On the Trail: Breaking the law
ASPEN – Normally, a page A2 column in The Aspen Times comes from somebody at the newspaper with a lot of hiking skills who has an out-of-body experience after hoofing up a fourteener and taking in an otherworldly view.
In this case, I want to talk about the fun I’ve had on a different sort of trail: the Honda Trail 90, a groovy little motorbike (not a scooter, so don’t call it that) and an easy purchase because the guy who owned it before me was desperate to sell it as he was leaving Aspen the next day for some cushy job in Maui.
I call it “Old Yeller” because of its color and its 1978 manufacturing date. It’s not very fast, but on a small, 90cc motorcycle (again, it’s not a scooter, so don’t make me mad), you don’t want to push your luck. I’ve gotten it up to 30 mph downhill on Castle Creek Road and also Highway 82 coming back to the city from Difficult Campground. The bike handles well until you get to around 30 mph, and at that shaky point you are flirting with death. It’s a perfect vehicle for getting around town at speeds of 10 mph or so, and it looks a lot cooler than the cheesy Italian scooters everybody seems to be riding these days.
My Trail 90 is not street-legal; for some reason the previous owners never had it registered. I’m kind of a rebel without a cause anyway, and I found it was kind of a cheap thrill to cruise around town knowing that at any moment I could get busted and sent to the Pitkin County Jail, which I hear has great food (the same stuff as Aspen Valley Hospital) and cable TV and a weight room. I’ve never heard anyone complain about having to spend a day, a week or even a month in the plush Aspen lockup. Not even rogue cab driver Phil Sullivan fretted about having to do his 10-day stints.
Seriously, I want to thank local police for not writing me up. Jail is one thing, but hefty fines are another. They’ve been very tolerant, which is usually their modus operandi unless you’re a coke dealer sitting around the house in your underwear with a loaded pistol on the coffee table. I’ve been pulled over three times by cops who simply admire the Trail 90 for its uniqueness. One even told me, “It would be a great motorcycle for my wife,” and if he hadn’t seemed so earnest, I would have assumed that his comment wasn’t necessarily a compliment.
It was Detective Walter Chi and Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn who gave me my last two warnings. I rode the bike to a news conference near the city’s water plant and a lot of policemen and deputies who were there instantly knew something was amiss. Linn told me my bike was a “deathtrap” and I admit, it was very obvious that the cracked tires needed replacing. Chi stopped me in a downtown alley and told me that the Trail 90 technically fits in the category of two-wheeled vehicles that have to be registered and insured. He was stern but fair.
So I’m going to follow the law and mothball the motorcycle until I can make the necessary adjustments. But for two months, I got to rebel against authority for no significant reason, and it was quite invigorating.
Message to the city of Aspen: There are way too many stop signs in the West End and also in the Centennial-Hunter Creek-Smuggler Mountain area. Please make the town more motorcycle-friendly by getting rid of all the unnecessary obstacles.
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