San Leon biker gets his adrenaline rush on long road trips and hairpin turns
San Leon resident Jim Kramer got the itch to buy a motorcycle when he got out of the Navy in 1968.
“The bug just bit me and I had a chance to pick up a used Honda 305,” Kramer said. “It was cheap transportation and everything just mushroomed from there.”
Since then, Kramer has owned two Suzuki motorcycles — a 550 and 750 — and all the rest have been Hondas.
“I was never into owning a Harley-Davidson,” Kramer said. “I saw a T-shirt once that said, ‘I ride too far, too fast and too hard to own a Harley.’”
After owning a half dozen used Hondas over the years, he decided to buy one brand new, which is the one he rides now — a 2007 Honda Gold Wing GL1800, dark metallic orange. He has put about 140,000 miles on it and still is racking them up. Although the speedometer goes up to 150 mph, he got it up to 130 mph once, and will sometimes go 100 mph on back roads, he said.
“It’s an adrenalin rush,” he said.
When not taking a daily ride in and around Galveston County, Kramer and his wife, Jean, who are both retired, like to load the Gold Wing onto the toy hauler of their RV and take off traveling, he said. Although Jean doesn’t ride solo, she does hop on the back of the bike with Kramer during the long hauls. On short trips and those lasting up to three months, they’re in their element. In the past seven years, they’ve made about 15 trips, have seen most of the eastern half of the United States and will be edging their way out West next year, Kramer said.
Some of the highlights from a recent two-month jaunt included the scenic highways of Arkansas, the lakes of Tennessee, the byways of Kentucky and the Amish country in Ohio and Pennsylvania; then onto New York to visit relatives.
As for that adrenaline rush, Kramer had no problem finding it on the North Carolina-Tennessee state line.
“There’s a place called Tail of the Dragon, where there are 318 hairpin turns for 11 miles, and it’s pretty exciting to ride, but can also be rough on your bike,” Kramer said. “There’s an area called Tree of Shame, a makeshift shrine to those bitten by the Dragon — fenders, wheels, tires, handlebars. Inside a nearby restaurant is a Wall of Shame with photos of guys all bandaged up, but bikers come from all over to ride the Dragon.”
There are many roller coaster roads that attract bikers, Kramer said.
“That’s what you live for on a motorcycle,” he said.
Although Kramer isn’t keen on motorcycle rallies, he does occasionally ride with a local group called Mid Life Cycles. Kramer, 72, has no intention of hanging up his helmet.
“Riding a bike keeps me young,” Kramer said. “Otherwise, I’d just be sitting around the house munching potato chips.”
Best place to have pie: Loveless Cafe, Nashville, Tennessee
Best barbecue sandwich: Jones Bar-B-Q Diner, Marianna, Arkansas
Best scenery: Lake Catherine, Arkansas; Land Between the Lakes, in western Tennessee and Kentucky; Upstate New York
Best hairpin turns: Tail of the Dragon, North Carolina-Tennessee state line.