I Used To Have A Gold Wing

A photo that’s better than the thousand words I might otherwise spew, in addition to the thousand or so I’m sure to spew after planting the photo here:

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Just beyond the obvious reflectors there’s what was a complete and roadworthy 1977 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing when I parked it there. It was a pretty thing that got attention everywhere it went — even Harley riders would stop to admire that bike even though it was a “rice grinder” (that was built in the US and has more American-made parts on it than any Harley that’s been built in a long, long time). It’s completely decked out with every comfort option and piece of chrome ever made for the thing. Back in the late 70’s when the thing was new, Gold Wings didn’t (no motorcycle did) roll off of the dealer’s floor with fairings, luggage, foot boards, and so on. They were just the basic motorcycle, and if you wanted it to be fully dressed you did it yourself. Mine was fully, fully dressed. To the nines. It was only mostly dressed when I got it, but I finished it out. Made it reet and compleat, as we used to say.

Oh, what a ride it was. I’d get it out on the interestate, set the cruise on 82MPH, flip out the highway pegs, turn up the stereo, lean back into the cushy backrest, and just watch the scenery fly by. 82MPH was its sweet spot where the suspension soaked up every bump large or small and there was no sensation that might give away the fact that there was a four cylinder engine between my legs. It was like flying a cloud, and more comfortable than most (any?) cars. My second wife freaked herself out the first time she fell asleep on the back, but once she got used to the idea she said that she never slept so soundly as she did on the bike. Even running at 82MPH with two of us in the saddle, the luggage full, and a cooler strapped atop the trunk, it still had plenty of power if I wanted to get silly. A quick twist of the wrist and the speedometer needle would be slipping past the 100MPH mark in no time. It didn’t really feel like 100MPH — the only difference was that the scenery flew by faster and the cars I was passing seemed slower.

I didn’t often run it that fast, though. Even a brand new, high quality windscreen would develop tiny stress fractures at about 110MPH, which made night riding with oncoming headlights hard on the eyes. And besides, Gold Wings aren’t about going fast. They’re about riding in comfort over the long haul. I could ride that bike all day and not be stiff and sore at the end of it. On long road trips the only thing that got me off of the highway was either arriving at my destination or the fear of falling asleep.

As much as I love my memories of my Gold Wing, which is one of the oldest of the many motorcycles I’ve owned, the memory is tainted now by memories and associations of its present state as is only hinted at by the photo above. It’s been chewed and urinated upon by every kind of wild animal that’s been in or even just passed by that stinking garage. And stink, it does. I can smell the place just looking at that photo. It smells of long rotten meat that’s inside the broken refrigerator whose reflection is visible in the upper left-hand corner of the photo — the refrigerator was in use when it failed about five years before I snapped that photo. Rather then empty it, my father just propped the doors open so the raccoons might haul the food out. The raccoons wanted no part of it, though, as the food was already rotting before the parents noticed the failure — so Dear Old Dad just closed the doors again to keep the stench down. It probably worked until the door seals dry rotted. The raccoons, possums, feral cats and miscellaneous rodents who’ve resided in the garage have all left their malodorous histories behind, and chewed and peed on the bike numerous times. In addition to the rotting meat and animal urine, the garage reeks of feral cat spray. I didn’t go looking, but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t at least one wild animal corpse in there. Oh, and in addition to all of that the garage and so almost certainly the bike is infested with scorpions.

The seat, once a luxurious all leather Corbin Saddle, is now just a few clumps of foam. The rest was apparently used for rodent nest material. The wiring has been gnawed, as has much of the plastic and fiberglass. The body panels have been rammed into by who knows what, leaving deep scars and cracks behind, and the battery cover was lying beside the bike, broken off. Gee, thanks, Dad.

I should never have left it there, but I’d planned on it being just a few months and I didn’t know how bad it would get — when I parked it, I’d just become a single father and was moving into an apartment because I expected that I’d not see any child support until the court ordered it. I was right about that, it turned out. The complex didn’t have a spare parking space where I could put the bike. There was just one space per unit, with some additional spaces for an additional monthly fee if there were any available, which there weren’t. I wasn’t keen on the idea of leaving my beautiful bike out in the weather, even with a weatherproof cover… It seemed that keeping it indoors was the better choice. Oops.

Life changed pretty dramatically, and in a few months I wasn’t moving into a house in the Bay Area (where I never wanted to be anyway) — I was moving to Colorado and couldn’t bring all of my household goods on the first trip, let alone the bike. Then I totally illogically and almost completely inexplicably married a woman who I’d later find was a paranoid schizophrenic, one who was certain that if I so much as looked at a motorcycle for too long it would find a way to kill me. I’m not at all qualified to diagnose anyone’s mental condition, of course, but as time went by she exhibited all of the hallmarks including the “word salad” speech. When I spoke of going out to retrieve the Gold Wing she went on frightening emotional benders. As she did when I flew on business, or if a snowflake fell while I was driving, or if my daughter wanted to go to a school dance, or ride the team bus to a basketball game…

So, I eventually got rid of that woman and was looking forward to getting my bike back on the road. Finally, in 2007, it seemed about to happen. I had visions of gently, lovingly getting the moving parts moving again, rebuilding the (four) carburetors, replacing all of the fuel lines, the tires, brakes and brake fluid, and so on… Then I saw the thing as it appears above. The dream didn’t quite die in that instant, but it did after I sat down with my shopping list in mind and searched out the parts online. To make it what it once was would cost just about this much:

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That’s $10,000 if you don’t feel like counting all the purty Benjamins. I could do it considerably cheaper if I were not insistent on only new or Grade A used parts, but that’s just not my style and I’d never be satisfied by it. I’d be riding down the highway thinking about the body putty just waiting for an excuse to crack, the bits I had to mickey mouse together with epoxy, the speckles on the used chrome pieces, and every other minor deficiency that I’d know was there. The bike I bought in 1988 with less than 30,000 miles on it was immaculate and perfect, and it only got better.

Until, suddenly, it became a latrine for raccoons and a home for rodents. It’s not my bike any more. It’s a derelict. It reminds me of my parents, and fully restoring it to its former glory would not remove that — I’d feel like I was showing them something, and showing them something was a big part of my inability to get past my emotional entanglement with the bastards for nearly half a century. My identity wasn’t even mine in those days. It wasn’t about who I wanted to be, but about who I wanted to be the opposite of. It was about what I wasn’t rather than what I was. I didn’t even recognize that insane aspect of my psyche until I was nearly 47 years old, but once I did I couldn’t un-see it.

So now if I decide that I have to have another motorcycle under my butt it can’t be that one. It might be another classic Gold Wing, but it can’t be that classic Gold Wing. It has to be one with no personal history, so I can create new memories with it, and continue having the many fond memories of my many adventures on the one I’ll never see again.

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