In this episode Skip Steele and Brother Will Knox stumble into their first international smuggling operation trying to get Skip’s classic motorcycle back to the states…
The Thrill of the Open Road
There is a freedom that comes from riding a motorcycle, that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s not just transportation, the journey becomes the destination. I really wanted a Triumph 500, that was my dream bike, what I got was a BSA 175, fondly known as a “Beezer”. In the end, she was perfect for me.
The idea was to have a friend of mine from the beach, come over and we would ride motorcycles around Europe. That dream ended after a night at a local pub and far too many pints of British ale.
“If you are as drunk as I am , we should both be careful on the way home” I told my friend Scott.
“I’m not that drunk, I’ll be fine…” he responded.
Alcohol and Motorbikes don’t mix
We both kick started our bikes, and headed out into the night. The way back to base housing was thru the English countryside, small dark roads lit only by the dim light of the headlights on our motorcycles. Twists and turns and blind corners were the norm on this moonless, darkened night. The air was cold, even on this summer night as I approached a sharp right turn in the road. I began to navigate the turn, and I noticed that there was newly laid gravel on what should have been asphalt. The back end of my bike started to slip, as I braked into the turn and felt my bike grab as the turn was completed. Scott was bringing up the rear, and I heard him go down in the gravel. Braking as quickly as possible, I turned only to see the light of his bike lying on the ground, dimly illuminating the gravel. Scott was down, his bike a Yamaha 100 Twin, was lying on top of his left leg, his face contorted with pain. I dropped the side stand on my bike and hurried over to his side
” You ok, man?” I blurted out.
“It’s my leg, Skip, I think it is broken.” He winced.
“Do you think you can move?” I asked.
“Not sure,” he stated.
I moved around and lifted his motorbike off of his leg and then rolled it over to the side of the road. It did not seem to be damaged in any way and I turned the bike off, leaving us in the pitch black night.
I moved back to my bike and kick started it to illuminate the area with the headlight, and then moved back to Scott’s side.
“We have to try and move you off the road, so that I can go and get help.” I told him.
“Ok, I think I can move, but I don’t think I can’t stand on my leg.” Scott told me.
Together, we moved him back off of the road to where he was somewhat comfortable. Before leaving, I started his bike and left it running so that the area was illuminated by the headlight of his bike.
“I will be right back, hold on, I will get Will and be right back” I assured him.
Older Brother to the Rescue
I jumped on my beezer and tore off into the night, any signs of alcohol intoxication were now gone and adrenaline was pumping throughout my body. I rode like the wind and arrived back at Will’s house in record time. It was 1:00 a.m. in the morning as I looked at my watch as I opened the door to the house. I went directly to Will’s bedroom, knocked and stepped into the room.
“Will, I need your help.” I told Will as I awakened him.
“What’s wrong?” Will responded.
“There has been an accident, I think Scott might have broken his leg.” I quickly added.
“Let’s go.” Will answered.
Always in control in any emergency, I was happy that my older brother was with me. We jumped into his car and quickly made our way towards the scene of the accident. On the way, I told Will what had happened and filled him in on everything. We arrived at the ill-fated corner and parked, leaving the headlights on Scott and his bike. Will moved over to Scott and confirmed that in fact his left leg was broken, we both moved over to support him and move him back to the car. Scott was able to move around a bit, but he could not put any weight on his left leg, we placed him into the back of the car.
I jumped on Scott’s bike and followed them back to the house. We got Scott into the house and Will called the Flight Surgeon, Dr. Tom at this ungodly hour. It was now 2:30 in the morning.
“Where is the patient?” Dr. Tom asked as I opened the front door for him.
“On the sofa, in the living room. ” I told Dr. Tom.
Dr. Tom moved into the living room and he began attending to Scott. After about ten minutes of checking his pulse, blood pressure, and spending time with his left leg, Dr. Tom pronounced what we all had expected, Scott’s lower leg was in fact, fractured. Tom gave him some medications for pain and told him that he would see him in the morning.
The next day we took Scott to the local hospital and he came home with a full cast on his leg and on crutches. So much for my plan of riding around Europe with my friend Scott. With his leg broken, we took Scott to Heathrow Airport for his return to the States.
British Country Roads in the early 70’s
I continued riding my beezer, spending an incredible amount of time on the back roads from Oxford to Stratford-upon-Avon. There were some beautiful rides in the English Countryside, I rode weeks at a time. I would get up in the morning, eat a full breakfast and then hop on my bike and ride all day. As the summer faded into the fall, my thoughts were drawn towards returning to the states, to begin college.
Will knew that I really liked my motorcycle, and one day he approached me.
“You will be leaving in a couple of weeks, right Skip? ”
“Yea, at the end of the month” I replied.
“Have you thought about what you are going to do with your bike?” he queried.
“I guess I should take it back to Mr. Mayle and see what he will give me for the beezer.”
“I have another option” Will said.
Fighter Jet Smuggling
“My squadron is going to be ferrying jets back to the States in a month, if we can breakdown the bike, I will smuggle the parts into the cockpit and take the bike back to the States piecemeal.” Will offered.
“That would be unreal, could you really do that?” I asked.
“Yea, I could pull it off, might be a bit of a challenge, but it would be fun to try. When I get the parts back to the States, I could ship everything to the house in Florida.” Will said.
Over the next few weeks, Will and I worked on disassembling the BSA 175 motorcycle into three packages, the individual wheels were two of the boxes and the engine was the third. The boxes were heavy, but somehow Will managed to get the individual boxes into the cockpit of the F-100 fighter jet and he carried the bike parts back to a base in Virginia. From there, Will shipped the boxes to the house in Florida and when I arrived back in the states, the three boxes were in the garage waiting for me. Incredible as it seems, I rebuilt the Beezer in my garage and it started on the first kick-start. It was great to ride around the beach, but never had the incredible appeal of riding the back roads of England.
This was the first covert planned adventure that Will and I did together, looking back I see it as the genesis of what would occur in the years to come.
Great Read! Love knowing the genesis of these guys who were the early pioneers.