On more than one occasion in my life, I have found myself wondering aloud that wonderful lyric from the Talking Heads: “How did I get here?”
Indeed. The Brooklyn New York world of the late 1950s into the ’60s in which I grew up did not have motorcycles in it. I swear it didn’t. Sure, I may have seen that famous Marlon Brando poster for The Wild Ones but nobody had a motorcycle. Or a pickup truck to put one in for that matter. Heck, most of the kids’ families I went to school with didn’t even own a car. Public transportation took everyone where ever it is they needed to go. That and my trusty three-speed bicycle.
Fast forward and now I have graduated from high school and, still living at home, am going to commute on, yes, public transportation to Brooklyn College. I might as well say that I spent the first 55 years of my life living in Brooklyn before it became a brand. That was the summer of Easy Rider and I do believe that my first connection to “what a fun way to travel!” was subliminally implanted in my brain.
The following summer, while all my friends were hitchhiking to California, I decided that for 200 bucks round trip I would go to Europe. California could wait. Off I went with a girlfriend and some very loose plans about where we would go and how we would get from place to place. At least that was what we told our parents. We were going to hitchhike everywhere.
We found ourselves under the Eiffel Tower trying to figure out how to get out of Paris. The French did not like American hippies AT ALL! Then lo and behold two nice fellas from the US of A said to us, “We are going to ride the Pyrenees to Pamplona to see the Running of the Bulls. Wanna come?”
I climbed on the back of his brand-new, just-bought Triumph T150 Trident and Sharon got on the back of a BSA 650, and off we went. At some point the BSA broke down and we agreed to continue on and rendezvous in Pamplona. On the outskirts of Pamplona we met up with a whole bunch of others, all riding motorcycles, and we went en masse to a campground that much to my shock was just filled with motorcycles and really cool people from all over the world.
I did observe what seemed like an inordinate amount of repair jobs going on, with lots of guys swapping for or looking for improvised ways to fix their rides. As I wandered the campground, I was drawn to a guy who was clearly the oldest dude around. He had a fine grey beard and a wonderful gleam in his smiling eyes and face. He seemed slightly amused at all the fixing up that was going on around him. Next to him and his tent was a motorcycle the likes of which I had most definitely never seen. It was a big black motorcycle with white pinstripes and the engine sticking out the sides of the frame. It was so ugly it was beautiful!
We got to talking and Dave (I never forgot his name) told me that if I wanted to see the world and not spend half my time trying to fix a bike, the only motorcycle I should ever get was a BMW. I put that in my file cabinet for future reference.
I graduated college and got an apartment in (where else?) Brooklyn. When I announced to another girlfriend who was a real estate agent that I was going to get a motorcycle, that very next day she knocked on my door and told me she had just rented an apartment across the street to a girl who had a motorcycle for sale. How about that? I had no license and never rode a motorcycle in my life, but I was now the proud owner of a 1975 Kawasaki S3400 Triple.
I threaded the needle between cars all over the Big Apple. When guys (and they were ALWAYS guys) would pull up next to me on their bikes, I would nod at their bewildered girl-on-a-bike look and then DUST them with my ridiculously fast two-stroke Kawi. What fun!
I had that bike for two or three years till some a-hole stole it and wrecked it. I actually found out from the police what hospital they took the guy to, went into his room (past the cop on duty outside the room) and threatened to break his other leg while telling him what an a-hole he was, because he obviously couldn’t ride worth crap. Then the cop realized I wasn’t a relative and yanked me out. True story!
I had to get another bike, and this time I wanted the real deal. For me it HAD TO BE a BMW.
The 1978 R 100 RS in silver-blue became the first of many BMWs I would own and ride through the years. I thought of Dave when I shipped the bike on two different occasions to Europe and still do every time I see a broken down bike on the road.
My current ride is a red 2016 R 1200 GS. For the past 26 years I have been a proud member of the Sirens NYCMC, which is the oldest and largest woman’s motorcycle club in New York City.
It’s been a long time coming and now zillions of women are riding. I love that.
Oh–I finally did make it to California!