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Bronson's Bike - On the road drama THEN CAME BRONSON/NBC/1969-70, Michael Parks starred as San Francisco obituary writer Jim Bronson.

Bronson on His Motorcycle

After the suicide of his close friend, Nick Oresko [who jumped off a bridge in Jim’s presence] Jim quits his job, buys back a red motorcycle left at the jump site from Nick’s widow, Gloria and then heads south toward Big Sur looking for adventure and some meaning to his life.

During his travels Jim drove a red Harley Davidson Sportster 883cc motorcycle with knobby tires [license: 723795]. The gas tank sported a triangle with an image of an eye [similar to the one the back of a dollar bill.]

On occasion, Jim’s ride broke down or got banged up from all the wear and tear from its many road races, hill climbs and highway cruising. Some of the minor damages included the time a gas station attendant accidentally put weed killer into his gas tank; and when his rear wheels seized up and he had to get a new drive chain. Throughout his journey Jim wore his trademark Navy blue watch cap and a leather jacket.

A press release from MGM describing changes to the "Bronson Bike" appeared in the February 1970 issue of Cycle magazine. It reads as follows: 

"For afficionados, the changes are as follows. The front wheel was replaced with a 21" aluminum rim carrying a 3.00 x 21 ribbed tire. The front fender was changed to a chromeplated, bobbed piece and the headlight nacelle, or housing, was removed and a chrome sports light replaced it. A Harley-Davidson CH gas tank replaced the standard tank, and the oil tank and rear shock springs were chrome plated. A kickstarter was added although the Sportster carries an electric starter. The seat was replaced with a custom leather unit and a short chrome hand-hold was mounted behind the passenger seat. The chain guard cover and the voltage regulator cover were chrome plated. The rear fender was bobbed 5 inches and the tail light replaced with an old style English light. The motorcycle was repainted with a specially mixed formula which is called, from this point on, Bronson Red. The final touch was the addition of the Bronson "Eye" insignia to the gas tank."

Jim’s adventures began with a trip to the farm of his widowed friend and mentor Papa Bear. Along the way, he befriends a runaway bride named Temple Brooks who elects to share his wandering quest.

After she gets her act together and departs, Jim’s odyssey continues as:

  • He encounters an old girlfriend, Doris Hanrahan, the daughter of a prominent therapist; takes a job at a summer camp for disturbed kids.
  • Accepts aide from Alex, an old timer who gives Jim tools to repair his bike [Alex owns a 1937 Rudge Ulster racing bike that he takes out of mothballs and tries to follow Bronson]
  • Works as a ranch hand for a widow and her teenage daughter and enters an amateur bronco-riding contest
  • Discovers Hattie Calder who lived alone in a ghost town and claimed to have been a passenger on the Titanic
  • Bikes to Colorado looking for his old friend Bucky O’Neill, an ex-priest who is tormented with the love for a woman
  • Spends a night in Sheriff Binnes jail in Olathe, Colorado
  • Rides in a local bike-racing event; dates a girl named Leona who had an over-protective brother
  • Drives in a demolition derby
  • Works on an oil rig in Arizona
  • Counsels Barbara Timmons, a nurse who loves her patients but wants more out of life
  • Gets a job as a baseball-player worker in Tempe, Arizona
  • Visits his Indian friend Tony Wade who is fasting to induce a vision and restore his Indian spirit
  • Is attracted to a girl named Sibyl who believes she is a witch
  • Teams with Billy Mulavey to win a musical contest and a job at a roadhouse called the Oasis Cocktail Lounge
  • Hires out with painter Juan Longorio to paint a barn red and gets in trouble when Juan paints a nude figure of a woman on his side of the barn
  • Disrupts the quiet life of an Amish family and a betrothed Amish boy by introducing his motorcycle and worldliness into the mix
  • Visits his cousin Eva Bronson and her fiancé, Len in Reno, Nevada
  • Gets goaded into a break-neck cross country motorcycle race
  • Climbs a mountain with Wilson Ford, an famous aging novelist who needs to prove he’s still a man
  • Helps a newspaper editor at the Pacific Grove Press to save the locals waters from industrial pollution in Monterey, California
  • Gets trapped in the Los Padres National Forest, in Big Sur after taking a tumble down a slide area
  • Hitches a ride with an elderly widower traveling in a camper
  • Helps his cousin Carl and Uncle Herman repair and restore a fishing boat in Monterey, California
  • Takes a job on the yacht of a wealthy guy named Gus Samos.
Bronson on Motorcycle - Series Opening

TRIVIA NOTE: On the episode “The Runner” Jim gives his blue watch cap to a small autistic boy but, then finds another one to wear for the rest of the series.


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