December 20, 2011 – To set the stage for this tale, I must go back to the summer of 1956 when I was just a skinny 14-year old tomboy yearning for adventure. My older brother, Kelly, who was stationed at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX, came home to Rochelle, Georgia on vacation with a couple of his Texas friends. Tommy was also stationed at Lackland, and his wife, Bobbie, was a state motorcycle championship rider. She had taught Kelly to ride, and helped him select and buy his first motorcycle, a 1956 KS601 Sport horizontally opposed twin cylinder 601cc German-made, Zündapp with drive shaft and kick start.
The small convoy that pulled into our driveway that memorable June afternoon was led by Bobbie on her Indian Chief, followed by Kelly on his shiny new black beauty, and Tommy (with their three dachshunds) driving a station wagon and pulling a home-made trailer full of camping gear. After a week of exploring South Georgia (with a star-struck kid hanging on to the back of that big Indian), our visitors prepared to deadhead home, leaving one heavy-hearted teenager behind. Without my knowledge, though, Tommy and Bobbie (having no children of their own) had asked my parents if I could spend the rest of the summer with them in San Antonio, and they said yes! (What were they THINKING!) Just imagine the sight – a scrawny little small town girl, who had hardly traveled anywhere, riding on the back of a big Indian motorcycle all the way from Georgia to Texas (and no helmet back then!).
For the next six weeks, Bobbie taught me to ride a smaller bike, a 200cc “Popper”, and that experience changed the direction of my life forever. While most of my girlfriends back home were busy chasing boys, I was falling madly in love with a motorcycle! Two years later, Kelly left for New York to pursue a career in dance and theatre, leaving his Zündapp in my loving care! I rode that bike everywhere, to the chagrin of my mother’s female friends (….Ida Nell, you are crazy for letting Boopie ride that motorcycle. She’s going to get KILLED!”). But my wise mother laid the law down, and when I violated the rules (and believe me, I had plenty of “watchdogs”), I was put on restriction and my riding privileges were revoked.
Fast-forward to 1963 when I was a student at Georgia Southern College in Statesboro. By that time, the aging Zündapp had enough wear and tear that it was out of commission and gathering dust in the garage at home. Although I had not lost my love for motorcycles, I was about to have another life-changing experience – one that would surpass even the dramatic summer of ’56! It didn’t take me long, after meeting D. C., [Doyle Tunison] to learn that his interests were gymnastics and cars – NOT girls! Our mutual friends tried to arrange dates for us, and although we were together constantly in our college crowd, he was not ABOUT to get involved in any romantic relationship. (And I thought learning to drive a motorcycle at 14 was a challenge!) That’s when I had the brilliant idea (well, I thought it was pretty clever at the time!) to tell him about my motorcycle that “needed a little work”. That did it! His eyes lit up, and I could see the wheels turning in his head. We drove to Rochelle, loaded that 450-pound bike in the trunk of his roommate’s 1956 Rocket 98 Oldsmobile, and hauled it back to Statesboro where he worked on it until he got it running again. We rode that bike straight into marriage in December of 1963, and it served as our second vehicle for many years. Careers and children soon took priority, and once again the old Zündapp fell into disrepair. We sold it in the late 60’s, and through the years bought newer and bigger bikes.
Fast-forward again to the late 80’s when D. C. was a motorcycle dealer in Augusta, Georgia (ironic, huh?). One day, a guy from Macon walked into the shop and just happened to mention an old motorcycle that he had found to restore. “What Kind?” D. C. asked. “You’ve probably never seen one of these, or even heard of it. It’s an old German motorcycle called a Zündapp.” D.C. asked him to describe it … you can guess the rest! He bought it back, brought it home to surprise me, and the tears rolled down my face when I touched the familiar old dents and dings in the fenders and headlight! Today, it’s undergoing a SECOND overhaul at D.C.’s hands!
Postscript: the hobby that brought us together has remained one of our most enjoyable shared pastimes. We have logged over 50,000 miles (stopping at junk yards and car shows across the country!) and ridden through most of the lower 48 states and much of Canada, and although I’m not in the passenger’s seat on these trips, I’m still riding “shotgun” with my favorite shade-tree mechanic!