Today is a very important anniversary in my life.
Fifty years ago, May 1st 1971, I was 18 years old and had been working in the Inco Pay Office in Copper Cliff, Ontario (a suburb of Sudbury Ontario, then Nickel Capital of the World) since the previous December. Before I moved away from Sault Ste. Marie, I bought a 1970 Yamaha R5 350 cc two stroke motorcycle. As I recall, I paid $912 of borrowed money for it. Because I got it in October, I did not get a chance to ride it before I left town.
The weather forecast for Saturday (May 1st) looked good so I took a Greyhound bus the 180 miles to the Soo on Friday evening. The next morning, after putting the fully charged battery into the bike, I kicked it over. It started right away with that distinctive ringey-dingey-dingey sound that Yamaha two stroke engines of the era were famous for. The R5 350 was a redesigned machine, having been downsized and up-powered from the 1969 350 version To top it off, it was painted a stylish fuchsia and white. Complementing that, I had a metal flake fuchsia helmet, fuchsia shirt and fuchsia socks. Yes, I looked like a neon rider.
You have to understand that I had only ridden a motorcycle once before. The previous year, I was the one sitting on an 80cc Suzuki project bike when it finally started so I rode it around my girlfriend's yard until I tangled with a weeping willow tree and ripped off a cable. Despite that shaky start, I was not deterred from the great adventure before me. Once the bike warmed up, I gamely fastened my helmet, clicked the bike into gear and rode to the nearest gas station. After topping up the tank, I turned east on Highway 17 and rode the 180 miles back to Sudbury. And that, friends, was my first motorcycle ride on the road.
Since then, I have had a few incidents (as my nickname might suggest). Two were in the first two weeks of riding and just two more occurred over the next more than 500,000 miles. Riding has been a constant in my life for the last fifty years. It has been about more than just the motorcycles, though. It has been travels far and wide shared with my wife and partner, Sandy, plus all the great people we have met along the way. As I reflect on our history today, I eagerly look forward to what the next fifty years will bring.