On yesterday’s bike ride I went through the small village of Ardstraw, Co. Tyrone. I was last here in 1995 when I bought my one and only motorbike from George Millar Motorcycles. Sadly the man himself died just over 2 years ago and the business is now closed up.
The motorbike was a small 100cc Kawasaki trail style road legal bike similar to this one:
That bike allowed me to start my first proper job after leaving college. It was with the Forest Service of Northern Ireland, based in Ballymena taking data measurements and foliage samples from research plots. The plots were spread out through a number of forest sites so I had to have my own transport. I’d already failed my driving test once but I could drive a motorbike on an L plate.
I have a number of great memories from that bike.
- Trying to teach myself how to drive it with zero experience, doing an accidental wheelie up the side of Mum and Dad’s and throwing myself off by flipping the bike! My first road rash.
- Driving it to Ballymena for the first time, going over Glenshane Pass flat out at 30mph in February and damn near freezing myself to death.
- Driving it in the mountains of Antrim in the snow and sliding it all over the roads like a dirt star.
- Travelling home to Donegal from Ballymena in the middle of the Garvaghy Road protests when lots of Protestant villages were barricaded and closed off across Northern Ireland. I picked my way using the Nationalist and Unionist flags to work out where it was safe to take my Donegal reg bike.
- Spending my lunch breaks tearing round the forest tracks like a madman and thinking I was cool as fuck.
I spent the rest of the ride reminiscing what it was like to be 22 again and feeling indestructible. Nice memories.
Header image: logo for “Sons of Anarchy” from FX.