I'd always been terrified of motorcycles (my parent's fault I'm sure). My first experience on a motorcycle was in seventh grade when a buddy and I took a joy ride on his dad's bike. I don't remember what it was, I think it was a Kawasaki 550 (something like that). Anyway we were going through downtown Milwaukie (that's in Oregon), when a cop started to pull us over. We took off, and after a VERY SHORT chase, we low-sided in some gravel. No major injuries, but a major grounding. After that I didn't go near a bike for a couple of years. In high school I was down on bucks and desperately needed a ride. A friend suggested a dual-purpose bike. I thought NO WAY. Well, she talked me into trying hers. It was a little Yamaha and after riding it around in the dirt for half a day, I was hooked. I immediately went to the local dealer. At this point I was living in a small town called Bend, and I think we only had one dealer. I perused the selection of used bikes and found the perfect one (the only one I could afford), a '70 Suzuki TS 250. This was a 300 lb., no suspension, 2-stroke with a top speed of 45 mph on a downhill quite a deal for only $250. It had a separate oil tank so I didn't need to deal with pre-mix, "COOL."
After about a month of spewing a 007-type smoke screen, I was convinced it needed a rebuild. Not having the time or experience to do this myself, the local dealer was kind enough to do it. They charged a mere $450, what a deal. After that it ran well with one exception. The throttle kept sticking wide open, usually at very bad moments. I would turn off the key but the engine would continue to scream until I pulled the choke out all the way. I still don't completely understand this phenomenon and don't care to. I finally broke down and bought a manual for the bike. After an afternoon of messing around, I discovered that when they rebuilt the bike they put the carburetor needle through the retaining plate instead under it. Not being too quick on the uptake, I later took the bike back to the dealer because I didn't think it had as much power as it should. They kindly cleaned out my muffler for a mere $100. Shortly after that the clutch fried. Well, I'd had this bike for two months and was $800 into it. That's $350 more than I paid for my first car a year later. Based on that, you're thinking "this guy's either a glutton for punishment or really stupid." Actually, it's a little of both. Anyway, at this point I decided that if I really wanted to keep my bike, I needed to fix it myself. I tracked down the parts (not easy for a bike this old and living in a small town) and replaced the clutch. The whole job actually went quite well. This was the beginning of a whole new understanding of life.
Over the next few years, this bike became my life. I rode the hell out of it. I could never afford a new set of tires, so I kept riding (on- and off-road) on a bald set of knobbies, great in rain, snow, and ice. Looking back, I'm sure I learned more about life from my first bike than I did from my first girlfriend. Though, I think they probably ended up costing about the same.
I eventually moved to California and had to sell this great piece of machinery. I couldn't get it registered without a lot of work, and it was on its last leg anyway. I reluctantly sold it to a high school kid who "had to have it." He offered me $250, and I tried to tell him it wasn't worth it (at this point four of the six motor-mounts were held on w/silicone and hose clamps, my fix-all), but he insisted. At that price, I threw in the manual hoping he'd get as much out of it as I did...
"High Sides" by Ev'Mon