 80cc's and the 100 was perfect for me as my first bike. We got home and unloaded the bike and my apprenticeship as an Evil Knieval wannabe began. But actually...it was my dad who became the first one to ride a wheelie on that bike. He was showing me how the clutch and throttle and all the controls worked and he decided to ride it around the yard. Welp, when he pulled out he popped the clutch too fast while giving it gas and up the bikes front wheel came as he took off speeding across the yard. It was priceless!!!! I don't know what was louder...the roar of the bike or the roar of my dad yelling profanities as he raced across the front yard and going right thru his prized cherry tree. Mom and I were both standing there in amazement, eyes wide and mouths hanging open wider. I remember Mom putting her hand up to her mouth and lowly saying "Oh my God"....I swear she reminds me exactly of Ralphie's own mother from A Christmas Story just as Dad reminds me of his father!!! Somehow Dad wrestled my big mean bike and slowed it down. He pulled up to us, his brow heavily soaked in perspiration along with little red marks and whelps all across his face and arms from being smacked by all the tree limbs, his demeanor humbled a bit as he had before towered over my little bike and remarked that it was small...now he respected my new mean machine. After seeing my dad thumped by my bike I knew I'd picked the right bike and thought it was a beast. That summer I learned to respect it as well and to respect motorcycling. I had lots of little wrecks on it as well as two big ones that tore skin off my knees and elbows...an initiation into the world of motorcycling I suppose. But I learned the lesson of watching where you're going, don't look around to smile at your buddy, to beware of dogs running out in front of you....all the typical hazards to riders. I rode that bike everywhere that year. I discovered old dirt roads around lakes and rivers seldom traveled by anyone anymore. During the summer I was gone from the time I woke up until almost bedtime. ...daylight to dark was riding time!!! When school began in late August I developed a rhythm. I'd arrive home at 3:50pm, Mom would have me a sandwich fixed that I'd just about swallow whole, I'd throw on some old clothes, and off I'd be before 4:30pm...arriving home just at dark as my bike had no headlight. One of my favorite things to do was to put on my back pack which held a small collapsable fishing pole and bait in it and I'd ride off thru the mountains to a secluded fishing hole around the lake where I'd catch tons of bluegill. I'd then keep them on a stringer and as it got close to dark I'd load up my catch in my backpack and race off to several ponds up in the mountains near home where I would stock them with the fish I'd caught. Then I'd race the darkness home....sometimes pulling in just after dark and Mom and Dad would be worried about me and tell me, "Ronald Lee...you get home before dark next time or there won't be another next time!!! Clear?!??" ...but it seemed that there always was a next time and Mom and Dad saw how much I loved to ride and they never did take away my privilege to ride. I can't thank either one of them enough for giving me that first bike and thus giving me the joy of riding and installing in me that sense of freedom and adventure. Thank you Mom and Dad. :')