My Last Ride

My Last Ride



I was sixteen when I begged or conned my father into cosigning a loan to buy a new Honda 50. They cost a whopping $330 at the time and I was determined to be the first of our gang to have one. I negotiated the deal for $325 and told the salesman I didn’t need a helmet. My father had dropped me off at the dealership and left to play poker at Herbie’s bar. He told me he didn’t want to see my first ride because he didn’t like the sight of blood. The salesman let me drive around the back of the car lot for a few minutes, as I practiced running through the gears. No motorcycle license required back then. After 30 or so stalls I started to get the hang of it and was ready for the road. I pulled onto Main Street and rode a few blocks, planning to take a left at the light. A cop in front of me also had the same idea until I smashed into the back of his cruiser, scrapping my entire left side and destroyed the Honda 50 with less than two miles on the odometer. It was my first time on a bike and while I don’t remember the pain from the accident or the scabs healing, I do remember making twelve loan payments for the Honda 50 that never started again. 
 
Now move ahead ten plus years later. Coming out of Nam I met a bunch of vets at a neighborhood bar whose plans in life were to go to community college and collect the GI bill, sell a little import and enjoy life back in the states. One particular character was a barrel-chested man of many dimensions: a biker, hiker, pool player, wine connoisseur, chess player, bridge player, reader, a lover of life.
 
Skip ahead another ten years and we’re now hanging at a new bar. This night we had gone early to play duplicate bridge. At one table two grannies, in no uncertain terms, told us THEIR table was nonsmoking. My partner, the biker, slowly took a cigar out of his breast pocket, pealed the wrapper off, licked it in preparation for lighting and proceeded to chew it during the three bridge hands we played. We had top hands against the intimidating gray-hairs and he never lit it. Back at the bar where we were regaling everyone over the biker trumping the grannies’ intimidation tactics, I drank shots while the biker nursed a beer. Finally, the biker asked if I wanted to go out back to do a “doobie.” Standing in the moonlight the biker said, “Well, do you have a “doobie” or not.” A ploy of his he worked too many times on me. Of course I did and after firing it up he said to me, “Let’s go for a ride.” I told him of my first and only experience on a bike and he shot back, “You’re a wimp.” So he was going to intimidate me, just like the grannies. He was triple-dog-daring me. 
 
That was my last ride on a bike. We went up Birch mountain at a high rate of speed, around curves I wasn’t prepared for, past the old Nike site with the road under repair. All the time the biker is laughing and screaming, “You gotta love it.” What seemed like eons, but has probably fifteen minutes, we were back idling in front of the bar. I asked him if he wanted to come in for cocktail, acting nonchalant until my legs stopped shaking. He said, “No thanks. It’s a good night to ride.”

 

Dave Jackson
Columbia, CT
August, 2007