I grew up in a semi affluent town north of Atlanta in the seventies, graduating high school in 1977. The crowd I ran around with had 4 directives: beer, pot, motorcycles and sex. Anything else had to relate to the primary 4. Skipping school was my sport. My crowd was motorcycle obsessed. Bob Hannah, Marty Smith, Jimmy Weinert, and Kenny Roberts were our heroes. We were wild, spoiled, irresponsible, poorly supervised, and dangerous. I was fortunate to walk away unscathed from half a dozen car crashes as driver or passenger before I was 20, plus uncounted motorcycle incidents. Some of my classmates did not survive.
One of my good friends, and an also very lucky guy, was David. David was tall, thin, muscular, had shoulder length straight brown hair and wore nerdy looking glasses. David’s closest friend was Wesley. David and Wesley, I am sure somehow inspired Bevis and Butthead, hu, hu, hu. An example of this was one afternoon David and Wesley were playing darts. David was pulling darts from the target and leaned over to pick one off the floor. Wesley decided to make a throw across David’s back. When David suddenly stood up, the dart hit David in the cheek. He later said he could feel the point with his tongue. Normally David was as laid back and as fun loving a guy as you ever met. However, when he did get mad, he would quickly become enraged. So, Wesley is standing on one side of the room across from David who has a hand full of darts and his face is quickly going red, and fire lighting in his eyes. Wesley knowing David well, suddenly realizes what is about to happen, and starts running for the door. He didn’t make it before David put a couple of darts in his back. No significant injury to either, and all was quickly forgiven.
David had a Suzuki RM-125, and later a Yamaha YZ-465. David was an exceptional rider. A true shame he didn’t participate in organized races. He went to race one time, and somebody was killed in an accident, which he said put him off on the idea. Probably more so his parents. That didn’t stop David from being very fast or make him adverse to risky behavior. When David would run one on one against other guys who raced and won, he would clean their clocks. I believe myself to be a good judge of riders. David was pro fast. Great bike control, and fearless. David liked trail riding, informally racing on our local sand lot tracks, big jumps, and wheelies. All that was fun, but his most favorite activity was running from the police. A dirt bike was his favorite mount for the pastime but, it did not matter. His mom’s car would do just as well as the RM. His escapes from police pursuit happened on a very regular basis, and he was never caught.
One evening David came over to my house on his RM with a big flashlight bungie corded to the number plate. After hanging out for a while David headed home. I stood outside and listened. Brrrp, brrp, brrp. Then a siren started up. Braaaap, braaaap, braaap, braaap. After a few minutes the sound faded in the distance and it was quiet again. The next day he told me how he escaped by cutting through a back yard.
When David got the big YZ, he was really into jumping it. More acceleration, speed, and suspension compared to the RM. He found a place where he could sail for hundreds of feet. Each time he would push the limits and hit the ramp a bit faster. The last time, he went higher and further yet. When the bike slammed down, he said he at first he thought the handlebars were twisting in the clamps, but then the whole front end broke away at the steering head sending him flying with the back half of the bike sliding along dragging the front end by the cables. It turned out Yamaha’s welding robot had missing the seam on one side. YZs didn’t have a warranty, but Yamaha did give David a new frame. Somehow, he got a new tire out of the deal too, so he was happy.
David went through a series of hand me down cars given to him by relatives. Most were destroyed in 6 months or so. First his mother’s Old’s Cutlass, then a really cool mid 60s Chevrolet Belvidere, and finally a Buick Wildcat. The Wildcat was a huge car with a honkin’ 435 V8.
I was riding with David in the Wildcat one morning. The pavement was wet, and David was masterfully drifting the big Olds down a curvy little road. Not tail out competition style drifting, but classic four wheel slides like Fangio at the Nürburgring. It ended when we came sliding around a curve with David in perfect control, only to find a F100 Ford pick-up coming the other way straddling the center line. David skillfully adjusted the Wildcat’s trajectory to miss the Ford by 1 or 2 inches at most but there was just not enough room on the narrow road. The outside wheels dropped off the pavement and the big cat glanced off a telephone pole. Done.
After that David had some street bikes. First a DT-400 street / trail, and then an XS-1100 Special. Shortly after we graduated high school, David and I worked together at the local Yamaha shop. At one point we both had bikes with drum front brakes. The fun prank with those bikes was to swap the brake and clutch cable. You leave the brake a bit loose so it kind of feels like a clutch. Our slightly older and more knowledgeable service manager did it to me first. I hopped on the bike, found neutral, gave the kick starter a prod, and fired her up. I pulled in what I thought was the clutch, clicked her into first, and buoonk. It of course stalled out to jeers and cheers of the watching gallery. I then took two minutes to swap the cables back and proceed on my way. I thought this was a pretty cool trick and wanted to try it on someone else. David was the only ready victim.
The next day was Friday or Saturday. David’s bike was parked behind the shop in a strip shopping center. While David was busy, I snuck out, swapped the cables, and set it up just right. David had a hot date for right after work, and unfortunately was running late finishing up a customer job, with the customer waiting. When he was done, we were all waiting outside sipping our first weekend cold one. In a rush David came out, fired up the yellow and white DT, put it in first, and stalled out to the cheers and jeers of the assembled crowd. Any semi-normal person would realize that actually riding the bike that way was a way bad idea. David being in a rush, thinking about directive number 4, rather than taking two minutes to swap the cables decided to just snug the brake up, leaving it connected to the left hand lever. He took off shifting into third leaned over as he rounded the corner of the building. Approaching the street he grabbed what would normally be the clutch, locked the front tire, and went down in a shower of sparks. He picked up the bike, then took one minute to swap the cables and took back off at full throttle, banging redline shifts into the distance.
The XS11 David bought was a salvaged wreck. He got it fixed up with used parts and had a good transportation bike. One weekend David took his girlfriend to Road Atlanta for a car race. They were having a good time and David got wasted before lunch, passing out on a blanket. He was laying there on his back, with his mouth hanging open. Another acquaintance of ours decided it would be fun to drop a hit of speed in his mouth, which David swallowed. Pretty soon hyper David was wide awake and looking for action. It was intermission at the time, so since there was nothing going on, David decided it would be a great opportunity to get in a few hot laps around the track. He found a gap in the fence that he squeezed the XS through and proceeded to ride around the track, bare chested, at speed. Soon the pace car was in hot pursuit. They couldn’t catch him, so they stopped and waited for him to come around again and threw a full 12 ounce beverage can at him, hitting him on his bare chest. It did not knock him off but, encouraged him to get back off the track through the same hole in the fence. He watched the rest of the races, loaded up the girl friend and rode home. He was pretty sore for a few weeks.
Other David stories include the time he got yanked off the YZ by a cable across a trail that hit him in the neck, and the time he got shocked by lightning hitting his house while he was in the shower. I haven’t seen or heard from David in almost 40 years. I moved away, and I am not sure where life has taken him but would love to know.
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