She Was My First.

Come on, we all have the first one. We don’t talk about it much. Maybe to someone you trust with intimate information. Someone who understands you, gets you and knows how to stay quiet while you talk. Maybe it’s someone who has had a similar first time experience that changed how they look at the world, too. Admit it,  after that relationship, nothing was ever the same. It was a long time ago, and maybe in a more innocent time, but, oh, if you’re like me, you’ll never forget your first motorcycle.

Where the hell did you think this was going? Jeeze, my wife and kids read this blog. And at least three nuns (that I know of).

My motorcycles have always been “shes.” I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just easier to express my love of fine mechanical engineering in the feminine. Truly, however, I have no idea how the “she” thing got started.

She – the first one – was a 1971 Yamaha Mini-Enduro. A 60cc, two-stroke miniature dirt bike that Yamaha introduced in the US around the time Bruce Brown’s movie, “On Any Sunday,” was released — and changed the focus of boys everywhere. I think one positive side-effect of the film was probably the general overall increase in grade point averages for 12-year-old-boys nationwide, determined to do whatever it would take to get their parents to buy them a bike. “Read it (my report card, June, 1971) and weep, mom, a deal is a deal.”

Yamaha Mini EnduroHank Red Bull

A ’71 Yami Mini-Enduro. Still sets my heart fluttering just looking at her. Or maybe it’s due to too much Red Bull. The last 30 miles each day is the hardest and I do what I have to do to make it through.

My mom worked as nurse in an ER, so capitulating couldn’t have been easy. My dad was a mechanical engineer and was probably jealous that he didn’t have a report card to show my mom.

“Ingrid” (beats me) was fast. Okay fast-ish. The bike had a wheelie-prone clutch (like a real motorcycle), three speeds and spewed blue smoke because my dad didn’t know how to properly mix the gas and oil. Did I mention he was a mechanical engineer? Ingrid had lousy suspension, a twitchy throttle, sketchy brakes and was generally pretty dangerous to ride. I could not have loved her more. I’ve loved many motorcycles since Ingrid. There was “Ursula (the Bitch),” “Tonga-Le-Oh” (um, ah… yeah ) and even “Zelda.”

I also named my 1954 Chevy pickup “Bess.” Some people think I’m weird. Whatever. I’ve known true love.


Bess. What a gal. Dee had her painted bright red for me as a “surprise birthday present.” I was surprised, all right. I didn’t speak to her for, like, a week. This is the “before” picture.

Now I ride “Baby,” a 2008 BMW R1200GS. The “GS” stands for “Gelande-Strasse, which, in German, basically translates into “road and not road.” Baby is a wonderful machine that has taken me all over the US, on-road and not-on-road, and now to Canada. Her odometer will turn 50,000 trouble-free miles while on this trip. I love Baby like a member of the family. And I’ll probably sell her when I get back and move on to my next motorcycle affair. I’m done taking her off-road and, as I’ll explain in another post down the road, need to up my comfort level on-road.

Baby got Back

Baby got Back. No man has ever requested that song in a bar as a tribute to his girl. Never.

So, fellow riders, what was your first? Come on, you can tell me. I understand how you feel. Put it in the comments section below. I know my club-mates at BMWCSC have secrets to tell…

“Oh, Canada.”

I don’t know any other words to the Canadian National Anthem, but the first two, “Oh, Canada” pretty much sum up what we’ve seen the past couple of days. A visual feast.

I arrived in Seattle Wednesday afternoon and met up with my former workmate, Gavin G, to catch up on his life. I’m not being cute about his last name (it’s Graves), but when we worked together at the advertising agency a few years ago, we all called him “Gavin G!” or just “G!” He was really into rap and spoke in a kind of natural urban smooth drawl that is a product of his mixed neighborhood upbringing. He was real, still is, and not a bit of a “put-on” person. 

Hank and G

Now G!’s married and has two kids, and responds to people calling him “Gavin” in subdued tones, but he’ll always be just G! (always with the exclamation) to me. Great to hang with you, little brother.

Dee flew into Seattle Wednesday night. Thursday morning we began our adventure ride after meeting her cousin, Shawn, for breakfast. Shawn’s a cool guy and I spent time trying to convince him to ride with us. We’ll get him going “thataway” sometime.

Dee start day

I seem to have picked up something along the way.

We headed east on the Northern Cascade Highway (WA 20). This is one of those roads you hear about all the time from other riders. And for the most part they’re right. Perfect for touring on a motorcycle, which is rider-speak for “go really fast and see pretty stuff out of the corner of your eye.” We stayed the night in Winthrop, which is kind of an old west themed town. Not much to recommend it, other than the air conditioning in the motel which worked fine. Which reminds me, it’s been hot in Washington and British Columbia. Like, unseasonably – check that – unreasonably hot. When we rolled into Kamloops, after crossing into Canada, it was 102F. Of course, we’re in Canada where that’s only 35C, so it should be cooler, right?

Ross Lake WA20

The view of Ross Lake from the summit along the Northern Cascade Highway. The water is a brilliant green due to sediment known as “rock flour.” I’ve had biscuits made of what I’m sure was rock flour at a Denny’s once. Really, I crack myself up.

BC sign

Welcome to British Columbia, where it’s a balmy 102F,  just like in Colombian Colombia.

We had dinner at a biker recommended joint, “The Noble Pig.” Fantastic! We shared the baked potato, bacon and cabbage (yeah, cabbage) chowder and a ridiculously large serving of their signature truffle and mushroom mac and cheese. The Noble Pig also brews their own beer (many varieties), which I almost poured on my head to cool off. If you find yourself in Kamloops (I love saying “Kamloops”) be sure to check out the Pig.

Noble Pig

Three or four thousand calories, but it doesn’t count when you share. Scientific fact.

From Kamloops (as satisfying to say as Yakima; go on, try it), we headed 275 miles northeast on the Yellowhead Highway to the town of Jasper, Alberta. It was a great ride, especially seeing as the air temperature finally dropped to about 80F. This little town of 4,500 sits in the middle of Jasper National Park, which is in the Canadian Rockies, and, as it’s summer, currently has about 50,000 tourists filling the hotels and restaurants. I guess that would include us.

Alberta sign

Can you name all of the provinces in Canada? Yeah, me neither. I think there’s British Columbia, Alberta, Sasquatch, Sneezy, Dopey and Tundra-land. I will, no doubt, be hearing from my Canadian friends very soon.

We began our day by taking the Jasper Skytram, which takes you up to about 7,500 feet and overlooks the beautiful mountain ranges, rivers and lakes of the Jasper National Park.

Jasper skytram

Jasper from the top of the Skytram at 7,500 feet.

In the afternoon, we rode over to Maligne Lake and took a boat tour out to Spirit Island. This trip is not to be missed if you ever visit Jasper. The lake is fed and surrounded by active glaciers. The photos below will give you an idea of the area, but won’t really give you the scope. It’s massive and stunning. As Dee said to me on the boat ride today, “You know, a 100,000-year-old glacier really puts your mortality into perspective.”

Indeed. Like the John Mellencamp tune says, “Your life is now.”

Maligne Lake1 Maligne Boat

How do they get all this magnificent beauty into one place?

Maligne Lake Spirit Island Maligne Glacier

Spirit Island and one of the glaciers that put all that water around it.

Maligne Canyon Falls

Waterfall in Maligne Canyon that has carved through rock for thousands of years. I feel small. Again.

HD spirit

In the unlikely event that we started sending out a holiday card again, this’d probably be this year’s photo. I doubt it, so Happy Holidays!

Bear Sign

Randomness #1. Lots of signs warning us about encountering animals on the road, like moose, deer and elk, but the one that made me laugh was this Bear Warning sign on the way to Maligne Lake. The part I liked the best was “Stay in your car if bears are encountered.” That’s comforting when you’re on a bike.

Hank sleep

Randomness #2: By the end of the ride day, I’m pretty wiped out and sometimes take a little nap. Dee thinks it’s just hilarious to take photos of me sleeping on this trip to make up for the 300 or so photos I have of her sleeping in the car. Right. It’s on.

Jasper is the northern most point of our planned route. Tomorrow we’ll start heading south through Lake Louise and stopping overnight in Banff. By all indications, guidebooks, locals overheard, and stray bikers heading for Sturgis, we should continue to see magnificent country for the next few days.

By the way, I do drive a car now and then. It’s an old Jeep Wrangler. Her name, for no reason in particular, is “Clarice.” But you gotta say it like Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs.”

“Hello, Clarice.”

Creepy, right?

2 thoughts on “She Was My First.

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