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Remembering Laurie

by Bandit with photos from Sam Burns

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This is a strange one. I’ve been an outlaw most of my life and my drug of choice was women. I don’t know how to explain or if I can. I’m not proud to say, Laurie was one of the first episodes in a series of many. I’m reading a book by Dr. Pat Allen. She says it’s in our genes to chase women for as long as our testosterone levels are raging. It’s the nature of the evil beast to keep our human craziness alive.

Maybe my mom had a role in my lurid direction. I just started to read the letters I sent to my her when I was in the service. “Sept. 25th ’67. Off the coast at general quarters. Last night a destroyer got hit.”

We had a tough relationship. She was a control freak, who wanted to control most aspects of my life, but it didn’t work out well for her. Actually, she was right from a society and success standpoint and wrong from Dr. Allen’s biological standpoint.

My mom had her shit together. She should have married a rich aristocrat, but instead got hooked up with a blue-collar worker, a machinist Navy Chief fresh back from WWII. He was a good-looking guy, and after playing in Las Vegas with lots of sex-hungry broads wanted a good girl.

It didn’t take long for a few of his pals in Long Beach, California to say, “If you want goodie too-shoes, date Alma.” She came to Long Beach from Kansas City, Missouri with her sisters. They escaped parents who fought a lot and struggled after the depression. Her dad ran an auto- repair station that immediately ran out of business when the stock market crashed. They all ended up on the California coastline hoping for better times.

Okay, so perhaps my mother concealed her terror by always being on the ball. She never left her bedroom in the morning until she was dressed to the nines. My folks fought about drinking and my mother quit, when I was a teenager, which made her even more strict. Then maybe my dad had a roll.  He ran a machine shop and was manager of an oil well testing company. The shop introduced me to posters and calendars featuring hot, naked broads. 

I started to rebel as early as five, when I ditched school to peel to the circus. Unfortunately, I need a lift from my folks. I was busted. Then at 15 my folks planned a vacation to see the Grand Canyon. I got a speeding ticket. My dad threatened my life if it fucked with the vacation. Of course, I got another ticket on my first motorcycle, so I ran away. Then I graduated from high school and joined the Navy during the Vietnam era, to escape.

The next rebellious thing I could do to my mom was to fall in love with the wrong girl, hang on. After my second tour in Vietnam on the Saint Paul, the massive first fleet flag ship, a heavy cruiser and my first encounter with Pilipino prostitutes, I bought a new Harley.

As soon as I slipped off the ship in Long Beach I made my way to Long Beach Harley-Davidson in the rain in a raked Corvair. It was a Monday, raining like crazy, and the dealership was closed, natch. I came back the next day and spoke to the owner. He tried to convince me to buy the XLH with electric start, a larger tank and bags. I passed and decided on the metallic coffee brown XLCH with a magneto ignition. It was very cool, but perhaps the wrong decision.

I went immediately to Bank of America, for a loan. I had banked at this branch all my life. They turned me down because I was in the service and I wanted a motorcycle. My dad got pissed and pulled his accounts and never banked with that company again. Neither have I. I found a credit union loan, paid the dealer, and it took me months to understand the Tillotson carburetor. It had an accelerator pump. I think I flooded it everytime I tried to start the bastard.

About that time in 1969, I went on a double date with my brother and a girl from Lakewood, Laurie.

I didn’t know it, but Laurie had been fat and not that great looking most of her life. She had health issues, but I met her in her prime. She was an absolutely delight, with big eyes and a smile that would melt steel. Her skin was satin soft and her lips would turn the devil into an angel and did but the wrong sort.

It breaks my heart to write this. A devout evangelistic Christian, she fell in love with the devil who would ride evil modified cycles all his life. Motorcycles terrified her, but she didn’t mind that I rode a the Sportster back and forth to San Diego to be with her. Her younger sister was a hottie, but I never touched her. Her mother was good looking with an edge, a tall statuesque blond, she left Laurie’s father, the salesman who had a strange, strained relation with his homely sister. It was all too weird, but I didn’t pay any attention, except to Laurie.

St. Paul, CA-73
St. Paul, CA-73

The St. Paul stationed in San Diego forced me to ride back and forth. I rode up to See Laurie at the drop of a hat. If I got off 30 minutes early, I could be peeling toward the large open 5 freeway in 15 minutes. There wasn’t any traffic to speak of in 1969, and I could be at her side in a little over two hours. I blasted north for 120 miles, so many times I started to look for alternative routes.

I could take the coast highway until Oceanside, and then the Marine bootcamp at Camp Pendleton forced me inland to the freeway for 20 miles through open terrain to San Clemente, and then off the freeway back to PCH and through every little coastal community into Long Beach.

One time I started looking for different routes to the coast highway. I spotted a road in the hills north of San Diego and took the offramp. I sliced west under the freeway and onto a twisty leading up and over the hill ahead. I’ll never forget passing a house where several folks stood in the front yard and turned to check me out as I passed. There weren’t any other houses on the mountain road, so I didn’t pay any attention.

I was just 20 as I wound past the ranch style home for half a mile then over a slight rise in the road. I could see what lie ahead as I reached the gentle apex in the road, where is split into two dirt roads. In front of me grew a batch of inland canyon chaparral, including Neven’s barberry and Flannel Bush. I split that shit like a buccaneer with machete and fortunately didn’t go down in the soft dirt just beyond.

I checked for damages and turned around to humbly rolled past the ranch house once more and back to the interstate. The hard-to-start Sportster was always reliable, except for a slight hiccup with the kicker bushing which disabled the kicker at one point for a couple of weeks. Maybe the dust from the bush encounter tightened the bushing.

I spoke to the dealer and he said to keep riding, it would fix itself. When it wouldn’t kick over, I was forced to push-start it, but the issue only lasted for a couple of weeks and I was good to keep rolling.

Another time, I pulled the XLCH out of Laurie’s dad’s place and down the street, where I kicked it for 30 minutes gradually peeling out of all the ridiculous riding shit I could find to keep warm. I wasn’t wearing leather yet. When she fired I blasted to the freeway less than a mile away and as soon as I roamed south of Long Beach and the city lights, I found myself engulfed in a dense fog.

I developed a safety measure of following taillights through the fog. It was the first of only two times, I almost fell asleep on a motorcycle. After an hour in fog as thick as soup, the concentration fatigue started to get to me. But with scattered hillside elevation and a break from vision impairment, I survived and blasted to the base in Dago where bikers were treated like second class citizens. We were forced to park the handful of bikes off the base in a muddy parking lot in an open dirt field.

The ship moored in San Diego most of the time, except for repairs at the Todd’s Shipyard in Long Beach and in the Long Beach Naval Ship Yard from time to time. We returned from Vietnam in October and headed back to Asia via Hawaii and Pearl Harbor by the end of January. One time, while in Hawaii we were called to peel to Korea as a show of force.

I rode to San Diego over the holidays and one time it rained so hard I stopped in San Clemente, parked the bike in front of the Denny’s and caught a Greyhound bus back to the base. I returned the next Friday to find my Sporty still parked and locked. I set it free and jammed to my girl’s side in Long Beach. When I bought the XLCH I had the dealer install a Le Pera, black button-tuck contoured seat and shorty mufflers. That’s all I did, and if I could find another one today, I would do the same. It was classic and tight, just didn’t fit me.

All through that winter, rain or shine I jetted from San Diego to Long Beach to see Laurie. I didn’t drink or smoke, just wanted her touch. I got so I knew every bend in the road, all the joints and grills along PCH and every stop light between me and her comforting side.

One night I spent way too long on the couch snuggling with my babe. I wasn’t dressed for the cool winter California coast ride back to Dago. I believe I was still wearing my sailor’s blues and a light jacket. Of course, I kicked that bastard until I peeled down to a thin white cotton t-shirt and still started to sweat, then the Tillotson carb let this puppy run. I warmed it up and suited up. The military wanted us to wear helmets and I believe I wore a white Avon classic as I hit the freeway toward that Heavy Cruiser waiting at the dock.

The later it got in the morning, like 3:00 a.m. the colder it became. I had on no gloves, no scarf, no thermals and no boots guarded my ankles cloaked with thin black military socks. It kept getting colder as I shot through the haze in the night, barely able to hold the bars.

I stopped for gas in Oceanside and notice my shivering level of cold. The problem was, I had to be back on the ship by 8:00 a.m. It would be 6:00 before I rolled into Dago, but then I had to find a place to stash my bike in a lot far from the base, hike over a bridge and walk across the entire base to reach the shipyard.

I rode fast, and that bastard helmet had one of those bubble plastic face shields. It hindered my vision like I was riding through a slimy, moss filed koi pond. Out of pure vision frustration I yanked it off and tossed it alongside the freeway.

Relieved to have seriously improved vision suddenly my face froze. I rode to the edge of the port town where there were little breakfast joints and locker clubs, where sailors and marines could stash their uniforms, don civilian clothes and hit the town. I slid up out front and jammed inside looking for a wall heater.

I sat on a rickety wooden bench pulled close to the heater and huddled trying to gather the heat. I never blamed the bad weather or riding conditions on Laurie. The Nirvana in my life, she made everything glorious, warm and loving. Touching her was heaven on earth, but this morning I suffered.

I stared at my watch and studied the gas fire glow from the heater. As soon as my fingers would move again I made my way to the diner next door. I remember ordering a simple breakfast of a couple of over-easy eggs, two sausage links, hash browns and hot coffee.

I gripped my cup as if it was my last and chilled the coffee. I ordered another cup. When my simple plate arrived, I reached for my tin fork and attempted to eat. I was so cold to the bone that my hand shook violently and hammered the plate like I was a nervous carpenter hammering my last nail. I couldn’t stop or stop my hand long enough to shovel a bite between my clattering teeth.

I shoved the plate aside, and sipped luke warm coffee until I had to leave. I didn’t want to get back on the Sporty, but I was forced to ride it a few more miles to the unprotected parking lot, where I parked my bike, tried to make my uniform look presentable and walked to the base.

I wanted to ride, work on motorcycles, smoke weed and chase Laurie around the house constantly.

I left the bike with one of my dad’s employees, who custom painted it, when we started our third Vietnam tour. I had the forks extended six inches and my dad and I machined slugs and welded them to the risers to lift the bars six inches. Even that didn’t help. It was time for a big twin.

Laurie, the voluptuous one mesmerized me with her warmth, and ultimately her desire. My mind spinning with memories of motorcycles, when she would follow me out onto the apartment balcony and start to cry because I was about to roll out for a ride with locals. Sometimes I would abandon the ride and stay home with her, and sometimes I ignored the tears, assured her I would return and went for a ride.

Started lifting weights in the service.
Started lifting weights in the service.


I customized the ’69 Sportster, but then one day with a new Polaroid camera Laurie took a shot of me straddling it, with a 6-over glide and a custom paint job. I looked like a monkey fucking a football.

That did it. I needed to get ahold of a big twin, a
‘66 Long Beach Police bike. It was around that time that I left the service after a stint as a permanent shore patrol on the streets of downtown Long Beach and into the Pike. I was beginning to slip into the chopper world and Laurie wanted nothing to do with it. It scarred her and pulled me toward the dark side. Sorta like that Dennis Hopper movie, Blue Velvet.

We moved into a four-plex in north Long Beach behind a home. A long narrow lot, the owners wisely build the four units and four single garages in the back, a swimming pool and still a chunk of land separated the owners from their tenants. I immediately turned the garage into a bike shop. At one point, I turned the bedroom into a machine shop and started to rebuild engines. So many stories. I better write another chapter about Laurie and how we parted.

We had long discussions about religion and her brand of it and how it didn’t work for me. I was rapidly slipping away, and younger, cooler broads were stepping up. I had and still have no excuse for leaving her. She was one of the most tender persons in my life. She died recently of cancer and told me how much she still loved me, two weeks before she passed. To this day I like to ride to the Korean bell in San Pedro and say a prayer to her. Throughout the years we would stay in touch.

I gave her jobs when I could, but if she came in contact with the evil side of the biker life, she would step away. She had two daughters with her second drunken husband who abandoned them. I walked one of the daughters down the aisle, when she got married. I still miss her and wonder what path my life might have gone if we stayed together…


Join Bandit's Cantina for the kicks.
Join Bandit's Cantina for the kicks.

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Reader Comments

Yep.......many of us took a similar path. I never married because I didn't do well on captivity! Loved the Biker life.
Fun read, brought back memories. I still ride today , albeit a bit more tame.

Ed Hardison
Corolla, NC
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Editor Response Thanks. I made a ton of mistakes, but kept riding and fighting onward, good or bad. Fortunately, I had a ton of luck on my side.
This is a great story. It is amazing how I see myself sometimes in these stories?

charlotte, Nc
Monday, December 7, 2020
Editor Response So many of us had similar experiences...

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