I had my chance to appear respectable, even suave, in the world's eyes. After all, I started my adventures in motojournalism as a car guy, in which role I got to cruise around in some very fancy four-wheelers. Think of it, carving through the freeway traffic hoi polloi and cruising the boulevards in a Ferrari or Aston Martin, delivering ego-buffeting smirks to the parvenu drivers of mere Cadillacs from the elevated seat of a Rolls Royce.
The job even had a sporting side. Ripping around the old Riverside Raceway course in Carroll Shelby's first Cobra, for example. Driving the dragster that had just won the Winternationals. Driving for British Leyland's International Rally Team. I tell you, the whole thing was the first act of a sophomore's wet dream.
There was just one thing wrong with all this wonderfulness: It wasn't motorcycles. For me, the attraction of motorcycling has always been the intensity of the experience. You smell and feel things perched on a motorcycle that never penetrate the tightly enclosed interior of a car. And speed on a motorcycle feels every bit as fast as it is, which is a big plus for me. My love of speed led me to many memorable adventures on the go-fast side of motorcycling. But speed hasn't always been a part of my motorcycling adventures. One of my truly memorable rides was one on which speed actually was not a primary consideration.
The last of the Cycle "Dirt Donks" rides shines in my memory as one of my most enjoyable motorcycling days. Off-road travels had for me always been mixed enjoyment and humiliation. I'd roadraced all over the country as an AMA Expert and foolishly believed that experience somehow qualified me as an off-road racer as well. I knew better for maybe the first half-mile of trail, but then the urge to get out in front would take over and I'd be caught up in serial disasters. A big difference this day was in the motorcycles the Dirt Donks were riding. In earlier outings we'd ridden little trailbikes, figuring anything better would be wasted on a bunch of off-road incompetents. This time we went for the good stuff, for me a big Kawasaki KDX450.
The Kawasaki quickly proved to have enough competence for both of us. The trail we followed took us high into California's Inyo County sierras and featured enough sand, broken rocks and steep uphills to be challenging. The main trail ended in an alpine meadow, from which we ascended along a narrow track to a bowl atop the mountain, above the timberline, where the sky was a darker blue, and there was very little air in the air.