Freedom Was Yellow and 125ccs

Motorcycles
 Freedom Was Yellow and 125 cc’s
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Owning a motorcycle had always been a dream of mine as far back as I can remember.  When I bought my first motorcycle, I was about 12 or 13.  God love my parents, they were awesome in letting me collect my small fortune one dollar, one hope at a time for years to collect enough money for my dirt bike.  It turned out to be a 1977 Suzuki RM125 to be exact.  It was a yellow badass, kickstarting 2-stroke, off-road knobby tired dirt bike.  I loved that bike.
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It took a lot of work to get that bike because you had to save up your own money to get it, and you had to work to get permission to buy something like that.  Getting the money required years of focus collecting returnable pop bottles, paper routes, and mowing lawns.  The second part of the work was subtle hints and suggestions year after year…because, you see the permission required your work as well as a movement by God himself to afflict my parents with a momentary lapse of reason that I could capitalize on.
…I was hopeful
…and patient.
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Ever since I could remember I wanted a motorcycle.  I think it started with my cousin Jeff who was much older…he had a little Honda 70 automatic that he took us for rides on.  One day I got to ride in the woods on my own…and a fire started in my heart.  From there, I would write to Honda and Suzuki to get brochures and bought motorcycle magazines.  In 5th grade I was going to get braces and there happened to be a Honda dealership on the way to the orthodontist that my dad and I stopped at.  I remember that he asked if I wanted to get my teeth fixed or a motorcycle.  I was disappointed that he wasn’t really giving me a choice as I, against my wishes, got the braces.
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The seed had been planted though….and a while later God intervened I was given the green light and began to look.  I had learned early, that when you’re given permission, sometimes you had to seize the moment and figure out the “how” later.
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I found bike in the paper, and I remember dad, my brother Brad, and I going to look at it, and, although I don’t remember too many specifics, what I DO remember was that it was $750 and the guy road a wheelie up the street on it.  The wheelie…that clinched it for me.  The cost of the bike that day could’ve been a million dollars and a kidney and I would have signed it all away and cut out my kidney with a pocket knife myself…I wanted it like nothing else before in my life.
I paid for it and we brought it home.
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To the world it was a LOUD, muddy, gas smelling, yellow dirt tearing machine.  To me it was adventure and adrenaline that brought me to life…the most pure freedom I have ever experienced in my life.  It was fast enough to scare you, more wild than you could tame….and not too heavy to pick up when your ego talked you into something that was a little too much for you.
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As far as where to ride, I was allowed to go onto the land across from my parents that was a small tree covered patch, probably 20 acres, and beyond that a large corn field.  Both land owners were absent…and I was set free to conquer and subdue this piece small piece of the planet.  Shortly after I got my bike, my brother got one too and we rode through the woods and fields on tracks that we created and raced on.
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There were some older tracks from others before us that we put back in service, but we also explored and made new trails and courses and would chase each other for hours if we were together, or I would push myself in an imaginary race if I were alone.
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After the first year or two of riding there, my brother moved onto another phase of young men’s lives that involved 4 wheels and a drivers license.  Riding alone most of the time, the forest and corn field became small, and I realized that if I crossed the cornfield, up the gravel road, down the train tracks, down the river road, across other fields… I could run tens of miles from home getting completely and blissfully lost in my exploration without bounds.  Back then, on the edge of Lebanon, you could cross land and field, or in the ditch line of roads and very little people would care.  I’m sure there were those that did care, but you were long gone before anyone could have attempted to stop you.  I will also admit that if anyone had ever tried, I would not have stopped.  I was mindful to keep travel on paved roads to a minimum and avoided crop planted fields so as not to create problems with police and farmers.  I was a conscientious trespassers and law breaker that knew I was playing outside the boundaries…so I was careful not to intentionally aggravate people, and, so was left to wander.
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In my endeavors to discover new lands to conquer and explore, I found roads and trails to nowhere and rode them as far out as I could.
I found abandoned farm houses and barns to explore.
I learned to turn a wrench and fix things.
I learned I had to pay for my toy…as well as pay for mistakes with my own hard earned money.
I learned about the dangers of too much speed as well as too little.
I also found stuff to bring home like an old wooden wagon wheel my parents used in the landscaping.
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The oddest thing that ever happened was that one winter day I happened on a large load of packaged meat, still frozen, that someone had just discarded at the end of a dead end road.  I made two drips to haul back the frozen meat that we kept in a feezer in the garage and fed it to my aging childhood dog, Lisa.  That meat helped nourish her to survive through another year at the end of her life.
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It was fun…It was freedom that I never had experienced before…and I’m not sure that I ever will experience it like that again on this side of heaven.
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Riding that RM125 ended one spring day several years later.  On that fateful day, it was a warm snap after a particularly cold winter spell and the ground was in transition of thawing out.  The old trail in the woods was wet but good to ride on, but when I went into the corn field, a different condition awaited me.
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Upon entering the field,  mud went EVERYWHERE.  The top 2 or 3 inches of the field was a muddy mess.  To make matters worse, underneath all that mud, the ground was still frozen solid.  SO, as things were melting on top, the water was not draining down into the ground…it was sitting on top making more mud.  This made for a particularly slippery, cold, sticky muck.
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There was a 3rd element to this mud: cornstalks.
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Because it was spring, the corn had been harvested in the fall and the cornstalks from harvest were laying on top of the mud.  When one rides across a muddy field, he, or she, will pick up large globs of mud that will jam up in the wheels and fenders and chain.  When you add in cornstalks it becomes a binding agent, an adobe mixture, that jams up everything and won’t turn it loose.  The wheels, the chains…everything binds up and then stalls the engine.
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Halfway across the field, I knew I was in deep and the bike jammed up and stalled in the middle of this mess.  After several attempts to get going, a repeating scenario started.   I would dig out the mud and corn stalks by hand…enough to get the bike going, start the bike and go 30-50 feet, at which the jamming effect would cause the bike stall out again.  This process was slow and backbreaking.  Keep in mind that the frozen sub layer made the mud just above freezing as you were digging it out with wet leather gloves.
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This cycle got me out of the middle of the field, but then something happened with the bike.  I knew that I was straining the engine to get as far as I could before it would die, but then it finally stalled and wouldn’t start.  Already exhausted, I kicked and kicked the start lever for what seemed like an hour…but my bike showed no sign of coming to life.  What does one do when your bike dies in a field?  You push and drag it out by your own muscle power.
And that took what seemed like hours.
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Looking back, at the time, I thought it was half a mile, when in reality, it was probably 50 yards… but it seemed like MILES.  To add injury to insult, I got it to the road and it still would not start.  Already exhausted, I had to clean out the mud one last time and push it home to the tune of about a half mile….and then up the medium sized hill we lived on.  Mom said I came in and crashed for the rest of the day.  She remembers to this day that she had never seen me so worn out in her life.  With the possible exception of a bad experience on trail 100 on the Kentucky Adventure Trail fall of 2015, I suspect she was right.
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The bike never ran again after that day.  I worked on it, messed with it, spent many, many hours trying to give it a mechanical CPR, but it’s 2 stroke heart never beat again.
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Shortly after the dirt bike dying, freedom looked different, it had 4 wheels and a license plate, it was a job, it was a date with a girl, it was going to college, it was life that took over.  Freedom was always present, but now it was partnered with a different responsibility…never quite the same as the adventures I had on that RM125 that I loved.  Sadly, it sat in my dad’s tool room and became covered in cobwebs.
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In the last couple years, I again bought a motorcycle that could bring back some of that freedom feeling.  Lately, I’ve been going on adventure riding trips that remind me of those days of riding.
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“Adventure” riding is packing your camping gear on the back of the bike, riding both on-road and off with a bunch of guys pushing through, well, a couple of days of adventures.  Some of that adventure is ‘good’, some of it is working out ‘problems’.  Only now, at the end of the day,  there’s a few of us and we camp out sipping on bourbon or beer retelling of our stories of the day and our lives.  There’s a freedom in that too, because after picking up friends and their motorcycles all day, after pulling them out of the mud, neither you nor they can really put up much of a front.  Around a campfire with friends (and drink) you drop your guard and allow things out of your head that normally sit quietly undisturbed…like a dirt bike in a dad’s tool room.
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In life, we have freedom and we have responsibility…they are part of what turns boys into men.  And while responsibility is a cornerstone of manhood, you cannot allow it to choke out adventure…it seems to be what keeps a man’s heart alive.
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I may not explain this well, but sometimes you need to dig out that piece of freedom that you lost or forgot about…dust it off, clean it up and do some work on it…take it for a ride.  Remember adventure and freedom…remember the past.  It helps you center on what’s important in the present, and also about what direction you’re heading in the future.
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I’m doing that now and maybe a shadow of that freedom I experienced so long ago, is back, and it’s lifting my spirit.  It just looks a little different now…and it’s not a yellow, 125cc, 2 stroke motorcycle.
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But that freedom is priceless…it was back then…and it is now.
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