We Can Hit the Trails Together

Let me take you on a journey, back, back, waaaaaay back, to nineteen-eighty-five to where this assorted tale begins. You see I grew up in a house with 2-siblings; one older and one younger. Yep, I was the middle child (& still am), and I was always trying to keep up with the older brother, yet be content with being the middle sibling/older brother to my younger brother. And well, it just didn’t always work out in my favour.

The first tale of tales goes like this, my older brother bought a Yamaha 80cc engine motorbike when he was 14 years old and when he turned 17 he bought a Yamaha YZ 125cc dirt bike because he wanted something a little faster and more durable. One night my Big Bro says to me “James, I want to give you the 80cc bike in the garage so you can start learning to ride. It’ll be awesome. We can hit the trails together…” My heart was racing. My Big Bro, just gave me a motorbike. And I was surly going to ride like the wind. The only thing is I really didn’t know what I was doing.

A few days later, I turned up after school. I’m about 12 years old and I am sitting up on top of the motorbike while its on its kickstand in the garage. I’m making those motorbike sounds like you hear all the time on television “vroom, raaaar, vroom” and I am yapping it up with a smile on my face pretending to shift through the gears. My Big Bro, comes into the garage and says, “hey what are you up to? That’s not going to teach you how to ride. But I will.” So, he fires up his 125cc, tosses me a helmet and away we go. When we get back he says, “James, don’t ride the 80cc until next week. I have to adjust the front shocks. They are just not quite right.”

I’m soooo super excited. I’ve just inherited a 80cc motorbike, my Big Bro just taught me how to shift on a motorcycle and there is that thrill of the wind rushing past your face. Its like heaven on earth. A few days pass, and I notice a little progress on the fix up of the 80cc bike. Each day I become a little more anxious then the day before. Finally, I cannot take it anymore.

After school, I think it was a Thursday, because my Big Bro wasn’t at home. He’s probably at work or hanging out with his football buddies. I go into the garage and I’m sitting on the bike making those noises again. But this time, I notice something different about the bike. It has a key in it. I wonder. Then I turn the key and try firing it up. The thing starts… it’s little engine rattling on the kickstand. I pretend to shift gears and I’m happily idling away on the bike. My face is doing all kinds of expressions; riding fast through the yard, riding slow down the street, riding up a hill towards a jump. I am super excited. I turn off the bike. My imagination has gotten the better of me. I know I should wait until Big Bro, tells me its okay to drive it. But those sounds, the real ones, not my made up ones, are racing through my veins.

I step back to exam how the bike is perched up on its centre-stand. I’m looking around for a helmet. I spot one. Its a bit older with no face shield. It’ll be okay James. We’ll just take it for a spin up the street. I’ll be gone for 10-minutes and we’ll bring it back. Big Bro, will never know. And that’s when the “devil inside” comes out to play. I step to the side of the bike, kicking at the centre-stand until it hops back under the belly of this little silver beast. I turn it around in the garage, toss over my leg, strap on the helmet and turn the key. My heart is racing.

My right thumb presses the start button and the bike roars to life! I look left and right, no one is visible in our cul de sac, I drop it into first gear and roll slowly down our driveway into the circle of the street. Pulling up my left leg then the right, leaning a little to the right and my leg pops down for balance. Up again, pull the throttle and it hops forward with a bit of speed. The smile is ear-to-ear as I peel out of the cul de sac and head up the hill. I see Jeff, then Mike and Tony. My head is down, I am throttling through the gears when I reach third. The speedometer climbs up passing 19, 20, 21 miles per hour. I grab the front brake and slow the stead, as I reach the top cul de sac near Ken’s house. I’ve slowed back down to a stop at the end of his driveway and blasted the horn. Ken doesn’t come out of his house, no one is home.

I decide I should return home when I notice the yard across the way has 2-small hills in it. I laugh to myself. What if I use the first hill as a speed bump and jump the second? Oh James! That is brilliant! I gather up the courage and slowly jerk the bike around. I send myself flying, first gear engaged then up into second gear, the little bike jumps the curb, rolls over the first hill, I grab the throttle just like the TV Racers do and it shoots me across the grass, I reach for the front brake but its too late, as I am AIR BORN launching the silver beast into the air, as I hold on with a death grip. The tires screech when I hit the driveway, my foot presses the rear brake, momentum is too much and carries me into the garage door SMASH! goes the collision. A giant front tire mark skids across the light blue garage placing a small dent against it.

A random guy down the street hears the noise and comes running. It’s probably Mike’s dad. Dammit. What happened? I am crying and laughing at the same time. Mike’s dad arrives and helps me up. “James, what were you thinking?” He survey’s the carnage to the bike and garage door. “Come on. Let’s get you and the bike home.” Mike’s dad helps with the bike, dragging it back down the hill to my garage. We prop it up on the centre-stand. “My big bro, is going to be fierce with me. Dammit!” Mike’s dad says, he’ll have to tell the Smith’s about the accident and their garage door, and I will have to figure out how-to pay them back.

~ James Curtis