By on November 24, 2013
lifted from and their 250 Ninja picture forum

lifted from and their 250 Ninja picture thread

The old saying goes; to be older and wiser, you must first be young and stupid. This is the story of my life. I’m older, but still waiting to be wiser.

While everyone has a story of the dumbest thing they have done, I have a book. Hopefully the point of this and other tales I share here, will not only be to entertain, but on a certain level, make you feel better about stupid things you have done.

This is a tale of 20 year-old W. Christian Ward stationed at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi two weeks after basic training. Behavior during technical training is slightly less regimented. Freedoms were granted in a phased system. Characteristically, I broke all of them. Travel was limited to a radius of 30 miles, so naturally the first weekend I was allowed off base, I went to Atlanta to get my 250 Ninja.

A challenge of my youth is a lack of foresight. I knew was it was spring, I was near a beach and I wanted my motorcycle. Saturday I hopped a plane, Sunday I packed some civilian clothes, strapped the bags to the bike and left early in the afternoon. I had afforded eight hours for the 400 mile ride over mostly interstate, curfew was 10 PM.

I should have checked the weather, especially springtime in the south.

Hide from the hurricane? Sure. Tornadoes..meh

10 miles outside of Atlanta, the rain started. I thought it would stop, but I had painted myself into a corner; a dark, stormy, tornado-spawning corner. I knew I was in real trouble when the semi-trucks started pulling over. I distinctly remember the sight of my front tire in 6 inches of water while I limped along in 1st gear. Within the hour I was soaked to my undies. On an overpass outside of Montgomery, a gust of wind moved my bike from the right lane to the left. Around 5:30, my water resistant Timex stopped working.

Side-bar, a 1989 Ninja 250R holds about 4.5 gallons and has a range of around 220 miles without 20 mph head wind. This trip should take at most, two gas stops. With that information, imagine being surrounded by the sound of pouring water, moisture all around you. Add a constant buzzing between your legs and being bumped on a tiny bike with overloaded suspension. Not enough yet? It was cold. Yeah, I made a lot of stops.

Around 7:30, it let up. I’m guessing about the time, my watch was still kaput. I leaned into the throttle to cover some distance. When I hit the outskirts of Mobile it finally stopped raining. West of the city, my watch recovered, it was 9:05. I had to be in Biloxi by 10:00 or my shenanigans would come to light, and my fledgling military career would be kneecapped before it started. It was just over 60 miles.

I-10 on the gulf  is characterized by tall bridges to accommodate shipping. The top expanses are metal one-inch squares of re-enforced jagged grate. They offer no traction and they were still wet. This would have been wonderful information to have before I passed that Greyhound bus close to the state line. Approaching the peak of the bridge, I was on the bike hard. The rear tire hit the grate under load and immediately stepped out. I over-corrected and entered a “tank slapper.”

I would love to tell you my skill, ability and cat-like reflexes saved me, but that would make me a liar.

No, I stared straight into the abyss and the Grim Reaper had pity; I was simply too stupid to perish right then.

I stopped at the Mississippi Welcome Center until the urge to vomit subsided.

The Ninja parked in front of my squadron at 10:05. I tried to get off the bike, but couldn’t walk. I had been shivering for hours and my legs had cramped on the tank. I hobbled across the courtyard to the Charge of Quarters, signed in and begged her not to report me. Perhaps it was my plea, my bloodshot eyes, or the puddle forming under me (after the bridge, probably mostly rainwater); but she permitted me to slip in unreported.

Those grates are now filled with asphalt, but I avoid them like the plague. I now dress properly for a ride, and have a gear fetish. Eventually I would learn to pad my travel times and check the weather. I am a dedicated rider and don’t mind getting wet, but my equipment is better.

I also know when to drive.

Oh yeah, I had a car, but chose my bike. I got the car later…but that is another story.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, five motorcycles and still rides every chance he gets.

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25 Comments on “Tales of Vehicular Mayhem – The Ninja...”

  • avatar

    I tried getting the credit union to let me borrow money to buy a bike when I was at Keesler. They declined. Good decision on their part. I had no clue how to ride back then.

  • avatar

    ” The Little Ninja That Could ” ~ those 250’s were amazing machines .

    As a long time rider , I understand your story completely .

    Many young riders don’t make it out alive , a lucky few do and I’m glad you did to share your stories .

    As you mentioned : good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement .

    I no longer ride in the rain unless I get caught in it .

    Anyone want to buy William Shatner’s dead 1973 BMW R75/5LWB Moto ? .


    • 0 avatar

      Heck yeah! I love Bimmers, and Shatner’s?!? All the better!

      • 0 avatar

        It’s a _Beemer_ , ‘ Bimmers ‘ have four wheels .

        This one is a ” Toaster Tank ” and is Irish Green .

        No transmission as I foolishly gave it to my ex Father In Law (a really nice guy) who thrashed the tranny until it broke then removed and lost it…

        I actually have 5 or 6 old BMW /5’s scattered about the back yard , one should easily give up it’s parts to return the Shatner bike to the road where it belongs .


        • 0 avatar

          Last year, I gave away a /5 R65 basket case. I love toaster tanks. I still have my 99 R1100S. Boxer twins rule.

          When I get settled back in Georgia next summer, we need to share a beer and chat.

          • 0 avatar

            R65 was well past the /5 series .

            A beer or coffee sounds nice .

            For a few years I rode a Kawasaki C1A , the Police model assembled in Nebraska IIRC . I rode it across America with some L.A.P.D. buddies and ran into a tornado in Texas ~ jeezo-Peezo that was scary .

            I think the ” you’ll go down sooner or later ” thing is more a version of my ” Ride Scared , it’s a good way to stay alive ” ~ not saying you _will_ go down , just saying retain situational awareness at all times ~ I didn’t the night I was run over .


  • avatar
    Joe K

    I had the 500 Ninja. I took it cross country a few times from NY to Wy and back, NY to CA once.

    Hail hurts, even in full leathers.

    Riding with a two piece leathers in 100 degree heat (not too bad actually) in the middle of Wyoming, bees hurt. Really hurt.

    I HATE HATE HATE open deck bridges. I have a fear of water (not bath but pools lakes rivers oceans) and not only is there no traction on these things, but you can see DOWN to usually water. Around here if the bridge is open deck, so are the side walks, even scarier. I usually try to avoid these things but sometimes it can not be done. I just go in the right lane at a speed that I wont die at (hopefully) and hope I dont fall on the human cheese grater.

  • avatar
    Timothy Harris

    Ah yes, the tech school “Phase system”.
    Stationed at both Ft.Huachuca, AZ and Sheppard AFB, TX (barf) back in ’01, I would test how far I could break the travel radius limit. Had my ’87 Chrysler 5th Ave shipped from home in NH and got to see a lot of AZ that way. When I ended up in TX, discovered that my Dad (who I hadn’t seen in years) lived beyond the limit in Hot Springs, AR. Did this stop me from going to see him? No way!

  • avatar

    I was lucky to learn my lesson about checking the weather reports the relatively easy way. I started riding this summer, and the first day I took my bike to work was the day of that terrible, Ferrari-drowning rainstorm in Toronto.

    I mean, weather was great the whole day, although it was starting to look a little dark after 4. I leave at 4:30, get about halfway home, and the sky just completely opens up. Even in the five slightly terrifying* minutes it took me to get to the nearest Tim Hortons, I manage to soak every single layer, and the contents of my backpack. Waiting the storm out seemed like a great idea until the power cut out, the Hortons kicked us all out, and I had to ask my wife to come pick me up (after dealing with the traffic, dozens of stoplights out, and having to route around the flooded underpasses, she was none too pleased). So yeah, if there’s much more than a 10 or 20% chance of rain, I take the car now.

    *very first day I took this bike out, I locked up the front brake going around a corner and laid it down, so I was even more nervous with the loss of traction.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe K

      I learned too. The long distance rides you always packed for weather no matter what the weather people said. The day trips, I learned to always at the very least carry rain gear. Localized storms are not always predictable. Sometimes weather just happens and you have to adjust. I learned that going through the Rockies on a summers day (early summer). I was riding a winding road through the Rockies enjoying the scenery and was amused by the storm unfolding on the storm roughly three mountains away. The road I was on climbed twisted dipped, went to another mountain. The road did its snake thing and then I started wondering if the road went to the other Mountain. It did. 80 degree weather turned to 50 turned to rain tuned to snow. This was not forecast that morning.
      And yes Tornadoes on a motorcycle are just terrifying.

  • avatar

    I’ve ridden in rain and I’ve been caught in some nasty stuff too. Traction must of been really bad to break the rear loose on a 250 cc 4 stroke.
    I recall riding through Montana in ’97 when the national 55 mph speed limit was repealed. I took a picture of the Montana speed limit sign: “Daytime Limit – Reasonable and Prudent”. I kept getting caught in rain and dodged quite a few hail storms on that trip through the US Midwest.
    On the leg of my journey home I could feel headwinds and could see a wall of blackness closing in on me. In that ominous scenario “reasonable and prudent” turned into 240-260 kph to the little nameless town on my tank-bag map. I pulled into a covered gas station as the heavens opened up. I found it rather poetic as a mangy stray dog joined me as we waited out the storm. It ended as suddenly as it started and I watched the clouds roll into the distance. That dog and I made eye contact and we both wished each other luck on our journey home.

  • avatar

    Great story. I think all of us who have been riding for years have at least one incredibly risky thing I did on two wheels story. I went club racing for two seasons and only have one small mark to show for it…. very lucky. I’m glad I did it though because I will never forget the feeling of 50 bikes diving into the first corner after the green flag. Nothing like it.

  • avatar

    For a little bike these weren’t bad on a long haul. I used to take mine from North of Charlotte down to Atlanta. I wanted to ride to Texas so it was sold to make room for the KLR650 but I enjoyed that 13000 RMP redline and setting the valves was way easier on the Ninja.

  • avatar

    One time when I was in teaching in Japan some students and I decided to go out to a restaurant after work. It was cold out, but rather than walk I always took my bike and so I rod over there. Even though I had a nice, full face helmet, I had gotten into the habit of using a leather covered pudding bowl helmet that came with a set of goggles that I strapped to the top of the helmet but never used because of my glasses.

    It was totally clear when we went in but when we came out at about 11 PM, there was an inch of snow on the ground at it was coming down hard in fat, wet flakes. I was about two miles from home and I didn’t very far before the snow started sticking to my glasses. I wiped them off but couldn’t get them dry and I was looking out at a snow covered road that was a blur of light. I went a little farther and it was so bad I tried putting the googles on over them. That smashed them onto my face and the oil from my skin coated the inside and made the situation even worse.

    I have a strong prescription but there was nothing else I could do and I eventually ended up taking the glasses off and riding home on snow covered roads with snow hitting me in the eyes the whole way. Bad as it was it was better than not being able to see at all. Yeah rain sucks, but snow is worse.

    • 0 avatar

      Went on a 2 day ride in Colorado a few years ago and almost got caught in a valley when the snow rolled in. That was fun, but we made it out;

      Of course, when you do it on purpose, and get trapped against a tree, you should expect your buddy to snap a picture;

      • 0 avatar

        @W Christian Mental Ward
        Looks like you need a set of studded Trelleborgs. Myself and some buddies used to stud our own. Pirelli Sandcross tires worked the best and seemed to be the standard tire among iceracers. it is lots of fun chasing down sledders on a rough narrow trail on a 60 hp KTM ;)

  • avatar

    OK so I know we were at AF basic training at about the same time, and now I see we were in Biloxi at Keesler at the same time too! I think I remember that hurricane too, we evacuated and ended up driving right through it since it didn’t hit the base afterall. Very small world huh?!

    So what tech school were you attending when there? I was in the old Computer Programming course before they got rid of it and cross-trained us all.

    • 0 avatar

      I wasn’t there for a hurricane, this was just a good old fashioned southern downpour and tornado watch.

      I was actually there for the Computer Operator School. Friggin’ Wolff Hall, longest march on the base, every day.

      I came back to cross train into programming, before they revised it all and made the network folks operators anyway. Remember ADA? “It’s self documenting.”

      • 0 avatar

        Oh yes I remember ADA, a very good example of why having active duty programmers was doomed. I went to tech school then went back to Keesler to be an instructor right before they got rid of that career. I never cross-trained into the “new” Operator school. I helped write the courses and then ended up getting fired and transferred to the hospital. When the AF forced the programmers to either cross train or get out, I got out. Sometimes I wish I had stayed in for my 20.

      • 0 avatar

        You remember a lot more details than I do. So was Wolff Hall the “old” building or the new one? When I trained there I was in the ancient white building, but when I went back to be an instructor we were just moving into the new brick training center across the street. Wasn’t any better march but it was a better environment!

  • avatar

    There are two kinds of riders. Those that have been down, and those that are going down.

  • avatar

    That’s a common statement. Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s accurate. I find that statement quite stupid. If I thought an accident on my motorcycle was unavoidable, I’d hang up my helmet and never ride again.

    Since 1988 I’ve been riding about 15,000 miles a year. Full gear, no beer, and riding with the MSF basic and advanced training in mind goes a long way towards avoiding the “going down” stuff.

    As far as rain, at Naval Base Charleston SC (closed now) you better like riding in the rain since it seemed to rain every single day during my ride home.

  • avatar

    Having a relatively short motorcycling career that was terminated by a broken spine 30+ years ago, I can totally identify being caught in bad weather–but the one that made my day was when I was riding the bike (in my avatar) back to Cali from my Grandparents in central New Mexico.

    Leaving Phoenix at night heading over the desert, I encountered a sandstorm that was clocking at least 40mph gusts, so my Kwacker was leaning to the left for a solid two hours. By the time I stopped for gas, the sand that was blowing directly into my chain and sprockets had turned the countershaft sprocket into something you could use as a Ninja star. The chain could not be adjusted any further, all the rollers were ruined..I Had to replace the entire set as soon as I got into Los Angeles.

    Good times, they were!

  • avatar

    The worst thing for me on a motorcycle is wind and I don’t mind rain at all.

    9 out of 10 times I decide to ride my bike between Portland and Seattle 10% chance of rain means 100% chance of rain for nearly the entire trip. Thankfully bikes don’t really hydroplane.

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