I have a black leather jacket. Got it second hand from my brother-in-law. I like my jacket. The only problem is that sometimes I have trouble finding it on the coat rack at church among all the other black leather jackets. Recently Lois took a picture of me as we drove south to Bemidji, Minnesota. My friends thought that the jacket needed a bike—a Harley or Yamaha or something. I started remembering my very limited experience riding a motorcycle.
I went out to Zimbabwe in January 1972, after finishing an English degree at Messiah College. I went to Matopo Secondary School with my English degree and was assigned to teach Chemistry and Biology. Not a good idea. Two weeks later the school authorities transferred me to Mathematics and English, a much better fit. (In spite of my mathematical inadequacies, I grasped the algebra and geometry well enough to enjoy teaching it.)
[The pictures are of me in front of the house in which I lived, called "Phumula". The black and white shows me at the time of this story. The colour comes from our family trip to Africa in 2003.]
I had no transport of my own at Matopo, so one of the 1-Ws in Zimbabwe stopped by to visit me. He was headed back to the States and had a motorcycle he wanted to sell. Something like 100 cc (whatever that means). I knew nothing about motorcycles; I still know nothing. I googled “100 cc motorcycles” and found this entry: “We all know for a fact that 100cc commuter motorcycles dominate the Indian two-wheeler market, but did you know that they make up for over 60% of the total sales volume? We check out the top ten best-selling 100cc motorcycles in India, to see what makes them so popular!” So I guess that it’s a basic motorcycle, ideal for a 22-year old young man posted to a school 25 miles from the nearest city.
First my friend told me how wonderful motorcycles were through stories about trips around the country. He told how he and two friends and had managed to ride between three donkeys walking across the road. Donkeys are wonderfully predictable—they don’t change what they’re doing for anyone, least of all for cyclists. He told of all the wonderful accidents he and his friends had been in, or almost been in. Finally he handed me the keys (at least I think there were keys) and let me take it for a quick ride down the road.
I started off the dirt road from Matopo, headed down towards Mtshabezi at a sedate 30 miles an hour. As I reached the end of the Matopo Mission property, the road plunged down a steep hill made entirely of granite. I have driven that road more than once, but never on a cycle. My comfortable 30 mph began to feel far too fast, and I barely managed to come to stop before heading down the steep hill and adding to my friend’s store of accident stories.
That is as close as I came to ever owning a motorcycle. A few minutes later I was back at the house and handed him the keys. I bought a bicycle instead.