Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I REMEMBER...my motorcycle & the stuck throttle
…when the throttle stuck on my motorcycle going through a small town in Northern California in the early 70’s. It was Easy Rider time and I had this beautiful BSA 650, chopped, dark chocolate teardrop tank, with chromed extended front forks and butterfly handlebars, banana seat and it weighed about twice as I did. I loved that bike, but I recall that I loved my perception of my image on that bike more. It was somewhat patterned after the bike Peter Fonda had in the movie, Easy Rider.
It was 1970. I had graduated from Chico State College and having fulfilled my promise to my parents to finish college, I launched on to the “go forth and seek the truth and find yourself” tour [that tour lasted about 15 years until I started my family and grew up]. Haight Ashbury San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Carmel, pretty much anywhere along Hwy 1 was a good ride. I had watched Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson) multiple times and listened to the Steppenwolf album (yes, vinyl) until the grooves wore out. It indeed was a Magic Carpet Ride.
So, I have my hair down to my belt, full beard, sunglasses, a monster bike, way bigger than me (could barely hold it up when I came to a stop) and I am cruising through the back roads out of Chico, Ca. Just as I approached the main street of a small rural community, the throttle stuck wide open on the bike and I was catapulted forward, screaming down the road trying to brake, steer this flaming monster and not crash. Thinking I was a dead man driving, I did not notice immediately the flashing red lights and siren trailing right behind me until I got a few miles out of town, burned the bejesus out of my hand trying to hit the kill switch. I finally coasted over to the side of the road, awaiting my fate, as the police cruiser slammed to a stop behind me in a cloud of dust. The officer was highly agitated. 1970, rural cop, long-haired hippy biker, speeding through his beloved, but small, town blowing through both of the town’s stop signs – I could feel my life slipping away, locked in a dungeon, for years.
Kick-starting (a motorcycle term) my yet to be refined sales career, I apologized profusely, addressing him as “Officer, Sir”. I explained the problem with the stuck throttle. He was quiet for a bit and said: “Let me take this thing for a short ride to see if you are telling the truth.” He was bigger, in authority, and had a gun. I said “Sure.” He was gone almost an hour. Just me standing in the dirt next to the locked police cruiser.
When he cruised back to where I was, he smiled and said: “You were right about the throttle – but I fixed it. You know, I always wanted to have one of these.” He advised me to keep going north and not to come back through “his town” and drove away.
I drove north. I went about 60 miles out of my way to make it home a different way. Sold the bike and bought a new Volkswagen van for me and my black lab with a stubby tale and a red bandana.