Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Today's sky report

On the way home from work yesterday, I was riding my 1996 BMW R1100 GS (a.k.a. Das Beak Zwei) when I noticed the odometer reading 36,600. My mind rolled back to when I first bought the bike a little more than 4 years ago when the odometer read 16,600. There were a few events leading up to the purchase.

The year 2001 had some good and a lot of bad to it. The biggest bad was 9/11, and all that followed. On a more personal level, the bad also included me losing my job two days after we closed on a new house in a town we didn't know. An even worse bad was crashing my beloved 1991 Honda ST1100, a.k.a Sport Tank. In addition to the broken collar bone and rib, I no longer had my main ride. She was a beautiful bike, Honda red and always ready to go. I had owned her since 1996 and we had covered many thousands of miles together, including a couple of trips to Canada with a hooligan gang of sport bike riders.

A healing period followed the crash, both in body and riding spirit. I still had my old stand-by, the Slighthawk - a 1984 Honda Nighthawk 650. My goal was to get back on the bike by the time snow fell, which I did. The Slighthawk was a fine bike - I bought it new and had many experiences, including those of the learning kind. [Quick side trip: I once rode the bike to a baseball practice I was coaching. For some reason, my son wasn't there so it was just cool Mr. Carpoolguy on the bike. As I was getting ready to pull away, by now no doubt the coolest coach the kids had ever seen, I hit the throttle. Forgetting that grass doesn't have the same adhesion qualities as asphalt, the rear wheel spun, the bike went sideways and fell down. "Hey, cool Mr. Carpoolguy, how come your motorcycle is lying down?"]. I put some miles on it every year, from 4000 the first year to 1000 in later years. The Slighthawk wasn't the kind of bike of bike you could take on long journeys. There was no protection from the wind, no luggage capabilities. When I bought Sport Tank, the Slighthawk became the one you would ride downtown. It also became my son's bike when he was ready to ride. But he moved on and the Slighthawk sat in the garage, rarely used until it was resurrected as my "get back to biking" bike.

By early spring 2002, I was ready again for a bigger bike and the adventures that can be found on the highways and back roads. One of my closest friends had a BMW R1100 GS (Das Beak) that he let me ride a couple of times. I was immediately fascinated by it. It had a quirky nature and exposed machinery in stark contrast to the always smooth and Tupperware covered Sport Tank. And it was a very capable sport tourer. My friend had ridden his from Colorado to NH and back one summer. I was ready for the world of quirky twins instead of smooth fours. Sealing the deal, my other closest friend was a capable mechanic who happened to own, love and advocate BMW's to anyone who will listen.

A little while before departing on a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway in May, my mechanic friend sent me a listing for a 1996 GS in Virginia. He said they'd stop by the guy's house on the way home and check out the bike for me. So I wasn't too surprised when I got the call one afternoon. He was looking at the bike and giving me the rundown of what was good and what wasn't. He put the owner on the phone, we reached a price and the deal was on.

For many years, Fathers Day weekend has been about motorcycles. Going way back, my buddies and I would attend the AMA races held at the old Bryar Motorsports Park in Loudon. The broken down bleacher in Turn 2 was our hallowed ground. There's nothing like the thrum of a twin or the scream of a two stroke and the smell of Castrol burning just a few feet away when the bikes blew by. We'd go up in bikes or cars depending upon who was there and what kind of rides we could martial up for the event. Eventually, Bryar became NHIS, you were distanced from the track, the AMA riders became too afraid of crashing and we stopped attending. But Father's Day still involved biking with my friend and Fathers Day, 2002 was pickup day for Das Beak Zwei. I got a ride to NJ, met my mechanic friend and we set off early in the morning for VA, with the intent of a down and back in one day. We arrived, the bike was as advertised, we loaded up and headed back. The bike had to be a trailer queen for my first trip with it due to tires that weren't safe for riding.

After I helped my mechanic friend with an oil change and new tires, Das Beak Zwei was ready to roll. The first trip was a run around central west NJ. It was a chance to break in the new tires and to learn about the bike before the trip home to NH. The odometer read 16,600.