The End of a Love Affair

Kenley at Mt. Shasta

One of the toughest decisions of my life happened in the past two weeks when I decided to end my love affair with motorcycle riding. I’m almost crying as I write this and look at the included picture. I’ve been riding since age 14 when our family had a little Honda 50 for dirt riding (or in the back alley’s of Fresno). From there I moved to a Honda Passport, Kawasaki KZ750, and finally to a series of BMW motorcycles. In all it is about 25 years of riding and a quarter million miles on a bike.

Why is this ending? I have been a very lucky rider. In the five accidents, I have never broken a bone or been seriously injured. This includes almost 10 years of riding in San Francisco. In the last decade I have considered selling the bike a couple of times but have never gone through with it. This time my gut tells me it is time. Earlier this fall another rider with my age and experience spent a month in the hospital after being hit at an intersection I cross daily. We get a lot of bikes in Ojai due to our fantastic curves, so accidents and deaths are not uncommon. On January 10, 2009 a fellow rider, sangha connection, and friend was killed near his home in Malibu. Peter Kollock is only a little older than I and rides the same BMW model. That same weekend, there was a death in Ventura and another on Highway 33 above Ojai.

All this has shaken me. I have two young children, and perhaps my decision would be different without them, but I want them to have a healthy and living dad as they grow up. I am saying goodbye to a dear friend and love but am embracing my responsibilities as a parent. It could be I’ll ride again when older, but for now it is goodbye.

What I have are my memories. Taking my young love, Leslie, on a motorcycle ride through La Jolla Shores on my KZ750 only to slip on gravel and spill the bike. We’re still together 18-years later! The ride from San Francisco to Saskatoon with Leslie on the back of my 1983 BMW R100RT. When we got there and looked at the map, Leslie couldn’t imagine driving all the way back to California, but we did. The ride to Fairbanks, Alaska along the Alcan Highway on my 1991 BMW R100RT by myself. What a trip! Riding to Durango, Mexico with my dad. The last big trip was with my dad and my dear friend Dana on my latest ride, the 2001 R1150GS. We rode through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. It included a significant blizzard on the pass through the Rocky Mountain National Park; visability was less than 10-feet and the wind was howling. No choice but to move forward. The picture  above – a self-photo at Mt. Shasta – is a madman ride from Fresno to British Columbia, and back, in three days for a family reunion. Surprise. There were so many more trips and adventures to remember, but these are a few of the highlights.

Will I have regrets? Maybe. Is it the right decision? Yes. I thank my family and friends who have supported me in this decision and in my riding all these years. I will miss riding deeply. Adieu mon amour.

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  • fredila

    Good decision. Life goes on and other things take precedence.

    Fred

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  • teacup6

    Lovely note. Your love for your bikes was so tender, as was your decision to put them aside.

    I learned about Peter's death from your note. I meet him only twice and was impressed with his presence and large heart. My heart goes out to his family and close friends.
    — Mitchell

  • jorgeoceja

    Beautiful, professor.

  • euwern

    good choice… family comes first.. i am impress.. at reading your motorcycle journey and trips… i can see that your joy or riding motorcycle is true and your love to it is intense.. i wish that i could travel amazingly like you did..see what you see in a motorcycle ride..

  • I've had three Yamaha R6's (03, 07, 07) in the past six years. The first I sold due to financial reasons, as I was a poor sophomore undergrad. The second I sadly totaled in the winding back country of Wisconsin. And the third I sold after proving to myself that I could once again ride even after a scary crash. After the accident the fun had been sucked out of riding and was filled with fear at every intersection, near every car.

    I had great times on all those bikes. If you're like me, you'll need to find a way to fill that void you'll find when the bike is gone. I picked up a sporty yet economical car and I'm about to get into road bike riding. It took a few months, but now when I see sport bikes on the road I wish them safety – or I cuss at them under my breath if they don't wear there helmet.

    Whatever you do to fill the void, be safe and have fun.
    ~kyle~

  • Thanks for the comments Kyle. It has been a few months now and my heart still aches when I see a nice dual sport BMW go by loaded up with gear. My buddy and I were just talking about his ride out to Colorado in a couple weeks. Oh, well. 🙂

    We just bought a little Honda Civic; not really a good substitute but it is what it is. Life is good and I may eventually return to riding but for now it is the four wheel experience.

    Peace.

  • I've had three Yamaha R6's (03, 07, 07) in the past six years. The first I sold due to financial reasons, as I was a poor sophomore undergrad. The second I sadly totaled in the winding back country of Wisconsin. And the third I sold after proving to myself that I could once again ride even after a scary crash. After the accident the fun had been sucked out of riding and was filled with fear at every intersection, near every car.

    I had great times on all those bikes. If you're like me, you'll need to find a way to fill that void you'll find when the bike is gone. I picked up a sporty yet economical car and I'm about to get into road bike riding. It took a few months, but now when I see sport bikes on the road I wish them safety – or I cuss at them under my breath if they don't wear there helmet.

    Whatever you do to fill the void, be safe and have fun.
    ~kyle~

  • Thanks for the comments Kyle. It has been a few months now and my heart still aches when I see a nice dual sport BMW go by loaded up with gear. My buddy and I were just talking about his ride out to Colorado in a couple weeks. Oh, well. 🙂

    We just bought a little Honda Civic; not really a good substitute but it is what it is. Life is good and I may eventually return to riding but for now it is the four wheel experience.

    Peace.