When you’re 20 years old and plagued with more self-confidence than wisdom, you do stupid things. I was a college sophomore with friends to impress, so I needed wheels. An upper classman had just put his ’46 Harley up for sale and I just knew I had to have it. Straddling a rumbling motor on wheels with a classic windshield and a suicide clutch appealed to my impulsive spirit—and since the guy was selling it for almost nothing, I bought it. Really dumb only begins to describe the decision.
After a few weeks, spring break provided an opportunity to ride The Beast home from school to surprise my folks (school, being in the Chicago area and home located on Long Island, New York). That’s 800 miles. The adventure was irresistible.
Stupid doesn’t consider the consequences of youthful indiscretions, so I was totally unprepared for what happen. In Indiana, one of the two pistons blew. After limping to a motorcycle repair shop, I also blew most of my travel money. By the time I made it to Cleveland the next day, lake-effect snow covered the roads. The foot-activated suicide clutch almost fulfilled its name as a quick change of gears caused the rear wheel to spin out. Sliding down Euclid Avenue behind a horizontal motorcycle in rush hour traffic is not the best way to stay alive. Cars scattered and the sliding bike with its human trailer finally came to a halt. It took a half hour, sitting with my bike on the side of the road to compose myself.