Motorcycle Commentary: Exceeding Your Dreams

There’s nothing like going back to your high school alma mater for a Career Day event to stir up some nostalgia, as well as generate a fresh perspective on the present.

Almost by chance, I found myself at my high school with a fellow alum, walking through the not-so-hallowed halls on a Friday afternoon after school was out. We noticed that the school has a new mascot, and the kids hanging out look and dress quite different—though they’re still high school kids.

A walk over to the old metal shop building revealed that metal shop has been replaced by a CAD class—instead of welders, rollers, and drills, there were rows of computer monitors, keyboards, and mice.

Exceeding Your Dreams | Editor's Letter
Don Williams wanted to be a motorcycle magazine editor since a freshman in high school. It became more than just a dream come true.

A teacher was there, and we inspected some of the work of the students. It was impressive, and something that was far beyond anything we imagined as students. Of course, none of those kids could manufacture a stand for a motocross bike from stock steel as I had done.

I wanted to check out a favorite courtyard, so we walked across campus to take a look. It was still there, and it hadn’t changed at all. A classroom door was open and we poked our heads in.

The teacher, who was at her computer, was initially wary of my query, “Are you busy?” However, when I followed it up with we’re alumni, she perked right up. It turns out she thought we were parents there to ambush her about who knows what.

We spent an hour talking about our experiences at the school, and how it is now for current students. The similarities and differences were definitely interesting for all of us.

I mentioned that about 10 years earlier I had spoken to the journalism class as editor of Robb Report MotorCycling, and that prompted an instant invitation to participate as a Career Day presenter. Being someone who is happy to pontificate to kids, I instantly accepted the offer.

In preparing my presentation, I realized that almost none of the kids there would care about motorcycles—and it turned out they did not. Instead, I spoke to them about following your dreams.

When I was a freshman at the school, I told the counselor that my goal was to be a motorcycle magazine editor. As you can imagine, he mocked my career choice and, inexplicably, tried to push me into a career as an engineer—something I had no aptitude for. Yes, I told the students about that experience.

When I was a senior, I rode my dad’s Yamaha 175 Enduro to school daily—a concept that seemed quite alien to the students—most of them are probably driven to school. I explained that I wasn’t old enough for an automobile driver’s license, but at 15-and-a-half years old, California was happy to let me tear around the streets on a motorcycle. It was a big step up in status at school from my Huffy 10-speed road bike.

I talked to the kids about following your dreams, and the possibility that you might just achieve them. I did the right things, such as getting a BA in Journalism and contributing to various publications along the way.

Finally making my way to being editor of a prestigious publication such as Robb Report MotorCycling wasn’t even something I considered possible as a high schooler—I had only ridden and raced dirt bikes.

As you probably know, Robb Report Motorcycling morphed into Ultimate Motorcycling magainze and UltimateMotorcycling.com, which you’re reading now. Rather than just riding dirt bikes, I also get to ride every sort of street bike imaginable. It’s actually more than a dream come true.

I’ve been test riding the 2018 Husqvarna TE 150 the last few weeks, which offers me a direct connection to the two-strokes I rode as a youngster. While I love the incredible crop of four-stroke dirt bikes, there’s something special about charging down a trail on a 203-pound motorcycle with a highly responsive motor. With that comes the ring-ding sound and the intoxicating smell of burnt premix.

Dreams are great, and achieving beyond those dreams is even better. I think that’s a good message to students today—if you keep at it, you can do even more than you think you can.

Photo by Kelly Callan

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