The Spring of 1982 – Part 1

I was a Navy Corpsman, all of 21 years old.  I was a bad ass.  I had a 1972 Harley-Davidson Sportster with a huge front rake and a seat from hell.  Padding?  We don’t need no stinking padding!

I’m not sure if it was the nickel plated Harley that drew me to a different crowd, or if the crowd found me.  But I started hanging out with a different group – mostly people like me – wanna be “thugs”, pretending that we were bad-asses.

We weren’t.  But we did start hanging out a lot together.  First there were just three of us, then seven, then twelve.  We met almost every weekend somewhere in the Florida panhandle and went for rides – sometimes short poker runs and sometimes longer trips – generally not longer than a long day.

Eventually someone suggested we do a longer ride.  After a few weeks of planning and talking we finally decided to ride to Oregon.  From Florida.  We were idiots.

First, I never spent that much time on a bike before.  Second, I didn’t have a bike made for touring (and oddly enough, now that I do, I rarely take it for long rides!).  My bike had one purpose (that’s what the guy I bought it from told me anyway!).  My bike was built to get me laid.

As it turns out, the bike was much better at long trips than anything else.

Anyway, so we got together over a few weeks and laid out this ambitious plan – we would ride East across Florida to I-95, up to Atlanta, then West to Oregon.  Yep.  That’s about all the planning we did. (We went east to Atlanta to meet up with the brother of one of the riders – why he couldn’t ride West to meet the rest of us, I can’t remember).

So we figured it would take two weeks, and that we would average 500 miles a day.  It took three weeks, and we averaged about 300 miles a day.  If not for a very good friend, I would have been AWOL (I was in the Navy, remember?)

This might be a good time to admit that this story is not 100% accurate.  It’s taken from a 25 year old memory, and I’ve retold the story so many times I can’t remember where I “fudged” things a bit.  It is mostly true though – the trip, the gunplay, the calf, and the cops all did happen.  Where, exactly, things happened, I can’t be sure in every case.  For a lot of reasons.  I was young, reckless, and invincible.  I didn’t worry near as much about things as I do now :).  I didn’t have GPS, Google Maps, or a cell phone. This was a long time ago :)

So we left on a brisk morning – gloves, jackets, leather chaps, no helmet (I was invincible, remember?).  Huge goggles.   Scarf around the head.  On a 650 pound raked out Harley.  Oh yeah, I looked like a bad-ass.  All 140 pounds of me.

Probably 8 of us had Harley’s (this would account for most of the extra week the trip took).  A couple guys had Honda’s or some other rice-burner bike.  Nobody had a BMW (none of us could afford them then, and BMW wasn’t much interested in financing anyone like us at the time – I know!)

But we were all bad-asses.  We all wore the same black T-Shirt that read Ã¢â‚¬ÂHeading for trouble” on the front in large block letters, and “It wasn’t me” on the back.  Oh yeah – VERY cool.

We all carried basically the same things – a pup tent, sleeping bag, some food, extra clothes (not a lot of them though – we bought new underwear and shirts along the way – none of us had the room for a lot of “stuff”).  We all carried beer.  Just because you never know.

And most of us carried some type of weapon.  These were the Wild West days in the US – back before computers kept all of the perverts in their mother’s basements.  In the old days, they actually went out into the sunlight.  Some level of protection was deemed a good idea.

So off we go (finally, right?) into the dawn.  Riding east.  Into the sun.  Brilliant.  Five hours riding into the rising sun.  So far, we are geniuses.

In Jacksonville, Florida we had the first bike die.  Yes, a Harley – but bad 1980’s Harley’s really isn’t what this post is about (though it will seem like it).  We coasted into a Harley dealership and waited for the truck and trailer to bring in our friend’s bike.  It had a “wait three days for parts” problem.  We discussed it and decided we needed to keep moving on.  The guy with the dead bike was just left behind.  He wasn’t the last.  He might be the luckiest.

But now it’s almost midnight.  And I have a big day tomorrow, and a huge weekend in front of me.  Tomorrow is the Battle of Flowers parade.  Third largest parade in the country. The city is basically closed.   Saturday is the King William’s parade and fair.  I have friends coming over.  I need to complete a code review of a LOT of code by Sunday.

So it may be a few days before you get part two.  I seriously doubt part two will be the last part.  This is a long ride – Pensacola, FL to Atlanta to Seattle (I know – Washington State wasn’t in the plan) to Eugene, Oregon (where a cow was born).  From there, all the way down the west coast to San Diego (where I had lived for some time before this trip).  Then almost the entire length of Interstate 10 from the West coast all the way to the Florida panhandle.  The US is large.  Very large if you are on a ten year old Harley Chopper with no seat padding to speak of.

So look for part two in a few days.  Once the story is complete, I’ll combine it into one post.  Right now I would rather just share a bit of it at a time.  It brings back some of the memories that way, and it gives me time to reflect on what I might want to not share.  I have no idea where any of my other riders are anymore.  One of them could be a Governor or something.  I don’t want to embarrass anyone besides myself!