Sunday, April 5, 2009

Living the Dream, avoiding the Nightmare

Doni with the camper on a 1972 Datsen (Nissan) Pick Up. 1975
Doni on the Honda 350 scrambler (camper in back ground)

We lived just to the left of the white area.

Thirty-five years ago I got my first motorcycle. It was a Honda 350 Scrambler. It was designed for off road driving, but lighted and licensed for street riding. In it’s day it was incredible. Dee and I lived on the outskirts of town (one block long) on a high spot in the middle of a dry lake. It was about 5 miles by road to the church where I ministered or 4 miles cross country. Of course, being cost conscious and gas in the high 60’s (cents) I had to save where I could so I would often take the most direct route across the dry lake. Did you know there is no posted speed limit on a dry lake? I discovered the short cut quite by accident, literally. I was riding home from church and was going to fast to negotiate the corner with the sand on the road. I hesitated for a second which caused me to hit a 2 foot dirt embankment. Being a scrambler instead of a street bike, the bike did what it was designed to do and literally jumped the embankment, landed in the dry lake and kept on going. When my heart climbed back down into my chest where it belonged I realized the near accident was actually the bike telling me it did not like to ride on pavement, preferring the sand and trails. That embankment became my usual launching pad to a great ride home. Things were going pretty well with the scrambler as I was learning to become one with the bike and know and trust it’s capabilities. One day I was out doing some pastoral visiting…I really was…in an area that was filled with rolling hills and no traffic. I opened up the throttle going down one half mile long hill, hit around 85 at the bottom and rocketed up the shorter slope. There was a little hiccup at the top of the slope and in a flash the scrambler and I were probably 8-10 feet in the air. As we passed the crest of the hill and a small flat top I could see from my birds I view that the road swept sharply left in the area I would soon be landing. I made a quick mental check during the final approach and calculated that at my speed and altitude I would immediately upon landing have to lay the bike to the left or launch again into the vastness of space off the side of a mountain. To tense up or hesitate now meant certain serious injury and destruction of the bike…at a minimum. As the bike softly settled back onto the pavement I put it into a hard left. The tires grabbed and we shot straight down the middle of the paved road. When we caught up with my heart a couple miles down the road, I swore I would never do anything so stupid again. And I didn’t. For a week. But the rush, the ride overruled my short lived wisdom and I soon found myself going back down the same road at the same speed seeing the same bird’s eye view of the canyon below. I stuck the landing one more time in perfection, this time my heart staying with me for the whole ride, only racing a little faster for a second. This was really fun. Stupid but really fun. My father (a heart patient) bought a Honda 350 street bike... to cut down on gas expenses he said. Really, he bought it to ride with me, which we did. All my teen years he had been flat in his back in bed and now, post heart surgery, he had a little more endurance to do some things with me instead of just watching me or listening to my football games on the radio. The announcer always started the play call with “big Don Zimmermann is over the football”. Ridiculous! I was 165 lbs playing with and against guys over 100 lbs heavier! Anyway Dad and I road the valley together several times just to be together. We didn’t even pretend we had a reason to go, we just went because for the first time in our lives we could. That all came to an abrupt end when dad froze at slow speed, hit a small dirt embankment and flew over the handlebars, breaking his collar bone. He had a street bike, not a scrambler. It definitely did not like going off the pavement. In the hospital he vowed to get right back on the bike, but pain and wise counsel convinced him he was too old to learn to be one with the bike. He never rode again. Statistics warn that if you ride a bike you are going to fall or get hit. I had beaten the statistics so far and continued to ride. Dee and I did not have much money and had a growing family. We wanted to buy a camper for our truck but the only way to do that was to sell the bike. I was debating…until my brother in law Dave dropped my bike on a sand covered corner near the church. Dave was a far better rider than I and I knew then it was only a matter of time before I wrecked. I sold the bike to help pay for the next dream we realized: a camper. Good decision. From time to time I would borrow a sports bike and always feel the urge to get another birds eye view. It took 30 years to get past that. When I did get apst it, I got my dream bike. Never did try to get up with the birds, just enjoyed the wind rushing through my hair. Ok it is the hair on my arms but that still counts, and besides I always wore a helmet! By God’s grace I am one of the few to ride and never put a bike down I lived my dream and avoided the nightmare. Thank you Father for your blessings to me.


heidi jo said...

you are an amazing storyteller... wow... SO glad you got to SAFELY live those dreams. :)

Doni Brinkman said...

So sorry Dad but I for one am glad the bike went bye bye. All is now right with my world. ;)