In 1972 I was riding a ’69 BSA Lightning 650…the A65 model to those of you who are technically minded, my riding friend at the time, Eddie, was on a Honda CB500Four. The BSA had a much higher cool factor, handled and sounded better, but…the Honda was faster, smoother and had an electric starter. Eddie and I rode everywhere…his bike always started with a push of button and my BSA…well, most of the time, until my leg got tired.
One day, while picking up a part for my BSA at the dealer…which also sold Triumph and Kawasaki, I saw the new love of my life…a brand new Kawasaki H2 750. I picked up my part and the sales brochure for the Kawasaki then headed home to get the Beezer running again.
I spent the entire night reading that sales brochure…’Fastest production motorcycle’… ‘instrument cluster angled for aerodynamics’ (or something like that), more technological and design features than any sane motorcycle rider could handle, plus I kept seeing the bike on the showroom floor with my name on the ‘SOLD’ tag hanging off the handlebar.
At breakfast the next morning I was talking to my stepfather, the man who started the motorcycle sickness in me and a staunch British bike rider himself, about the Kawasaki. After giving me his version of ‘stink eye’… he said “well, if you want it, get it”. I truly believe he left for work that day with a sick feeling in his stomach. He had good reason, what twenty year old whose been riding a ‘slow'(???) old Brit Bike wouldn’t want the fastest thing on two wheels? I mean…really? I had the green light.
I left work at three o’clock and made a bee line to Triumph / Kawasaki of Burbank with pink slip and cash in hand. This was my last ride on my BSA, I was trying to be nostalgic, but I couldn’t muster nostalgia up…I was lusting after the new H2…the fastest production bike on two wheels and all I could think was “Why is there all this traffic?? Don’t you people know I’m getting a new motorcycle?? Get out of my way!!”
A little after 5PM, I patted the gas tank of my old BSA, thanked it for all the great rides then kickstarted my new bike to life…yes, I’m still using a kickstarter, but it was a whole lot easier than kicking over that BSA. As I rolled out of the dealership my pulse was racing, my mind was racing and I was truly the happiest kid on the block…I owned the fastest motorcycle you could buy. Oh, and I guess my ego was racing a bit as well. I spent that night getting to know my new love…we rode and rode and rode everywhere.
The next morning I was back at the dealership when they opened, the man that sold me the bike asked if something was wrong I said “no, I’m here for the 500 mile service”. He walked over, looked at the odometer and walked away shaking his head and laughing. A few moments later the service manager came out, looked at the odometer and he too walked away shaking his head. I didn’t get what was so funny, I just rode my new motorcycle all night, what’s wrong with that?
For the next eight years that Kawasaki and I rode all over the western US, it moved all my worldly possessions to Las Cruces New Mexico and back to southern California. Well actually, it rode in the trailer back to So Cal with all my and my new wife’s worldly possessions…geez women collect a lot of junk. In 1980 disaster hit.
One day while working on a little BSA 350 I took some time off to go inside and make a sandwich, twenty minutes later I walked back out to an empty garage. My heart sank, as you can imagine. What was I going to do without my H2?? Well, after all the police and insurance stuff I sat down and cried, I had lost my best friend. And, my only source of transportation…now what?
Insurance money in hand, which wasn’t very much, and credit apps all filled out I went motorcycle shopping. After a day of sitting on motorcycles, listening to salesmen telling what a great deal I could get, I had a huge question in front of me, do I go forward or do I look backward? I spent another sleepless night going over brochures…and attending to my newborn daughter every couple of hours. When the sun came up in the morning I had narrowed the choice to two and a pot of coffee was gone. Who knew that choosing a new best friend would be that hard?
I arranged test rides on the finalists, grabbed my helmet, borrowed my grandmothers car again and headed for the dealerships. First up was a beautiful black 1980 Honda CB750F. I was in love…maybe. Down the road was a new Yamaha XS650. I sat on the 650 twin, hit the start button and the feeling up through the seat and the handlebars was familiar…I like this, I like it a lot. A few miles later, I dropped off the Yamaha, said thank you to the salesman and drove back to the Honda dealer. Over one hundred thousand miles later, that black Honda was still my new best friend.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a story about bike builder friends in Arizona that had a disastrous fire at their shop…everything was lost…except their spirit. Kelly and Jason are wonderful people and have a great circle of friends. This group of riding friends are circling the wagons to help rebuild Hellcat Customs.
Poker runs are generally really fun…you get to ride with like minded people for a good cause, a little competition…hey wait…the next million dollar idea here…have SpeedTV do a series on competitive Poker Runs!!! Yeah, that’s the ticket…travel around the country, do poker runs, make money, meet people…nah, it’ll never work…we’d all get stuck in Laughlin, Nevada and forget what day it is and where we’re supposed to be…and Speed wouldn’t do it anyway because it’s not NASCRAP…I mean NASCAR…oh well, it was a good thought.
Anyway…if you live somewhere in the Southwest United States or you live in the ‘Frozen North’ United States and need to escape…I have a ride for you. If you can’t make the ride…which is probably going to be much more fun than going to the mall Christmas shopping…you can help Jason and Kelly here…http://motorcycletravelamerica.com/page.php?id=152
Christmas is the time for giving, so instead of buying Sarah Palin’s new book help rebuild a custom bike business…however, I do reccommend Biker Billy’s Cook books…wait…that might be a bit insensitive at this time??
The ground shakes almost to the point of having to hold onto something, your heart pounds as the sound vibration goes through you and even wearing earplugs doesn’t deaden the decibel level that much. Welcome to NHRA Drag Racing.
I decided to go out to Pomona for the season Finale of the NHRA / Full Throttle drag races because, well, hey…we are called The Moto..WORLD…and I figured I need to get away from just focusing on road racing don’t you think? I lined up a couple of interviews for our podcast, set up some video cast time with a friend on another website, loaded up my ‘studio in a bag’ and off to the drags I went. Oh yeah…Southern California traffic…at the Pomona Drag Strip, 1/4 mile takes a few seconds…on the 210 Freeway that 1/4 mile takes about a day and a half. Maybe I’ll get there before dark.
I go to motorcycle races all the time, usually they are two to three day events and the first day is generally just racers going through practice and qualifying and if there are fans there, it’s because they’re collecting unemployment and have nothing better to do or they’re part of the media…wait, they’re one and the same…Not so with drag racing. I arrived at Pomona Raceway to a full parking lot, stands packed and people walking the pits and vendors row like it was main event day. All I could think was this is very cool, and…it’s only Thursday!!! What is Sunday going to be like?
At most big time motorcycle races you need to buy a pit pass (or trade one back and forth with your friends) to get anywhere near the race bikes…actually seeing the racers is a rare added bonus. Here at the drags, your ticket in put’s you within touching distance of 300 MPH cars, 200 MPH motorcycles and the pilots of these machines. No wonder the fans love it. I was caught up in the whole atmosphere the minute I walked in.
As I walked around looking for my friends, my neck and my camera were getting a serious work out, so much to see and hear. Everytime a dragster was being fired up a crowd would gather, everybody putting their hands over their ears and holding their nose. If you have never been six feet away from the exhaust pipes of a Nitro Methane fuel burning, 7000HP…yes, I said ‘Seven Thousand’… horsepower motor… well, you just haven’t lived…and, now your sinuses are cleared for life.
After wandering, I found the Harley Davidson Screaming Eagle pits but my friends were nowhere to be found…I was a little late…remember LA traffic??…well, I made the best of it and spoke with racer Andrew Hines, son of Vance and Hines performance parts co-founder Byron Hines. The Hines family has quite a history in drag racing. Byron and partner Terry Vance won many National Championships, Byron’s older son Matt won more and now young Andrew is keeping the family dynasty alive. We had a great visit with promises to get the whole family together for a podcast interview.
I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to go over to the track. Ok, it’s only a quarter mile of asphalt…big deal?? Well, yeah it is. I got there in time for Pro Stock Qualifying, Alcohol Qualifying ( by the length of the lines at the Budweiser stands, I think most of the race fans qualified) and the reason I was there…Pro Stock Motorcycles. Walking through the staging lane at Pomona reminded me of the time I had Deja Vu’…Hmmmm…Ive been here before…but last time it was on salt not asphalt. It seems to me that the choice of motorcycle to go fast in a straight line whether it’s the quarter mile or a flying mile, comes down to two…a big Harley or a big Suzuki. I got a chance to speak with pilots of both and the feeling is the same for both…it’s the adrenaline rush baby.
Being a racer, I know the adrenaline rush…you spend days or weeks preparing for a race…the bike, your body, your mind…all you want to do is be on the track. Racing is what you live and breath for, your significant other either embraces it…(read, finances it…), accepts it…(how much was that part??!!) or maybe just tolerates it …(Ok fine go racing just don’t get hurt…) but it’s in our blood and it doesn’t go away. While standing in the staging lane and on the starting line, my heart started racing, my brain was focused and I could feel my clutch hand twitching. God I love racing.
I got news this morning that friends I have not met, Jason and Kelly of HellCat Customs in Mesa Arizona had a disastrous fire yesterday at their shop. As Jason put it, ten years worth of work gone in minutes. The good news is that the only human casualty is Jason got some singed hair.
My friend Rob Dale of Bikers Church has set up a donation program through his site www.robdale.ca
Kelly and Jason have a great custom bike building biz and a wonderful family, they could use everyone’s help and prayers as they rebuild Hellcat Customs.
Every now and then everyone needs our help, if you are part of the biker community, this is the time to step up and help. www.hellcatcustoms.com