Motorcycles Page

Motorcycles have always been a part of me since I can remember.  I would go out of my way to see, hear or just be around them.  While growing up at home, the bike image was bad and people always told you how dangerous they were and that they were something to avoid.  You guessed it, I couldn't wait to ride.  They represented freedom to go anywhere you wanted and be out in the open air and sense the sites, sounds and smells which are so much more enhanced on a bike.  Someone equated bikers to the last of the wild west range riders on horseback.  What you see is what you get, you just take your chances.  I enjoyed riding for lots of years.
  • 1952 Whizzer Bike
  • 1976 Kawasaki KZ900
  • 1950 Cushman Motor Scooter
  • 1976 Husqvarna 125 Motocross
  • 1974 Kawasaki 350 Enduro
  • 1979 Kawasaki KZ1300
  • 1974 Kawasaki 175 Enduro

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    1952 Whizzer Service Cycle

    This was the first machine that I ever rode.  There was a guy named Bob from Morgandale who had a black Whizzer that we neighbor kids were really impressed with.  He would make us do little tasks to earn a ride on the back and after awhile, I worked my way up to being allowed a full ride all by myself.  Not far, but far enough that I wanted to do it again, again and again...

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    1950 Cushman Motor Scooter

    Mackey Rodgers, a neighbor kid two doors down, had a Dad that restored antique cars and Mack did a whole lot of work for him.  As a reward, he bought Mack an old black Cushman Scooter to fix up.  There were some roads being built in back of our homes and for quite some time, we had a perfect place to ride without traffic.  The scooter had a side low and high range shifter of sorts and was a lot of fun to ride solo or even two up.  For many years afterwards, I rode everything I could get my hands on, drooled over the rest and never lost the desire to ride.  Finally in 1974, I bought my first bike...

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    1974 Kawasaki 350 Big Horn Enduro

    I was in Mansfield, OH when I bought my 350.  I had met several guys at work that rode and more at Kuhn's Cycle Shop.  We had a couple of rug rats by this time and it seems like bikes were out of the question but riding in the dirt and on trails was a lot safer than on public roads so we decided to get one.  It was a 1974 Kawasaki 350cc Yellow Big Horn Enduro.  I rode all over, met new friends, and had a great ole time.  MaryAnn could ride the 350 but it was just too big of an machine for her to kick start and electrics were not an option.

    We looked at a smaller bikes and ended up buying a 1974 Kawasaki 175cc Grey Enduro.  We both rode when we could and we even bought a three rail trailer to tow the bikes back to the farm so we could ride with Joe & John and take the bikes to their hunting camp in PA.  We were set to go...

    Our apartment was just off the corner of Lexington-Springmill and Millsboro Roads which butted up against some large fields and wooded areas.  I had met a few friends through work that we rode with and found some interesting places.  One of our favorites was a oval dirt track out in the middle of the woods.  For some reason, MaryAnn took a liking to "flat tracking" and we used to race and she became more than just a little good, she was just plain hard to beat even with my 350.  She had no fear and I had to keep reminding her of what might happen it she took a spill on the curves.  Lots of fun...

    The next cycling experience came through the Guys at Kuhn's bike shop.  These guys grew up on bikes and many were motocross racers which I had no knowledge of but soon would learn.  They took me to a place about 40 miles SE of Mansfield, OH, called "Killbuck".  There were hundreds of acres of abandoned property with strip mines, deep pits with shear drop offs and hills that seemed vertical.  The dirt was a mixture of clay and shale but was fantastic terrain for riding dirt bikes.  The knobby tires could get a grip and you could practically climb a wall.  Some modifications were in order.  The gearing on a stock enduro bike was not suited for hill climbing or motocross so I dropped one tooth on the primary gear and added three teeth on the rear sprocket.   This made the first gear practically useless but second gear was really strong which was what the doctor ordered.  I was now ready...

    The guys took me around the area and showed me a shear drop off that if you rode off of it you would be killed.  I inched along the edge of the cliff checking out the scenery when I found myself wedged between the cliff and a stand of small trees.  I couldn't back out so I put my head down and plowed through the trees to get back to the staging area.   One of the guys, Donny Wertz, saw me and said "with that @#$%$-eatin grin, you looked like a Woodchuck comin through those trees".  The nickname stuck and to this day if anyone would remember me, it would be by "Woodchuck" and they wouldn't even know my real name.  I now had a nickname and we were ready to ride...

    The trails around Killbuck are nothing but treacherous and when you ride with crazy people who like to show off for a new guy, expect to tear up your machine.  Your handle bars get caught on the trees, your foot pegs get torn off when you and your bike fall backwards down hills, you crash a lot with other people but some of the best times a guy could ever have.  Mix speed, danger, bikes, dirt, idiots and bad terrain, it's a great combination.

    On days that were wet and the clay was sticky, it was hill climb time.  I tried but these guys had years of experience and were good.  I can remember sitting at the bottom of a hill, looking up at the top for about 30 minutes, trying to get the guts to try and climb to the top.  My bike was heavy but I had the power and gearing to make most of the hills, it just took guts or more importantly, lack of brains.  I got respectable at least to where I was accepted by the "real dirt bikers" but I could never master the technique of "puttin down" on top of a hill before you would crash down the other side.   Sometimes the landing area was only a couple of feet wide and one should know what to do.  It was like a ridge between two pits and you had to stop at the top or fall into the other pit.

    Anyway, by the end of a day, the mud and dirt would be caked from the cylinder head all the way to the gas tank and the swing arms, wheels and tires were just solid mud.  Happily, there was a quarter car wash not far from Killbuck were we would all go and clean the bikes before the trip home.  Simply some of the most fun I've ever had doing anything...

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    1974 Kawasaki 175 Enduro

    This was MaryAnn's bike only hers was grey.  It got it's share of use and it held up well and even served as a learning platform for my son.  After we moved to Union Lake, it was used in the sand pits and trails in back of our home.   Interest in the dirt bikes pretty much ended in the mid 80's when I was into street bikes and my son, Joe, had his own motocrosser.  Eventually, the 350 and the 175 went to their final resting place at the farm.

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    1976 Kawasaki KZ900

    We were living on Vicksburg by this time and the rug rats were changing into house apes. The time had come that I wanted to get a street machine and I think I looked at every KZ that existed but just couldn't make a decision to buy.  I think that MaryAnn actually was in collusion with Donny Wertz, who was now working at Kuhn's Bike shop, to get me to buy one.  I think I actually had her blessing.  I do remember that we went to the bike shop for something and when we got there, there was a brand new 1976 KZ900 in brown/gold metal flake paint with ribbons hanging from the handle bars and my name on it, "Woodchuck".  I new I was had and rode it home.

    With the kids and both of us working, trips were few but we managed a few back to Warren to see family but we were soon caught up in the transfer to Union Lake and the bike sort of took a back seat until we were relocated.

    When finally settled in Union Lake, we met a young couple who had a KZ900 and for a while, we took trips around Michigan exploring Traverse City, Copper Harbor, Bear Sand Dunes, Holland Tulip Festival, UP or any other place that could serve as an excuse to go to riding.  I made the loop from Detroit to Mackinaw and through the UP to Wisconsin and down through Illinois and back to Detroit which is a very interesting trip.  I kept the bike for three years and had absolutely no problems with it.  It was very fast and you had to be very careful you didn't pop a wheelie.  It had the power to come over on you but was a little cramped when riding two up and loaded.  I used to get a sore butt and very bad leg cramps but all that would end with the KZ1300.

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    1976 Husqvarna 125 Motocross

    After being transferred to Union Lake, MI, I was on a business trip back Mansfield, OH and was having dinner with Hod Bolesky, President of Therm-O-Disc.  We offen met for dinner because we could talk shop without fear of gossip.  Hod turned into a good friend who had a troubled son who he had done everything for but nothing seemed to matter.  This 1976 Husqvarna 125 CR Motocross bike was a great example.  Hod bought it for his son but he couldn't be bothered to maintain it, put it away, etc. and it just turned into a source of trouble.  Hod was telling me that he had spent nearly $1400 on it and that he was threatening to get rid of it, when suddenly he said, "you ride bikes, don't you?".  I said yes and he immediately asked if I wanted the 125.  I said how much and he said, $800.

    We left the resturant and went to his home to look at the bike and while going over it, I noted that the paint was worn on the right side frame down tube.  This was meant as a scarastic joke but he looked at it and said "if you want it, it's yours for $700.  I said, SOLD!  I went back to Union Lake, got the trailer, drove back to Mansfield, loaded it up an drove back to Union Lake.  Joe was really suprised and later he told me that buying this bike for him was the best thing that ever happened to him.  I know he loved it...

    Once back in Union Lake, Joe rode, studied, practiced, rode, studied, practiced motocross riding. He and a few friends actually built an earth berms by hand with a shovel to practice banked turns.  He would read a section in the book about some technique and then build what ever was necessary to accomplish that skill.  It was great to see him challenged and motivated to do something he liked.

    I remember going out to the field behind our house, at his request, and walking by a small hill which they had re-shaped as a jump ramp.  I knew that he was jumping ditches, logs, etc. as you had to learn to do if you were going to ride enduro but nothing like this.  About 10 feet past the ramp, he told me to stand still, period, nothing else.  He was going to show me something.  He then proceeded to rev the bike and circle around the other side of the hill and crank wide open toward the hill and proceeded up the ramp and jumped...  clearing my head by about four feet.  I just looked up and thought, "what did I do".  Oh well, he never got seriously hurt and I know he enjoyed the bike for as long as he owned it.

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    1979 Kawasaki KZ1300

    Now you know...this was my BABY for 24 years and 93,000 miles.  The photos start with the shipping container that the 1979 Kawasaki KZ1300 came in.  Note the champagne bottle on the carton.  We had quite a party after closing and some would think that I was in no shape to be riding back to Michigan in the middle of the night.  I had no choice, sooo...

    I bought the bike from Donny Wertz who used to work at Kuhn's Cycle in Lexington, OH, where I bought both the Enduros and the KZ900.  Donny managed to get a dealership in Findlay, OH, with the help of a friends fathers financial backing but within a few years, he blew it and landed in jail for basically robbing Peter to pay Paul.  A real shame because he was really doing well and he had recently picked up the Harley-Davidson franchise from a dealer in Toledo, OH, that went bad and it looked like he really had the bull by the horns.  Unfortunately, the money went to his head and lots of girls, bikes, booze and success did him in.  It was about two or three years after I bought my bike that I went down to Findlay from Union Lake to get some parts and found a big padlock on the front door with a sign saying "CLOSED by order of the Sheriffs Department".  I never talked to or heard from him again... no one seems to know what happened to him.

    The other photos are different views showing all the accessories I had on her plus one showing the trailer rig that I got in Grand Blanc, MI and painted up to match the bike.  The last shot showed what the whole outfit looked like when out camping with my 10X10' Eureka tent.  The base machine had a 1300cc, dual overhead cam, inline six cylinder, water cooled engine that put out over 120 HP.  It was a little top heavy and it sure helped if you were at least 6 foot tall when it came to putting your feet on the ground.  When new, there was nothing else on the market that could come close to it and the press pretty much killed the bike by reporting stuff like "too big", "too heavy" or "who needs 120 HP".  It only survived for 3 years but to me she was a very unique and special machine.

    Chrome was in and I did all I could do to add a little more...  I had the engine cases, engine guard, magneto pickup cover, exhaust pipe mounting brackets, licence plate bracket and clutch cover chromed after I installed a front fender guard, saddle bag guards and floor boards.  When I bought the bag guards and floor boards from Markland Industries, Don Markland was working in a garage and he agreed to sell me his one of a kind prototypes.  Do to low volume sales, he never put the KZ1300 stuff into full production.

    When the KZ1300 first came out, you could buy the frame mounted fairing with lowers and saddle bags but not the trip trunk.  The bags and trunk were made by Vetter but Kawasaki would not brand name a trip trunk because of added weight up high on the bike.  They were being overly cautious because I could and did special order a trip trunk painted in the KZ1300 color and bought two saddle bag insignias that said "Kawasaki by Vetter" and put them on the trip trunk.

    The time for full dressers like todays bikes had not come so I had to add my own gauges and electronics.  I took an GM X car AM/FM stereo radio, which mounted vertically, and cut it into the right side access door of the fairing.  I found a small foldable extension antenna from the RV world and mounted it beside the radio.  The CB radio was a two piece unit and I mounted the radio portion in the trip trunk and the control head and speaker unit centered on the handle bars.  Centered on the fairing just below the headlight elevation knob, were two rectangular flat smooth areas molded into the fairing.  These were just the right size so I cut in a volt meter and amp meter in the left area and a oil pressure gauge and clock in the right area.  I also modified the rear turn signals and trip trunk lights to be both brake and running lights and added switches for them mounted underneath the trunk.  On the left side of the fairing below the access door, I cut in four switches for head lights, dash lights, radio and clock.  On the right side below the access door, I put plug in connectors for passenger radio head phones and CB speakers.  I think that's all I put on her...

    The stories are endless and I covered some of the major trips in the BIKE TRIP section. My last count was 26 states and 2 provinces that this machine and I travelled and many of them more than once.  Maybe someday I'll get another one...

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