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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 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 headlight.

Rigid frame, sprung-hub suspension, non-unit construction, cast iron head, and magneto ignition all from the factory and all contributed to it's classic kick-ass appearance.

Aided and abetted by that exquisite tail light, the graceful saddle, and the bad-boy megs, bobs, and bars.

Wouldn't it be a thrill to ride that one today!

Had one drawback. When hot, only way to start it again was to push it a quarter or half mile jump-starting.

Bob Meyers thought the intake manifold was upside down, but it made no difference. Now I understand it was probably a magneto problem.

I got 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. Best chrome plating I think I'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.

Let me tell you a couple of stories 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 much 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 Greg, mom, and Wild Thing on the morning I reported for active duty in the US Air Force.

Greg was my little brother at the time, 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!

Photo of a 'Flower-Power customized 1966 650 Triumph Bonneville

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

I found a 1966 T120R exactly like the Bonnie I had sold. It only had a thousand miles on it and I paid $1,000 without any quibbling.

Here it is, outside the barracks, sporting Margaret Nicholson's psychedelic hand-painted flower-power paint-job.

It's the motorcycle I rode to Woodstock, and slept on beneath an AF blanket hung over the high-riser handlebars.

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 we spent the winter riding back and forth between Albany New York and New Haven Connecticut with warmups in Stockbridge at Alice's Restaurant.

Flower Power's sale financed a decripit Ford Econoline and its rennovation for my quest to the West in the Summer of Love. No turn left unstoned on the way to Mendicino, Mill Valley, and San Raefel.

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