It was the walk to the supermarket that proved to be my undoing. The day had started out with the best of intentions, of course, but before long heat, humidity and distance had conspired to leave me a total wreck. By the time I returned to my short-stay studio apartment I had walked at least a couple of miles and what I had originally believed to be the rather modest weight of just a few bags of groceries had given the fleshy parts of my fingers deep red welts and left my arms numb. I was exhausted, drenched with sweat and my legs were wracked with cramps. Clearly, the situation was unsustainable and, despite the fact that I would only be in town for just two months, it was plainly evident: I needed wheels.
Craigslist offered up the usual suspects, cast off sportbikes with their once smooth fiberglass skins battered and scarred to almost beyond recognition, well-worn cruisers outfitted with pitted chrome skulls and peeling metallic paint jobs and dual purpose bikes nearly sandblasted clean by the chips and dings of a thousand bygone afternoons spent on the trail. I considered each of them in turn, the short-term nature of my stay allowing me an odd sense of freedom. I wasn’t looking for a lifelong relationship, I reasoned, just a summer fling and I found myself drawn to bikes I might not otherwise have considered. Page after page I examined the options until I found the one that fairly leapt off the page.
She was a big girl, tall, with what had once been undeniably handsome lines. In a fickle age, however, the Honda’s classic beauty had been overlooked and, as a result, her road had never been easy one. Even so, she wasn’t the fragile type that demanded special treatment. Hard work day in and day out was a normal state of affairs for this fine motorcycle and she took great joy in it. Eventually, the long days spent in the sun and wind faded her paint but added to her character and, although the little accidents that inevitably occurred left her with scars, her deep down beauty and the strength of her spirit remained. She was the one, I knew, and I quickly made the call.
As I pulled up to the house, I caught my first real look at the neglected Honda CB1000 sitting alone and unloved at the side of the garage while two late model European bikes held pride of place inside. After greeting the seller, I rolled the bike out into the driveway, stood it up on its center stand and stepped back to take a look. The bike was shockingly large. Done up in basic black with unpolished metalwork and little chrome, it looked frightening and I knew right away why it hadn’t sold more quickly. Its black paint and exposed mechanicals came from another era and the overall effect elicited fear in the same way that Darth Vader’s first appearance sent a chill down the spine of everyone in the theater … light saber by Honda?
A closer inspection revealed a bike that had been unloved and left out in the elements for far too long, but its surprisingly good shape was a testament to the quality of engineering and materials used in its construction. There had been an accident that had tweaked the handlebars and bent the gauge bezel, but no real scrapes or road rash to indicate that it had been anything more than a tip-over. The tires were old and would need replacing but the engine fired immediately and quickly settled into a smooth even idle. For a bare $1,100 I felt like I was stealing it.
Over the next few days I washed and waxed my new old-Honda and used a scrub brush to remove a decade’s work of grease and oil from the bike’s wheels and lower extremities. I cleaned and lubed the chain and took it in for tires and a full service. For a few bucks and a few hour’s-worth of work I was rewarded with what I still think of as one of the finest motorcycles I ever owned and over the course of the next few weeks my big Honda carried me faithfully all over Virginia, into DC where I rode it among the cruisers at a Rolling Thunder event on the Fourth of July and even out into the foothills of the Appalachians.
As summer waned, however, as I had always known it would, the good times drew to an end. Although I schemed of the ways I could preserve the CB1000, in the end I knew that my best course of action was to sell her and so she went onto Craigslist once again and I waited for the calls to come. Suitors were few, but eventually a nice young man appeared and whisked her away to what I hope was a better and brighter future. That I was able to recoup all my costs and then some tells me that he wanted her dearly.
Like all summer loves, the big Honda lives on in my mind today bathed in that golden light of nostalgia that softens her few flaws and enhances all that was good. I have only to close my eyes to see her there, gleaming and refreshed, eager for the next day’s adventure. Although our time together was limited, the good feeling will last the rest of my life.
Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.