Thursday, September 27, 2007

First Ride

I woke up shortly after sunrise on Saturday and rode to Renovo, Pa. It sits on the west branch of the Susquehanna above Lockhaven. A blue collar town with an old boxcar factory and a past built on timber. A town of churches and (at one time) bars.

It had a movie theater, a hardware store, a grocery, several outfitters, and a men's store. The usual business line up that populated the main streets of small towns in the middle of the mountains. It also had a YMCA with a restaurant and a counter. My father and I would stop there for breakfast on the way north. The building is still there. Breakfast still costs less than five dollars. I had blueberry pancakes and a cup of coffee.

I love these places.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Back In One Piece

One-hundred-and-fifty miles spent mostly on four-lanes was not how I pictured my ride home from Lititz. The trip down took longer that I thought. By the time I was ready to head back, a headwind kicked up and some late afternoon overcast was on the horizon. Once on the highway, I was thankful that I had kept the liner in the jacket and added an extra under layer.

There a things you learn about in the motorcycle safety course that you don't think you'll need until later in your cycling life. On a summery Saturday afternoon, wind and fatigue are only concepts and don't really hit home until you've been on the bike for a few hours. Little things that were dismissed at mile 10 became causes for concern at mile 120. Things like cold fingers and a stiff clutch. The ache that sets in from holding you body in one position for an extended period of time.
The snot.

I loved every minute.

Friday, September 14, 2007


The past week has been hard to get through. A series of warm September days with blue skies, and me with a bike that's still not in my garage.

Since my phone call to Peter last week, my evenings have been spent paging through the Pennsylvania Gazetteer. I was looking for the back roads from Lititz to State College. Roads that I haven't seen since my grandparents would drive me from my mother's house in Columbia to my father's in Pleasant Gap on the third weekend of each month. Roads that we stopped taking after the interstates were completed. Roads I barely remember.

I pick up the bike tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

If it feels good...

Until last week, I had given up all hope.

The 75/6 in West Virginia was a good find. It rode well and was a solid bike. A good first bike. But it wasn't for me. I don't think it was interested in me being it's new owner. In the long run, the two of us would not have gotten along. It felt awkward, and after a day or two I let it go.

For a month it seemed as if all the slash 7s had disappeared. Craigslist, ibmwr, eBay—everywhere I looked—nothing. I was beginning to give up. Thoughts of putting my cash advance into practical things like a new bedroom suit entered my head—maybe something in postmodern shaker. I had to get keep looking.

Two weeks ago I found a well cared for slash 7 in south-central, Pa. I hit the road Saturday morning to check it out. Two-and-a-half hours later, I found myself at a small farm in the sticks outside of Lancaster. Apparently the local developers missed this little slice of heaven.

The bike was sitting on the drive waiting for me. It started nicely and rode like a summer dream. Testing out a bike on Lancaster county's back roads in a real pleasure. I don't know which part of the ride sold me sold me. Was it the experience of riding a well cared for bike or the anticipation of moving through country roads like this every weekend until the end of November? It didn't matter. For 20 minutes, the bike and I got to know each other. We connected.

I got back to the farm and talked with the owner for a little. Got his read on the bike and his history.

There are some things that you don't come across in reading about how to buy a used bike. The vibe you get from the seller and the bike’s environment mean a lot. Peter was great. A local high-school teacher and a gear head who was sitting on two other BMWs and a Harley rebuild. His garage was immaculate. No grease stains on the floor, clean tools, clean bikes. It was the kind of garage that you hope you'll have once you muster up to courage to toss the generations of accumulated junk that lines the walls. The boxes of stuff that you haven't opened since your in-laws dropped it off the day after they cleaned their garage. A clean garage counts when looking at bikes.

I drove home satisfied that I had found the one. I called on Tuesday afternoon and made my offer. Peter felt it to be a fair price and we cut a deal as I walked home from work. But as things go in my life, I won't be able to pick it up for another two weeks. Family and friends are coming into town for the Penn State vs. Notre Dame game this weekend. But that doesn't matter too much to me. I know that the bike is there, and it's waiting for me.