22
Apr
12

the Bee

“Don’t worry about anything but getting those tiles scraped off the floor!” my dad told me.  Ah my dad. Sam Young, new owner of the Busy Bee Cafe, telling me, his thirteen year old son to get to work. He did not want me to pay attention to the naysayers who would stop by every few minutes to check on the progress of trying to get this little trolley car restaurant open. My dad had a lot of work to do and he did not care that the tile that I was trying to scrape up was actually never going to be “scraped up”. It was more a case of being hammered, chiseled, ground, slivered out in little curls of a mixture of tar, prolly some asbestos fibers, and what I believe was a precursor to the adhesive used to attach the heat shield tiles to the Space Shuttle. At least he ensured that I had the proper tools, what with a wobbly headed claw hammer and a yellow handled Proto flat-blade screwdriver. Mr. Proto would have been so proud to see his screwdriver in action.

The Busy Bee Cafe re-opened a few weeks later, with no fanfare, no Grand opening, and no tile on the floor. My dad simply went about the business of making the very best burgers and fries that he knew how to make. My dad gave all credit in his hamburger making ability to Harmon Dobson, the man who was responsible for Whataburger. My dad went to work for Mr. Dobson at a Whataburger in Corpus Christi in the early 60’s.

I really didn’t understand the impact that the Busy Bee had on Hugo, Oklahoma until much later in life. I did understand that my mom and dad stayed busy taking care of business and all, but I didn’t see the social impact. From Mr. Eddleman, a local businessman coming in every morning to get a half-cup of coffee to all of the people who worked there, it was a gathering place for friends and family. There was a man that everyone called Shotgun that would come by often. He worked for the circus and was prone to drinking too much at times. I remember when Shotgun came by and wanted to talk to my dad. I overheard him telling my dad that he had just got out of jail and didn’t have any money and was hungry. My dad came back in and told me to start a fresh pot of coffee and he fixed this man a Samburger with everything on it. I then saw my dad slide some cash over to the man as he wolfed down his burger and gulped the scalding coffee. I sidled up to my dad and said something to the effect of why would he give cash to this man knowing that he would probably just take the money and go drinking with it and my dad looked me in the eyes and told me that it was not his job to judge someone, and that for all he knew, that man was really Jesus Christ, testing my dad. I felt ashamed and have to say, that lesson was a profound awakening in my life and I’ve never forgotten it.

When I think of the Busy Bee, a flood of memories come over me. I start thinking of the people who worked there as well as those friends of mine that ate there often. Sam Mayfield, Clay Parkhill, Bart Cleveland, Tommy Cleveland, Lynn Morris, Hub Caldwell, Jeff Landreth, Stan Self, Stacy Risenhoover, Patty Boling, Diane Buchanan, Dana McMillan, Susie Gray, Jackie Cooley, Annette Tollet, Debbie Napier, Kenny Rawls, Debbie Rawls, Gina Glenn, Emily Houchen, the entire Montgomery family, the entire Goldfeder family and on and on. I couldn’t even skip school because the teachers ate there too.

I left Hugo in the Mid eighties and came back to visit my parents and the Busy Bee often because I had a restaurant of my own in Atoka, and our warehouse was in Hugo. I sold out in 1998 and got involved in the car business. It seems that the longer that I was in the car business, the farther apart my visits to the Busy Bee were. I would still go to Hugo to see my mom and dad but usually on Sunday when the Bee was closed.

My dad died 3 years ago April 18th after a tough battle with lung cancer. Then my mom died only a year ago as well. I haven’t been able to go by the Busy Bee since my dad died. I had heard from some people that the Busy Bee building had been closed and a new Busy Bee opened at the Frisco Train depot. I sure wish these guys the best and know that they too can make a name for themselves.

47 degrees this morning, heated grips percolating, taking the bite out of the air. I crossed the Red River into Oklahoma. Not sure where I’m going but I’m thinking maybe Clayton, or the Talimena Drive. I exit at Durant and find myself riding east on highway 70. Bokchito, Blue, Boswell, Soper. I’ll probably turn north just this side of Hugo to go to Antlers. As I cruised along, I was a little surprised to find myself coming into Hugo. Hmm, guess I missed the turn? Turned right on Broadway and parked under the awning of the Busy Bee. I sat there for a few minutes, listening to my bike ticking off its cool down notes.  Got off my bike and walked around a bit. Painted different from how I remember it. Smaller than I remember, if that’s even possible. The old warehouse behind the Bee has been torn down. I walked back to the alley and gazed north. It was this very alley that I rode my first motorcycle, a Yamaha 125. I didn’t have a license so all I could do was ride up and down the alley, fouling at least one spark plug a day. At the end of the alley, behind the Security First National bank is where I saw my first Porsche 911 Targa. I wasn’t sure what it was but I knew it was cool and exotic. I remember telling my dad about it and we walked down the alley to admire it.

I fired my BMW up and rode east out of Hugo, then turned north toward Rattan. I love this part of Oklahoma. I’m glad that in 1973, circumstances put my family in Hugo, Oklahoma, in the Busy Bee Cafe. I’m so thankful for all of the people who worked there as well as all of the customers over the years. I’m so glad that I missed my turn this morning. I needed that.

13
May
10

Lady in Red

     We step into the lair,  just outside of Kansas City. I shouldn’t be here. I’m drawn to this place like a moth to a light bulb. I am weak. Nothing good can come from this place. I should leave but I don’t.

        I see her, but avoid eye contact. You know the feeling. I don’t want to be seen. I didn’t come out here to see her. I didn’t even know she would be here. Or did I?  I’m not looking at her. I won’t. I do a good job of sliding past her but feel her reach out. Not in front of my wife, I say to myself. My hands are clammy.

  My beautiful wife Tina and myself get the grand tour. Upstairs, rows of kewl collectable motorcycles. Vintage iron from way back. Some stuff I’ve never seen before. Some stuff I’ve owned before. Memories come flooding back. Hey, there’s an old Moto Guzzi G5 like my dad used to have, and a Yamaha 100 like my sister Carol used to ride, the one she  poked a footpeg through her shin, still sportin’ a scar to this day. “Oh my goodness, look at that Gilera 200, Tina loooook!” Tina smiles that smile. You know the one. The one that says, “Why couldn’t he just play golf”

    Tina quietly mentions that I am sick and already have six motorcycles. The owner, Mike tells her that if I am sick, I only have the sniffles, because he has hundreds more motorcycles. Tina looks a little nervous.  Mike takes us outside and shows us even more motorcycles.  It’s more than my brain can comprehend. He takes us through his shop and we see a beautiful Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, waiting for its owner to come pick her up. The owner arrives and thumbs the starter button. The V7 rocks to life in a basso profundo!  It’s too much! Must leave now!

   The tour is over. We have  inched and conversed our way to the front door. I see her again but do not respond. She winks at me but I am strong. I slip past her, paying her no attention. She has no control over me.

    Just when I thought I had gotten past her, something snagged my shirt. As I pulled back, I realize that I have caught my shirt on one of her handlebar grips. I can smell her perfume, an intoxicating mix of forty weight Castrol and 93 octane gasoline. Ok, ok, I’ll come over and stand beside you. I’ll just stand here and look, no harm in that. I keep my hands firmly in my pockets. I squat down to get a better look. She’s a 1980 Moto Guzzi CX 100 LeMans. I used to date her cousin years ago, a racy little 850.

      She’s kept herself in pretty good shape over the years looking toned and fit, big, voluptuous cylinders, slender seat, her body, wrinkle free and a stunning red colour. She’s sportin’ a new set of Pirelli shoes.

      “Uh, hey, Mike, like uh, what would you have to have for this one? Not that I’m interested really, just curious”. “I’ll call you with some figures” Mike says, writing down my information. I’m not getting her anyway, so it couldn’t hurt. 

“Sophia” I say to myself. Yeah, her name will be “Sophia”

13
Jan
10

70 miles east

   I edge off the road, the right wheels of my dads white Toyota Hilux pickup dropping off the pavement on to loose scrabble and tufts of grass. My dad calmly reached over and put his left hand on the steering wheel and said ” don’t over re-act, just ease back up on the road”. I tugged the wheel ever so lightly and the truck regained its composure as we were again on pavement. ” When we get to Boswell, I’ll drive the rest of the way to Hugo, but I thought you drove pretty well” my dad said. I was thirteen.

  I met my dad in the late summer of 1973 when we moved to Hugo, Oklahoma from Denison, Texas. Oh, I mean I knew who he was and we lived in the same house but that was about it. He was always busy working and just didn’t seem to have too much time to hang out. The dad I knew would pull into the driveway in his 1966 Oldsmobile 98, get out and walk toward the back door of our house, giving his unfiltered Camel one last draw, then deftly flicking the smoldering butt toward a big silver leaf maple tree in our back yard. He was only home for a little while before someone at work called and he had to head out again. He would come in again at dark thirty and usually be gone the next morning before I got out of bed. It’s just the way it was and it was all I knew.

   My dad was stubborn. Obstinate at times, full of ideas, an uncompromising work ethic, and if you were looking for a “yes” man, you would need to look elsewhere because he wasn’t it. He had decided that about the only person that he could say yes to was himself, so he left the ranks of the steady paycheck and decided to join the much smaller rank of ‘Move over, I’ll do it myself”.

   Enter, one Hugo, Oklahoma. Population, 3000. Choctaw County. Not in Texas. My dad had quit running a small chain of restaurants called Watsonburger, and bought this little place in Hugo called the Busy Bee Cafe. It had been there since the forties and needed my dad as much as he needed it. He put his life savings into getting this place and he really became a different person than the one that I barely knew in Denison. He was making the Busy Bee Cafe a household name and was loving every bit of his work.

     I on the other hand was bored out of my mind. I really didn’t like the school there and I had the grades to prove it. From “National Junior Honor Society” member in Texas, to no smarter than a fifth grader in Oklahoma. I’m really bored.  But, hey, I’ve got some things working. I’ve got plans, just you wait and see.

   Larry Ellison and Butch Gooding were members of the Hugo Fire Department. The fire station sat directly across the street from the Busy Bee Cafe and they would come in several times a day to eat or just get a cup of coffee. I was invited over to check things out at the fire station occasionally and thought this place was pretty kewl. One day while visiting Larry and Butch, I felt enough kindred spirit with these guys that I told them my darkest secret. I even showed them my drawings. My blueprints. They looked at each other and muttered something and maybe Larry snickered a little bit, though I’m not sure. Yep, I was going to build me a go-cart. I had already found an engine in a wrecked Honda CL175. Yeah, my plans called for a motorcycle engine, bolted into a metal frame that…well I was going to build it!  Really!  I had it all drawn up. It would have shocks, and brakes and a kewl blue seat and, and, and and I had to have a go-cart because if you ever said the word “motorcycle” around my mom, she would start to beat you about the head and shoulders with a wooden spoon and start talking in tongues and you might  find her curled up in a fetal position on the bathroom floor. I mean, SHE REALLY HATED MOT…, well, you know.

   Butch and Larry save my life.

      Butch and Larry came into the Busy Bee one evening shortly after I had let them in on my little design exercise and had supper with my dad. In the course of the conversation, they let my dad know about my desire to build a go-cart. They ‘splained the perils of putting one of these evil devices together, saying stuff like, “even if he does get it running, he probably wouldn’t be able to stop it, and would run up under a flatbed truck and cut his head off, or worse!”   Butch said, “Sam, you won’t be able to keep him from building something like this, unless, unless you get him something safe, like a motorcycle”. My dad….”a motorcycle?  Uh, well, I don’t know.”  Butch sez…”well, Larry here has a Honda 500/4 and he could teach him how to ride, and make sure he wears a helmet, huh Larry?”  “Besides that Sam, we have both ridden motorcycles for years and we never have been killed, not even once!”

   I heard loud noises. You know, voices. Upset voices. Arguing words, wooden spoon on flesh and bone perhaps? Not really sure but my dad had just informed my mom that he had just told me about how he wanted me to have something to do and agreed to help me get a used Yamaha 125 from a man named  Ronnie Ward. It was a 1974 Yamaha DT 125 Enduro in dark red with silver fenders. It was very kewl!  Sorry mom!

   While I credit Larry Ellison and Butch Gooding for helping me get my first motorcycle, they really helped set me on my way to connecting with my dad, because it wasn’t too long after I started riding that my dad started riding too. My dad and I were able to ride  thousands of miles together over a thirty year span and between us, we have owned over 60 motorcycles.

      Dad and I stood and looked at the Atlantic ocean together when we rode our BMWs to Rhode Island. We rode into a raging snowstorm coming through Denver. We froze our butts off, trying to cheat winter by going to Florida at the end of February for Speed Week. We even got matching speeding tickets in some little town in Colorado. Thousands of miles ridden together, but those 70 miles east to Hugo was some of the most  important in my life and I thank God for it.

                                  See ya on the road, and by the way, WATCH OUT FOR THOSE GO-CARTS!

28
Nov
09

soul

  As I rode into Salt Lake City, my BMW K100RS was humming right along, though it’s tires were shot, brake pads thin, engine oil black and dirty, fairing covered in bugs and road grime. Our Iron Butt Rally was  only minutes from being over and I caught myself leaning in close and patting the K-Bikes pearl white aluminum fuel tank with my leather gloved left hand, and saying aloud, “Thanks for everything!” The K-bike seemed to shrug it off, saying” Anytime”. The Iron Butt Rally has been known to break a man’s spirit as well as well as that of his steed.

    The BMW had, over the last 11 days, been subjected to torture. From  115 degree heat in El Centro, California, to bringing me across the entire state of Ohio in a driving rain, my motorcycle endured. We had traveled about eleven thousand miles over the last eleven days, and every time I accelerated, it was usually full throttle. Many times, when I braked, it was scrubbing off speed from 80 plus mph. Sometimes, the only break that myself or the BMW would get would be when we stopped for fuel. Twenty hour stints were not uncommon. The German built BMW dutifully went along with whatever I asked it do. In eleven thousand miles, crammed into eleven days, it never missed a beat.

     This is probably the first time that I realized that motorcycles have “Soul”. I don’t mean they have ‘A’ soul like the one I have that God gave me. This motorcycle  has character and attitude, panache if you will.  I think what I have come to realize is that a lot of inanimate objects that we take for granted are the direct result of the passion of their creator. The BMW K-Bike design is not an accident. It is the end result of someones idea of what it should look like, ride like, and perform like. I remember reading a magazine article addressing the very model of BMW that I owned. The test rider for the magazine was interviewing one of the engineers that was responsible for creating the K-Bike and complained to the engineer that this motorcycle had a significant amount of vibration at 50 to 60 mph. The engineer had a puzzled look on his face, then asked “Why are you riding so slow? we designed it to ridden much faster”. Engineers had not considered the speed limits of the good ol U S of A but had the German autobahn as its test track. Indeed, this BMW K-bike had little or no vibration between 75 and 130 mph. Soul built right in.

    Sorichio Honda was so passionate about building a complete motorcycle that he named his first motorcycles “Dream” . Mr. Honda had grown up poor and his first foray into design was a superior piston ring. Though he was pleased with his design, he dreamt of being able to design and manufacture a complete engine, then the entire motorcycle. His “Dream” came true when he built and sold his first complete motorcycles, bearing his namesake  in the 1950s. In 2001, Honda became and still is the number one manufacturer of engines in the world. Dream realized. Soul, no extra charge.

       What do you ride?  What do you drive?  Think about the vehicles that share your garage or driveway. Do they have soul? Try this. Slowly run your hand over the gas tank of your motorcycle, or the fender of your car or truck, and see if it will respond. If it has soul, it will speak to you. You may even be compelled to give it a good soapy wash, or lay on a coat of fine carnuba wax. You may realize that it’s crying for an oil change, or needs a new pair of shoes.  Or, or maybe, maybe, when no one is looking, you’ll give it a hug. After all, it does have soul. Boyd

02
Nov
09

The good, the bad, the ugly (Continued from “Roots”)

The Good…

 …”ey up, are ye knackered from the lorrie ride to the agency?, yalookin’ a lil’ gobsmacked mate”… the Norton uttered.  I’m not sure what he said or who he was addressing so I didn’t say anything.  “He’s asking you if the ride in the truck to the dealership made you tired” interpreted the Parilla. Oh, okay, wellll, (wow did she have a sultry voice) “uh, no, no, the ride in the truck was fine, the ride from the “agency” to here was rather harrowing” .  ‘ol Vic, he’ll test ye mettle, he will” again, the Norton speaks and again, I don’t know what he said. Before the Parilla can relay what he said, I replied, “I can speak “motorbike” with the best of you, but for the life of me, I can’t understand what you are saying”.  “It’s a fair cop guv, you’ve got me bang to rights you do” the Norton comes back.  The Parilla interrupts, “he likes to bring a little of the old country with him but he means no harm. You’ll figure him out soon enough”. Pip Pip, cheerio and all that rot” says Norton. The Parilla rolled her headlight, “he’s showing off a little, but he’s okay.

   Just about every Sunday for the next  2 years, the Norton was shuttled off to some racetrack, usually sporting some kind of trophy when he came home, so I knew he was faaast. The Parilla was Vics’ favorite ride to go eat breakfast on every Saturday morning. He would ride to a different obscure little restaurant, then ride some interesting roads, roll back into the garage around  three o’clock, then clean us up. Oh, by the way, I get ridden just about every day back and forth to work. Vic works thirty four miles from his house, and though I’m not sure what he does all day, it must be pretty stressful ‘cause he’ll wring me out on the way home.

 The  Bad

Dateline: Some Saturday in November 1963 – 8:35 am

    Vic always opens up the garage at exactly 6:30 am every morning. Rain or shine, Holiday or no, I’ve never known Vic to take a day off. He always strolls into the shop, whistling some catchy tune, a clean towel at the ready, just in case one of us need a quick wipe down. He was over two hours late and getting later. We were all talking amongst ourselves, trying to figure out what was going on, but it didn’t matter because he never did show up. I mean, HE NEVER DID SHOW UP! EVER! I MEAN, NOT ONE TIME EVER AGAIN, DID HE SHOW UP!

   After a lonnnnnnng time, could have been months, may have been years, the garage door opened slowly and a couple of people that we didn’t recognize walked in. They really didn’t seem too interested in us although one of them had a screamin’ little ba…uh, kid that would jump on each one of us, dragging his little cowboy boots across our gas tanks, twisting and pulling everything  from the clutch lever to the choke, but Norton quickly put all the fun and games to an end when he promptly fell over, pinning the little kid underneath him. The Parilla stifled a laugh but I didn’t. I laughed out loud, though through all of the commotion, I don’t think anybody heard me. It took both of the bigger people to pick the Norton up and get the little kid out from under him. He was crying and had snot running out of his nose but he wasn’t hurt too bad. The bigger people seemed to want to get out of here, so left with the crying kid in tow.

 The ugly…

     A few days after the “cryin’ kid people” left, we were all split up. They loaded up Norton , and I was waiting my turn to load up when they drove off, leaving the Parilla and myself in the garage. Sure enough, some young looking punk came and crammed my key into me and hit my starter button but my battery was dead. He was able to kick start me but I didn’t give in until the pimply faced kid was sucking some serious wind.  I tried to tell the Parilla goodbye but she wouldn’t look at me and I couldn’t get her attention. He rode me hard for about three weeks and burned my tires smooth as a tabletop, then rather unceremoniously parked me in a barn forever. Well, not forever but long enough for me to go into a deep coma.

   I woke up for the first time in a long time, in the back of a pickup truck, leaned over against an old mattress. At least it was pretty comfy. It seems like we had driven for days when we came to stop somewhere in a place that is indescribably hot.  Oh, and humid too! I found out later that this place is called Tulsa,Okohma, or something like that. Now this fat chick with some truely bizzare tats comes over to look at me, and says, “I thought you were a  Harley”. Now I really wasn’t sure what a Harley was but figured out that it was some other kind of motorcycle. She spat a wad of tobacco juice at me and said, “I don’t want no freakin’ rice burner”, and with a crude jesture of her thumb, said, “send this thang to my sister in Bonham, Texas”. I wasn’t even unloaded, in Okmahoma. The same day, I landed in Bonham, Texas. A real nice guy named Rick, ( brother-in-law to tat girl ) came out and looked at me and said that he would take me. I’m thinking, finally, someone is going to adopt me but this guy rolled me right into his shed, leaned me over against a post and walked away. Sigh.

    I was asleep when Rick came out one day and loaded me up into, yeah, you guessed it, another pickup truck. He took me to a place that he went to work everyday, some car dealership.  He said some guy named Lanny wanted to look at me. Lanny came out and said he would try to see if there was something he could do for me. So he messes around with my electrics for a few days and here is where things get really weird.

   This dude name Byod, Body, nooo, maybe Bob, I don’t know, strange name, anyway he sees me an starts to hyperventilate or something. His knees went weak, his face was flush, his words all astutter, starts rubbing my seat and stroking my gas tank. I’m thinking, “hey, maybe this fat dude has a clue” Well it takes this guy like to month to strike a deal for me (salesman Indeed?) but he finally ponies up the cash and takes me to his place. When he wheels me into his garage, I see my cousin, a black dude named “Dream” already there. He was born after me, like ’66 I think and he’s a 305. There are some other kewl dudes hanging out in there as well so for now, it looks like I’ve found a home, at least this guy seems to like me. I’ll keep you updated on my progress as he says he’s gonna make look like new. Later and write when you can. Benly

I look ruff!boyds pics 029boyds pics 030Told ya', tire is as smooth as a tabletop>

24
Oct
09

Roots…

            はですることができます。 のは benly ですし、パートナー、1961 でまれたし、subsequently…wait、そうso  soddy… だった really, darn it, I gotta remember to speak English, sheesh, I mean, I do this all of the time. I grew up in California, you know, the good ol’ US of A, and you would think that I would forget my Japanese roots but Soichiro Honda made sure I was pretty well educated and knew that he was sending me to Los Angeles and wanted to make sure that I didn’t embarrass him too bad. Mr. Honda had already figured out that “revs are free”and that’s what he put into me ‘cause I can rev to 10,500 rpm without breakin’ a sweat or anything else. I’m just a 125cc twin, a bantamweight, but I’m sporting some huge brakes, a set of low handlebars, and the absolute kewlest red racing seat.

Hi’ my name is Benly.

  Dateline: March 1961. Landed – San Pedro Bay, 20 miles south of Los Angeles.

    Seasick – puked gasoline out of my carb…all over the place, bleh. Been on the water for 6 weeks. They’ve got me crammed in a wooden box so tight that I can’t turn around. Right before they put me in the box, they sprayed some sticky stuff all over me, cosmolit… no, cosmoni???I don’t know for sure but it keeps the salt water from getting to me but it feels horrible. Air gone outa my tires, no juice in the ol battery, if you know what I mean, and, and, did I mention 6 weeks of ocean –up and down-up and down-bbbbblugh, plus, I think I have scurvy.

  I sat in a dark warehouse for a while, but at least I’m not sick anymore. Rumor has it that some dude is waitin’ on me to get unloaded in Los Angeles, and then, I’m outa here. Finally I hear the big overhead doors going up and some people come in looking for me. I can’t understand what they’re saying but soon I’m riding in the back of a truck. I land at a little Honda dealership over on Pico Boulevard , and here we go. They rip the crate apart…  roll me out on my almost flat tires and push me into the shop. Pop me up on my center stand and just stand around looking at me. A white guy named Victor walks over to me and starts grinning. This guy rubs the kneepads of my gas tank and I’m thinking, “dude, back off “but he doesn’t go away. Pretty soon though, I’m sportin’ 32 psi of air in my tires, engine oil topped up, battery charged, and I’m sipping me some High-octane fuel so things are lookin’ up. Sure enough, this guy Victor comes over and starts to push my buttons and I admit, I coughed a few times but then fired right up.

   Vic gets on and we ride out the back door of the dealership, down the alley, onto Pico Boulevard and I’m instantly in some serious traffic. Vic must have ridden a time or two because he has no fear. He rolls the throttle to the stop and as we approach a double row of stopped traffic, HE GOES BETWEEN THE CARS! I MEAN, HE SPLITS THE LANES! I have a foot of clearance on either side of me and 喜ばせる, 楽しませる, 満足させる; 〈…の〉気に入る” we make it to the intersection just as the light turns green. He catches the front row of traffic asleep at the wheel, because we blow right past em’, catch a green at the next one then a left onto Figuero.  First in line at the next Red-light and we pull up next to a huge motorcycle, British if I’m guessing. He sits there all arumble and quiver and then he dumps a big puddle of oil out, right on the street, in front of everybody. “BAD DOG!”This bike looks over at me and sneers “hey punk”. Vic anticipates the light change and we quickly run off and hide from this jerk. A few side streets later and we pull into a small, neat garage with a couple of other guys already there. One was a silver Norton Manx, looking all brutish and…hey, what do we have here, a little two stroke Parilla 150 Sport, Red and Black, purebred Italiano. I think I’m gonna like this place. I really do…

next week, “the good, the bad, the ugly” Benly

16
Oct
09

Left Coast

It was early 1994 when I learned that the World Grand Prix  500cc  motorcycle road race at Laguna Seca may well be the last time that this storied event would be held on American soil. Word on the street was that if you wanted to see the big boys’ race, you had better figure out how to get to Laguna Seca raceway, near Monterey, California. My friend, Lee Wadley, had worked with me at our Kawasaki dealership in the early 80s in Hugo, Oklahoma and had relocated to Sacramento, California and he too wanted to see the event. My wife Tina encouraged me to take a week off from the restaurant business that we ran together in Atoka, Oklahoma and “go see Lee”. So calls were made, prayers uttered, meetings were held, plans started to come together. I was to ride out to Sacramento and stay with Lee and his brother John. Before I took off for Ca l I f o r n I aye, I rode to Tulsa to Atlas Cycle to get my Beemer tuned up. One of the techs, Chuck Moore, overheard that I was goin’ out west and he said that if I ever had a chance, I should ride the road to Stewarts Point. He described this idyllic motorcycle road, one made expressly for the use of riding a motorcycle. He also mentioned that the road may be a little difficult to find but gave me the general location of it.
Monday, September 5th, I took off from “S. Wilks Famous for Samburgers” in Atoka and made my way to Oklahoma City, then onto  I 40 and rail. It’s a straight shot to the Golden State and I rode steadily, through the Texas panhandle and into New Mexico, spending the night in Santa Rosa. The ride was beautiful as was the weather. I had never been further west than Texas and I really enjoyed the ever-changing topography. Made California without a hitch but was running a little later than planned. In my mind, Sacramento was just a few miles north of Bakersfield so I was shocked when I saw the sign that said “Sacramento 280” .  It was already dark but decided to go for it. I pulled into the driveway at Lee’s house at about 4:30am. Lee was glad to see me and we stayed up until sunrise, catching up old times. Lee had planned some rides for us to go on, one of them being the Napa Valley.

I had heard of the Napa Valley and was anxious to see all of the mansions and manicured vineyards. I remembered to ask Lee about the Stewarts Point road and he said he had ridden quite a bit of California and had never heard of it. I told him that my Oklahoma friend had suggested it and that we were in the area that he said we would find it.  We took off south down 101,  looking intently for any road sign indicating Stewarts Point and just as we were about to give up, Lee spotted a sign, about the size of a street sign. Stewarts Point 55 miles. We pulled over and congratulated each other on our find, then took off, first on Canyon road, eventually turning into Stewarts Point/Skaggs Springs road. This road is simply unbelievable. Having had lived in Oklahoma for so many years, I just didn’t know that they could make asphalt this smooth.  The curves are perfectly banked,  there are no potholes, no gravel strewn corners, even the painted stripes are clean and sharp. Just this winding, undulating ribbon of fantastic, “Motorcycles only road”. There wasn’t even much traffic, or at least until we were closer to Stewarts Point. The road quickly went from a road made in heaven to something I was more used to. The road narrowed way down, covered with pine needles and we started meeting logging trucks. We slowed our pace and took in the scenery, then suddenly, I could smell the ocean. I crested the final hill on our decent to Highway 1 and I saw the Pacific Ocean, stretching as far as you could see, meeting the horizon and I felt my eyes well up. I really can’t explain it but I think that I was overwhelmed with what our Lord had made. Lee and I pulled into a parking lot at Stewarts Point General Merchandise store and got off of our motorcycles, listening to them softly ticking as they cooled off. We didn’t say anything for a few minutes, just soaking in the beauty and finally Lee said “Kewl”.  That pretty well summed it up. We just stood there, on the left coast, looking at the ocean, smiling.

We did indeed make it to the 500cc Grand Prix at Laguna Seca and thoroughly enjoyed the race, but what really stands out in my mind was the “Ride to Stewarts Point” . I know that it made an impression on Lee as well. A few months after I had gone to see Lee, Tina informed me that I had received a package in the mail. In the box was a coffee cup with the Stewarts Point General Merchandise logo on it. The store was closed the day that Lee and I were there, and his note was thanking me for helping him find this road. I know that Lee still rides this road regularly. If you’re ever visiting California, put it on your list of must things to do. You won’t be sorry.

Locked and Loaded, ready to move out>

Locked and Loaded, ready to move out>

Still awestruck. Just smiling.

Still awestruck. Just smiling.

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