When I was sixteen, my head was turned by this exotic foreign beauty. She was Italian; a 1965, candy-apple-red, Benelli 125 Sport motorcycle. I couldn’t wait to ride off in the sunset with it as I counted out my money to the college bound boy selling it.
There was a slight problem, though. I didn’t know how to ride a motorcycle. But my buddy, Dave that had driven me to look at the Benelli had an idea. He worked at a run-down truck stop off the interstate and he said he would ride it there for me. I could use the large, blacktopped parking lot to learn how to ride my motorcycle. “Besides,” he said with a sly grin, “If I feel like riding it then I could take a spin on it.”
“Okay.” I reluctantly agreed. I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone else riding my motorcycle. But we did have a lot of fun as he taught me all the motorcycle basics. And then while he worked pumping gas I would happily ride round and round in circles on the large truck stop parking lot.
But there was a slight problem. After two days the truck stop owner declared he did not want me using the truck stop parking area for my motorcycle riding. In fact he didn’t want the motorcycle there at all. I figured I had pretty much learned how to ride the motorcycle so I could ride it in traffic and take it home. I told the truck stop owner I would have it off of his property by the next day.
But there was just one more problem. I hadn’t told my parents about it yet. I didn’t think it would be a problem, really. They knew how much I liked motorcycles. They had seen pictures I had thumbtacked to my bedroom walls of different bikes and had seen my drawings of chopped out motorcycles. Dad knew his Dad had told me all sorts of stories about his motorcycle adventures. My grandfather had lots of fun riding his early Harley Davidson motorcycle back before 1920. And he got his start in business by selling Harley Davidson motorcycles as he opened the first Harley Davidson dealership west of the Mississippi.
The supper table was usually noisy and lively and that night was no exception. But when I announced, “Hey, everybody, I bought myself a motorcycle!” it got very quiet.
Mom looked at Dad and Dad looked at Mom and then he said to me, “But I won’t let you have a motorcycle. You can’t have one.”
“I can’t?” My heart fell as I thought of my exotic foreign beauty.
“Nope.” Dad said.
“But I already bought it. I just have to bring it home.”
“No, I won’t let you have a motorcycle,” Dad said again.
“Well what should I do? I already paid the guy and everything.” I stammered.
“Well, you call him up and say your Dad won’t let you have a motorcycle and you are returning it and want your money back.” Dad said.
“All right,” I replied meekly. I knew that my only choice was to obey Dad. If he said no, it meant no. I went to the phone and told the college bound boy what my Dad told me to. The boy wasn’t very happy but said he understood. And he also told me he didn’t have all the money but he’d return most of it. I decided it was still worth it.
The next morning Dave was all set to help me return the bike. “You can ride it one last time to the guy’s house.” He said. “I’ll follow you in the car. Just too bad your Dad won’t let you keep it. I don’t think my Dad would care.”
“Yeah,” I said as I sat on the Benelli.
“Hey!” My buddy hollered, “There’s ol’ Billy what’s-his-name.”
I looked up to see big bellied Billy (as I called him) striding towards us. His belly seemed to bounce with each step he took. He grinned as he looked at my Benelli. “Who’s bike?” he asked.
“Mine but I have to sell it back.” I said.
“Yeah,” Dave continued for me. “His Dad won’t let him keep it.”
“Too bad,” Billy said. “Say did you get to ‘pop a wheelie’ on it?”
“Naw.” I said thinking I didn’t really want to either.
“I could show you how…” Billy said as he took hold of the handlebars. “Let me show you.”
“Sure,” Dave said before I could object.
“Well, okay. Just one!” I insisted.
“Yeah, whatever…”Billy replied as I slid off the back. He flopped his big, heavy leg over and got on the bike and with a jump started it up. He revved up the engine way louder and rougher than I ever would. “Watch!” he called as he took off.
The front wheel rose about six inches off the ground and then Bill quickly spun the bike back around and rode it up to us.
“Let me do one more.” He stated. “I can get it higher if I sit a little further back.
“Naw!” I shouted over the engine revving but David nodded at Billy so he slid back on the seat, revved up the engine and popped the clutch.
I remember the sinking feeling of anguish as the front wheel came up and up and then the bike tilted more and more to the right and then crashed down into the pavement. Dave and I raced to Billy and the Benelli.
“Is it okay?” I hollered as Dave asked Billy if he was okay at the same time.
“Yeah, I’m okay.” Bill said with a slow drawl as he brushed the dirt off of his jeans. “But man, that bike has some low-end power or something. I wasn’t expecting that.”
“I lifted up the bike and looked for damage. And there laying on the blacktop was the broken gearshift lever. Billy had snapped it off in the crash.
“Boy, that’s too bad.” Billy sniffed, obviously unconcerned. “You know you could probably get a new one from a dealer. It shouldn’t cost you too much.” He paused and looked at Dave and me and then at the horizon. “Well, I got to get going. Too bad about the gearshift.”
“You think it will cost much to fix?” I asked Dave as I picked up the broken gearshift. Billy waddled off and Dave bent down to the bike.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It sure snapped off. Guess I should’ve listened to you and not let him try it…Sorry.”
“Well, I can’t return it now.” I thought out loud. “What a mess.”
“Let me ask my Dad what we should do,” Dave said. “He might know.”
A couple months later Dave and his Dad had found a guy that knew where to get a new gear shift and he not only fixed the bike but then he bought it. So I finally got some of my money back. My Dad never did tell me why he wouldn’t let me have the bike. But I knew I had to trust him. I figured he knew what was best and that he loved me and even if I couldn’t understand why, Dad knew best.
Like the verses in Isaiah 55.8-9…
8“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
I trusted my Dad to have better perspective about it than me. And sometimes I’ve made a decision thinking it just had to be God’s will for me. And I go ahead without praying about it because it just seems obviously to be His will. Only, later I find out it wasn’t. And I have to go through all sorts of things to undo what God didn’t want me to do in the first place. But, slowly over the years I’m learning to seek out the Lord in prayer and take my decisions to Him first. Because really, I want to honor Him.
I try to remember Proverbs 3.5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
But I didn’t learn that right away. Because about a week after I tried to buy the Benelli I drove home in a 1944 Buick with suicide doors that I bought for $50. Dad didn’t let me keep that either.