I came late to riding – as long as you don’t count the time when, as a sixteen-year-old, I rented a Suzuki at Wasaga Beach. The idea was, as long as you had a Driver’s Licence and promised to stay on the beach, anyone could ride. The proprietor spent two or three minutes instructing my cousin John and me on the intricacies of making the motorcycle go forward – not so much time spent on braking though. So, there I was ready to go – bathing suit, T-shirt and runners. I’m reasonably certain that the slowest among you can guess where this is going. You’re right – after ten or fifteen minutes on the beach, we were bored (or at least I was) so we headed for the freedom of riding on the roads – with traffic – real cars and trucks. I had, by this time, overcome my initial fear, and had proceeded to totally unwarranted confidence and self-assurance.
Okay, we were now bombing up and down the strip (this was 1960 – long before Wasaga became a Provincial Park, and you could go both ways on the main drag. Soon that became boring, so we headed for the road that runs along beside the beach. That road was basically straight, with the exception of a spot that essentially moved the road one block further away from the beach. That was accomplished by a 90° left turn for one block, and then a 90° right turn to continue the road. I had driven this road countless times, so I can’t even suggest that I was taken by surprise when these turns arrived. At first I was particularly careful (actually scared to death) but after riding through them a couple of times, I regained my sense of overconfidence, and started to lead my cousin through the turns – each time increasing the speed – just to see if I could leave him behind.
For those of you unfamiliar with Wasaga Beach, it is purported to be the world’s longest fresh water beach, and it is blessed with very, very fine sand which packs hard and allows traffic on it when it’s wet, but once it’s dry, it covers everything with a fine layer of non-traction – including the road and the turns. I blew through the left turn, and checked my mirror to see where John was, and then increased my speed since he had stayed fairly close to me. That set me up for the right turn (remember, it’s 90°) going much faster than I realized, which allowed me to panic in the turn, hit the rear brake, and slide into the oncoming lane – which was filled with traffic! Luckily for me, the guy coming towards the turn in the other direction was a wimp – he was hardly even moving – but nonetheless, was driving a much larger vehicle (a 59 Chevy, if I remember correctly – I could tell you if you just let me lie down in front of the car and let me watch the front bumper descend toward my head). As I’m sure that you can figure out that I survived my first motorcycle excursion and needless to say, didn’t go looking for another opportunity to ride for a very long time. Taking the bike back to the rental company (actually, some dude on the beach trying to make a buck) was also a lot of fun – since I didn’t have enough money to repair the bike, plus I was scraped and bleeding in some obvious spots. I’m not certain how I managed to do that (return the bike that is) without getting caught, but I did.
It was 10 or 12 years later before I returned to riding. That made me almost 30 before I seriously got back into riding – hence, the opening sentence. I realize that now, someone of that age would be common in learning how to ride, but, back in the day, I was considered a fossil, since the vast majority of riders were in their teens and early 20’s. Even then, I was blessed with a overwhelming and unjustified sense of confidence, since during the hiatus between rides, I had driven virtually every type of vehicle manufactured, and had spent several years working for A-1 Driving School (later to become Young Drivers of Canada) as an Instructor. There was obviously nothing I had to learn about riding a bike – I had done it once before, and borrowing another cousin’s Suzuki 125, I taught myself and my friend Mike how to ride well enough to pass the test.
The reason that I was interested in returning to riding in the early 70’s was that I had decided to go back to school. Time out for an academic synopsis. I had managed to get through Public and High School without ever opening a book outside of the classroom. I behaved myself throughout and never cut a class. When I got to grade 13 though, I learned how to skip classes and subsequently, was called down to the office at the Easter Break, where the Principal explained that since my average mark was 29.9, there was little chance that I would graduate, and he therefore suggested that I get a jump on the job market. I took his advice, got a job, hated it, and therefore applied to the Ryerson Institute of Technology in the business division. Unfortunately, the skipping disease was still in my system, so they threw me out (even though I was carrying a B+ report card) for not maintaining an 80% attendance rate. At that point, I went back to Grade 13, and promptly failed it once more.
It was 8 or 10 years later, when I decided that not having an education was a pain in the ass, so I grabbed a buddy of mine, and applied to 6 or 7 Universities. Needless to say, I received 5 or 6 outright rejections, and one offer to allow me to write an Entrance Exam, and if I passed it, they would let me in (Mike had passed Grade 13, so he got accepted everywhere). We lived in Hamilton at the time, and the University which accepted me was Brock (in St. Catharines) which meant a commute of 45 minutes each way every day (I had been cured of the skipping disease). Since we were both basically broke, rather than spend a ton of money on gas for our car, we decided to buy a motorcycle together – even though we were told by hundreds of people that it would be impossible to share a motorcycle.
To be continued…
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