Features

At 87, it's time to get the bike out

... Good. It's April, anticipating the early arrival of summer ...

from Don Norris



The author, Don Norris, did most of the illustrations that appeared in
Cycle Sport's two monthly issues --Cycle Sport Magazine and The New England
Trail Rider magazines. And every Saturday during the summer months, he would
line up with some 300 other riders (at four to the minute) to "race" (at
24mph) through the forests. They would be slugging it out for as many as eight
or ten hours, often arriving back at the start at sunset.


Would you believe, this is a self-portrait of the author -- you know, Don
Norris. He's the retired journalist who dumps all his favorite memories into
the Melrose Mirror. It seems there is no end to his memories.

He's done pretty well so far. Like, graduated from Melrose High in
1949, studied (more or less) at Tufts University, married the most beautiful
girl in the World -- she and he grew up 14 miles apart, in New Jersey, before
blind dating in Melrose.

Three years later they married and he joined the United States Marines. No,
actually, he was drafted to go to Korea as a sophomore at Tufts, but ducked
that by joining the Marines; there was a Marine Major/recruiter on campus,
looking for good-looking, smart students, to become officers in The Corps.

He and Lorry married in June, 1954 and they both went on active duty, as
newly-weds, a month later. Fortunately, due to unbelievable quirks, he didn't
have to shoot anybody, for the Marines saw he studied international law in
college, and made him the battalion legal officer -- among other things. He
ended up his two-year stint as second-in-command of a company of Marines on
the Carribbean island of Viegas -- he, another lieutenant and 80 Marines were
on permanent duty to protect the Navy's ownership of that 27-mile-long
chunk of high granite.

It was a blast. At least for five months, before the Fourth Division of
Marines hit the beach, on a training exercise. That meant me and Lt. Bob
Verden had to report directly to a general -- ostensibly to let the
general know what's what on Viegas. The general's division hit our beaches the
very next morning of our arrival. It was a tight time, reporting to that general, two or three bird-colonels, numerous lesser field-grade officers. They wanted to know everything about the island -- and we had landed there the day before the division hit the beaches ...

But that's not the story here. I found that sketch (above) in a batch of old
files that actually pre-dated the advent of computers. With the advent of 35mm
cameras in the 1950s, I had taken up photography in earnest -- the product of
which was some 2000 Kodak slides. Not pictures, but slides. Slides of the
Marines, of Viegas, of the advent of new children, at the moving around here
and there until Lorry and I settled in Melrose.

Long about 1969, I took up the sport of motorcycling again -- and bought a
brand new gray BMW road bike. It was a glorious machine, top speed was about
110 and while Lorry wouldn't ride with me, my oldest daughter Nancy thought it
was magic. I soon discovered that highway riding gets boring pretty quickly,
so it was fortunate that I happened upon guy named Bob Hicks, who was
publisher of Cyclesport Magazine.

Bob was an old hand at motocross, but had taken a liking to a new thing called
dirt-bike riding -- i.e., trail riding, or getting a lightweight bike and
riding it through the woods -- as fast as you could go. He needed another body
to help run his now-two magazines, and I was available. He laughed at my
Japanese off-road bike, and soon I graduated to better, faster machines.
Bultaco, a Spanish bike, was my favorite.

The sport, the job, the machines lasted ten years, before the politicians saw
the bikes in the forest and raised hell. That, plus the significant increase
in world population, put the New England Trail Rider Association -- and our
two magazines -- out of business. Most of us -- us being about 4000 riders in
New England -- had grown tired of the sport, So all of those reasons spelled
the end of the treasured New England Trail Rider Association.

Those were good years. Yeah, there were a few broken bones, concussions and
crashes, but our sport was a lot safer than riding a motorcycle on the
highways. Fact is, we were legislated out of business. Keep out of the
forests, the elected people said. But the spark had gone out. Ten years of
racing up and down mountains, splashing through swamps, buzzing through
forests, was over.

A lot of motorcycle dealers went out of business, come the 1980s. Close
buddies lost contact. Friends went different ways. I went back to newspapers,
but then found a comfortable nitch in the stock market. That's what we did for
several decades, retiring at age 58. We celebrated by buying a motorhome and
spending a year motoring around the perimeter of the lower 48. Magnificent way
to go.

Well, now, in my 87th year, it's time to get the bike out of the shed. What I
plan for the first good, warm day, is taking all the back roads up to New
Hampshire, to visit our two daughters -- and the grandchildren, if they are
around. Lorry will take the SUV up Route 93 and will be there in 90 minutes.
Me, my back-road route takes about six hours.

Life has been good.


April 7, 2017




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