Is there any guy who doesn’t dream of riding across the country on his motorcycle solving mysteries while on a quest for justice like Lorzeno Lamas in the ‘90s syndicated TV series “Renegade”? Me. The answer is me. I’m the guy. Allright, I’m fibbing. For while I, of course, wish I was a modern day outlaw roaming the night, shades lit by neon reflecting from the damp pavement, I actually hate, and I do mean hate, the sound of loud motorcycles. I live on a busy street and every once in a while I’ll hear that ear splitting roar from a motorcycle taking off at a green light and my reaction is always the same, a sort of muted rage borne from having his brainwaves intruded on by some dude throttling his engine until the windows rattle as if we’re supposed to be so impressed at a guy trying that hard to hang onto his youth like that.
But there was a moment I distinctly remember sitting in a boring seminar room at EIU, that blasted one with no windows that pretty much all my grad classes were held in, drifting off and thinking, “How cool would it be if I rolled up to Coleman Hall on a bike?” I could picture it clear as day, cutting through the fall air on 4th Street and pulling into the W lot near the pavilions and being a general grade-a well…”Renegade.”
Anyone remember, “Renegade,” by the way? I’ve written occasionally about my fondness of those mystery-man-crime-solver-by-night shows of the ‘80s like say “The Equalizer” or ummm…”Midnight Caller” (That was the one where the boss from Office Space was a late night radio D.J. who got involved directly in the troubles of his callers), and “Renegade” marks probably my last non-ironic interest in the genre. Usually running Saturday afternoons, it starred Lorenzo Lamas, who some of you readers no doubt remember from Falcon Crest and who I remember from the breakdancing film “Body Rock” or the direct-to-video actioner “CIA Code Name: Alexa”, as (ahem) “Reno Raines,” a disgraced former cop accused of a crime he didn’t commit roaming America on his motorcycle and along with his bounty hunter buddy and his…umm…sister…solving problems for hire while trying to get the crooked cop who killed his wife. For about a good year, Saturdays consisted of meeting up at Cosmic Blue Comics on Broadway, picking up the issues from that week’s pull list, and walking back with a friend to watch “Renegade” and laugh ourselves silly; which means I guess we were being ironic about it, even if the show was being serious. I remember a scene where Raines, chasing a bad guy, roars his bike through a beach volleyball game, players scattering for their lives, and me, smart-mouth in training that I was, remarking “Side out!” and laughing like I had mastered comedy. C’mon, that wasn’t bad for a 16-year-old.
Ahem…back to bikes. Other than whatever it was Reno Raines rode around on (it had an eagle painted on the gas tank), there’s only two motorcycles of importance still rattling around my brain, three if you count the sci-fi bike from “Super Force”. For the first, I bring to you the Honda Gold Wing! Wow, were these things a big deal in the late ‘80s. They may have been before that and even now, for all I know. But I’ve got fond memories of those nights when I’d accompany my parents to their fondue and Uno nights with their friends and we’d all make a big deal about the Gold Wing in the garage. I’m sure you can picture it: all the guys standing in the garage under florescent lights, circling that Gold Wing like wild animals, peering at every gauge, switch, light and valve. What still stands out to me was that It had a spot mounted on the inside “dash” to keep your cassette tapes. “How in the world are you supposed to listen to your music on a motorcycle?” I remember thinking. Music was for the closed cabin of your car where you had full control over your “levels.” How in the world were you supposed to adjust your “mids” while speeding down the road on a bike?
As for the second bike, that would be the skeletal, engine and front-wheelless frame that sat in the corner of the basement next to the metal lathe and under a drop cloth for pretty much most of my childhood. Until the day I came home from school one cold day to find that my dad, in his winter boredom, had hauled it up and out of the basement and into the Morton shed which was his hangout and decided to reassemble what was actually the B.S.A. motorcycle he rode around on in the ‘70s and was apparently the cause of the metal pin in his shoulder. I don’t know what spark went off in his brain that day, realizing it was time to reassemble that long lost bit of his youth, but look out ladies, it’s a spark all guys have, for better or for worse. Holy Moly, it just hit me that I may very well be older now than he was at that moment, the day I realized I needed to start collecting old video games and listening to music on a record player again.
In a world that makes sense that bike would have been passed down from father to son, in the way that most things do, but alas the bike didn’t make the migration from Cooks Mills to Mattoon in my early teens, most likely because my parents didn’t want me full of aluminum pins and because they’d seen me wipe out on a BMX bicycle from a dead stop before. He’s still loving that lathe though.
This means I never got to be the “Grad School Motorcycle Guy” the way I dreamed of during that long, long seminar class: putting down the kickstand, slinging his book bag over his shoulder, and whipping off his shades to inform the inquisitive ladies drawn to the sound of that engine that “B.S.A.” stands for “Birmingham Small Arms.”
But “The Newspaper Guy” will get by. I’ve got all the mysteries I could ever want thanks to these archives. And who says you can’t be a Renegade driving a hatchback?