Old Friends, Old Bikes, New Memories

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Lieback’s Corner (#12) / 8.8.2011

The last time the three of us were in the same car together was during our music days, probably heading to Philadelphia to play a show about five years ago.

I’m sure the car was loaded with an equal amount of music gear and liquid spirits as we were about to construct memories built upon lunatic times, that night-owl lifestyle I’ve since departed from.

But this all changed Wednesday when my friends Jay and Jared arrived at my house, my former guitar and bass players ready to take a short journey.

And by change, I don’t mean the night lifestyle returned (although some lunacy did), but rather the three of us were once again traveling somewhere surrounded by that sacred inner community that only arrives with true friends.

And it was all because of 1981 Kawasaki KZ550 that cost my friend Jay less than a dollar per cubic centimeter. The KZ was about to be his first bike; after marriage and the usual things that arrive with it (from what I hear), Jay was buying his first motorcycle at 33-years old.

As for Jared, the former tuner-car gearhead got into motorcycling last year, and was becoming more and more of a moto-addict. Jared’s first ride was also a Kawasaki KZ, but a 650.

Since my life completely revolves around motorcycles, I was the chosen one to pilot the older machine home from Bushkill Falls in the Poconos, a little over an hour from my home.

I found the bike for Jay, who was as vague as “find me a Cobra bike.” Cobra meaning the standard-issue machines used on the horrible but wonderful movie Cobra starring vein-popping 80s icon Sylvester Stallone.

Of course I could find him a “Cobra” bike…they were everywhere. Two days later I forwarded Jay an email, saying I found a perfect starter platform that was owned by an East Stroudsburg University student. This student had bought a ZX-6R, and the KZ was just “taking up space.”

Minimal questions were asked regarding riding condition, and I immediately knew the trailer would remain home, and I’d be piloting the KZ home. This all occurred exactly two weeks following my double hernia surgery, but I was released to ride, though minimally. I figured the bike was a standard, and a bit over an hour of riding was as minimal as one could possibly get…

We were supposed to meet the seller before 3 p.m. because he had work, but of course we had to stop for lunch at the ricketiest place from here to there. This unscheduled stop took up some time that involved conversations of various animal wall mounts scattered throughout the establishment except for the actual walls, and very odd-tasting pickles, among other things.

The conversations and memories continued, and we ended up arriving to Bushkill around 3:30 p.m. or so, meeting the seller at a notary.

First thing upon arrival that was troubling was rain. I have so much rain gear it’s ridiculous, but only had a waterproof Alpinestars 365-Gore Tex with me, a beat pair of Diesel jeans and some ugly Sketchers. Lucky I took the full-face Vemar Eclipse over the ¾ Bell…rain stings.

Well, I was going to get wet, this was obvious. But there was more…the meeting point wasn’t able to provide my friend with a plate or tags for the bike, and was only able to notarize the sell/purchase.

We didn’t have a plate, and neither did the KZ. With the business hours dwindling, we had to find a local tags & title business so I wouldn’t have to pilot the bike home illegally for over an hour (but officer, we did put insurance on it!).

So there I am, following Jay and Jared to the tags place our seller supplied directions to. About 10 miles away. In the rain. No plate. Oh, and no blinkers either…

En route to a Progressive Insurance place that does titles and tags, we passed two cops. One was a state trooper who had a car pulled over in my lane of travel; I swear he looked right at the back of the KZ as he was walking to his car. But I guess he knew I wanted to get dry since my jeans were soaked through by this time. Or maybe he was a cocky sportbike guy, realizing that motorcycles with a top speed of only about 90 mph don’t really need license plates…

Once the tags were done, it was a wild ride home. I tested the bike for all problems – it was going to need a fork rebuild, had a flat spot around 5,800 rpm and it needed brakes…really, really bad.

And yeah, those tires…as I said, lucky it stopped raining. And I can’t forget the cracked clutch-lever bracket that was held on artistically by a bent, golden and rusty coat hanger…

But once we got the KZ safely home to my garage, the conversations started, and Jay went to immediate work on clutch/throttle control and figure 8s on my desolate road. Having a slim background in off-road dirt bikes, Jay was immediately showing smoothness, even if his 6’5″ stature looked a little odd on the tiny KZ550.

Since Jared didn’t have his ride with him, I fired up the R6 racebike and the VFR, andjoined Jay on the road. There was a quick return of that youthful excitement as we helped coach Jay on the little things needed for a beginning street rider.

Then the rain came again. The bikes were throttled into my garage, and we all celebrated with a cold Blue Moon Pale Ale. By the time Jared was finished with his first beer, he ripped all the bulky stuff from the KZ, cutting the undertail and removing some ugly storage racks and saddle bags.

As we sat there fooling with the KZ, the laughter and talk continued. It was a return to the past, as if those years we all spent together, six nights/mornings a week, playing, practicing and partying. Young and brave at that time with little to no responsibility. And all three of us all know we secretly crave that former lifestyle, but responsibilities now have the upper hand.

But a $500 KZ550 returned a bit of that fun, and will hopefully bring another set of memories….healthy ones built from non-stop motorcycle adventures. But one thing’s for damn sure – those future memories will likely begin at a time when we used to end our conversations and sleep the day away…

Stay twisted; throttle yr soul
– Ron Lieback

Lieback’s Corner is the Online Editor’s column, which delves into RL’s recent motorcycling mind breaths and wanderings.