I haven’t had time for fun since I made the courageous decision to take the Lewisville Texan Journal to print last summer. It’s hard committing to a new enterprise while still working a full-time job to survive.
I’m an older guy doing long-term contract projects in the technology field and often don’t have much of a chance to use newer technology. It makes me feel insecure about my career prospects. My attempts at learning new stuff always seem to be cut short by the daily demands of my day job or the newspaper.
I’ve been questioning if my life is really what I want it to be. The answer was to buy a motorcycle and learn how to ride it.
But this is actually a column about how to handle a mid-life crisis. I got lucky with mine.
My daytime employer recognized my 15 years of company devotion with a $500 AMEX gift card and five days of paid time off. A friend provided the inoperative scooter.
With my son Isaac, I replaced the scooter’s battery and rebuilt the carburetor, and managed to get it running. But not that well.
The 150cc scooter requires the class “M” license to drive in Texas. So I scheduled some hot summer days off to take a two-day motorcycle operators course on the blacktop parking lot at Vista Ridge Mall in Lewisville.
You can take the class and get licensed on a scooter, but I chose to use one of the regular motorcycles provided for students. As soon as the class was over, I booked it down to the DPS office, where I was the last customer of the day, and walked out with my “M.”
The next step to recover from my mid-life crisis was to get the bike inspected, registered and licensed. I slugged my hog to a local inspection station after Saturday’s papers were delivered and they gave it the stamp of approval.
I keep getting lucky. Maybe I should earn a gambling addiction before this crisis wears off.
I was exhilarated to realize I successfully drove several miles without dying. Unfortunately, the scooter perished just a couple blocks from the house. I learned the joy of pushing a several-hundred-pound bike.
We spent weeks troubleshooting it — replacing parts and testing circuits and fuel systems. I unfortunately was not able to resurrect it. I even wore out a starter and starter clutch in my attempts.
My mechanic friend saw my saga detailed on a Facebook post and begged me to come look at it. He was stumped too. He took it to his shop, where it has sat for months without much success.
A couple weekends ago, I went down to the scooter dealership, and for about $1,100 – including taxes and a helmet – I drove home a brand new Chinese Tao Tao 150cc scooter.
I’ve ridden Tao Tao to work every day and have even used it when I needed to conduct newspaper business. I hope I can write this off on my taxes.
They tell you to take it easy and break in the motor for the first 100 miles or so. I behaved. After that first oil change and gear oil swap, I’ve been able to open up the throttle a bit and see what it can do.
Did I mention fuel economy? I’ve filled up three times now, and it’s less than $2 each time.
Of course, I’m trying to be safe about this deal. I only drive in good weather, stick to surface streets and avoid highways. I bought a full helmet and a motorcycle jacket. I wear goggles and gloves. I take it easy on corners and speed. Mostly. For now.
It only will get up to about 58 mph going downhill, wind at your back, throttle all the way open. I’ll plead the fifth on which road I conducted that speed test on.
I’m still adjusting to having to manually turn off my turn signal after a turn. But my life has changed and I wonder why I’m 45 years old and just now allowing myself this thrill.
I’ll eventually buy a motorcycle with a proper engine of which I can be proud. But even on this little scooter, I’ve returned from rides feeling like a less-criminal version of Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy.
My wife said she’s glad I bought it. I just keep getting lucky.
Steve Southwell is the publisher and owner of the Lewisville Texan Journal in Lewisville, Texas. This column was republished with his permission. For more information, visit www.lewisvilletexan.com.