During the school summer holidays of 1963, I was enjoying the freedom and adventures that nearly every 13 year old boy desired growing up in a small town in Central Alberta. Days consisted of bicycle rides, pick up ball games, organized playground activities, exploring the local woods and swimming in the “swimming hole” – just a bend in the river. In today’s terms, I guess we were just “hanging out”!!
There was one activity though, that I was motivated to do every day! I was one of the lucky kids who had a paper route and every day about 4:00pm I went off to pick up my bundle of papers and deliver them. Independence! Although in today’s terms I wasn’t making a lot of money, what I did make was MINE! I could spend it, save it, waste it, whatever I wanted. My parents obviously encouraged me to save some and not waste my money (I’m not sure I ever really learned that lesson) and I managed to save some every week because I had a goal in mind….
My paper route was on the outskirts of town … I was lucky enough to deliver to about 6 city blocks ….. gave me the volume that I could get done in a hurry …. But I also delivered to about 20 homes in the “country”. This was a rural road with acreage homes that seemed to be miles apart. In actuality the total distance of my rural route was probably not more than a few kilometers, however it seemed a long way if I had to walk it while carrying those papers! My salvation was my bicycle. That ride in the country on gravel and dirt roads, cutting through ditches, fields, treed areas and along the riverbank became the greatest part of the day.
BUT ….. I had caught the family bug!! My father rode a motorcycle … my mother still tells stories of riding to country dances in England with her skirt hitched up and sitting on the back fender of my dad’s bike! My grandparents rode motorcycles! Can you see what’s coming?? Of course I had to buy myself a motorcycle to deliver those country papers.
So I saved the money from my paper route and late that summer I went into the local Honda dealership with my dad and bought my first bike – a 1963 Honda 55 Sport – red! 55 cubic centimeters with a manual clutch and four gears. What a dream come true.
So, you say, what was a 13 year old going to do with a motorcycle that he wasn’t old enough to get a license for??? Ride it of course!! Every day that sweet bike took me on my rural route and I tackled the same ditches, fields, woods and riverbanks that I did on my bicycle … oh yes … and the roads … I had to learn to ride well enough on the street to be able to get my license. Of course it was a different time and the cops didn’t bother young kids riding motorcycles on country roads … so I learned to ride before my 14th birthday. And on that December birthday I rode my bike to the License Examiner’s office totally confident that I’d have a license in my hand and be totally legal when I rode home …. It didn’t cross my mind that I might not pass and that they wouldn’t let me ride home! And no-one told me that you had to pass an eye test !!! And more specifically a colour-blindness test!! So I learnt that I had a red-green deficiency … couldn’t see some of the numbers in those silly dot things they make you read. Luckily my helmet had a bunch of different coloured stickers on it, AND the examiner was in a good mood, because he asked me the colours on my helmet, told me that was good enough, and I rode away with my motorcycle license in hand on my 14th birthday!!
So back to the 50 year journey – obviously it’s about motorcycles. This summer of 2014 – 50 years after buying my first motorcycle – I’m joining a group of friends and taking a motorcycle to Bonneville Speedweek in an attempt to break a World Land Speed Record for a 250cc production class motorcycle. Team Swift has so far prepared the bike, shipped it to Victoria and on August 4th, it’ll be on its way to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to make the attempt.
Stay tuned ….