FIRST RIDE OF SPRING SENSATION
In Florida, Every Day Is Nirvana For This New Yorker
After almost 40 years of living in New York City, I permanently moved from Manhattan to Florida. One reason I made the switch from concrete sidewalks to sandy beaches was the weather and the opportunity to ride my motorcycle almost any time I wanted.
It’s been three years since I traded that one-bedroom apartment under the shadow of the Empire State Building for a three-bedroom house with a pool, boat dock and garage on the Gulf Coast of the Sunshine State.
Did I mention I have a garage?
I never knew having my own personal space to park my 1976 Harley-Davidson Super Glide would yield so many benefits after years of parking it on the 32nd Street sidewalk or in neighborhood garages.
The luxury of having a garage goes past just parking the bike. It means I can work on that leaky AMF in comfortable surroundings and leave parts scattered where they fall, all with the convenience of an array of tools at my side. It is sure a big difference from when I would slip my bike between two parked cars on the street, kick some garbage out of the way and hope it didn’t rain before I finished changing the oil.
But a Manhattan parking garage did provide my Harley with secure storage over the winter months. From November until March, I would occasionally stop in the garage, reach under the gunk-coated cover and start the old warhorse for a quick battery charge, thinking about a joyous warm day when I could take it out for the ceremonial first ride of spring.
Now, in Florida, I have the luxury of being able to ride the bike almost any day I want. It’s sitting right there at my house.
I’ve become spoiled by the warm weather and easy access to my bike 365 days a year. No more soiled cover. No more airborne grime. No more drained batteries. No more waiting for the temperature to rise above 55 degrees (my personal comfort level). And no more $250 for a 3-foot-by-6-foot corner space every month.
Florida is nirvana for motorcyclists … and cheaper, too.
But after three years in Florida, I concluded that I have been taking my motorcycle for granted.
And I’ve found myself reminiscing about the spring ritual: that first day of riding. After six months being cooped up during a New York City winter, that first spin on your scooter was like the last day of school and Christmas rolled onto two wheels.
The act of gearing up and hoping that you had enough juice in the battery, the jets weren’t clogged and the fuel hadn’t evaporated are now distant flashbacks.
Every year, after I stepped around the puddle of oil under the bike and wiped off the accumulated dust and filth, there came the pressing of the starter button, followed by the first wheezing cough through the air filter, the popping burps from the exhausts and the prayers you wouldn’t have to hump it up the parking lot ramp, then roll down to bump-start it.
The sensation of riding my motorcycle into bright sunlight out of the darkened garage was glorious.
Cruising down Fifth Avenue, the 1,200cc engine vibrating underneath, a slight wind in my face with Mother Nature somehow finding a way to send a chill down my neck.
The smell of Sabrett’s hot dog carts filled my senses. The staleness of winter being exorcised from my bike through temporary plumes of black exhaust and an occasional sputter.
For me, it was always over to the FDR to rev this baby out of her doldrums. Cruising along the East River, dodging potholes and taxis was a dangerous, but delightful, adventure.
Then it was up to 96th Street and over to Park Avenue southward for my favorite secret putt through a tunnel through the Pan Am, then around Grand Central Station on an elevated roadway looking down at Vanderbilt Place before tooling up 42nd Street.
It was a thrill gliding past Times Square over to the West Side Highway up to the George Washington Bridge into Jersey for a fresh tank of gas.
Today, in Florida, as I can do anytime, I opened my garage door, hopped on the seat and rode to the store for groceries. No stuck padlocks, no ashy covers and no attendant with his hand out.
But the tradeoff is that there are no more first rides of spring anymore.
Tony Mangia is an AMA member from Port Charlotte, Fla.