By: Dave Thalls
In the summer of 1962, in Hagerstown, Indiana, I discovered something that
would change my life forever. My friends and I always rode our bicycles everywhere—a great way to get around, two wheels and pedal power. But that summer was to be different because that summer my friend Jay, who was a little older than the rest of us, got a motorcycle.
Jay got a shiny red Bridgestone 125cc, and he rode that bike everywhere. He even gave me my first-ever motorcycle rides. Jay’s machine was very quiet, and it purred as it went down the street. He was a proud owner and a very safe and cautious rider—exactly what I wanted to become. My first introduction to motorcycling was because of Jay, and I wanted to ride as he did. I wanted to own my own bike and become a good and safe rider.
Looking back, I know I must have begged my father mercilessly for a motorcycle. And I believe my Dad really wanted to get me a bike, but my Mother stood in the way. Even though it was 1962, the image of someone on a motorcycle had no doubt been given such bad press that all she must have thought of was motorcycle gangs, motion pictures, and loud pipes. Her son was certainly not going to get a motorcycle!
My First Honda
So I will never know for certain, as both of my parents have passed on now, how one summer day my Dad managed to pull into our driveway with a new Honda 50cc motorcycle in the trunk of the car. And to me, it didn’t matter that this bike was small enough to even fit in the trunk of the car because that day I received a gift that changed my life. I’m sure I likely felt It’s all I’ll ever need.
My biggest desire back then—besides riding, of course—was to show my parents that I was worthy of their confidence in me. My white Honda 50 and I spent hour after hour exploring the roadways in and around our
community. And mile after happy mile I rode, trying as a youth to be as safe and careful as I knew how to be.
Now, I don’t believe my Mother ever truly lost her worry. And I know Dad must have hidden his concern as I continued to ride and to allow this machine to dominate almost all my free time that summer. But alas, fall came and it was time to surrender my little Honda to the cold weather of the approaching Indiana winter. So my Dad and I carried that little white Honda down the outside basement stairs and stored my freedom for the winter.
But early in the spring, no sooner had the weather turned warm than the need to ride hit me and the open road called. Kids can be impatient, you know. And with no one around to help me, I managed to carry that little Honda up the basement steps all by myself. And, in fact, I guess that action alone sums up how I define this hobby, this sport, this desire, this obsession I still call my own.
That spring and summer, on I rode. And I gained confidence in my abilities and confidence in a machine that always started and was absolutely flawless in its performance. Soon a few other friends started to get bikes of their own. Super 90’s seemed to be their bikes of choice. We rode together often, but even when they were unable to go, I rode alone. The draw of the ride, the road, the machine, the freedom just must have been more than I could resist. I’m sure I rode for hours and more miles than I could even hope to remember.
At the time, though, I didn’t yet realize that each rotation of those wheels and every mile that fell behind me just imprinted more in my mind and on my heart the wonderful obsession of motorcycle riding. And all the while, I scarcely realized I was growing as a boy and as a rider. Soon, in my mind anyway, the Honda 50 just did not seem big enough anymore.
About the same time all my friends, who already all had bigger bikes, were dreaming of getting larger bikes as well. So we’d get brochures from a Honda dealership in a nearby city and pour over the new motorcycles that were available.
My Second Honda
I fell in love with the Honda 150cc. This bike would be 100cc’s bigger than what I was riding and would last me forever, I felt. But how would I convince my parents? Finally, I approached my Dad and announced to him that this beautiful red Honda 150 would be “All I’ll ever need”. Isn’t it funny the things we look back on from our youth and wonder how they happened?
Somehow my Father once again granted my childhood dream. The Honda 150 was not brand new, granted, but it was beautiful. The loving owner before me had added a windshield and saddlebags and the engine purred like a great cat. I loved the way it rode with its awesome power. Again I believe my Dad must have taken a lot of grief from my Mother, who had not warmed up to me riding a motorcycle at all, let alone a larger one. But something lifelong and good did come from her deep concern because my riding habits were no doubt molded by my desire to prove to my Mother that I could ride safely. Then, and especially as we got ever nearer to high school graduation, one by one my friends dropped out of motorcycling. They had left some of their youth behind, untouched and abandoned in the garage. By then cars had replaced their passion for riding motorcycles. But me? I still spent untold hours and hundreds of miles on that 150, gaining riding knowledge and forever forming my love of riding. I always believed this wonder bike—this delight of my adolescence—was “All I’ll ever need”. After graduation, Uncle Sam wanted me to work for him; I was drafted into the U.S.Army. It was decided that I should sell the Honda; it was simply taking up space in the garage, and I would not be able to ride for two years. The machine that carried me through my high school years, that had formed the foundation of my love for motorcycling and on which I had spent hundreds of miles, was sold to the first person who came to look at it.
I’ll admit that part of my life left with that bike. I just knew I would never find that feeling again: The call of the road is strong, the desire to ride is magnified by the approaching spring, and the purr of a Honda engine calls like a soft voice in the night. Can anyone who has ever twisted the throttle of such a superior machine, who has ever experienced the thrill of riding free, or shared this hobby with someone they love…can we really do without it?
My First Gold Wing
Through my lifetime since then, I have had several bikes, and my first Gold Wing was a used 1975. From that point on, I would have no other motorcycle. I am now on my fourth Gold Wing, and I am very blessed as my wife Tammy enjoys being my Co-Rider. We look forward to our trips and to the enjoyment we share heading down the highway together. As I write this, it is still January here in Indiana and the weather always a factor for us
northern riders. As I write this, my Gold Wing rests now in a building next to our garage where we had a sign made that proclaims this building as the “Honda House”. I must believe my Gold Wing enjoys its heated surroundings and, like me, waits for the first signs of spring.
Throughout my life, Honda motorcycles have taken me hundreds of thousands of wonderful
miles. I have ridden to the east coast, through the New England states, to Florida, to
the west coast and most places in between. I have parked beside a giant redwood, enjoyed
Deals Gap, enjoyed the ride across the Hoover Dam, dodged storms in Oklahoma and had my picture taken with my bike at Stephen Kings’ house in Bangor, Maine. But that is just a sampling of my adventures. A Honda motorcycle has taken me across this great country and has made enough wonderful memories to last me well past my riding days (though I know that my riding is far from over as long as I am able to be excited for a new trip or even the next short ride). My and Tammy’s Gold Wing now is a 2003 Candy Apple Red beauty, and I like to think its great-great-grandfather just may have been a Honda 150. As I ride it, sometimes my memory will reflect back at points to my parents who, in life, never rode with me but who made my youth so very happy with their gift to me. And I will never forget my Mother’s concern as I began a ride nor my Dad’s faith in me as a rider. And as I look back on my intense passion for motorcycling, I realize three things really brought it about: My friend who gave me the desire to ride; my Dad who made it happen; and a Honda, which brought it all together. Little wonder, then, that I now believe it may no longer be just the Honda 150—but now a Honda Gold Wing—that truly is “All I’ll ever need”.
Articles and accompanying photos courtesy of Wing World, the monthly magazine for Members of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA), the world's largest single-marque social organization, founded in 1977, for owners and riders of Honda Gold Wing and Valkyrie motorcycles. For a complete list of Member Benefits, including a subscription to Wing World magazine, please visit www.gwrra.org or http://www.gwrra.org/members/. All rights reserved.