In addition to my novel writing, over the years I have taken small side journeys and written true stories about my wild past. I’ll post these two or three page vignettes from time to time. Hope you enjoy.
SAN GREGORIEO, CA. 1967
The first motorcycle I owned at seventeen was a Triumph 650 twin. Before I graduated to Harleys, I spent a few years riding California back roads. Gas was cheap, the wind was wonderful and most of all, girls loved to be on the back. Was there a better reason to ride?
San Gregorieo is a three-mile stretch of beach about thirty miles south of San Francisco proper. Back then it was wild, open and one could do whatever they wanted without park rangers or paying ten dollars to park your car.
One balmy sunny day, six of us rode across the San Mateo Bridge, then a dinky one lane, and up into the coast range mountains through Hillsbourough and over the pass to Half Moon Bay and highway one, a familiar winding road with lots of banks and turns. With the vastness of the Pacific Ocean to the west, it was pure heaven for any motorcycle rider.
When we got to the beach we rode out onto the sand right to the surf line. The water packed sand made it easier to drive on.
Beer, wine and a few joints were produced and the party began.
San Gregerieo beach has a unique place in the Northern California coastline. The one-mile stretch of the beach south of the point is the tourist side, where a person could stop while driving along highway one, build a fire, have a picnic, walk along the beach or camp.
The north side of the point was a long, dangerous narrow beach that disappeared during extra high tides. It was accessible only during low ebbs and only the fool-hardy went there without carefully watching the water. The north side was also the more bothersome side, at least to the more prudish locals. This long, narrow strip of sandy beach, backed by cliffs was the nude side, the-dress-as-you-like or show-up-in-your-birthday-suit beach. That part of the coast was a symbol of freedom that extended beyond the standard values of America.
While getting drunk, we were content to stay on the tourist side of the point, but when the beer was gone and too many joints had been smoked, out of a wild sense of adventure, we got on our motorcycles and rode to the point.
After getting around the point, we planned to take our clothes off and ride up the few miles of beach totally nude.
We pulled up together and watched as the waves rolled up the sand barley licking the wall of stone cliff that kept us from zipping around the incoming waves and racing up the northern beach.
Gordon, my wild-eyed friend, gunned his engine and pealed off throwing sand as he went. The timing of the last wave allowed him to slip around the corner and out of sight.
I was next. If he could do it, there was no reason why I couldn’t. I watched the waves until I thought for sure I had timed that ninth wave. When the wave crashed against the wall and receded, I gunned my engine and blasted off.
The ninth wave theory doesn’t work all of the time. Counting on nature was not exactly the thing to do when taking a motorcycle around a point in wet sand. Also, five hundred-pounds of motorcycle doesn’t move as fast in wet sand as it does on pavement.
It was a hundred yards around the bend to the point. My bike was having a hard time on the wet sand. I closed in on my goal and noticed a swell building fifty yards out on my left. I gave the bike gas, but it fishtailed, so I was forced to back off to keep my balance. Both feet on the earth, I plugged along digging wet sand, but moving forward.
Twenty yards from the point, I watched in horror as a swell raced up the beach. It was ten yards from blocking me. I still had a dozen yard to go. There was no turning back. I goosed the engine a little and closed in on the point.
The wave crested. It narrowed the remaining beach. With a five-yard corridor between the rock cliff, I still had some distance to go. I wasn’t going to make it. The wave would wash out the bottom half of my bike.
Afraid that my bike was going to suck salt water, I switched the engine off. I’d sit out the wave, start my engine again, then finish my race around the point before the next wave rolled in.
I sat watching the surf engulf my tires, my feet, up to the hubs. The water sizzled against hot pipes. It reached my calves. I leaned the bike against the rock wall and climbed on the seat. The water quickly covered the bike seat. It reached my knees, then rose to my hips. I stood tall on the seat of my dead motorcycle as the cold water reached my shoulders.
My breath caught from the cold. The salty foam touched my chin. I stepped up to the handlebars. I stood on my toes. The water tickled the lobes of my ears. A fraction of a second my head was going under. I took a last breath.
At the very second the water covered my nose finishing any chance of breathing. All hope was lost. I’d be slammed against the rugged face of the cliff then swept out to sea.
At that second, the the water stopped at eye level for an eternity, then receded. It exposed my shoulders, my chest, my waist. I was counting my lucky stars when a thought came to me. I was standing on a five hundred-pound motorcycle sinking in wet sand.
I jumped off the bike before the water fully receded and through some super human feat of strength, I lifted it out of the sand and pushed it around the point to the relative safety of the nude beach side.
I fell on the dry sand gasping for breath.
Since the tide was coming in, no one else tried to get around the point that day. Neither bike ran after that ordeal and we were forced to wait the rest of the day for the tide to go out.
Late into the night, we pushed the bikes back around the point and onto a truck.
When we got home, I changed the oil and drained the gas, then drove that bike for the next year before I sold it. That Triumph never gave me a bit of trouble.
Could I say that of the list of Harleys I owned after that? Not really.
Copyright June 2002 by Nik C. Colyer. All rights reserved.
Nik C. Colyer is the author of the Channeling Biker Bob series and other novels. www.NikColyer.com