Last week, I flew to Ohio to pick up my new motorcycle. The bike is a 1996 Honda Goldwing SE, with just 45,350 miles on it. That’s really low mileage for a 20-year-old Goldwing; most of that vintage are well over the 150k mark.
I’ve been a rider since 1989, when I bought my first bike, a Honda CB650. I sold that not long after my oldest boy was born; everyone said I couldn’t carry him on the bike. I pointed out that they made chest carriers for babies, but never got the chance to try it out.
It took me several years to get another bike, a 1993 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic that I bought from my wife’s stepfather. Not long after that, I started riding funeral escorts and rode or owned a variety of bikes. A 96 Goldwing, 99 Valkyrie, a 2001 Goldwing, and a 97 BMW R1100RTP all graced my garage at various times over the next seven years. The Valkyries and the newer ‘Wings belonged to the escort company; I owned the 96 Goldwing and the Beemer as escort bikes. Not long after I left the escort service, I bought a 97 Goldwing and held onto it until we moved into the RV in 2011. I toyed with the idea of storing it, but I didn’t know how long we’d be on the road, and long-term storage of a motorcycle can be expensive, so in the end, I sold it, but it hurt to get rid of it.
There’s something about being on two wheels that refreshes my soul. It’s long been said that if bikers have to explain it to you, you’ll never understand. It’s much more than just a means of transportation. For bikers, the ride is as much of the adventure as the destination itself is.
Back when I rode for the escort service, we had major maintenance done at a local dealership. I was there with my company unit, not long after I had totaled the 96 bike I mentioned above, when another 96 came into the shop. It was pristine, with less than 7,000 miles on it in seven years. Bill M, who was a repair tech at the dealership, looked it over, as did I. We both had an interest in it. My boss did too, looking for another company bike. In the end, Bill got there first with the money. Over the years, I’d bug him every now and then to see if he was interested in selling it. Each time he was never quite ready to sell, although he said he’d keep me in mind.
It Was Time
A few months ago, he posted on Facebook that he’d picked up a new project bike, and I messaged him asking if he was finally ready to sell the ‘Wing. Turns out he was. We traded some emails, and it took me several months to arrange financing, but I finally made the trip up to Ohio last week to pick it up.
There were really only two options to get the bike back to Oklahoma: ship it or ride it. Shipping could have been me driving up and hauling it back, or paying one of several shipping companies to do so. Actually shipping it would have run me about $400 or so. I did that when I bought my BMW, a used California Highway Patrol unit. I have access to a trailer, and our van will easily pull anything, so that was another option, but that just felt wrong. The only reason that was suggested was that it had been five years since I had ridden a motorcycle. That made my skills a little rusty, and did I really want my first time back on a bike to be a 900-mile trip?
Yeah, there was never really a question.
Thursday morning bright and way too early, I checked in at Tulsa International, bound for Dallas then Columbus.
Whenever I fly, I wonder what the Wright brothers, Otto Lilienthal and others would think of modern air travel. Not the lines at the ticket counter or the security theater that is the TSA, or even the way seats keep getting smaller in an effort to make just a little more money. I’d instead like to hear their thoughts on how the mechanics of it have changed. Even the onboard generator on a modern jet has more power than the first Wright Flyer. And could they have even dreamt of the number of flights and destinations? I’m traveling over 900 miles in just over three hours of flight time. In their wildest fantasies, could they have possibly imagined where their work would lead in just a few decades?
My seatmate on the first leg probably thought I had never flown before. I took half a dozen pictures in that 45-minute flight, and spent most of our descent staring out the window. I think I’ll never lose my sense of wonder at what we’ve been able accomplish in 110 years of powered flight. Sometimes I think of the first person to watch a bird soaring on the invisible waves who wished he could join him up there. Did he chase the falcon’s shadow as it raced across the plains? Did she leap from a branch like a hawk after its prey, or jump from a cliff to the water below, mimicking the swans and ducks and gulls and cormorants?
How were the thinkers of the world drawn to consider that air flowing across a surface could make that surface rise? Can you imagine their amazement at being able to see the world from above? Even in a tethered balloon, man rose higher than he ever had been before. From the beginning of balloon flight, men rose high enough to see the shapes of rivers and forests that had only been imagined on maps.
As the towns and farms and roads pass underneath us, I realized we were flying over my return route. It fascinated me to see the clusters in development that signaled where someone put down his load where he thought it was the best. Roads slice through the tans and browns and greens. Darker cuts, running arrow-straight for miles, show the rail routes that have existed for a dozen decades or longer. Why did the railroad planners choose this route or make that minor shift in direction there? Why not make it a mile sooner or later?
Even 33,000 feet above it, the Mississippi River cuts an imposing course across the land. It’s easy to see how important the rivers have been throughout our country’s history.
It’s fun to look at a city or town and be able to pick out the commercial districts by the color changes in roofs.
The ornery evil writer in the back of my head wonders what would happen if someone shined a laser pointer at the ground from an aircraft. According to LaserPointersafety.com, there were almost 4,000 reported laser incidents involving aircraft in 2013. Part of me would like to see pilots “returning fire” as it were, although it’s not exactly practical. It’d be neat though to be on the ground and see a laser pointer fired down from a thousand feet.
Our approach path from Dallas to Columbus took us almost directly over our old house near Bolton Field.
Bill was working late, so I grabbed an Uber from the airport. It was the first time I’ve used the service, and I can definitely see how practical it is. Jennifer was a fine driver. We ended up passing by several landmarks and roads that I used to travel heavily as a funeral escort. Those memories mingled with thoughts of my former coworker who was killed during a service recently.
They had dinner waiting for me, so we ate, then Bill and I took a look at the bike. I’ve put plenty of miles on Goldwings, so the platform wasn’t new to me, although this particular bike was. He’d added a few tweaks here and there: driving lights; extra marker lights; a backrest, and highway pegs; carpet and cargo nets in the trunk and saddlebags. He included a second windshield in the deal, so we experimented with securing it to the bike.
I got to meet his grandson Parker, who was a little upset that PawPaw was selling “his” motorcycle. Parker expected PawPaw to keep the bike until he was big enough to ride it. Parker is 5 years old.
Bill and I planned on heading to the BMV the next morning to sign the title over and I headed to bed, dreaming of the road home.