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Warning - this is a long and nearly pointless (but not pint less) essay by sal paradise. I wrote it just for therapy and to kill some time and almost deleted it but what the hell. Read at your own risk. i promise only that it is true.

The White Gold Wing and the Bonneville

I took the Bonny out for an end of season spin the other night because the weather briefly got warm enough for a ride but also because I needed a pick me up. There were wet leaves on the road, it was getting dark , the wind was up but I really needed to wring her out once more before I put her away for the winter. The combination of small roads and scary conditions made the Bonneville seem faster, the exhaust growl louder and for a few minutes I was torn between the sheer joy of the ride and the common sense of turning back. Then I saw lightning and I thought that this motorcycle is too nice to crash on wet leaves the last ride of the year so I turned her around and she reluctantly growled back up the hill and safely into the garage. Nothing left to do but an oil change and cleaning. That and my usual 3 beer rant so if you want to hear some pointless comments read on.

This was the improbable year motorcycles came back into my life. I had been exactly 22 years without a road bike having sold my old KZ400 for tuition money in 1986, to my deep and lasting regret. Life just happened, as it does for most guys. And 23 years, 2 diplomas, one marriage, three kids and two houses later I found myself with a bundle of 100’s in my hand staring at a brand new black and white T100. I heard myself saying “Okay. Help me put the bike on the truck.”. Not a bit of doubt or hesitation once I sat on the bike and started her up. This was February 19, 2008. On the way home I called my wife and let her know. She was, lets just say, stunned. After my lame explanation to her in the front hall, I searched for and found my old Bell helmet and went back outside. That first ride in the dark cold February night on my neighborhood road the Bonneville seemed wicked fast. Not having been on a bike in decades I remembered how to ride but my reflexes were just old memories. But I noticed the torquey pull right away and I liked it. It was promising, but the Bonneville would sit a month waiting for the snow to stop. The longest month of my life.

My first real rides starting a month or so later were hairy. I had no license but at least I had a plate. The roads still had sand on them and my reflexes seemed to have deserted me in 1988. For weeks I just rode around town and on some farm roads. Gradually the reflexes started coming back and the bike started to ride as if it knew what I wanted it to do. Just look where I want to go and the bike goes there. This I thought , was good. I went on a couple of group rides and the HD guys all seemed to love the little Bonny. I was a little put off when I overheard two of them making fun of the back tire. My skills were just to the point I was starting to have a lot of fun but not nearly to the point that I could show them what this “little” bike could do. During this first month I read the Twins Technical forum extensively and as result I completely removed the baffles from my stock pipes, rejetted the carbs and installed a Uniflow air filter. I got some improvement in sound and feel and my skills were really starting to come back.

I rode nearly every weekend and most times alone. The reason for that was I wanted to ride at my own pace and I didn’t want to wait all weekend for some Saturday 1 pm meet up that just went to a bar. I put on a steady 200 miles per weekend. I found out that a quick scoot along the orchard roads outside of town was like an hour of joy. I fell in love with the sound, look and most of all feel of the Bonneville and I told my riding friends that this was the absolute best bike I had ever ridden. I could not have been happier. Counter steering and shifting by this time was a zen experience that could not be explained. Fast rides through the orchard were a guilty indulgence. And slow rides into town were magic moments.

4000 miles later they still are. I am realistic about the Bonneville. I know that it is not going to compete with a sport bike for speed or a Harley for detail and finish. The OC Chopper crowd is never going to give it any respect. I don’t care. I got exactly what I wanted in a bike and more. The last time I went past the “outlaw biker bar” I made sure I was clipping along at a good 75 mph and the bandana and beer crowd out front, every one of them, looked up all at once and stared in disbelief as I bravely waved. If only they could have seen the smile on my face! To my great surprise my wife became a riding buddy and she bought her own bike and we have had a lot of fun cruising the back roads together. My HD buddies come over or we meet up and it’s a good time, really good. But the absolute best is when I pull the Bonneville out of the garage and ride out with no one else. Sometimes its just a casual cruise and other times it’s a howling roller coaster ride over the mountain. I spent many hours on the back roads and mountain passes this summer without a care in the world.

But its always when you are enjoying yourself most that life throws a curve at you. I got some bad news from the family doctor last week. He says I may (emphasis on may) have a congenital heart defect that causes the heart to suddenly stop. That night I dreamt I rode on a brilliant pearl white Gold Wing to my child hood home. I remember thinking - why am I on a white Goldwing? I parked the bike out front and walked the yard. My old long dead relatives were there, my old dog too. When I got back to the bike I found it was gone, stolen from me,just gone! In my dream I ran into the back yard ,into my dad’s old garage and started digging in the piles of junk and garbage he always kept in there. I found handlebars and then a curved tank. Deep under the rusted piles of junk I found my Bonneville perfectly preserved. As I dug it out I heard myself say “ At least I still have the Triumph!” It seems obvious now but took me a few days to decipher the dream and put it all together symbolically.

The white motorcycle in my dream, whatever it stands for, may be gone, stolen by the years. But right now there is in fact a Triumph Motorcycle in the garage. In my dream it was okay once I found the Bonneville. And that means something. I told my buddy that if it turns out my heart is bad, that means I will ride faster and he laughed because he know me and he knows its true. I am not particularly worried at this point. I will spend the winter as I usually do snowboarding, drinking, keeping the wife up all hours. I want to get some better pipes and I am considering a NARK before spring. I wish the white motorcycle hadn’t been stolen but there are worse things. After all, imagine some poor guy who digs through all that junk and only finds a big screen TV. Or nothing. Now, that’s a nightmare.
 

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Jeez Sal, good words.

I don't have anything much to say to match that except that of course I hope the "may have a" turns into "don't have a", and that, well, you seem to have everything straight from an attitude standpoint really.

Who cares what the crowd thinks - enjoy your bike and the moment.

Good on yer, and best wishes.
 

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Sal, as a retired military and combat soldier we learned to deal with our own mortality quickly. Our inevitable demise is nothing but a step in our own reality. I've learned to live within the moment and what special things occur, not what was or will be. Time is short for all, not some. I don't spend time on to many things, except the happiness of the moment and a life long companion in my wife of 34 years. Death, it's not our decision nor is it a conclusion. Our time on this earth is not measured by our personal turmoil but the happiness we share and strive to attain. Health is fleeting, as is youth but never-the-less, I came in kicking and crying, I'll go out the same. I will know I lived, loved and shared and it's all that counts. God Bless!

Cheers

Jeff:motorbike2:
 

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That sir, is a fine piece of writing. There's nothing like a little (or maybe more than a little) alcohol to lubricate one's creative juices.


P. S. My thoughts and prayers are with you and sincerely hope that you're OK.

Doc
 

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Agree with the posters above - and Sal - you ought to sell that prose. It's really good. Bad news. Good writing.

Semper Fi, Guy
 

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Thanks for the good read, Sal. Funny how you are able to easily put into words a lot of things I think and feel about my bike. I wish you the best, health wise and otherwise. :)
 

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That essay captures the joy and freedom of riding better than anything I've read in many years. You truly have a gift.

Thanks also for the reminder that each day is a gift and to make the most of it.

"Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today."

JAMES DEAN

You are in my prayers!
 

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Thanks for the story, hope all will be well with you. By the way, you mentioned that you didn't have a license last spring, I trust that you do now. Few things worse than seeing your bike on a hook after you get pulled over and don't have a license...
 

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Sal:

Best wishes to you, my friend. Four years I was diagnosed with leukemia. I was lucky - it was a type that responded well to chemo, and I'm still here. I spent several days (as a result of a doctor's premature and erroneous diagnosis) that I was going to be dead in two to three years. I was pissed that my kids would be orphans (my wife died form breast cancer five years ago), pissed that I was going to die, and just generally pissed off at everything.

After getting the correct diagnosis and treatment, I realized that those days of thinking about the imminence of my demise were the best thing thing that had happened to me in a long time. It really made my appreciated each hour of every day in a way that I had lost many years ago. I became smart enough to focus on what really matters (my family and friends) and not worry about all the trivial ******** that can clog up my life (work and money).

Live each day like it is the last one you'll get - because it very well may be the last one, and you don't want to waste even a minute of it. Be well.
 

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You oughta publish that piece!

It'd make a great column in a magazine or (large circulation) newsletter.

It says a lot we all can relate to...
 

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Beautiful writing. If I may wax didactic...live within the parameters life gives you. Enjoy the ride, the loves in yor life, the highs and lows, and let it all be what it is. Enjoy the day with the hope of eternity riding on your shoulder.
 

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Thanks, Sal, that was beautiful...I just had surgery 5 days ago, recovery is going slow, havent ridden in over a month, very depressing...now with the deep freeze setting in, no ride till spring. I think my Bonnie is gonna find a nice warm spot in my house, never done that before with any of my other bikes....she deserves it. One song comes to mind, Sal, "Reach for the Sky" by Social Distortion. If you have never heard it, take a listen. Take care, I'm punchin' out for now.
 

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Sal: Wow, that was awesome. Riding can be an emotional experience if you let it. You have definitely tapped into the "experience." Thanks for putting that into words. Powerful stuff.

I'll pray for good news.
 

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Sal,

Did the doc say whether you have any control over this? Did he say to exercise, or not to exercise? We're all pulling for you. And not just for your sake. We want to keep reading writing like that!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I appreciate all you comments. I just wrote this to work it out in my mind and I almost deleted it before posting.

The long qt syndrome is a problem with the electrical controls of the heart and it is inherited. You have to have an irregular EKG, a family history and the genetic markers - all three indicates a diagnosis. I have not done the dna part of it. There are no symptoms up until your heart just flutters and stops. There is no mechanical problem just a problem with the nerves hat control the heart. I suppose it is a painless way to go but i would rather it be when I am 93, not 43!!!

Again I appreciate the concern but what really means the most to me is that the essay speaks to you as a bit of writing. Also, I am not too scared and I think that is important. I come from a long line of guys who were not scared Maybe some time I will write about some of them. I think anyone who rides these days knows how to manage fear and danger and live in the present moment. I will get this fully checked and take it from there. if I have it , I may have to get a defibrulator implanted in my chest. Thanks.
 

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Pepper -- I hope you're all healed up before the riding season begins again. That way you can get all your winter bike projects finished and not interfere with a great riding season!

And Sal, if you get the internal defibrillator, remember to let someone else make the microwave popcorn.
 
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