5. Another Try
on the bus I was contemplating my situation.
I was going to suffer pretty severe embarrassment when I
met up with all the people I had told I was going to ride the
Pony. I looked out of the window at a motorcyclist.
“Hey, maybe that’s a way to recover the situation”, I
experience in riding two-wheeled powered vehicles was limited to a
couple of half day rentals on resort islands but it was worth a
try. The first
licensing office told me it would take six months to get a
license, the second that I could “Line up at wicket number 17,
for a learner permit” One
insurance broker said he couldn’t get insurance for me, another
quoted $1,730 for a year, but a third I think mistakenly typed in
my details in a way which made it appear I had been riding around
California for 36 years with no accidents or tickets- $50 for a
visited several shops and found an advertisement on a board in one
for ’96, 250cc Honda Nighthawk- price very negotiable.
I phoned the owner, a taxi driver, who explained it had
been off the road for a while.
A check-up at a work ship revealed no major defect so we
settled on a price. The
necessary tuning and replacement were carried out but here I had
my first problem. The
shop was in downtown San Francisco and I had to get the bike back
to Oakland. The
choice was to ride all the way round the southern end of San
Francisco Bay or cross the high and windy Bay Bridge, 8 ˝ miles
of packed fast moving traffic.
After a training run around the busy downtown streets, I launched up the on ramp into the torrent of traffic. Ten fear-packed minutes later I was disgorged into the freeway interchange at the far end and nervously changing lanes ,was off into suburban streets.
While practicing around Oakland one day, I stopped at a
long light waiting to go left about fifth in line to make the turn
when I noticed a police car with lights flashing maneuvering to
block the lanes ahead. Then, first one then a second and third police car drew up along
officers carrying shotguns jumped out of their vehicles and raced
forward poking the barrels through the windows of a car just
“Show me your hands! Out, out, out!” They screamed.
“On the floor. Now,
one policeman had his foot on the suspects neck and shotgun to his
head another tied his hands.
On the other side of the car a similar situation was
progressing. I felt
in my day pack for my camera but had taken it out that morning as
I was going swimming.
“Oh well. Everyone
would probably say it was a scene from a show at Universal Studios
later a rubber gloved policewoman drove the car away and the
suspects, both young black men, looking unperturbed by the manner
of their arrest were taken off.
The traffic restarted as if nothing had taken place.
It seems gentrification in Oakland has some way to go.
Nervously testing the Honda on open roads I noticed that tattooed bikes with big bellies and long beards riding mighty Harleys would wave to me in passing. It seemed simple ownership of a motorcycle conferred membership of the brotherhood - a fact that was helpful on the trip. After ten days I was equipped with a license, borrowed pannier bags and a re-inflated self image and set off again for St. Jo.