Whatever: The Off-Season

John Burns
by John Burns

I miss the damp, dreary January of my soul

It’s 76 degrees here today in SoCal as I sit processing words on the patio, but the sun’s low on the southern horizon and only a few rays make it through the trees this time of year. The days are starting to get a little longer, but not long enough for me to find much time to ride lately. I feel guilty there’s a new Suzuki GSX-S1000Z in the garage I’ve barely ridden even though we’ve had plenty of perfect days the last couple weeks. I hate to write it out loud, but I’m beginning to miss the kind of winters where you hibernate in your basement for a few months. Rest up for the spring and polish your crankshaft. Make like Peter Egan with the hot toddies in the garage. Out here, if you’re not out riding your motorcycle or pedalling your bicycle or doing hot yoga or something stupid healthy, you’re a malingerer. Have a nice day!

Also I’m bitter Evans is riding back cross country on my Gold Wing, so I’m kind of not riding out of spite. I remember being a kid back in Missouri. On some of those dark cold weekends, I’d actually pick up a book and just read it for most of the day, with the ability to remain awake for chapters on end instead of only three or four pages. Why not? There was no Facebook to check every half hour, Jimmy Carter didn’t Tweet, and if you wondered what was on one of the other three channels, you had to get up and walk across the room to twist the knob and find out. Ooh Captain Kangaroo!

Random access memory allows me to tune out the downsides, like the ice storms that knocked out power for a week and calved icebergs in my aquarium with neon tetras frozen in them. I guess my Dad didn’t know from generators. I don’t think anybody’s dad did. When was the portable home generator invented anyway?

About March, when it looked like the polar blast would never end, the bike magazines with the new models would start appearing in the mailbox. Holy Toledo. If I could somehow miraculously acquire the Suzuki TS185 of my dreams and my own apartment (since my folks would evict me) on my 90-cents an hour job at Allen’s Drive-In, life could be a dream, sweetheart.

By about 1979, I was making enough dough part-time for either an apartment or a KZ550 but not both. Maybe I could work a deal where I’d buy the KZ and just park it in the folks’ garage but not ride it? Just to be near it and to touch it would be enough… truth be told, I barely knew how to ride. The $50 pre-owned Bronco 50 my baby bro had obtained for his 13th birthday (after I broke down the parental barrier for a mini-bike at least) had seized up irreparably after only a month of use. Nobody knew from gearbox oil, either. My pitiful attempts to take the thing apart myself with a cheesy Phillips screwdriver were like a dog trying to use chopsticks. A month had been enough to teach me the bare basics how to ride, but our trainer was out of commission. I was back to fantasizing about the bikes in the magazines. When spring came round it was just easier to take the snow tires back off the rusty Chevelle and drive it. It was a loud, obnoxious thing my parents hated almost as much as motorcycles, so what the hell.

In my `hood, guys rode Sportsters, and things like KZ550s just didn’t appear much; they were more objects of fantasy to fill the long winters, whose posters (which also came in the magazines) kept Farrah Fawcett company on my walls. Deep in my heart of hearts I was afraid I’d be unable to handle any of them for more than about 45 seconds per ride. Winters were for dreaming, not doing.

By the time I got my first magazine job and moved to Californee, I’d only owned a couple of sketchy pre-owned Japanese four-bangers, had seen one Ducati (Pantah 600), and was pretty much agog when Phil Schilling led me into the Cycle magazine sanctorum. There sat Old Blue the Daytona-winning Ducati, Danny Coe’s TZ250, a pair of FZR400 test bikes, new GSX-R750, etc., etc., shelves of expensive helmets and racks of leathers, all shiny and new. And every time one of them would be taken away, another new model would take its place. Who wants to go for a ride?

I was always going to ask Hugh Hefner, if I ever bumped into him, don’t you ever just get tired of all the love man? I’m guessing his answer would be like me with all the motorcycles. NEVER! But I do need a break from them now and then. Get offa me Barbi!

Anyway, I know I’m blessed when it comes to motorcycles, and I couldn’t be more grateful. It’s also important to bear in mind you never know when you might not be able to ride. Take my ex-wife, please. She was supposed to bring over a turkey on Christmas day (I’ll give her that she’s a great cook), and when she didn’t appear by about 2 pm, we made the phone call. She’d tumbled down a flight of stairs on Christmas Eve and was in an induced coma at the hospital.

Oh my God, how’s the turkey?

Seems she’s going to make a full recovery, and her new mate had made all the arrangements for her to go into a brain injury rehab deal near their place for a month or two, or possibly just back to their apartment depending on her rate of recovery – really good so far. I was so thankful for him handling it all, I felt obligated to say something noble, like, well, she can stay at my house if she needs to for a while, where there are no stairs. So I said it. Guess where she is this week while he’s away on business?

Correct! This week I am Nurse Johnny and too busy refinding the TV remote, her phone, her medications, her purse, to even think about going for a motorcycle ride, even though it’s 76, sunny, and there’s a new Suzuki in the garage to “test.” Thank God she’s able to get to the bathroom on her own, and really doesn’t need all that much nursing – and a big shout out to Ms. Chrissy for being her unlicensed impractical nurse, helping out tremendously whenever she can.

So far it’s been a great week for remembering why divorce is worth the expense, contemplating what cool things the doctors will buy with my home equity and just chilling out, Missouri-winter style. Matter of fact, now that this column’s done and the patient is resting comfortably in (my) bed watching a movie, I think I’m going to crank up the AC, sneak off into the garage with a hot toddy and read about Brasscannon’s Gold Wing ride. A man can dream.

John Burns
John Burns

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  • Keith T Robinson Keith T Robinson on Jan 25, 2018

    Taking care of your x wife while her new husband is away on bizz? And you actually tell the world your doing this? And that's your reason for not riding a your new bike ? California is a weird place I guess. Wow!

  • John B John B on Jan 25, 2018

    To care for your convalescing ex is such a great deed. What's interesting is you refuse to be magnanimous about it. I respect your integrity, but why not soak up the good will your good deed would engender were you a little less forthcoming? If I were in your position, I would have studied Mother Theresa quotes, and wrote things like, "Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier." Yea, I've pretty much accepted I'm a bad person. Then again, no one ever buys it when I plagiarize Mother Theresa, so I'm not really fooling anyone. I hope your ex recovers quickly.