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Created April 23, 2016

When I Fell in Love With Riding
A Short Story by
Cappy Paxton

This story begins many decades ago; after the Wright brothers; before the Neil and Buzz landed on the moon. Not a word more until I confess something that may damage my reputation. Roston CappyI was born and raised in Southern California. There, I’ve said it. Surfing was my passion; hanging out at the beach was what I lived for. The tale I’m about to begin is primarily set around “Law Street” – a beach accessed from atop the cliff that bordered the ocean. The Law St., located in Pacific Beach, ended before a grassy patch overlooking the sandy beach. The surf break, where surfers took off on their ride, was known as Law Street – it was only logical that the “Law Street Surf Club” was born. A rowdy bunch of Hodads we were – I’m not talking about the burger joint Hodads (Hodads) in Ocean Beach, Ca. The Beat Generation was waning, weed was a rare intoxicant as the “hip” phenomenon was in its budding stages – a river of Busch Bavarian flowed and the party began.

Up to this point in time, other than the Velzy/Jacobs balsawood board borrowed continuously from a kindly neighbor, my rides were Vespas and maybe a Honda 90 if I was lucky. But being the stud in my own mind that I was, I figured I could ride anything. I knew no fear. Like so many teen-age California beach bums, I was invincible.

One typical San Diego summer day, blue skies and 80 degrees, a monster came rolling down the street. It bellowed, roared, and wheezed its way with a thunder I’d never heard, stopping right in front of me. The rider was a Gremmie that hung around Law Street hoping to make inroads into the club. He’d been known to bring a few sixers of Busch around to hand out. We could magically make them disappear with little or no effort – he was ignored.

The Wannabe stood by this magnificent machine, beaming with pride, knowing he had impressed us beyond his wildest dreams. I carefully inspected every detail of this beauty. The emblem on the tank read BSA. I had no idea what that meant, but I liked it. I was told it was a 650. 650!!! They make them that big? I suppose he saw my excitement and asked if I wanted to take it for a ride. A nanosecond it took me to say, “Hell yeah!” Not much longer before I was astride the machine, ready to roll. You have to picture this – there I was, straddling 650 CC’s of motorcycle wearing surf trunks, no shirt, and no shoes. Luckily it was running because I’d have a whole new story to tell if I’d had to kick it over with a bare foot – electric starters were unheard of in the day. At that time I didn’t have a scar on the inside of my calf from an exhaust pipe, which came soon enough – another story, another time.

I got it into gear with no trouble at all, clutch in, one click up. It never occurred to me that the gearshift was on the wrong side of the engine or that in the U.S. first would be one click down from neutral. I revved ‘er up and smoothly released the clutch lever – thank the stars I didn’t pop the clutch.

This is where it got a bit dicey. To this day I swore that if I didn’t have balls I would have crashed. I believe my sleeve length increased 2 inches as my shoulders came just short of popping out of their sockets. My crotch caught on the rear license plate or I would have been a grease spot on the road. I quickly pulled myself forward on the seat, ignoring the overwhelming need to upchuck, while twisted off the throttle, barely coming to a stop before I went over the cliff. Breathing heavily, I engaged the clutch again with much less gas. There it was … that moment … the very instant I was hooked on two wheel machines. What power – what freedom!

The guy wanted to sell it. He let me take it on an extended trip around town, which I abused and kept for much longer than his intention. After doing research about them over the next few decades I’m thinking it was a model A-10. I didn’t know that at the time. She certainly had her quirks. I was blazing down highway 80 – now known as I-8 – and it quit, just stopped running. I’d pull over on the shoulder, through traffic, and let it cool down. When it cooled enough I could start it again – and away I went, throttle twisted to the max. I knew no other way to ride. Motorcycle means fast, right? My protection was a t-shirt, Havlicek sneakers and blue jeans.

I never did actually hold the title. I only maneuvered my way into keeping it for a while. To this day I’m not sure how I pulled it off. I just knew I wanted more of the motorcycle thing – I couldn’t get enough. My blood was infused with motorcycle lust. I never wanted to live without one. Over the years there were times without, for one reason or another. Those were sad times.

To this day I’ve never lost my love of riding. Here we are in the 21st century and riding is still a passion, surfing has fallen by the wayside. Though I no longer ride daredevil fast, I enjoy it like nothing else in life. I finally got around to a windshield in 2000. The marvel of an electric starter is something I couldn’t live without in my later years. My knee surgery to repair the torn cartilage brought that notion home to roost. We put large hard bags on them now and the CC’s have gone through the roof. Times change, fashions change, tastes change – the thrill of two-wheel adventure is a constant. My mantra is – Ride `em if ya got `em.

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