"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
I first fell in love with motorcycles when I was 5 years old. Back then, Sears sold motorcycles, and the bikes hypnotized me.
Sears' bikes sat right next to the hardware department, chrome gleaming under the cheap fluorescent lights. Huge wheels, massive motor-driven chains that thrust the bike down the road at speeds only dreamt of by little boys like me, who hadn't quite worked up the nerve to ask dad to remove the training wheels from the Schwinn.
Even though I was only 5 and the possibility of ever legally driving a motorcycle still a distant 11 years away, my mother was so upset with my motorcycle fixation that she took me aside and explained my chances of EVER being on a motorized vehicle with less than four wheels: They weren't good.
At age 16 and two years into my first job, my bank account rose dangerously close to allowing me the freedom of the road. As I searched in vain for that illusive cherry red Camaro owned by some old lady who drove it to church on Sunday, a thought occurred to me. I had more than enough for a motorcycle. Surely my mother hadn't meant to make it a lifetime ban. It was my money, right? I'd sit down and reason it out with her now that I was grown.
I'm not sure, but that might have been the first time I ever heard my mother curse. Bringing up the “but it's my money” angle had been a BIG mistake.
Fast forward five years, and my best friend and I are standing in the Harley-Davidson dealership — though only briefly, because Harley is and always was one of the most expensive motorcycles on the market and they don't like cash-deprived kids standing around, sucking up the expensive air in their showrooms. Nonetheless, we cooked up a plan. We were both a year away from college graduation and had pretty good night jobs. We'd seen ads for cheap Japanese motorcycles almost within our price range. There was just no way our mothers could object this time. It really wasn't their decision anymore. We were men.
I'm pretty sure my mother would eventually have let me back in the house if I'd gone through with it, and that the threat of having to “sleep on that damn motorcycle in the street” was a joke. But she outsmarted me. She offered to help my buy a Mustang.
Fast-forward another 20 years — a little better paycheck, a little less hair. There I was at the gas station watching my dollars fly into the gas tank of my Oldsmobile when I saw a guy on a scooter zip past. Suddenly that guy didn't seem like such an idiot. In fact, at 70 miles per gallon on average for a scooter, that guy looked like a genius. My wife — reasonable woman — immediately recognized the genius of my plan. No more pouring $200 a month into our sedan — and the scooters were so cute. I resolved to give a motorized two-wheeler another try.
This time I was thwarted by the Dork Factor. The helmet was the breaking point Big helmets look ridiculous on a person riding a scooter. Considering the fact that I fight a daily battle to avoid being the biggest dork in any given room, it was a no go.
With my wife's somewhat amused and skeptical agreement, and a promise on my part to first complete a training course, I was ready for a motorcycle. Except for one last thing: I had promised my mother I'd never ride a motorcycle, and she'd promised she'd help me buy a car when I was old enough. She'd kept her promise, but I was about to break mine. So, at 43, before I could finally live my dream, I had to go ask my mommy. She said OK.