Friday, June 27, 2008

Happy Birthday DBZ

It was fitting that Das Beak Zwei turned 39 (thousand) today, just a scant six miles from the location of the event that brought me to this particular bike. It was almost 7 years ago when I dumped my ST1100 at Exit 2 on Rt 101. That crash has been chronicled (click link), but not the circumstances of the arrival of DBZ.

It wasn’t until the fall after my accident that I began to ride again, and even then, it was just a couple of short jaunts on my “SlightHawk” (a Honda Nighthawk 650, circa 1984). Around springtime of the following year (2002), I began to think about another bike. The insurance company had settled quickly and fairly on the ST11 (thanks Progressive) and the money was sitting in a separate account waiting on my decision. I had lots of help from my buddies who would occasionally find listings on IBMWR and send them along. I began to think seriously about a BMW R11GS – I had ridden one before and enjoyed its tall stature and wide handlebars for easy leverage.

Because of my lack of a capable bike, I did not ride out with my friends that year on a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway (known now as the “Blue Lips Tour” – I guess VA/NC can get pretty cold in May when you’re at elevation. However, on the way back, the friend who got most of our group onto BMW’s (lets call him BeemerBoy), stopped off to look at one in VA that he had found on IBMWR. He called me up on the cell phone from right next to the bike, put the seller on, and the deal was struck for DBZ. The bike in 2002 was 6 years old with only 16K miles – pretty low miles for a bike that’s meant to ride in all kinds of road conditions. I struck a deal with the seller, with the understanding that it might be a few weeks until it could be picked up.

A few weekends later, I met up with BeemerBoy in NJ. Arriving on a Friday night, we decided to make the trip down and back to VA on Saturday, spoon on a new set of tires (pre-ordered) and send me on my way Sunday. We got up early, jumped into his Taurus SHO, and pulled his trailer down to VA. After loading the bike, we headed back, listening to the music of our youth and recounting riding tales, especially those of recent Blue Lips Tour.

Sunday dawned warm in NJ. After a morning ride to acclimate myself to my new ride, we worked our way north through western portions of NJ. For those of you who have only experienced the NJ turnpike or parkway, it is probably hard to imagine the variety of riding conditions in NW NJ. After dumping me out on I84, we split off and I headed north. All was going pretty well until the rains came.

It would be an understatement to say that it began to rain. It began to monsoon. At first I thought I could take shelter under an overpass, but the first one I came to was so damn high, that there was little shelter from the wind whipped rain. Eventually I got to an exit and I pulled off the highway searching for refuge. I tried to hide under the overpass from the highway exit I had just left, but it was not wide enough to safely park. I rode on until I got to restaurant. I ended up parking next to a loading dock, climbing up and standing under a short roof that protected me from the worst of the downpour. Imagine the surprise of one of the cooks when he opened the door to the dock for a smoke, and saw a man standing there in a vinyl riding suit wearing a helmet.

After a while, the rain lessened from Monsoon to Steady and I decided to take off again. Unfortunately, I had exited at one of those “you can get off the highway here, but you can’t get back on” exits in CT. After riding around and looking for signs, I was soon back on the highway. Eventually the rain cleared and other than road spray, I began to dry out. Unfortunately, as they often do, the violent rainstorms were harbingers of a cold front coming in. By the time I hit MA, my hands, having sweated up inside rubber gloves, were chilling fast. I pulled into a fast food joint just before the MA pike to have a cup of coffee and to warm up. I felt more like pouring the coffee on my hands than drinking it.

After that respite, I moved on. There was one more stop where I stopped at a rest area in MA to dry out my face shield. Unfortunately, the MA Highway Department decided that they didn’t need to stock paper towels in their men’s rooms. After a long session with a blow dryer, I was on the last leg.

The six years since that day have been good ones with DBZ. She still runs great, helped by occasional maintenance from BeemerBoy. She’s been to all coastal states in the East all the way down to a quick touch into South Carolina. She’s been several states deep. She’s been deep into the woods on roads that her owner had no right to ride. She’s been a capable two up tourer. She had a string of over 3 years of being ridden every month. She waited a year while my back recovered from surgery.

Happy 39K Birthday DBZ and many more.