In 1973, Jim Tomlinson decided to buy a new Yamaha 175 Enduro for himself and a Yamaha 125 for his son, Jay, who was 15 at the time. Taking these motorcycles out on trails together was a way for Tomlinson to enhance his relationship with his son before he departed for college.
It turned out to be so much more than just a father-and-son bonding experience. Many times Tomlinson loaded up the two motorcycles and two 10-speed bicycles for his two daughters on a trailer, and his family went bike riding.
There were trips to southern Missouri and the Chadwick Motorcycle and ATV Use Area, trips to the mountains in Colorado or simply an area near their home at the time in Grandview.
“The first time we got to a mountain west of Denver, I said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Tomlinson said. “I got halfway up and stopped. I realized how fast we got up. It was kind of scary, but we got used to it. That first time going up the mountain was quite an event.”
Those times produced many wonderful memories for Jim, his wife, Judy, son Jay and daughters Jill and Julie.
“We are all Js – kind of corny,” said Tomlinson, 79 and now retired, living in Overland Park with his wife.
“It was total fun. My wife never took part in the bikes, but we all had a lot of fun. Colorado is beautiful. They have all these trails and they go on and on. We totally enjoyed it.”
The only time Tomlinson rode his Yamaha 175 was on trails, but his son drove his motorcycle to Grandview High School.
When Jay graduated from high school and headed to the University of Kansas, Tomlinson no longer had use for the motorcycles. He sold them to his brother-in-law in 1978. The motorcycles stayed at his wife’s parents’ home in Jefferson City a while until his brother-in-law moved to Houston.
“Then the brother-in-law moved them down to Houston, in the city, and there just wasn’t any place to ride,” Tomlinson said. “They sat in his garage. The last license plate on them was 1988.”
When the brother-in-law called last May to offer the motorcycles back to Tomlinson, the memories of those mid-1970s days flooded back. He thought it would be great to have both motorcycles back.
But first, Tomlinson called Jay, now 56 and busy working as an architect in downtown Kansas City. Tomlinson said his son thought it was a good idea to bring the motorcycles back to Kansas City.
Once they were brought to Tomlinson’s home last May, he figured it was going to be a two-year project to get them both in working order again.
“They sat in his garage from 1988 to this past May when I picked them up,” Tomlinson said. “They never started during that time, so you can imagine what kind of shape they were in. He left gas in them, and the gas turned into hard stuff. I had to clean that out.”
Simply cleaning out the gas tanks took Tomlinson 10 hours – for each tank.
Despite some of the challenges, it has been an enjoyable project for Tomlinson to get the motorcycles back in working order. He writes down on a paper that hangs in his workroom the hours he has put in and what he has done in restoring the motorcycles.
The hours slip away quickly when he is working on the motorcycles.
“I find myself spending too much time down there and leaving my wife alone,” Tomlinson said.
So far, he said, he has put in more than 175 hours working on the motorcycles. He said his Yamaha 175 is 90 percent completed and the Yamaha 125 is 45 percent finished.
“I have had a doubt or two along the way,” Tomlinson said. “You don’t look at it as a total thing. You look at it one step at a time, as long as you know you are able to fix that part so it will be operable.
“There was a lot of work to do on them, but a lot of nostalgia with them.”
Tomlinson is ahead of schedule. He anticipates sometime next summer that both motorcycles will be up and running and he and his son can once again enjoy riding on a few motorcycle trails.
“We definitely plan to do that and have a good time with it,” Tomlinson said.
Do you have a car, truck or motorcycle or other vehicle you would like see featured in Make It Yours? If you do, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com