The Perfect Vehicle -

1st Year: Trips and Trials

BMW R65, Photo by Tai Day

BMW R65, Photo by Tai Day

The bike arrived on the Friday of MSF weekend. I ran up to Cascade, in a state of nervous excitement. Will had signed for the bike — “I think you’re going to be happy,” he said. He’d had the bike out for a run and was pleased; it looked like it was going to check out well.

“Can I talk you into riding it up to Lake Washington Technical College parking lot after work?” I asked. He agreed and my first ride was scheduled. My first drop occurred promptly, because I was so excited after my first cruise around the parking lot (“I wanted you to PuttPutt, to Go Slow!” Will exclaimed, “You gave me grey hair!”) that I didn’t get my foot down in time. S-l-o-w tip to the left; damage, one broken mirror. Well, I am vertically challenged!

The bike gets scheduled for its “once over” and passes; I graduate from MSF. Jim Horton (former MSF instructor) rides the bike home for me. But not before a return to the parking lot, where I practice MSF maneuvers. With Lots of Stops (slavedriver!). A couple more drops (but at least I’ve now learned how to pick her back up).

WetLeather Again

Poloroid to the rescue — with picture in pocket I hop in the Jeep and head south for my First WetLeather event, The Gather. Crescent Lake, OR, mid-August. Except for the heat and traffic in the valley (multiple car fatality accident on I-5) … and the Jeep acting like it had a bad fuel filter on the climb up the pass (it did) … the trip was uneventful. A bit overwhelming (almost 200 people and a dozen four-legged friends, including my own Peaches) and a little nerve-wracking because they’re all experienced riders and I’m such a newbie. (This was self-imposed nervousness; WL folks could care less how long you’ve been riding, especially when you show up bearing libations like nicely aged Single Malt Scotch).

First Ride

I came back from The Gather (I’m finally starting to figure out who’s who — faces to go with the names) and had my first ride the following weekend (birthday weekend – the bike was a birthday present to myself). Wanted to do the “early Sunday morning” thing, so traffic would be light. Spent Way Too Much Time out; got tired and dropped at a stop sign in East King County. Next Trial: Gas cap lock “locked” and wouldn’t Unlock. Had to ride the bike to Cascade and get them to drill the lock and order replacement cap. (“Dadgummit, Paul, this new cap doesn’t have a BMW emblem like the old one!”)

First Moving Drop (ie, Fall)

The next Saturday, I was en route to a friend’s party with a stop at Cascade. Turned left out of the AM/PM station and was CERTAIN I’d heard a scraping sound. “Was that the kickstand?” my reptilian brain screamed. (If it had been, I would have already been down.) Tried to move over to the side of the road but looked Too Hard at the sidewalk and just barely crunched it. Over I went (right side); hard. Bike’s fine (some scrapes on the cylinder head and fairing); Kathy has Huge Bruise covering top third of thigh/hip, from hitting the curb. Rode the bike to the party; drove my friend’s car home that night though (I’d taken some WL Brandy, Germain-Robin, which I used for medicinal purposes). Retrieved the bike Sunday morning. On the plus side, successfully navigated dirt/gravel/mud road to their house, in and out, 200 yards. Had tough time explaining bruise to my acupuncturist, but he performed miracles.

Second Moving Drop (ie, Crash)

The second was about 10 days later. Headed to I90 after cruising East King County. Unfamiliar road; getting late (dusk). Realize I don’t have on my safety vest and start obsessing about it because I’m going to get on the Interstate. Unfortunately, at this point in my motorcycle career I do not have enough brain capacity to obsess about anything other than the road in front of me. My left turn entrance to the freeway comes up suddenly at the top of a crest; rather than drive past it and do a U-Turn, I try to make the hard left. I Look at the Gravel alongside the road; guess where the bike goes. I hit the brakes. Guess where the bike goes. I step off (wasn’t going very fast at this point) and the bike switches from what I think is a low-side to what must have been a high-side as it ended up 180 from where I stepped off. Cracked right rear taillight assembly. A few more scratches on the fairing.

Parking Lots

Just when I think “I’ve got it!” a parking lot gets me again. These drops tend to be very slow — usually just down on the cylinder head. And this after I had a custom seat built in January. It’s enough to make me wonder if I’ll ever want a bike with lots of plastic bits. And as Beth says, the odds of a drop are directly proportional to the number of people watching! Unless you’re tired and alone and it’s late at night, damp, dark — then you drop the bike on an off-camber incline (this happened – the second guy who came into the hotel parking lot helped me right her).


Dan and I went to the Bahamas for Christmas and rented scooters for two days. Well, I only touch toes on those, also, but they don’t go too fast and are fun. Squidly — riding around in birkenstocks, sunglasses, bathing suit and tank top. So guess what — Dan stops in front of me to look at an unfinished house in a residential section — I (over)grab the front brakes and They Lock Up. Screech; thump. Minor scrapes on the scooter — serious road rash on Kathy (right elbow, right forearm, right thigh). And one more “hit” on the right shoulder pushed it over the edge; guess it’s now permanently tight.

Bambi’s Mom

The second week in June, Dan and I took off for the east side of Mt. St. Helens. (We had already visited the west side). Forest Service Road 25 had just opened; we’d be among the first to make the trip. And it would be the first time for both of us. My part of the trip had a highlight; read my report to WetLeather. The amazing thing was the amount of snow still on the mountain. FSR 99, which takes you up to Windy Ridge, was still closed; I don’t believe it opened until early July.

Suspension and Lean

In August, I loaded up with camping gear and headed off to Northern California for The 1999 Gather. I was a little worried, because everyone had told me the bike would handle differently loaded. Well, it turns out it handled better! Which led to suspension lessons on Saturday (and a trip to Cascade for new – softer – springs upon my return). On the way home, I took Ca3 north to I-5, and on one of those tight hairpins, leaned over so far to the right that I scraped the right cylinder cover. Had it not been for Rob Fulwell, of WL, I probably still would not know it; I did know it was the “most horizontal” I’d ever been, however!

So, it’s now been a year. I’ve made moderate progress on learning to “wrench” … have an extended “family” up-and-down the west coast and parts east … have made One Long Trip (now have a 400+mile day in a 1600 mile trip) … and have found that the more I ride, the more I want to ride. Guess it’s not a fad! I plan to submit my paperwork for MSF instructor this fall.

1998 Christmas Letter

The Perfect Vehicle: 1st Year

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