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Motorcycle Mystique


My earliest recollection of a motorcycle goes all the way back to 1925 when I was four years old. My parents, my sister and I lived in a second floor apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey. We had no car, but my father owned a red Indian motorcycle with a sidecar, which he kept in a nearby rented garage. On a pleasant Sunday, my mother would sometimes say, "Let's take a ride up to Sussex County for a breath of fresh air." My father would get the motorcycle while my mother fixed a picnic lunch and off we would go to spend the day in what was then sparsely populated farm country. In winter, my father removed the engine and transmission and stored them under his bed when he wasn't overhauling them on the kitchen table.


So, not surprisingly, my first ride on a motorcycle was a very memorable event. It took place in France in 1944. I was platoon leader of the 7th Infantry I & R platoon and I spoke French quite fluently at that time. We had just liberated another French farming village and the villagers crowded the roadside to offer us hugs, kisses, fruit and wine. But one old farmer heard me speaking his language and came over to my jeep to begin jabbering away, as the French were wont to do. He had a greater gift to offer. He told me that the Germans had left behind a motorcycle in apparently good condition, because they had run out of gasoline, a constant problem for them. He had put it in his barn with the intention of turning it over to the Americans. We had a policy of not using enemy vehicles because we had enough of our own and to drive Kraut equipment was an invitation to death by "friendly fire." Besides, we had an image to maintain. We were an advancing American Army, not a bunch of gypsies!


But there is a certain mystique about motorcycles. My curiosity and pleasant memories of the old Indian demanded that I at least go look at the German machine. I told the farmer to climb in the back of the jeep and he guided us to his barn. I wheeled out the huge BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) machine and was fascinated by it! It radiated raw power and superb German workmanship. It was painted in the Wehrmacht light earth/dark earth flat camouflage colors and it was beautiful! I turned to my jeep driver. "Steele, how about getting that spare jerry can of gas off the back of the jeep and let's see if we can start this monster." We filled the tank, I turned on the ignition, kicked the starter crank, and was rewarded with the throaty roar of the engine. It was sweet music to my ears and my spine tingled. I familiarized myself with the controls. The temptation to ride it was just too great.


I had never ridden a motorcycle before, but I convinced myself in no time at all, that years of experience on a bicycle were sufficient training. I shifted to low gear and sedately cruised out of the driveway and onto the paved road. For the next half hour, I rode serenely through the beautiful French countryside at a leisurely pace. The feeling of exhilaration, the joy of the wind in my face, the sensation of controlling such power, and the complete sense of freedom I felt is indescribable. It was truly a one of a kind experience.


I took a different route on the way back and soon found myself on an unpaved road. I drove slowly and carefully, but as I leaned into one curve, the wheels slid out from under me and I found myself sliding down the road on my hands and knees at about 20 MPH. I picked myself up and sat at the edge of the deserted roadside for five or ten minutes and examined my scrapes, cuts and bruises while the shock wore off. The knees were gone from my wool O.D. trousers and both knees were raw and bloody. But my hands were worse. Both palms were lacerated and bleeding. The BMW was lying on its side, stalled out, but apparently no worse for wear. I cursed it soundly, stood it up and climbed back on. No piece of Kraut equipment was going to get the better of me! I started it up and the engine responded with a smooth musical burble, which I took as a welcome apology. I drove back to the barn and told the farmer to hold onto the Hog and give it to the rear echelon troops, which would follow us. Only then did I stop at the aid station to have the cuts and abrasions cleaned and sterilized.


But by far the worst part of the experience, was facing the men of my platoon. The

story had traveled like lightning, and although no one said a word, I knew what they were all thinking. "How the hell could the Lieutenant do such a damn-fool thing? We would never have fallen off!" But we moved out the next morning, the lacerations healed and the motorcycle adventure was history.


I never rode a motorcycle again. The closest I came was on a Bermuda vacation, forty years later, when my wife and I rented Honda mopeds to tour the island. The moped was a far cry from the BMW and doesn't even count as a motorcycle. But I do remember passing a teen age native on his beat up moped. As I breezed by, he shouted after me, "GO, GRANDPA, GO!"


Russ Cloer


I'll have to make sure my hubby reads this one. He loves motorcycles and we've had three since we were married. We no longer own them, but I know he's itching to have one some day once again.


We do have a photo of an Indian motorcycle hanging in our store. Not sure what the year is at the moment.


Did you know that my dad was also a motorcycle courier during the war? Now talk about adventure. Man, can I ever picture him riding that through the war-torn streets of Europe. I'm sure he was hell on wheels! :pdt12: Go daddy go.


That was one great story. I could picture your trek down the roads, feeling the exuberance of your youth and then everything going in sloooww motion as you spilled that German bike. :o Oh no!


I could feel your pain because I know exactly what that felt like. How you say? Well my neighbor Lou who lived across the street from us in Plymouth, had gotten a new motorcycle. He wanted to take me for a ride (I was about 17 at the time) and my mom was protesting. She didn't think it was a good idea. Lou's wife Chris and the rest of their family were at our house and said, oh come on. So off we went down the beautiful winding roads of Edward Hines Park. All was well until he went to turn down a gravel road that ran off the main park road. You know where this is going... Yup, we spilled. I had shorts on and a summer top. Ouch. We got up and after a moment or two began laughing. We both had some scratches and scrapes to knees and hands. Lou kept repeating, "Oh man, your mom is going to kill me. Are you sure you're all right?" Lou and I were in no hurry to get home. Mom WAS NOT PLEASED, but wasn't AS angry as we thought and hell we had a good time even with the wipe-out! :pdt12:

My husband Fred is a Harley guy. He got his first one (used, of course) when he was 14 years old and left the farm in New Brunswick on his third one to make his fortune in the world. He was bound for Toronto, a distance of 1000 miles. The chain broke 3 times, once in a driving thunderstorm. Of course, he fixed it; people who grow up on farms usually learn to fix things themselves because farmers, you should know, never have any money.


Eventually, he made his way to the US where his chances of making his fortune improved considerably. Having already learned to fly an airplane, courtesy of the Canadian government, he bought his first plane. Then a second. Then a third. It's still our back yard. Some of it here, some of it there. He claims he going to put it back together and go flying again. Yes, dear. Meanwhile, he bought a Harley again, one of those 100th Anniversary series, black, sleek, beautiful. Studies show that the love of speed is the common denominator and that it's not unusual for men to graduate from motorcycles to airplanes and back. Never boats. Too Slow. The only thing is (and this is where I would be in deep doo-doo if he knew I was telling this) he found out, much to his chagrin, that at 65 he was no longer the strong, young bull he was at 18, 19, and 20. Man, I mean to tell you, that sucker is HEAVY. He took it down to the market one evening for bread, milk, and eggs when it was still new and having parked it, as he was getting off, he lost it. It tipped over on its side. He couldn't pick it up! He had to ask this guy passing by for HELP. Now, you know that hurts. If there are certain things my husband hates to do they are 1) ask for HELP and 2) ask for DIRECTIONS. Two years have passed since he got it. He loves it, as do I, riding behind him on occasion, with the radio blaring out Oldies and Goodies from the 50s and 60s. So far, we've not taken a spill. I imagine if we ever did I probably wouldn't be writting here any longer, but...which is better? Sitting safe at home or living a little? And, oh, by the way. He hasn't "lost" it since that time at the market. Either he's been working those biceps of his or he's just got reacquainted with the Harley again. Ah, my prince! :heartpump:



Shhh! I promise not to say a word. Seems we've all wiped out at one time or another. Part of the motorcycle mystique. Guess it's a welcome to the club type thing. :D:D


Have you seen the Harley--Honda contest? Here it is..



papa Art