Enjoy the Ride | Sprung | Behind Bars

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Shasta Willson

Scarcity drives economics. You have to marshal your resources and stay alert for any rise in the market. Today was my day to strike. Winter, exerting its typically unkind influence on the local riding season, was abetted this year by a few ill-timed maintenance issues. Besides the normal winter stuff—flat battery, low tires, and an oil change—this winter saw some ancillary parts failing that are no longer covered under warranty.

Not on the bike. On the rider.

The left ankle’s been trying to get itself declared retired for some time now, and this winter it was joined by a torn right shoulder and a back increasingly prone to full mutiny. There comes a point when it’s a good day to ride any time you can pull on your boots without making Old Man Simpson noises, and this was that day.

My first chore was to apply for a replacement Social Security card, the kind of errand that’s suicidally depressing on a normal Seattle afternoon. Two hours later, I shuffled out of there bent over and hollow-eyed as a retired bookkeeper, but I got to jump on a glossy black sportbike instead of the faded Town Car in the handicapped spot.

Take the win, Lewis.

A little horsing around on the hill-road route to Bothell brought me past the gun range and down the 527 to what used to be Rooster Espresso, where I stopped in to discover it’s now a “Sexy Barista” stand, manned by a lanky blonde with sapphire eyes and trembling hands who professed to adore motorcycles. After she updated my route information to the Murphy auction site and comp’ed me a double shot with cream, I lied to her with all the cheerful bravado and none of the unmarried nervousness of a man half my age.

Getting tipped by a g-strung waitress in the fresh air of daylight: priceless.

I’ve been to the James Murphy yard before, but never on a sunny day. We just don’t have so many of those ’round here, and it made the wares pop like a red-leather bustier. Several donations made by unwilling citizens via the U.S. Marshal’s office were rather fetching. There was a 50,000-mile Porsche Cayman S parked up front next to a salmon-colored ’64 Thunderbird, an ugly car in beautiful shape.

No need for those. I was after a plain, old wood truck to upgrade our hauling capacity. Heading for the back corner behind the big iron, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a vintage Kenworth fire engine, non-running but complete. C’mon, who doesn’t want a big, red fire truck? The inside of old fire equipment smells like the inside of old airplanes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a guy should bring one home to his Pretty Wife. Feeling like a disobedient kid, I marched right over and registered for a bidder number.

Spring fever doesn’t just lead to Valentine’s Day; it leads to traffic tickets. Having collected my seasonal driving award yesterday, I kept Black Betty’s velocity down until we peeled off onto Perkins Way.

Perkins is a closely treed road that winds tightly uphill along a salmon-filled drainage, bellowing at the top of second gear if the spring is in your step. Courtesy of stripper-caffeinated reflexes and Betty’s well-sorted ABS, I got the front wheel to 25 mph before the oncoming city cop could swing his radar onto me. The back wheel was on its own, waving gently back and forth like a happy retriever in the sun. It’s a tight road, that one, vivacious and curvy and earthy and fast.

It’s the kinda thing that makes an old man want to try again. MC

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