Very soon after I got out of high school, I joined the USAF. I was only 17, so my mommy had to sign consent for me :). The next training class for the job I chose did not start until the following year so I was on delayed enlistment and had about 9 months to have some fun. I knew just how I wanted to do it. I had my eye on the prettiest candy-apple red, white, and blue 1984 VF750 Interceptor I had ever seen.
But I was poor as dirt and had no money. At the same time, I was going on 5 years without a bike. So, I got me a job in a medical supply company warehouse in Decatur and borrowed the money for the bike from the only person in the family that had money….good ole uncle Joe. Desperate times / Desperate measures….and so forth.
I rode as much as I could until the day I had to leave for basic training. Then it was off to tech school…..looonng training program. And by the time I finished the program, I had already been reading the cycle mags about Yamaha’s new attempt to compete in the “Big” sport bike market. I had already made up my mind by the time I got to Ellsworth AFB…Ima’ get me a FZR(1000….Genesis..oooh….Pure Sports….oooh oooh). The timing could not have worked out better. Uncle Sam was picking up and delivering my Interceptor. The local Yamaha dealer was due to get the FZR any day. And, before my Interceptor made it to the base, I had it sold to my best good buddy JT. I was living large on my $750.00/month and had saved up some money. And with the money from the Interceptor, plus what I had saved, I walked in the day they assembled it and laid down a whoppin’ $5400.00 cash and rode out on my brand new red, white, and blue 1987 FZR 1000.
My other buddies on base had already been talking smack about their Ninjas and GSXRs. And, while JT was putting around town and the base on his new (to him) Interceptor, I was out in the Black Hills getting acclimated to my new ride. In just a short time, I was teaching them Ninja and GSXR boys some fine lessons in humility….not that teaching lessons was the goal….it was just the inevitable playing out. The FZR was a superior machine and I was just barely lucky enough a rider to prove it. I gotta’ admit, it was a little fun to stiffle some of them cocky pie-holes. I was a Yamaha fan from 6 years old.
Within a few weeks, JT was ready to hit the Black Hills with the rest of us. We hit the Black Hills on a Saturday and burned up some twisties….waiting at every turn for JT. He was doing real good, we all thought, for his first time out on a fast ride.
Way too soon, it was time to head back home. It was a (mostly) casual ride back….but JT saw it as his chance to keep with the pack. Considering what we’d been doing all day, we didn’t think twice about it. We were so pumped up on adrenaline and young men’s (kids actually) general stupidity, we were out of the Black Hills and half way through Rapid City before we realized JT was missing.
Dead-gum….my heart went from Cloud 9 to hundred pound brick in about 2 seconds. There was a couple ways to get back into town so we split up. We had no idea, but JT was long on his way to the base hospital, and his beautiful candy-apple red, white, and blue Interceptor was back up in the hills at house where the folks that found him lived:
There were a few slick spots on Sheridan Lake Road and I just knew he must have went outside in one of the slippery curves….that’s where I’m headed!!!
Well, I was zippin’ back out of town, scanning side to side like a Cylon Raider, hoping to see JT in a parking lot or gas station or anything besides flat on the road. Still scanning left and right, feeling worse and worse by the minute. I looked ahead just in time to see two cars racing to the left turn signal (one already in the turn lane and one in my lane) then the loser of the race stop full in the road right in front of me. Holy crap!!! I’ll never stop that quick. I locked the rear and made my way to the ground….as I had done previously on many a dirt bike rides. I slid a short distance and tried to stand up….but I was still sliding and my shoes got good traction….and boy did I do a hard forward faceplant. Had a dang good helmet (even if it was a BMW flip-up). It held together fine and I got right back up…just lightly rattled. The FZR continued to slide on its shiny (realatively) new plastic, all the way underneath the stupid punk car. I was a stupid punk too so I’m not uncomfortable saying it like that.
All things considered, it could have easily been a lot worse. Just paint, stickers, and plastic. No frame damage at all…the FZR was just about perfectly parallel with the back end of the car when it impacted.
But what about JT….we still didn’t know. Well, the Po-Po that came to my crash told us he heard about JT and that he was OK and probably back at Ellsworth by now. Busted leg and maybe a crack in the sternum.
We were jubilant with relief. Eventually, the whole gang got caught up again and everyone was OK and happy that JT was not dead. We were no less stupid than when it all started and thought it would be cool to sneak in a get well soon present to our fallen pal.
I think JT learned the most that day, although we never called it “Ride Your Own Ride”….we all kinda’ absorbed the spirit of that message and toned it down a little. And the competitiveness evolved more into who could sneak up and hit the other guy’s kill switch more than who could get to the waterfall at the end of Spearfish Canyon first. I used that old Beemer helmet as a teaching aid later on….it was eat up pretty good with road rash. There was no helmet law in SD and whenever a new riding buddy came along that was too cool to wear a helmet, I’d eventually drag it out and show ‘em. Most of the time it worked. –