At the age of eight, I awoke one summer morning to my father making noise in the driveway. He was making all sorts of racket and then started an engine. Dad always mowed the lawn in the morning, but this time it did not sound like the lawnmower. This was a different kind of engine! Curiosity drove me to get dressed and run downstairs and out to the garage. Sitting there was a shiny Honda Mini Trail 50 dirt bike. I knew it was mine, as dad looked really silly sitting on it. I jumped for joy so much I lost my shoes and wanted to go riding right there! This was the start of my love for motorcycles and a long series of bigger and bigger motorcycles. I graduated from that little bike to larger bikes until I was 13. After three years of saving my paper route money with dad matching every dollar I saved, we walked into the local Yamaha dealer and bought the one bike I could afford. A shiny silver Yamaha Enduro 100, it was my first new bike and it actually had some power. Finally, at the age of 16, I had received my driver’s license, I passed my Motorcycle Safety Foundations Course on that bike as well as my test to get my motorcycle endorsement. I was on top of the world, free to ride my motorcycle to friends’ homes and to school.
Having graduated from college and working at my first real job, I found a nice used touring motorcycle. I never really liked the 1950s retro Harley look, and I honestly never could afford one as it seemed that everyone thought their Harley was worth gold. I wanted something like a gold wing, cool motorcycle gloves, a big road bike I could ride for 1000 miles and smile the whole way and carry everything I needed for a week longs trip. The problem was that every gold wing in my price range had a common problem, A dead alternator. This was either a $1000 fix at the dealer or you had to have a garage where you could remove the engine to fix it. So, I settled for a burgundy bike that I found on the side of the road on my way home one day from work, it was a 1983 Yamaha Venture. It looked a lot sexier than the gold wings that I was looking at and it had a lot fewer miles on the odometer. After talking to the owner twice over a few days, he lowered the price for me and I rode off on my first big touring bike. The comfortable ride and smile on my face were only exceeded by the lack of work the bike needed, I never had to replace anything but tires and oil. Every time I went somewhere I had a smile on my face the whole way, I saw a lot of the Midwest behind those handlebars.
A few years ago, I parked that Venture in the back yard and bought a brand new Yamaha FJR1300. For the first time, I had a NEW bike, and it was really fast! But rapidly I started to find flaws, you could not carry very much on the bike as it did not have a trunk. I had to add handlebar risers as they sit too low for a 5 foot 11 guy, and the seat was horrible to sit on for long rides. These flaws were easy to overcome by buying parts or a custom seat until one day the engine started making noise, A loud tick that the dealer told me was normal until I started blowing smoke. The engine has defective valve guides and Yamaha would not stand behind it even though it only had 10,000 miles on it. While the bike was in the shop, I uncovered the Venture that has sat forgotten in the back yard for three years. I installed a new battery and gave it some fresh gas. She fired right up and ran for me, it was as if it was never put into storage. My quick ride around the block brought me back to why I loved that bike, and why I put so many miles on it. When the FJR was finally fixed and I paid the huge repair bill, I decided to put it up for sale. I spent the next winter with a friend in his garage and took the Venture apart. After looking it all over and giving her a fresh coat of paint, $600 in tune-up parts, filters and tires, I had a like-new old friend. The one bike that took me everywhere and waited patiently for me.
I still ride that Yamaha Venture to this day. It has needed a couple of small repairs due to its advanced age, but I completely trust that motorcycle to take me home no matter what, I think it likes me.