Shoe Column: The Motorcycle
By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
The year was 1965, and motorcycles were the rage.
I was a junior at Pacelli, and several of my buddies bought “cycles” during that summer. So I bought one too. Went to Bring’s Cycles in Rapids and plunked down $350 for a brand new motorcycle. Technically, it was a black 1965 Super Sport 65 Honda. That’s what they called it.
It was definitely bigger than a moped or a Honda 50 and a tad smaller than a Honda 90. And it was really good on gas. I rode around on that thing one whole summer for about 79 cents in gas. None of my pals ever spent much on gas, either. Duck Shannon had a new red Super Sport 65, and I think Dave Nachman owned one too. At full throttle, you could go about 65 mph and it seemed like you were really flying.
My cycle was delivered to my house from Rapids, and I couldn’t wait to try it out. What the heck. I rode a bicycle many times. What could be so difficult about driving a motorcycle? Well, I found out right off the bat.
Got on and it started right away. Slowly went down the neighbor’s driveway. Hung a left on Brawley. Turned onto Elk Street a block away. Popped the clutch, jumped the curb, went over the sidewalk, hit a short wall, and landed in some bushes. There I was, laying in some bushes while my nice new Honda was spinning in circles on the pavement.
This was not what one would call a great start.
Fortunately, no real injuries, and the cycle came out okay, too. I walked the motorcycle back home and parked it while figuring out the next move. The next day called for a road trip to Park Ridge — about three miles away.
It took me about an hour to get to Park Ridge. You don’t cover much ground going five miles an hour.
So I’m driving around Park Ridge when there went that throttle thing again. Before I knew it, I was driving on someone’s front yard. And then someone else’s front yard. Absolutely in panic. And then — get this — a cop car pulls up. The guy says, “Uh son, you shouldn’t be driving that cycle on people’s yards, you know. We have roads for that.”
I said, “Yeah, I know. I’m kinda new at this.”
He frowned and said, “Well, I’m writing you this ticket. We have a judge here in his house who you’ll have to see. Here’s his address. Go see him soon.”
The cop drove away. I rode around for an hour and finally found the judge’s house. Parked the cycle and went to the front door. He answered the door. He said, “Okay. Court is now in session. What happened?” I explained that I was new to driving cycles and I accidentally drove on a bunch of front lawns.
He was very understanding. He listened to my plea and said, “Well, it was an honest mistake. There will be no fine this time. By the way, how did you get here?”
I said, “On my cycle.”
He said, “Really? Where is it?”
“Right out there,” I said. “I parked it on your front lawn.”
He fined me five bucks.
Eventually I figured out how to drive the bike (we motorcycle guys call our cycles “bikes”). I would give people rides all the time. One summer I rode it all the way to Club Ordell. They had a wedding there and it was 100 degrees out and muggy. I pulled up and some guy was standing outside just sweating his buns off. He offered to give me $5 if I’d give him a 10-minute ride. Easiest five bucks I ever made. He also seemed to be quite happy when the ride ended. The farthest I ever drove it was to Sunset Lake and the cycle overheated and barely made it into the parking lot.
I walked it half the way home and even saw a snake on the highway.
I rode my bike for a good 20 years or so, put on about 8000 miles. Now, if you must know, cycle mechanics aren’t really my thing. Don’t know a spark-plug from a piston. I was happy if the thing just started. And, over time, the seat rusted out so I put a blanket and rug where the seat goes. Then the clutch had some issues. The light wouldn’t work. The front tire was somewhat flat. All kinds of neat stuff. So I very carefully walked the cycle down my basement steps and leaned it against the basement wall. It stayed there for a year.
Then my girlfriend Mary Ellen came over one day and wanted to see the cycle. She saw it and suggested that we bring it back outside.
No problem. We backed the Firebird up to the back door, then lined the cycle up next to the bottom of the steps to the basement. We tied an extension cord to the back of the car and the other end to the motorcycle.
I climbed aboard and gave her the signal to slowly drive the car forward. Not the best idea. Rode it up the first step. Then the second. Got halfway up the steps and BOING! The extension cord snapped, and suddenly I’m laying on my back in the basement with a Honda 65 on top of me.
This wasn’t covered in the manual. But again, no injury. Dodged another one.
After that, my Super Sport 65 Honda remained in the basement for 30 years. And last year my former neighbor Charlie Rossier dropped over. He’s a pro with cycles. Charlie had several motorcycles over the years and builds jet skis. He knows what he’s talking about.
Charlie wanted to see the cycle so back down in the basement we went. And there it was in all its glory under some boxes, a basketball, blankets, and a swimming pool. The seat didn’t exist. The license plate was from 1985. It was in sad shape.
I said, “Okay Charlie, can you fix it?”
He said, “Not a chance. Could never get the parts.”
No big deal to me. It could stay in the basement.
And then a week later, Charlie called again.
He said, “This might be a long shot, but take it to Darin Palmer at Wilshire Trailers on Stanley Street in Stevens Point. They might be able to help you.”
So I called Darin. He came to pick it up. He looked it over. I asked, “So what needs to be replaced?”
He replied, “Everything.”
The cost was very very reasonable. It’s still at Wilshire and it’s all good to go. But I ain’t picking it up until I figure out how to use that clutch. Oddly enough, I’m not in any real hurry.
And by all means I’m staying away from Park Ridge if I ever get on that thing again.