Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Back in the Day

Back in the day, BMW sought to penetrate the college market with civilized and reliable motorbikes. This postcard was part of a market effort to build that image. That aside, my friend Peter was likely one of only a handful of American people in that demographic enjoying a BMW bike. I caught the fever as well and soon had my own BMW in 1970. I say my own, but these bikes were shared between us. I rode Peter's bike often and he rode mine as well. His was stolen in New York City, but I inherited his Craven bags when I got mine.

Mine was bought from an old guy in Altus Oklahoma. He might have actually not been that old, but compared to me he was an old timer. I would go, from time to time, to a roadhouse where true shit-kicking music was played, young men acted out ritual stupid behavior and much beer was consumed while a country band played upon a stage for the listening pleasure of the crowd. Only one person sat at the bar, as I remember, and it was this old guy who rode a BMW to the bar. And he did not drink beer, he drank Cognac. For all I know he brought his own bottle. I always greeted him when I entered and my last words, carefully timed at a break in the deafening music were to him. Every conversation ended with "... and that bike is yours for the right price."

So more than a year after leaving Altus and getting settled in Denver, I took a trip, helmet in hand, to that forlorn part of Oklahoma via a bus to OK City and hitch hiked to that bar (a story in its own right) and arrived in town in the middle of the night, pocket stuffed with money to make the bike mine. Bar closed at 4 AM. I crashed someplace and waited until evening to find the old guy. Just as I had hoped, there was the bike parked in the exact spot I was used to seeing it. I looked it over by the night of a neon Bud sign, and entered the bar. Just as I hadn't missed a week of conversation the old guy said "Hi," and I took up a table as far from the stage as possible. During a break I walked up to him, had some small talk, asked how the bike was doing and judging that he was sober enough to remember the sale in the morning, popped the question.

"How much would it take to ride away on that bike right now? "

The answer was a little more than my expectation, so I removed the short stack of hundred dollar bills I had planned to invest in his retirement. He glanced at it as if it were a poker wager and indicate in body language more than words that we could do business. He said he's go home and get the title at mid-night when he normally left (didn't want to tip off his wife that something was going down) and meet me there in 'a while' to consummate the deal.

He did and we did. It turned out he lived a very short distance from the bar, about ten minutes was all it took to go and find it and return. The bar tender and another inebriated patron witnessed the signing and we went out under the light of neon to exchange keys, manuals and a few extra parts he offered with the bike. I offered him a ride home and he said he'd walk or get a ride with someone else. I started up the bike and rode to the trailer of a Air Force buddy and knocked on his door at 1 AM. He was actually happy to see me. That is a friend.

Next morning I was off for Denver. I'll post the one picture I have of that trip soon. You'll like my 'do.


erica said...

I wish I could express how glad I am that you have a blog and are getting some of these stories out to share with us and everyone else. It's good reading, man.

wess said...

It was 1960, Germany, I had arrived on Christmas Eve,compliments of the USAF, having never been away from home. I quickly made friends with an Airman who was about to return stateside. He owned a 1956 BMW that had bee recently divorced from its sidecar. One backseat drive was all it took, I was hooked. Motorcycles weren't allowed on Base, we had to park them in the trees about 100 yards away from the main gate to the Base. The garage was a tarp slung over the bike with rocks to hold it down.
When I left Germany four years later, the bike's name was "The Bitch" (an endearing name christened by my wife), it had got me through one serious accident [involving the tearing out of a VW's engine followed by a 400 yard skid on her jugs (the bikes)], and a beautiful baby-blue paint job with all new chrome. Like in the WWII movie, "The Key," she was passed on to a new arrival upon my departure from Der Faterland.
There are a myriad stories hiding between the above lines; bikes and blizzards, secret rendevous', "pack" weekends just to name a few, all a result of that metallic steed. And a few years later I would find myself once again on a BMW, tearing through the streets of Athens, Greece but that's another story for another time.
And I always wore a tie!
A retired but not tired x-rider.