21 January 2007

My One Night Stand With Agnes

I've mentioned I like motorcycles, but I don't think I've written before about how much I have ridden. I bought my first two-wheeler, a Cushman Motor Scooter quite similar to this one, at age 12 with money earned on my paper route. Law enforcement in our rural county looked the other way as several kids my age gave up bicycles and began to ride the streets.

I bought my first motorcycle when I was 16. I rode various bikes right up until the Army called for my services in '66.

I went bike-less, but stayed attuned to the industry via magazines until I came home from Viet Nam. I had never owned a Japanese motorcycle. I had never owned a bike with a two-cycle engine.
I decided I'd kill two birds with one stone and buy a three cylinder Kawasaki motorcycle.
It was incredibly fast... it would accelerate from 0-60 m.p.h. in 3.2 seconds. When asked about it's performance I would comment, "In first and second gear it's the fastest unicycle in the world!"

It wasn't a good touring bike. Too light. Too noisy.
Still, on three occasions, I rode from Savannah, Georgia to Indianapolis, Indiana...
13 hours, on Kawasaki Triples.

The last of those trips was notable: It was on that trip I met Agnes.
Pardon me, but Agnes was a bitch.

In Mid-June of 1972 I came to Indy to attend a motorcycle race (as a spectator).
I attended the race on Saturday, then started my trip South to Savannah at Noon on Sunday expecting to get home there about 1 A.M., grab a few hours sleep, then go to my job as a Flight Commander. The weather was great and I was making great time. I stopped for fuel in Chattanooga, Tennessee and when I paid for my fuel the guy at the cash register asked, "Where ya headed?"
When I told him Savannah he asked, "Then you haven't heard?"
"Heard what?"
"You're headed right into Hurricane Agnes!"

No, I hadn't heard. And bein' a 25 year old from the Midwest I really had no inkling what a Hurricane could do. Besides, I had to be at work tomorrow, so I really had no choice but to press on, right?

The rain started half an hour later as darkness fell.
Light showers at first- no big deal. It was warm, and I was wearing a windbreaker. I was wet, but I'd been wet before.
Just North of Atlanta the rain worsened.
As I entered Atlanta it was physically difficult to keep the wind from blowing the bike out of my lane. I found a Semi-truck and fell in behind him.
Up close, in his wake, I could control the motorcycle.
Just South of Atlanta, at about 9 P.M., I gave up.
Time to find shelter and warmth! I pulled off at the first exit with a motel.
"Sorry, we have no rooms."
Uh-oh. I hadn't thought of that. Everyone with a lick of sense had stopped long ago and rented rooms. The desk clerk tried to help... called all motels along the Interestate highway for miles.
No luck... no vacancies.

I was soaked. I could tell the clerk really didn't want me to even dampen a chair in his lobby, much less curl up and spend the night there. Reluctantly, I put my butt back on the saddle, got back on the highway, and found myself another big truck to follow.

It poured. And poured. The chain on the machine rusted... the automatic oiler couldn't keep up with that amount of water.

At that time, I-16 from Macon to Savannah was incomplete.
I had to get off the good road and travel 60 or so miles on two-lane roads. About half-way between those two towns, in a little place called Metter, Georgia, I was nearly out of gas.
Late Sunday night/early Monday morning... still pouring down rain, the only gas station in town was closed. I had no choice but to stop.

There was a soft-drink machine next to the front door. I found that by sitting on the ground with my back to the wall next to the beverage machine I could stay mostly out of the rain, and the machine gave off a certain amount of heat. Helmet and windbreaker almost kept me warm. I went to sleep.

The attendant arrived at 7 A.M..
Gray and gloomy, rain still coming down, I refueled and set off on the last 2 hours of my trip.

Finally home, I called my Assistant Flight Commander and told him he'd be on his own for the day. I took a warm shower and hit the sack.

Agnes had hosed me down for more than 9 hours. I had to replace the chain... rusted and stretched, it was ruined.

It's another of those things I wouldn't want to do again. But I'm glad I have the story to tell.


k said...

Your story delivery is great :)

the golden horse said...

Okay, you had me going there for a bit. I was about ready to call your little missus.
What a story and it shows how strong our survival really is.
I totally enjoyed it.

Teller said...

I suppose this is proof that wisdom is something that can only be gained by doing otherwise inadvisable things. What a story, though!

The Old Man said...

You have GOT to be shitting me. I bought new a 1972 Kawasaki H1B 500cc 3-cylinder 2-stroke orange runs-like-a-raped-ape bike using my Ohio VN bounty as a down payment. NOT a good idea when you're 22, young, dumb, and full of - as I was sayin', not a great idea. Was my 3rd scoot - 50cc Honda (rode it Cleveland to Bowling Green to see my girlfriend), 250 Yamaha I had when I enlisted, the orange bitch, a 750 Yamaha Virago I LOVED and my latest. My retirement toy. A 2004 800cc Kaw V-twin Classic Geezerscoot. Cost under $5400 out the door brand-freakin' new.

Seems we have a lot in common, amigo...

Life is good.

Timothy Frazier said...

I REALLY need to spend more time perusing your past installments. Somehow I missed this one along the way. Great story.

It reminded me of all the brave/stupid things I did and places I went back when I was young and invincible.

Many of my friends today tell me I have the "unbreakable" syndrome...that I've cheated death so many times I take risks thinking I can't die. I contend that if you haven't been nearly dead at least once in your life you don't know what going on living is really worth.

Of course their idea of risk is commuting in Dallas traffic daily on a motorcycle. They say THAT's crazy.

They have no idea...