The blood stained jacket
Posted on 09 May 2020
The morning ritual was a therapy. Quick shower, fried eggs, bread and coffee with milk. Grab helmet, gloves and jacket. Out to the garage, shiny clear morning, blue sky, and the wet grass smelling like morning. The BMW R90S, year 77, Daytona orange, a classic that I had no idea what I´ve got, standing peacefully. Down the center stand, ignition key, choke in, the R 90 comes alive immediately. With the typical shake. To be honest it wasn’t a very sophisticated motorcycle buy certainly had and still has, a character. While I wait for it to warm up I make a mental checklist of the day ahead: I’m resident engineer for the HVAC systems in a skyscraper under construction in the Caracas center. The civil engineer was delaying my ductwork that I wanted to install before the electricians came to steal my roof space. And then the friendly chat with the two fat union members…and the pending last month invoice…
Fortunately the road to work was always a thrill: of course the longest one: I lived in the suburbs, and had to climb a small mountain range to descend on the other side with an epic view of the Caracas valley, with the Avila mountain behind to who we are all addicted.
Ride up the mountainside, several hairpins, fast left and right curves and then a long curvy road down with the Avila as background before hitting the Cota Mil, the perimeter highway that runs at the Avila base with a panoramic view of the city that was the morning routine. Of course 5th gear pinned down. Dodging the morning traffic. Doing The Ton was morning mission. Not bad…
I came to the R 90 in the last year of my engineering studies , thanks to some stashed savings and a soft loan from my petrol head father that believed in the "live now" mantra, "now or never", but pay for it…
The R90 was my first street motorcycle. I was, and still am, a dirt rider at heart. At that time I had around 10 years of uninterrupted dirt riding doing single track switchbacks every weekend, long dirt road trips and have been competing Observed Trials the past four years. Must say that I´m a frequent crasher due to a tendency to overestimate my abilities, but really in the dirt that meant some bruises and bent clutch levers.
The thing is that the adrenaline shot in dirt riding comes at much lower and safer speeds than in the street, and street riding I found myself looking for jumps in the ill repaired manholes and driving in excess of 80 mph between standing cars lines….ya know, adrenaline addiction.
I was discovering riding to work. Not because I was new to riding, but because I was new to formal work. And very quickly I realized that riding to and from work is the ultimate stress reliever.
A concerned and fashion conscious sister gave me a leather jacket as a gift, I suspect more with a fashion intention than a protection measure..and a resigned mother made her part with a Yellow full face helmet, then a strange innovation at the end of the seventies to somebody used to open faces…but always disciplined about using protective gear. Had my number of ugly crashes to prove the point.
The jacket in question I guess was made in Colombia, certainly tried to be a copy of what we saw in motorcycle pictures, but it made its job with reinforced elbows and shoulders, no flapping collars and relatively short to make for a good riding position. Leather was stiff and lining poor but what the heck, I felt like Mike Hailwood or Phil Read or our local hero of the moment Johnny Ceccotto…and o my, it really had good smelling leather. Inside my helmet I could smell the jacket and tell her the day we had before us…That Jacket was an everyday witness and companion.
Jacket zipped, gloves on, windshield closed I drove off to my mountain road, in my mind taking the S curves of the San Carlos circuit, which hosted a Moto GP in Venezuela….did the right hairpin at the top of the first mountain, circling the Belle Vue restaurant and opening the view of the magnificent Avila under the early morning lights.. A series of fast S curves uphill, then a long right hander that lead to the last long straight of the first mountain that had a 90 degree curve at the end of it…
Unaware of the particularities of the street risks like the very slippery white center lines, and the oil stained center of each path, I leaned over to the right from the outside of the curve, aiming to the inside in the best line possible for a racing circuit , as to be in a good position for the straight , when the rear Metzeler lost traction on the oil path….slid out, and dirt rider instincts kick in: right foot out, cross the handlebar a là Gary Nixon or Gene Romero in the San José 1/ 2 mile and wait to an easy recover to continue on my journey.
No man, street doesn’t work that way…now I see these Moto GP guys slide at over 100++ mph and nobody does the Gene Romero thing….the efficient German tire found traction again and the R90 reacted as It should: upright again in perfect position; but it found a crossed front wheel from the ignorant dirt rider. What should have been just an embarrassing low side turned into a horrible high side me flying over the bars and the R90 chasing me destroying its bikini fairing, instruments cluster and bending the forks along the way….thanks God no cars in any direction...
After a few seconds I stood up, nothing broken, nothing serious, short note to say that I already had on my CV a double wrist fracture, but that´s another story…and went to pick up the bike.
This route was and still is the morning commute from Caracas to where I lived and to my former University, so known people were very soon passing by. Luis, a longtime friend, entrepreneur and owner of perhaps the best BMW workshop on the region stopped by and took care of the R90. Is at that moment that I realized that blood was all over: Motorcycle all stained, the jacket covered in blood, thanks to a cut in my chin. Saw very badly out but at the end was like ten stitches or so. But cuts in the face are like that. Blood all over.It´s always a dramatic scene...
A passing uncle of mine took me to the hospital while Luis was dealing with the R90 an quite soon my former university companions who saw the blood stained R90 that was known as mine, said Johann was over….had to invest some time to explain that I came back to live.
Was lucky and was protected. My sister didn’t allow me to wear the jacket again, all scratched and stained, and never ever allowed me to clean it or restore it, She though this had a meaning, the first leather jacket of his brother, all stained in blood , is still hanging in her closet.
Is still there…old friend. Must say that I miss her…the jacket…and the R90 too.
It looked a lot like the Asphalt jacket