A Blog of Personal Thoughts
Ariel Square Four Classic Motorcycle
I dated Shel in my undergraduate years at the University of Colorado. He was a broke law student and I took 15 to 19 hours each semester and worked full time too. It was a great relationship because we spent our weekends studying in the law library. In 1960, he wanted a particular Ariel Square Four classic motorcycle. We didn’t know then it would become a classic. We just knew it was a big bike and we loved it.
This British motorcycle company existed from 1931 and 1959, this one was a 1957. Its engine was 1000 cc’s, 997 cc to be precise, wonderfully powerful. I paid $2,500 for it and Shel paid me back when he worked as a lawyer and I was in grad school in Scotland.
My fulltime job was aa a before and after school counselor at a school for brain-injured (now learning disabilities) and emotionally disturbed (now behavior disordered) children, ages 5 to 19. Ellie and I both worked at the school and he drove us, in a car most of the time, the 18 miles there and back. I had neither vehicle or driver’s license. One time Ellie showed up on his 250 motorcycle and off we went to work. At about 7:00, a sudden and raging snowstorm came through the area. It took us three hours to get back to Boulder. Mishaps included several slides across the road. One was on a downhill. I was on my hands and knees as I saw headlights coming over the hilltop. I heard Ellie yelling at me to get off the highway. I did. I’m still here. Our final dénouement came as we entered a broad junction in Boulder. We spun around several times and I was sure we were goners. No traffic. Many streetlights. I just laid there looking at the snow falling and swirling in all these lights. Still no traffic but I finally got up. I don’t remember whether he called Shel from a payphone to come get us or whether Ellie dropped me off at the dorm, Farrand Hall, as usual.
Through Ellie I met Shel and he and I dated for four and a half years.
I basically put Shel through law school. At least that’s how I remember it. Every time I gave him money, he wrote me a promissory note. Bank interest rates then were 2.6%. In his notes, he always added either 3.5% or 4.0% interest and summed the total owed for each note. He gave them to me on scraps of paper that I kept in one of those small white envelopes. Too many people said he’d never pay me back. I responded oh, yes, he will. And he did. Every penny and probably more. He put me through two years of graduate school in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.
What did I get out of the deal? Lots of fun times. Studying in the law library. Never learning to ski downhill because I was busy studying. Trips to Mexico, Las Vegas, Nebraska. Los Angeles, New York City, and Boston to visit my family. More trips to Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Visits to hear Shel play the piano in bars and nightclubs in Colorado and a couple of other nearby states.
Wherever we went, some of the most fun of all the trips were the rides on that Ariel Square Four. I loved that bike! Usually, we went up in the mountains, around Boulder and Denver, and along the Front Range. One time we went on a trail up a hillside. That was a mistake. We never should have taken a 1000 cc bike on a narrow trail. That’s for bicycles! Yes, we tipped over and in spite of the two huge chrome guard rails, if that’s what they’re called, I managed to get the exhaust pipe to land on my ankle. I had a handsome scar on my leg that finally went away after about ten or twenty years. Now I don’t even remember which ankle.
I never drove the bike. Why not? Because I didn’t have a driver’s license. I never bothered to get one till some time after I got my first college degree. The faded picture of me on the bike was just a snapshot that I deserved. After all, I paid for this marvelous Ariel Square Four! If I’d had a license, I would have driven it in shorts with no helmet, something no one would dream of these days with or without the power that bike had. If I’d known Shel still had it, I’d have begged him to let me drive it around the block. Even just out the driveway.
All these many years later, I thought he’d sold that bike decades ago, perhaps after he’d had it for five years or so. As it turns out, some 62 years later, Shel still has this bike. I suppose I could fly down to Las Vegas and go for one last ride on it. Right now, it seems safely tucked into his garage. Will I go for one last ride before he sells it? Probably not but what fun that would be! If he’s offered to sell it to me in the 1970s, or even later, I would have bought it.