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My first “motor-bike” was a homemade Whizzer that I built back in 1963 with an old Sears & Roebuck bike and a lawnmower engine. It sort of looked like this but not quite as cool.
I bought it in 1969 while at Williams College. It looked like this new, but mine had a single seat, a funky blue / green paint job, leaked oil, and had LOTS of electrical issues. For my big adventure, I tried to ride from Williams to Berkeley, but the bike blew up outside the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Fortunately, I got a ride with a trucker in a Deuce and a half to Cleveland. I sold it so my girlfriend from Bennington and I could fly to San Francisco instead.
A Harley Sportster followed but was short lived. Then came a Kawasaki Mach III in ’71.
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 while I was down in Costa Rica, my best friend from high school took it out for for a joy ride and totaled it. These bikes are now collector items.
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 pickup and down to the Harley shop. He 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.
So now I had to slow Derrack down. A Communist mechanic in Tucson claimed the Yamaha XS 1100 as the best bike ever. So I bought a ’79 Yamaha XS1100 from a retired Judge who threw in a parts bike. With parts from Dime City Cycles, Mike XS, and lots of elbow grease, “the Judge” looked this:
The Judge warrants recognition in Bike EXIF. The parts bike was a 1981 Special basket case with a hideous chopper seat.
The frame was stripped, cleaned and painted.
The engine was installed.
The 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.
But the bike slipped in 2nd gear. Replacing the clutch didn’t fix it, so the engine was torn down (again), cases split, bearings replaced, gears undercut, and an extra washer fitted to transmission shaft to fix the 2nd gear slip. The bike was then set up for touring.
Another $200 parts bike was built as a touring bike called Blackie.
Nils Menten of Restocycle turned us on to XS1100, which looked like this when we got it.
We don’t stock when restoring vintage bikes because we’re the crazy ones. All all over the world, there’s a following of Yamaha XS1100s because these bikes are fast and dependable. http://www.bikersassociationofnorthdevon.co.uk/projects/XS11BCG.htm Paul Watts and Stephan Morris became good friends with expert advice on how to fix / 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.
There was an old Suzuki GSX1100G in Mike Nicoli’s shop that the owner would sell cheap. That’s the idea. What can you build with no money?
With help from a certified Suzuki mechanic, the GSX1100G became a street fighter.
I rode the Suzuki for less than an hour before Kathryn Amos Glover hit & ran me over.
Glover was my girlfriend at the time (until impact). In broad daylight, Kathryn hit and ran me over when I had to slow to a stop due to rocks and debris on the road. Although there was plenty of distance and visibility, Kathryn hit the bike and then hit me. I blacked out but regained consciousness as the tires went across my chest. This is a simulation of what happened and how the body armor saved my life. Had the tires run over my neck or helmet, I’d be dead.
The impact of the truck caused severe swelling and internal bleeding on my left leg.
Here’s my helmet.
I never expected that Kathryn would run me over. The impact fractured five ribs to puncture my left lung. My left knee was torn up by the pavement or by the truck axle.
I was air evacuated away to the trauma hospital by helicopter. Blood clots formed in my lungs. I had a large gaping hole in my left knee. My tibia fractured and shinbone shaved.
The wound became infected with bacteria including MRSA, which got into my bone to require super strong antibiotics for six weeks to prevent death or amputation. Fortunately, I stayed alive and kept my leg, but lost my gallbladder due to the antibiotics. I almot lost my left kidney but a stint saved it. I suffer from edema, and my nerves were damaged. I have no feeling on my left knee and my toes are in constant pain making it difficult to walk or wear shoes. I had a total of 13 surgeries. I spent the first 3 months in hospitals and nursing homes, then 5 months in out-patient therapy. it took three years to stabilize.
Glover should have been 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 simply charging Kathryn with speeding, I was responsible for the costs of impound while immobile in the hospital. Fees racked up to over $3,000. Rod Robertson Enterprises filed fraudulent documents with the State for the benefit of Pima County in order to obtain title and sell the newly restored $6,000 Suzuki at auction for $450. Quite the scam.
I met Kathryn in Paris, the summer of 1967. She was studying French and I was traveling through Europe. Writing fueled our romance for her to come to my come to my graduation in ’68. But 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.
We all may wonder what happened to lovers lost but the advent of Facebook makes it easy to find old flames. Kathryn and I connected by Facebook in May 2014. She sold her Connecticut home in June, 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. As of this edit (1.26.18), it’s been 3.5 years since the accident and I’ve yet to get a dime out of Glover. Her attorneys who are being paid by my insurance premiums have offered a paltry $165,000 against over $800,000 in medical expenses, but pain and suffering from personal injury is typically determined as a multiplier (in my instance, 5x) of medical costs. I’m not the man I used to be. I’m in pain and can’t compete as swimmer or triathlete. Standing up after sitting is always challenging.
While unable to move in a hospital bed, and uncertain as to whether I would live or die, I wondered about Kathryn’s mental acuity or whether Kathryn hit me intentionally. How could she run me over on a straight road in broad daylight with no traffic and a quarter mile of visibility? Once Kathryn moved in with me, she admitted to having sleep disorder issues; that during her marriage to Richard Glover, she used psychotropic drugs and electroconvulsive therapy, ECT for depression.
On release from the hospital, I couldn’t walk let alone ride a motorcycle. But persevere. On Easter Sunday in 2015, with the help of friends, I rode up to Kitt Peak. It was crazy to ride. I needed help with the kickstand, finding neutral, getting my left leg to bend so I could put my foot on the peg to shift gears…
A few months later some paramedics came around to admire a ’74 Yamaha XS650.
They were amazed that I was up and about. One of the medics thought I’d be dead before the helicopter got to the hospital. That’s when the severity of the accident finally “hit me.”
But health is just the half of it. When Kathryn ran me over, she had an attitude about my litigation in Cave Creek. She wanted me to lavish all my time and attention on her. Instead, I was fighting for my constitutional rights that had been violated for fifteen years. Getting run over by a truck hindered my ability to prosecute my case and my grievances are now at the 9th Circuit. Since this XS1100 craze began with a Communist mechanic, I want to retrace Che Guevera’s Motorcycle Diaries when the ordeal in Cave Creek is over. Maybe write my own Motorcycle Diaries, or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?
There are ways to monetize vintage bike building by creating a rental fleet in Arizona, then selling them in Europe where old motorcycles command top dollar.
I told my sons that if there ever came a day I couldn’t take care of 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?