Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Uneasy Rider, Part Deux


After returning to Richmond in late May 1967, I had to consider that I'd been reclassified by the draft as 1-A. Desiring to miss such frolics as the Tet Offensive, I quickly applied to the Univeristy of Richmond for a full summer session (I was pissed off at VCU, remember). I had to keep the bike for two reasons: UR was much more expensive, so buying a car again was not an option, plus summer was coming up and I was rarin' to pin that tachometer in the afternoons. I got a job proofing checks in the evening at First & Merchants, and took bags of 'em up to the Federal Reserve on my bike (no traffic downtown at 9 PM). All went well, especially the time on Southside when a lovely lass jumped off someone else's bike at a stop light and onto mine. Livin' large, for sure.
The first indication that I was not Superman was when I approached a turn in the "P" parking lot and saw two things, too late: a very large pine tree in front of me, and nothing but gravel between me and said tree. I went down, then underneath my machine, skidding right up to the tree but not hitting it. My jacket, shirt, and belt were all completely missing on the back as well as lots of skin. And as fickle fate would have it, I'd just filled the gas tank and the cap popped off, soaking me and that raw back.
I had never been in shock before, and believe me, you don't know what's up. I wandered into class, got a lot of turned up noses and dirty looks (imagine the smell), but no help. I returned to the scene, righted the bike, saw there was a trace of gas left, started it and drove the mangled thing all the way back home. Cliff's Marine picked it up on a trailer and replaced footrests and most of the front. When winter came, I bicycled to school and stored my steed in a garage three blocks from Cliff's (Marine, not Clyph's). Come spring, I decided to start it (it did, right away) and drive it to CM for a tuneup and state inspection. Wouldn't you know a police car stopped me in that brief three blocks and gave me a ticket for the expired inspection.
With warm weather back, I was tooling down Quioccassin road and saw a huge dirt pile where a new church was to be built. My Yamaha was built for the highway, but off the road I went and right up the 30' pile. I lost momentum shifting down and arrived at the top only to see there was no downhill -- there was nothing but a vertical dropoff. I squeezed the front brake lever so hard it almost snapped off, the wheel dug in up to the brake, and I stopped in breathless astonishment at my vast stupidity. Backed down, just a little wiser and in one piece.
Then there was the time I approached a "T" intersection with a car coming up on the left to a stop sign. Again, I was astonished as the car blew through the sign, headed right for me. In a split second, I saw my choices were: I could go under him, or bounce off the side and go under the next car, or accelerate and hope to pass in front and hit the iron fence on the other side. Fence it was. I hit the curb, flew through the air avoiding the impaling spikes on top of the fence, once more losing skin and the front end of the Yamaha, which fortunately was very good at quick acceleration.
OK, even I saw the odds were not on my side, like a gambler who's put his food money in the slot machine once too often. I sold my much-repaired friend, who had served his idiot driver well. Back to the bicycle for the next few years.
Of course, I was run down on the bicycle twice, too.

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