Memories of motorcycle riding from high school and recently.
Pic: Keith on 1976 Honda CB-125
Riding a motorcycle is so much fun! I remember the first bike that I was able to buy when I was in high school. Being the youngest of three children, it does help when your parents have chilled out a bit and relaxed some restrictiveness that your elder siblings had to endure.
My older sister had to wait till she was 18 to drive a car; then, my older brother was able to drive at the age of 16. I probably would've starting driving at age 15 with a permit but waited till 16. But what I really wanted to do that neither of my siblings were interested in was riding a motorcycle.
My mother wasn't super cautious about the dangers of riding a motorcycle as some of my cousins were really into it. My Uncle Ray, her brother, reportedly rode a scooter in his younger days. So I popped the question to Mom, who simply said, "I'm not going to buy you a motorcycle!" My adolescent translation of that answer was, "Well, I guess I'll have to buy it myself!"
I had begun working at a grocery store toward the end of my Freshman year at De La Salle High School, so I had begun saving up money towards that goal of getting a motorcycle on my own, which Mom nor Dad didn't voice any objections to. They only wanted to be sure that I wore a helmet.
There was a cycle shop on Oak Street in the Uptown part of New Orleans where I lived. So I would go over and check out the stock and dream of one day buying one for myself. It didn't take too long for me to be able to buy one of the Honda CB 125 Street bikes toward the end of my Sophomore year. What a thrill it was to cruise St. Charles Avenue in the mornings to school and to work at the Piggly Wiggly in the afternoons.
Fortunately, I never had any accidents per the motorcycle, but eventually switched to a Capri after one rainy day trip down Carrollton Avenue at the intersection of Oak. With Carrollton being only one lane and the temptation always being there for cyclists to "make your own lane" when someone is a slow poke ahead of you, I couldn't resist the chance to bypass an 18 wheeler that day.
As I was speeding up on the side of the slow-gear changing 18 wheeler when the light changed at the intersection, all of a sudden I noticed a pedestrian still making his way across the street even after our green light was engaged. Recalling those motorcycle driving classes at that split second helped me to carefully engage both the front and back brakes in unison, so as to avoid hitting the pedestrian, as well as a "fish spin."
Not long after that incident, I was in my senior year and ready for the Capri. It was a hard to part from that two wheeler, but wanted to have a better chance at taking out dates that I had hoped for. While I no longer had my beloved Honda, the seeds had been planted for a future deal.
In the late 90's when I worked as a Medical Social Worker at the Baton Rouge General, Diane, a co-worker sparked a renewed interest in a motorcycle. Once, I overheard Diane commenting to her husband, "So you're getting a new cycle - what are you going to do with that old dirt bike? Well, one thing led to another, and I was able to buy the Honda 125 XLS for $ 50! It needed a little work and papers, but it still started!
After some fix-up modifications from the Rad Cycle parts shop on Nicholson, it was fun to take spins again! The dirt bike suspension really made for some nice cushioned rides. One of the funnest rides was with the Mike Foster Re-election that started at the Tanger and ended with a feast at the Governor's Mansion. Another great ride was one of the Alzheimer's Services' Poker Rides.
While I eventually gave the dirt bike away for a friend who was relocating to living in the mountains, I don't think I'll ever get motorcycling out of my blood. To borrow an old cliche', you never forget how to ride a (motor-) bike!
Keith John Paul Horcasitas, LCSW, MHA, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, BRLA 70810, khorcasitas.yahoo.com, 11/30/2009.