Last year I bought a Buell Blast (aka the Hardliest of Davidsons), a bike with half a motor that was more fun to ride than it had a right to be. Then I spent a bunch of time (and money, but mostly time) making it better. This is great, I thought. I definitely don’t need to go faster than this.
As it turns out, that’s not entirely true. As the warm weather hit this year, I started to fantasize about something a little different – a bike that didn’t require me to hold on for dear life while doing a “leisurely” 70 on the highway. I figured I’d give the Buell one more summer while I searched for the perfect replacement – I still wanted something relatively inexpensive, but… bigger. And with more cylinders.
I found one candidate within relatively close proximity – the mileage and price were right, and the color was… tolerable. Because it wasn’t the color I would’ve wanted, I hemmed and hawed on it for a week or two before finally calling. It was still available! But wait… the owner had purchased it from his brother, and their was a lien on the title.
Don’t worry, he said! His brother had just called the bank and they were sending the lien release, so he’d have it soon. We agreed that it would be best to wait until it arrived before I went to see the bike. I knew that if I saw it, I’d be too tempted to shove money into his hand-hole and drive it away – an impossibility without the proper paperwork.
I waited, but I am not a patient person. I made calls about other bikes – one of which I was ready to buy until I received a text from the owner: “Hey sorry man I went to the dealer and they gave me almost what I wanted for my bike so I traded it in.” Jaw, floor, etc. I was so pissed – I had psyched myself up for this new option and now I was back to square one.
Back to waiting. Another week passed, with intermittent texts between me and the owner of bike #1 – me letting him know I was still interested, him letting me know that there was no news. It was a little after the 2-week mark when he called to let me know that his brother finally got ahold of the bank and they were sending out the lien release paperwork.
Wait… what? Didn’t that happen already? I should note at this point that during the entirety of this process I was doing near obsessive amounts of research trying to figure out other ways to release the title, none of which turned out to be viable options. So when I found out that the first time his brother had called, he had only left a message, I reached my breaking point.
Part I: The Hunt Re-begins
I should also mention that at the same time, my other half was getting the itch to ditch his Buell for something even shinier and newer-er. Suffice it to say that there was a bit of drama about that, and suddenly 600cc’s didn’t feel like the right choice anymore.
That’s how I found myself in Minneapolis (three hours from home) on a Wednesday evening, handing over cash for a bike that… was not the most attractive thing (at the moment). We had planned to run over, pick it up, and get back out of town by 5:00 or so, avoiding cold and darkness for most of the trip home.
That…is not what happened. When my sidekick stopped at the side of the road to figure out a route out of town, I made the horrible mistake of turning off the bike. And then it didn’t turn back on. Fortunately we were able to jump start it with little trouble, but the first priority now was to track down a replacement battery. Looking back I’m not sure why I thought this was the best course of action, but you know what they say about hindsight. We found a great little shop only a couple miles away – and I managed to stall on the way there, resulting in me temporarily abandoning my newly-acquired friend on the side of the road.
But at least we got a battery! Except it turned out that the problem was not the battery! And everyplace was now closed! I tried calling Uhaul, from whom I would’ve gladly rented a motorcycle trailer in exchange for not having to ride for three hours in the dark on an unfamiliar bike. I was pretty thrilled when they a) couldn’t find our local office (where I would’ve returned the trailer) and b) bounced me around just long enough for the Minneapolis office to close and no longer accept reservations. For about twenty minutes my world slowly compressed as I tried to figure out how I was going to get this expletive home OH GOD I’M STUCK HERE.
Part II: Fuck It, Let’s Just Do This
It was somewhere around this point that I remembered that the item in question was a vehicle still perfectly capable of moving under its own power. We hooked up the jumper cables yet again, and the bike immediately came back to life with that weird uneven idle that inline-four bikes seem to have. Our first stop was a gas station a few miles away where we’d fill up and then I’d make my inaugural trip onto the highway. It would be inaccurate to say I’ve never been so stressed out on a motorcycle – while unfamiliar with this particular bike, I was no longer terrified of riding in traffic like I was on those first couple of days with the Buell. I was just very very worried about stalling, as each mishap would cost valuable time.
But we made it to the gas station, where I spent a lofty $9.36 for my first tank of gas and inevitably splattered it everywhere because I am amazing. From there the story begins to blur. I remember that first twist of the throttle onto the highway, where the bike happily chugged along at 75 and was eager for more. I remember the sun beginning to set as we drove through Hudson (Wisconsin), and the weather beginning to cool dramatically. I remember seeing some motorcyclists look over at me from the opposite side of the highway to see what I was riding, because I like to do that too. And I remember pulling into the gas station / rest stop / hotel outside of Eau Claire that marked the halfway point of our journey and being nearly frozen to death. We decided to grab some dinner after refueling (just $7.16 this time!), and I shivered my way through some hot chocolate and a grilled cheese sandwich. And cheese curds – always cheese curds.
The last hundred miles were weird. It somehow managed to feel colder and darker, and the whole experience honestly made me feel a little stir crazy. At 60 miles from home I tried counting to pass the time, and at 30 miles from home I had resorted to singing songs from community theatre shows I’ve been in. It was nearly 11:00 when we arrived back in Wausau. Waiting on the doorstep was the motorcycle jacket I had recently ordered, which would’ve really come in handy. I have great timing.
Part III: Assault With Battery
The next day I dropped the bike off at a local shop to diagnose the starting issue and generally look the bike over. They installed some new tires and recommended a new Regulator/Rectifier to solve the problem. I decided to order the part and install it myself, and… nothing. Another drive out to the shop confirmed that it didn’t seem to be a defective part, and a trip to a (much closer) auto shop confirmed that both batteries seemed to be bad. Awesome!
I boxed up the new battery for my inevitable trip back to Minneapolis, reinstalled the old battery, and hooked up the charger. Lo and behold, THAT battery actually starts the bike – something the new one could never manage to do. Either the new battery was defective from the start, or not fully-charged, or both, but suffice it to say it was a complete failure. And because I am a genius, I made the assumption that dead battery = bad battery, something which didn’t seem to be the case. I still don’t know if the R/R was actually defective, but at least I have a new one!
So it seems this motorcycle and I got off on the completely wrong foot – what was supposed to be a fun adventure turned into something significantly less fun. At the same time, it did make for an experience. The bike, one I’ve been smitten with for nearly ten years, is now happy and healthy, and I’m totally in love.