My favorite motorcycle - why simpler is sometimes better!
My Kawasaki W650
As a corporate pilot and flight instructor, I have always enjoyed airplanes and flight. Over the years, I have had people ask me why I enjoy motorcycles so much, and I have to admit it reminds me of flying without all the preparation. Growing up as the poorest family or very close to being the poorest family, I rode bicycles everywhere as my only method of transportation. I will never forget my first ride on a Honda 50...no pedaling and I was hooked!
My first motorcycle I purchased was a 1972 Suzuki 125 that didn't run, but was only $125 at a rummage sale. It was a two stroke engine that the owner had forgot to put oil in the injector tank, and had seized the engine. I thought with enough oil and a little tweaking, I could get the engine to run, but for two years I was only able to sit on the bike, attempt to kick-start the engine, and wait. At 16, I was able to purchase a used 1978 Yamaha DT 175 from a classmate of mine. The bike ran ok, and I could get up on a nice summers day, and ride that bike until the sun set.
I joined the Army and for three years didn't own a motorcycle. After my service in the Army, while going to college I purchased a 1982 Honda CM400T which was a boring bike I never enjoyed very much. I sold that and for a few years, did not own a motorcycle until I started making more money and could afford a motorcycle again. From that time going forward, I have owned a motorcycle and usually trade out for a new or different motorcycle every other year.
Of course, each motorcycle is unique and why I purchase a different motorcycle for each season is changing my needs or what type of riding I think I will be doing the most of. Sometimes during the middle of the winter, I get the idea that I should get on the motorcycle and go for a touring experience around Lake Michigan. On other occasions, I look at how busy the summer is going to be, and decide a lighter commuter type of motorcycle will be the perfect bike for me.
I had gone for many years purchasing the sport touring motorcycle class, because it represented good performance AND the ability to go touring. For many years I owned the BMW series of sport touring bikes, because they all had the capability of attaching hard bags to the motorcycle. It was during these years that I was flying as a corporate pilot on a Falcon 10 jet similar to a Learjet in size. I was making good money, and so I built a rather large house on a golf course, with the cost of the house really out of my budget and not affordable. It just happens that way, you draw plans, add this to the house, the stainless steel appliances, etc. and before you know it, you are in more debt than you ever thought you would be in.
During this time, I met a beautiful woman and we started dating. I will never forget the first time I had ever seen this person, it was from a distance and she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. I never thought she would be interested in me, but we ended up dating and I have to admit...this kid was in L.O.V.E.! I would take her on the motorcycle and we would take a few day trips on the bike, and because she enjoyed the outdoors, she was always up for a motorcycle ride. I decided to sell the Honda Pacific Coast, and I purchased the full blown touring version of the BMW K1200LT. I thought because of the comfort, wind protection, and the stereo that she would really love the bike, but to my surprise, she told me she liked my old Honda more.
A long story short, I lost interest in flying and decided to pursue my own business around the same time I had met her, and things were not going well for me income wise. I felt like a fool as I was not making any money at all, and my savings were down to nothing...along with a huge house payment! After 9 months we called our relationship off, meanwhile I prepared for my house to be repossessed as I couldn't make payments on the mortgage, and couldn't even afford the taxes on the home. So here I was, unemployed, losing my home, lost the love of my life, and had to sell the BMW motorcycle to try to pay for monthly living expenses...it was terrible!
I finally found a job that paid 1/3rd of what I had been making before, I short sold the house so I owed much more than we sold it for, and I moved into a small apartment. Spring came along and I was so in debt that I really couldn't afford anything other than sustenance living. I worked 7 days a week for months on end, never went to the movies, and only ate the cheap food so I could save money. In other words I had nothing, and life was plain and dull. On a beautiful late May afternoon, I visited a used motorcycle consignment shop...and there it was, a black Kawasaki W650 parallel twin motorcycle with chrome pipes and only 800 miles. I purchased it using a credit card, and drove away with one question on my mind...how was I ever going to pay this bike off?
And for three years I rode this motorcycle, as it was the only thing I had. I didn't have a home but a small apartment, which meant I did not have my dogs that could stay with me. I worked every day for two years except Christmas, and one or two other mandatory days during the year that I could not work. And that was all I had, the motorcycle was the only entertainment I would enjoy in life and the only thing I really owned that meant anything to me. The way to my heart was to get on the motorcycle, and leave for the country roads and have time to think about the better things in life. On occasion I would get out of work in the early afternoon on a weekday, and I would take the motorcycle out on the open road for the afternoon, driving at 50 mph to enjoy the scenery and save as much money on gas as possible.
Many of these summer trips were to a resort area along the Missouri river, whereby the trip would take me past the people who had adopted my dogs and were taking care of them. I would always make the stop to visit them on my way, and I missed them very much. The rest of the trip was spent thinking about my life, what went wrong, and try to figure out how to get back on track again. When I arrived at the river, I would shut the motorcycle off and walk to the shores edge and think about the woman that I had met and how much I missed her. This location was the same place we had spent time together, and it reminded me of how happy I was at one time and of course the fonder memories that come with it. But life has a way of not working out the way you really want it to, and I realized that this was just a dream, but I wanted to enjoy that dream for the day as I felt so good thinking about it.
I will never forget a beautiful Friday afternoon in the late summer, as I walked in the door to my apartment and didn't have anything to do. I thought to myself about getting on the bike and ride down to the Missouri that evening. Each round trip was about $15 in gas, which I made the sacrifice of actually eating out so that I could get on the bike and ride the motorcycle. It was warm with very little wind, and the ride was immensely enjoyable for the hour and a half it took to arrive. While pulling into the parking lot, I noted how warm it really was, it was much warmer by the river than it was when I left home and this was 7:00 p.m. at night.
As I sat and watched everyone enjoy the beach and their vacation, I could not get over how hot it was as the temperature seemed to be rising as the sun was setting. As I looked to the north, I could see cumulus clouds forming, indicating severe weather could be on the way, so it was time to get on the bike and beat the weather home. As I rode along the lonely two lane highway, with thunderstorms building along the way, I thought to myself how lucky I am to be experiencing this beautiful view. For some reason, this trip sticks out in my memory for some reason, maybe because after a few years I realized that I was going to finally be out of debt, and I could rebuild my life again.
For those few terrible years of my life, the motorcycle was the difference maker for me and my life and I always appreciated that special motorcycle. I never thought I would own a bike like this, it was a simple bike, with only a twin cylinder 675 cc displacement, a small windshield, with a seat that was meant for a maximum of 30 minutes sitting time. It wasn't really meant for touring, and yet I took it on the highway for a majority of its life. An air cooled classic looking motorcycle, it had simplicity built all around it and of course, I was the one who maintained the motorcycle with frequent oil changes, replacing the chain, and doing a valve check myself when it was due.
I don't think I was ever happier during those years than I was on any other motorcycle because it was the only thing I had in my life that made me happy, and so I enjoyed every minute of it. Whenever I think about this motorcycle, it brings a huge smile to my face and I would like to own another one similar to it. Some people will never understand the freedom and joy a motorcycle brings to a person, but for me, it made all the difference in my world during a very difficult time in my life.