Back in the middle sixties, my dear Daddy bought a plot of land a couple of miles north-west of Guelph and built our very first new house. Quite an accomplishment for DP's barely ten years into their new lives in the new country.
I wasn't yet into my teens, but I was highly attracted to all things loud and fast and motorized. The Andrews boys around the corner ran a '58 Chevy on the local dirt track, and they had their test 'n tune days on the gravel road in front of our new house. Needless to say, they were my idols.
I made a deal with Dad. If I carved a little circle through the scrub brush that covered our ten acres, he'd buy me an old beater, something that in this era and in these parts would be known as a "field car," and I would henceforth be free to hone my roundy-round chops to my heart's content.
Look out Pearson and Yarborough and Petty! Here comes Neumann!
Much to my father's surprise, I actually succeeded in carving out that circle. With an axe. It would have been maybe a really short eighth miler. Nevertheless, I'd built the track. So I went to Dad and reminded him of the other part of the deal.
Here's why you should get every deal in writing, even when it's with your Dad. He had utterly no memory of our deal to provide the race car if I provided the race track. This went back and forth for months until we struck a compromise; he bought me a motorcycle instead.
The motorcycle he bought me was an old Suzuki 80 street bike that he got from a workmate for forty bucks. It had but one mechanical flaw; it was forever stuck in second gear.
Even on my significantly less than one eighth mile track, second gear didn't cut it. So I abandoned my track and fashioned a new one around Mom's kitchen garden. It was maybe fifty by a hundred feet, and you got perfect circumlocutions without needing anything other than second gear!
That's where I honed my flat-track finesse. I'd circle that garden for hours on end with the back wheel hanging out and my left foot on the ground. No shifting required when you've only got second!
That Suzi paved the way to bikes on which the transmission actually worked. I went through a series of small-bore dirt-bikes till I landed a 175 Bultaco.
The Bultaco had the gears and brakes on the opposite side of where the Japanese bikes had them, a fact that wreaked havoc on the raspberry patch of Bruce Dickinson's mom the first time I took it for a test drive. Bruce was the school pal I was buying the Bultaco from. His mom was not impressed.
I graduated from the Bultaco to a Honda three-wheeler I got at Zdeno Cycle in Guelph. I had one of the first ever sold in Canada.
Could I ever do tricks on that little monster! I could side-wheelie for miles at a time. I could keep the front in the air for miles at a time. One of my favourite memories was when I'd line up my four younger siblings and jump over them, Knievel style!
Nobody ever got hurt, just for the record.
Alas, I hit the ripe age of 16 and it was all cars after that. Flat-tracking around Mom's garden had nothing on burying the speedometer on a 440 cubic inch Chrysler.
Oddly enough, just as I was getting out of motorcycles, my younger brother "the tree guy" was getting into them. His first ride was a 350 Honda. Then he was up to a 750, which I remember taking well over a 100mph.
Without a helmet.
My glasses blew off in the wind.
He's riding a 1200 sport twin today, commuting back and forth to work.
So I was away from motorcycles for forty years or so, till I picked up that 500 Ninja on the cusp of 60. Not sure where to take things from here. I take it for short runs around the neighbourhood once in awhile, but I don't feel I'm ready for the highway.
Where to from here?
Gonna buy a helmet tomorrow.