Motorcycle Madness

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My first “motor-bike” was a home made Whizzer that I built back in 1963 with an old Sears bike and a lawn mower engine. It sort of looked like this but not quite as cool.


My first real motorcycle was a used Triumph 650 TR6 set up for motocross. This was the bike used in The Great Escape. Steve McQueen‘s fondness for the model is well known.


I bought it in 1969 while at Williams College. It sort of looked like this, but mine had a single seat, and a funky blue and green paint job. It leaked oil, and had LOTS of electrical issues. For my big adventure, I tried to ride it from Williams to Berkeley, but it blew up outside the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. So I hitched a ride with a trucker in an Army Deuce and a half to Cleveland and sold it. I bought a ticket and flew to San Francisco with my girlfriend from Bennington.

A Harley Sportster followed but it was short lived. Then in ’71, came a Kawasaki Mach III.

Kawasaki H1 500 MachIII 70 1

The Mach III was wickedly fast with horrible handling. It was super light and spindly. With my accident prone brother-in-law on the back, we came into a hairpin and I leaned hard right. Jeff leaned left. We went off the road and crashed. About an hour later, I came to and drove home in the dark, stuck in 3rd gear with the forks askew and the headlight shining straight up. I put it back together and later that year, my best friend from high school took it out for for a joy ride while I was down in Costa Rica and totaled it. These bikes are now collector items.

A few years after returning from Guam, my oldest son Gaired, bought a Yamaha R6 sport bike so I got a Harley to slow him down. For what it’s worth, Sonny Barger and I pumped iron at the same gym in Cave Creek.


My younger son Derrack, took it out for a joy ride and ran it into a rock wall. Somehow he managed to get the bike into the back of a pick up truck and down to the Harley shop. We rebuilt it with a big bore kit for more torque and HP.


Here’s a picture of it with a Corbin seat and straight pipes.


The Harley was sold to build up the Buick Riviera which is still a work in progress. A few years later, Derrack bought a Honda RC 51, Honda’s answer to Ducati race bikes.


So now it was time to slow Derrack down. A Communist mechanic in Tucson suggested the Yamaha XS 1100 as the best bike ever. A retired Judge sold us a ’79 Yamaha XS1100 and threw in a parts bike. With elbow grease, and parts from Dime City Cycles, and Mike XS, “the Judge” looked this:


We think the Judge warrants recognition in Bike EXIF.

The parts bike was a 1981 Special with a hideous chopper seat.

DSCF9937The parts bike was torn down for a frame up restoration. The engine was disassembled to bore out the cylinders, clean up the head with some porting and a valve job.

DSCF0764 DSCF0765 Then painstakingly reassembled.

DSCF0782  DSCF0801The frame was stripped, cleaned and painted.


The engine was installed.

DSCF0858The tank and side covers were painted black. A new seat pan was fabricated in aluminum and upholstered in black Naugahyde to work with the vintage cafe racer set up of clip on handlebars, Ducati controls, altered suspension and a modified engine.



We stumbled upon another parts bike for $200 which we called No Name. After a number of iterations over a couple of years, it looks like this:


We found another parts bike in Cave Creek for $200.  It was torn down and rebuilt as a  touring bike. We call it Blackie. We don’t stick to the script when we restore vintage bikes because we’re the crazy ones.


There’s a following of Yamaha XS1100s all over the world, as these bikes are fast, and dependable. Paul Watts and Stephan Morris became good friends with expert advice on how to fix and restore XS1100s. Here’s Paul on his XS1100 up in the Alps on his way home to England from Italy. Stephan’s restoration of a Yamaha VMax can be found here.


Meanwhile, Mike Nicoli had an old Suzuki GSX1100G in his Tucson shop that the owner wanted to sell cheap. That’s the idea. What can you build with no money?


With some help from a certified Suzuki shop, the GSX1100G became a street fighter.

003 (2)

I rode the Suzuki for all of 57 minutes before I was run over by a truck- driven by my girlfriend, Kathryn Glover.


Kathryn ran me over when I  slowed down to cross a wash as I had done numerous times in the previous 10 minutes. Kathryn hit the bike which punched out from underneath me.

Then the truck hit me causing severe swelling and internal bleeding on my left leg.

8-30-14 leg injury


Thank God I was wearing a helmet.


I was also wearing boots, High Velocity gloves, and body armor. I was not wearing leg, hip or thigh protection that day as I was only going up to test ride two bikes and trailer them home. Since one of the bikes wasn’t done, so I hopped on the Suzuki to ride it home never expecting in a million years that Kathryn would run me over. Here’s the truck.


It was weird to get run over by my own truck. I blacked out on impact and came to as the tires of the truck rolled over my chest, fracturing five ribs and puncturing my left lung. My left knee was torn up from the pavement, the rocks and the debris on the road or by the truck.


I was evacuated to the hospital by helicopter. Blood clots formed in my lungs and I had a large gaping hole on my left knee. My tibia fractured and my shinbone shaved.

photo (9) leg

The wound was infected with bacteria including MRSA, requiring super strong antibiotics for six weeks to prevent death or amputation. Fortunately, I managed to kept my life and my leg, but lost my gall bladder because of the antibiotics. My circulation, lymph and nervous systems are screwed up. I suffer from edema. I had 10 surgeries and spent 3 months in hospitals, nursing home, and then 5 months in out-patient therapy.

The Sheriff’s Department should have arrested Kathryn for aggravated assault, but the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has a Joint Venture with a Texas Towing company where the Sheriff collects a third of impound  storage fees on vehicles towed by Rod Robertson Enterprises, and 60% of the proceeds of the vehicle sale at auction. However, if the Sheriff arrested Kathryn, or charged her with aggravated assault, then the Sheriff would be responsible for the cost of towing and storing the motorcycle. By only charging Kathryn with speeding, I was responsible for the costs of impound. Fees racked up to over $3,000 and the motorcycle was sold at auction. Quite the scam.

I met the woman who ran me over for one night in Paris, in the summer of 1967. She was studying French and I was traveling through Europe, both of us leaving the next day for other destinations. We wrote letters and she came to my prom and graduation in ’68. Although a storybook romance, her mother broke us up and we drifted apart. Kathy married Richard Glover who owned a Triumph Bonneville. His best friend rode a BSA. Here they are getting ready to ride across Canada from Vermont, 1970.


I often wondered what happened to Kathryn. A friend suggested Facebook. We connected in May, 2014. Kathryn sold her home in Connecticut and moved to Arizona in July, ran me over on August 26, 2014 and was “Gone Girl” three days later. No note. No apology on the kitchen counter saying she was sorry. Kathryn paid her speeding ticket but waited over a month before reporting the incident to her insurance. Someone contacted Levenbaum Trachtenberg, the Law Tigers for me, who accomplished nothing. Upon their termination, Allstate paid most of the property damages and an offered $100,000 for personal injury but pain and suffering from personal injury is typically determined as a multiplier (in my instance, 5x) of medical costs. My medical expenses are ~$330,000 and rising. Almost two years later, I’m not the man I used to be. I have a host of complications. I suffer pain and swelling in my legs. I can’t compete as swimmer or triathlete, and sometimes I can’t walk without a limp.

While staring up at the ceiling in my hospital bed, unable to move, and uncertain as to whether I would live or die, I wondered about Kathryn’s motivation for running me over and her mental acuity. How could she run me over on a straight road in broad daylight with no traffic and a quarter mile of visibility?  When Kathryn moved in with me, she admitted to having sleep disorder issues and that for 16 years of her marriage to Richard Glover, she used psychotropic drugs and electro-convulsive therapy, ECT for depression.


On release from the hospital, I couldn’t walk let alone ride a motorcycle. A friend gave me a tricycle for physical therapy.


But you have to persevere. So on Easter Sunday in 2015, with the help of Mike Nicoli and his girlfriend Ruth, they put me on a motorcycle, lifted my legs onto the pegs, and I rode up to Kitt Peak.


It was crazy to ride. I needed help with the kick stand, finding neutral, getting my left leg to bend. Ruth had to put my left foot on the peg so I could shift gears…


A month or so later, I stopped at the Range Market for gas and sundries. Some paramedics came around to admire one of our motorcycles, a ’74 Yamaha XS650.


One of the paramedics noticed me and asked if I was the guy who was run over during the monsoon season (2014) on Sandario Road by Saguaro National Forest. I said yes. He was amazed that I was alive and back on a motorcycle. The paramedics told me that they thought I’d be dead before the helicopter made it to the hospital. That’s when the severity of the accident finally “hit me.”

But health issues are just the half of it. When Kathryn ran me over, she had an attitude about my litigation in Cave Creek. She wanted all my time and attention to lavish on her and instead, I was fighting violations of my constitutional rights that had been concealed for fifteen years of hell. Kathryn’s negligence or assault hindered my ability to prosecute my case and my grievances are now at the 9th Circuit. Given this XS1100 craze began with Karl, the Communist mechanic, I want to retrace Che Guevera’s Motorcycle Diaries when the ordeal in Cave Creek is over…maybe this is the beginning of my own Motorcycle Diaries, or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

There was another plan to build vintage bikes, create a rental fleet in Arizona, then sell them in Europe or other markets where old motorcycles command top dollar prices.



I told my sons that if there came a day that I couldn’t care for myself then tie me to a bike and point me at a cliff.



But now I wonder if I’d just flop over before entering Motorcycle Heaven?







5 Responses to Motorcycle Madness

  1. Arek says:

    Likewise. It was a gift to meet you as well.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I gave away a 1978 xs100 thinking nothing of it
    Though to my surprise i met a very interesting man and his Girlfriend,
    Wow there are some real people left in this world, CD.

  3. greg scheller says:

    keep at it Arek – really like the poem – i’m ordering the gear

  4. Michael Grondin says:

    Nice story Arek. Keep it up.

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