Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Sharin' the Road!

This week's guest is David Salter from Rio, Illinois. David's experiences are something we can all relate to. David, you have the keyboard!

Hi, my name is David Salter. I've enjoyed your blog for some time now. I live in West Central Illinois and use my bike/bikes to work. Due to our seasons I go mostly to the F150 in late November or early December and then resume the bike in mid March. I can say I have ridden to work every month for the past 2 years. I started out with a 1980 Yamaha XS 1100 I bought for $1000.00 from a hardware store in New Windsor IL in 2005. I had gone there to buy 2, count them, 2 screws and literally came back with a bike. A year later I picked up a 1998 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 for $2900.00 at FunMart in Moline IL after the Yamaha developed chronic electrical problems. Last year my darling bride gave me permission to buy a new bike, which I did, a Maroon 2007 Yamaha FJR. She was tired of the break downs and while I was content to keep looking for used she insisted on new. I caved. I know, quite un manly. I traded in the Vulcan for the FJR but still have the XS1100 which I plan on rewiring and keeping as a vintage bike and back up steed.

I first rode a bike in 1975 when I moved to Phoenix AZ right after graduation from college. Recession was the buzz word at that time and I bought a bike only because I couldn't afford a car. I recall vividly going to Western Honda and buying a used 1973 Honda CB350 four stroke in red with 1500 miles for $700.00.The salesman showed me the controls, gave me a once around the parking lot and with an earnest "be careful" I was on my way home. I recall one intersection that I wondered if I was going to stay in my lane during a left turn or T bone a pick up stopped at the light but I made it home.

I learned the hard way. I learned to use the front brake when as I approached an intersection on the ASU campus, I casually hit the rear brake and all that happened was I skidded. I let up and tried again. Same thing. As I approched the cross walk skidding and wobbling I saw a bemused back pack toting college guy waiting to cross and taking it all in. When I finally stopped well past the stop line in front of the student I sheepishly apologized. "No problem" he said and we both went our merry way. After that I understood the front brake. For 6 months that 350 CB 4 was all I had for transportation. Every week I filled the tank, for some reason usually on a Tuesday, for less than $2.00.

I don't recall ever even noticing a Harley. The bike was a tool; a way to get from point A to point B and my tool was a Honda 350 and that was that. It worked well for me. I did have 2 buddies who also had bought bikes at the same time. Eric had a 75 or 76 red Honda 750 CB and Dave had a red 75 Honda 450 CB. And we knew nothing. We did wear helmets but that was about it. Blue jeans, Adidas running shoes and a T shirt rounded out my normal riding gear. Because of that ignorance I froze on I 10 between Tucson and Phoenix one night in May because I didn't know how cold it could get on a bike or out in the desert. I had ridden to Tucson in the morning and it was quite warm. So pleasant. I didn't get started home until after dark. It was already cool and of course all I had was a very light jacket. I was cold. Around Coolidge and Casa Grande there was a lot of irrigation farming and the humidity just added to the misery. I remember those pools of frigid moist air that just wicked the heat out of my then skinny body. I stretched out prone, I slowed up, I went fast all the while shaking uncontrollably. I made it.

On another occasion I recall my buddy Eric and I went for a ride out on the desert roads to the North and East of the metro area on a Sunday afternoon. At that time it was just desert and hills. Now I'm sure it is well developed. Zooming along that afternoon about April we spied a place where a steep hill rose up on our right about 100 feet with tell tale motor cycle tracks going up over the top. We stopped, looked it over and asked "why not?". There was a hard gravel flat area about 200 feet in front of the beginning of the hill which we used to attain max velocity, maybe 60 MPH, and we bulled our way up just barely making it to the top. How cool!! Let's go down the other side. We could see tracks leading down and out over other hills so fools we were and down we went. At the bottom we were suddenly aware of 2 things. The deep fine grain sand we found ourselves in almost up to our knees and the absolute dead silence. It took us over an hour to wrestle our bikes and ourselves through that sand and kind of around the side of the hill to a point where we could barely make it back to the road. We were exhausted but now aware that there was a difference between street bikes and dirt bikes. Yes, we were clueless.

I gave up riding when I moved back to the midwest and found myself living in Chicago where It was very biker un friendly. I had no garage and was lucky if I could find parking for my van within a block of my apartment. Although I had never had an accident I had the usual confrontations and close calls with aggressive, stupid, ignorant drivers in Phoenix and it was obvious that Chicago was going to be worse. I gave up riding.

It wasn't until almost 30 years later when we moved out in the country just as gas was going over $3.00 a gallon that I came back to the bike again, at first simply as a tool for transportation. My daily commute is 13.7 miles each way. After that 1st year commuting on the XS1100 I was hooked. I now love riding just for the sake of riding. That anticipated savings in gas mileage pretty much gets negated by my scenic rides to and from work. That 13.7 miles each way is often 20-50 miles especially on the way home. But we bought it so my bride says I must ride it. I don't argue much except when there is ice on the road or lots of lightning strikes near by. Then I chicken out and take the truck.



That is about where I am as a rider. Not very sophisticated, not all that knowleadgable and I still would like to take a MSF course. I spent $800 + on an Aerostich riding suit early on and I've taken trips to North Carolina and Texas just by myself. (The bride doesn't like to ride and gave me permission) I identify more with the Long Riders and Bamarider than with the bar hopping crowd but I still like cruisers and standards. I'm not much of a computer guy but I like to ride and like to write so if you're interested I'll give blogging a shot.

David Salter
Rio IL

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There's some other riders coming down the road to vist, as well. I'd be honored to have some more visitors. You can write a post or just send me some information. Between the two of us we'll make it happen. Drop me a line at intrepidcommuter@comcast.net.

Miles and smiles,

Dan

5 comments:

Earl Thomas said...

This is a neat idea Dan, I'm finding riders that I would have had a hard time connecting with on my own.

Tinker said...

To David Salter: Wanna reclaim your youth? (Rosebud) I saw a 72 CB350 last week for $850 on craigslist-Austin. Not original paint but looked rather good.

Stacy said...

Nice to meet you, David!

irondad said...

Earl,
I was hoping it was a way for folks to introduce themselves. So many ride but don't blog. At least they could show they're out there.

Allen Madding said...

David, start a Blog! Loved your writing and you sound like my kind of rider. Blogging doesn't take computer expertise, hunting and pecking method of typing works just fine.