Monday, July 15, 2013

Fifty-one years on the streets and highways

This is the 51st anniversary of the first day I woke up with an Indiana learner’s permit in my wallet.

Which is a roundabout way of saying I began the path to my first driver’s license on my 16th birthday, which was 51 years ago yesterday. I completed driver education at Delphi High School and got my license on Aug. 16. We left the next day on vacation in the family’s 1960 Ford Galaxie, with me at the wheel most of the time, driving through New England and returning through Canada. I got my first motorcycle endorsement when Indiana created the requirement in 1980.

God only knows how many million road miles ago that was. I know I have more than 300,000 BMW motorcycle miles behind me, so my total miles driven and ridden have to be in the millions.

I bought my first car – a 1965 VW Beetle – on Aug. 1, 1966. Since then I’ve had an English Ford Cortina, Pontiac LeMans, VW Karmann-Ghia convertible, Mercedes Benz, two Cadillacs, Mercury Topaz, Chevrolet Chevette, Nissan Sentra, Honda del Sol, Buick LeSabre, Subaru Forester, Lexus RX330, Kawasaki KE175, Kawasaki KZ650, BMW R50/5, BMW R100RS, BMW K100RS, BMW K75S, and BMW K1200GT – 14 cars and seven motorcycles.

The English Ford was the worst by far – shoddy construction and poor design. It’s hard to say which car was the best – the Benz was old but elegant and smooth as glass on the highway, the ‘94 del Sol still runs like new and is great fun to drive, the Forester has been rock-solid reliable, and the Lexus is by far the most luxurious.

I’ve loved all of the motorcycles, maybe the ‘91 K100RS the most since it gave me more than 160,000 miles of smiles, but I still have a soft spot for the ‘81 R100RS, since it was my first real sport tourer and opened up a whole new way of life for me. The K75S, which will be 20 years old in February, is still a blast to ride because it’s so light and nimble. The GT, which turned 10 this year, continues to be a comfortable ride, decked out as it is with XM-Sirius satellite radio and Garmin Zumo 550 GPS.

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