One of my best friends has been emailing me videos of the Isle of Man TT race. Just last night, he sent over three videos with subject lines something like, “Turn It Up – LET’S DO IT!!!” and “Awesome.” Needless to say, he still has the motorcycle bug.
We started off riding together years ago. Craig and I were neighbors, and once we turned about 15 or 16 years old, we got bikes. Dirt bikes to be exact. It’s funny, because as I sit here and write, I am going through my memory thinking of every single dirt bike I ever owned. I had big ones and small ones and I even had a minibike. For all you out there who know what a Honda Z50R is, yeah, I had that. Fun times – I’ll remember them forever. But really now, the Isle of Man TT has nothing to do with dirt bikes.
I remember the morning Craig called me over to his house. He said he had something to show me. Since we had been neighbors for so many years, but I had moved away and then come back, I knew where to go and I knew exactly where he would be sitting. In his living room looking at motorcycle magazines. That’s all he had been talking about for a good few months and obviously, it’s all I heard about. So I knew what to expect when I walked through the door.
“Jay, sit down and shut up. Just read this.”
He handed me one of his many motorcycle magazines. He had the page flipped open to a big spread that covered the entire race from start to finish. It took up much of the magazine, in fact. I though perhaps too much, until I started reading.
“How fast do these guys go?” I asked.
“200 freaking miles per hour!” he replied.
I sat there wondering how he figured on staying alive at 200MPH. I knew that’s what he had planned because he wouldn’t have called me over just to see some motorcycle magazine feature. I sat, pretending to read…thinking. Just gazing through the pictures.
Craig kept on talking. He was saying things like, “We can do this. Why be alive if we don’t do what we love to do? What’s the sense? We both know how to ride and we’re both really good at it. Let’s get this done.”
I acted like I couldn’t hear him or that I wasn’t paying attention, but what I was really doing was thinking about how much I had in my checking account. As it ended up, it wasn’t much.
I put the magazine down on the table and said goodbye. Craig looked at me like I had just slapped him across the face.
“What are you doing? Why are you leaving?” he asked.
I just walked out the door.
I suppose the pictures did something to me that afternoon, or maybe it was Craig’s argument that we start living our lives. I’m not sure, because we were only in our early twenties. It’s not like we had much to be depressed about yet. Life was still new to us. I don’t know, but what I do know is that a few nights later, I called Craig and asked him if he could drive me somewhere. He wanted to know where, but I wouldn’t tell him. I just said for him to bring his truck. He pushed and pushed, but I wouldn’t tell him where I needed to go. Being the good friend that he was, he stopped asking, got in his truck and came over to my house to pick me up.
“Just stay on 55 until we get to Dutchess Rec and then pull in.”
He looked surprised. He liked what he was hearing because Dutchess Rec was a motorcycle dealer. I’m actually not sure if he cared what the plan was anymore because any time one of Craig’s journeys landed him in a motorcycle dealership show room, he was pretty satisfied. He did want to know what was on the agenda, but I just smiled and told him to be patient.
Within the hour, both Craig and I were standing in a room full on motorcycles, looking at a whole bunch of different makes and models. I remember he fell in love with a brand new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-12R. I was like, “C’mon man. Get over here.” The bike was over ten grand.
Little did he know, I was on a mission. I had already called the dealer and asked about their used inventory. The sales guy told me that there was a 1993 Suzuki GSX-R 1100 sitting in the show room on consignment. He told me it was going for $4500. I asked that he hold it because I would be over to check it out.
The picture above is the bike I bought that night. I put it on my credit card. You know, it’s a strange thing when I was young. I kept thinking that life was going to end at any moment, so I would do things like this. Spur of the moment is my middle name. Those who know me today are probably shaking their heads in agreement.
It was so funny. The whole ride home, Craig kept asking me what in the world I was thinking. I told him that I needed to practice for the race. He seemed surprised, until I reminded him that the whole thing was his idea. He just didn’t think I would take things so seriously.
I have some bad news for you. The Isle of Man thing never happened. I rode my bike for years and Craig followed. He actually purchased and owned more motorcycles than I did. I stuck with the one street bike while he quickly got bored and upgraded to something better.
Craig probably owned about four or five bikes to my one. He kept on asking when I was going to get serious and I kept replying, “We never did the race. What’s the sense in spending all that money?” He just shook his head and walked away. Every time I said things like that, he shook his head and walked away. He still had the dream and I felt like I was fading.
Now, that was a long time ago. Years have passed and Craig has been riding like there was no tomorrow. He would call me in the middle of Winter and tell me he rode down to Greenwich to have dinner. I would say, “On your bike?” “No, my ten speed you idiot. Of course my bike,” he would shout back. He had a knack for making me feel stupid for selling my bike a few months after I moved to Connecticut.
“Your life is never going to be the same, my friend.” He would tell me things like this.
A few months ago, Craig gave me a phone call and asked if I would reconsider buying another sport bike. He told me he wanted to give Tony’s Track Days in New Jersey a try. He said that they would train us how to become professional riders. I didn’t know how to reply. Craig had been talking about motorcycles just as much as he ever had and I didn’t want to rain on his parade. He asked me once and then asked me again. I had to tell him no because I had different responsibilities now. My life had changed since we were younger.
A few weeks later, I started getting pictures in my email box. I saw that they were from him, but I had no idea what they were. It’s funny too, because I had called Craig a few times over the weekend and I got no answer. I was somewhat concerned, right until I opened one of the emails.
“That bastard,” I mumbled under my breath as I began to smile. I didn’t think he was going to do it, but I instantly had an overwhelming feeling of pride for my good friend who was making his life happen. I couldn’t help but to call him up and to rub in his good fortune. I know it was him I was so proud of, but I still had to rub it in.
“You’re crazy!” I said. ” What the heck were you thinking?
“I’m not waiting for it to happen to me anymore.” He replied and continued to explain his philosophy of life to me. “I’m going to go out and take it.”
I sat back and settled into my seat and said, “Go ahead.”
There was a pause of silence for a few seconds, until I heard him take a breath. It was like he was warming up for something. Or perhaps he just had to get something off his chest.
…to be continued…