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Hermit's First Triumph Motorcycles

1953 Triumph 6T Thunderbird

Photo of a 1953 650 sprung-hub Triumph Thunderbird T6

This was my first Triumph ride, in the Spring of 1965. When I bought it, it was identical in appearance to the Triumph that Marlon Brando rode in The Wild One.

As a teen-ager I had no compuctions about removing the nacalle and replacing it with the chrome fork tube covers and "custom" headlight.

A rigid frame, sprung-hub suspension, non-unit construction, cast iron head, and magneto ignition - aided and abetted by an exquisite tail light, a graceful saddle, bad-boy megs, bobs, and bars - gave it that classic kick-ass appearance.

I'd be thrilled to take it for a ride today!

It did have one rather serious drawback: once hot and shut down, it would only re-start by pushing - a lot of pushing!

Bob Meyers, owner of Free State Cycle thought perhaps the intake manifold was upside down, but flipping it over changed nothing. Many years later I was given to understand that it was a classic magneto problem.

I got finally tired of pushing, and traded it in on a brand-new 1966 Triumph Bonneville T120R.

The Wild Thing

Drive side photo of a customized 1966 650 Triumph Bonneville T120R

In September of 1965, Bob Myers, owner of Free State Cycle, Bladensburg, Maryland, gave me $200 for the Thunderbird as trade-in on a brand-new 1966 650 Triumph Bonneville T120R. Sticker price: $1,165.

That winter I stripped off everything I could figure out how to un-bolt and took it all to a marina in Georgetown for chrome plating. Simply the best chrome plating you've ever seen!

I also replaced the big comfortable twinseat with a (ouch!) Bates seat that was hard as rock. That and the peanut tank with its 60 mile cruising range were just what I needed for all the highway cruising I did that summer.

Tell ya' a story about that sometime.

I called it "Wild Thing". You know, The Trogs. "Wild Thing, I think I love you..."

Timing side photo of a customized 1966 650 Triumph Bonneville T120R

With all that chrome I should have called it "Hot Thing". That chrome oil tank didn't help keeping things cool in the searing Washington DC area summer heat.

September 2nd, 1966

September 2, 1966, Airman Bruce Miller and brother Greg

Saying goodbye to Mom, Greg, and Wild Thing on the morning I reported for induction into active duty in the US Air Force.

At the time, Greg was my little brother, but around 1973 he became my big brother and I discovered that what goes around comes around. Wrestling and playing basketball with him was never the same!

I sold Wild Thing and gave away most of my belongs thinking that having volunteered for Viet Nam... well, you know, as Country Joe and the Fish put it, "Whoopie we're all going to die!"

Flower Power!

Two years later, in the 773rd Radar Squadron Montauk Point, Long Island, I began to suspect that I might not die in Viet Nam after all, so it seemed like a really good idea to get another Triumph.

I found a '66 T120R exactly like the Bonnie I'd sold. Had only a thousand miles on it and I paid $1,000 with no quibbling.

Here it is, outside the barracks, sporting Margaret Nicholson's psychedelic hand-painted flower-power paint-job. Photo of a 'Flower-Power customized 1966 650 Triumph Bonneville

It was the motorcycle I rode to Woodstock, past miles and miles of 4-wheeled vehicles all at a complete stand-still. I slept layed out on the seat and gas tank, sheltered for a short time from the rain beneath a wool Air Force blanket hung over the high-riser handlebars.

It was from such a sleep that I woke to the crystal clear voice of Joan Baez cutting through the dull sound of falling rain. Along with Richie Havens that became one of my two best memories of Woodstock.

Hawk to Hippie in Four Years

1966 650 Triumph Bonneville on showroom floor of Waterbury, CT Triumph dealer, April, 1970

Spring of 1971 and time to say goodbye to Flower Power after spending the winter riding back and forth between Albany, New York and New Haven, Connecticut with warm-ups at Alice's Restaurant in Stockbridge, Mass.

Flower Power's sale financed the purchase and rennovation of a decrepit Ford Econoline for my Quest to the West during the Summer of Love. "No left turn unstoned", all the way to Mendicino, Mill Valley, San Raefel, and San Francisco.

Thirty-two years would go by before I once more found myself looking at life across the handlebars of another Triumph Bonnie.