The Way We Weren’t in ’73

Rediscovered photos evoke stories from a 1973 tour of California aboard a Kawasaki Z-1. No GPS, fancy tank bags or waterproof riding gear.

| May/June 2019

author-valley-kawi
I confidently survey the Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway One. This landmark was featured in the opening sequence to the 1970 television series Then Came Bronson.

Now that I’m as old as my father was when I used to think that he was old, I’m even beginning to sound like my old man when he’d share sage advice with me. Moreover, now that I’m on the dole, so to speak, recouping some of my investments, so to speak, via monthly Social Security checks, I find myself perpetuating a tradition that probably has its origins when Adam told Cain to quit picking on his brother Abel.

So what do I have to say to young motorcyclists today? To paraphrase my old man: “Things were a lot different when I was your age.” That’s not an exaggeration, either, and Cain, put down that knife, you might hurt somebody.

I was recently reminded of how things have changed over the years for us bike people while sifting through my photo archives. Among the dog-eared manila envelopes were some long-lost black-and-white negatives of a motorcycle trip I took back in July 1973 aboard Kawasaki’s new Z-1. This was among the first touring trips taken by anyone on the Z-1, making it somewhat of a milestone adventure. (A group of Kawasaki test riders had taken some pre-production prototypes on a cross-country shakedown run prior to unveiling the bike in mid-1973.)



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A stop in Gorda, Calif. The Z-1 (middle) is flanked by a Honda CB450 (left) and a CB750, ridden by friends.

I chronicled my epic ride using my trusty Canon FTb camera, shooting Tri-X 35mm film to document places that the Kaw and I had been. We didn’t have digital cameras in those days, and in fact, the word “digital” was rather foreign to young bucks like me; occasionally old men used digital in conversation, most commonly as: “Well, sonny, I had my 50th birthday physical today and the doc gave me a digital rectal exam. The ol’ prostate got a thumbs up, it did.” But as a 24-year-old with other matters on my mind I just couldn’t put my finger on what they were talking about.



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