Saturday, January 1, 2011


THE LAST TWO WEEKS OF DECEMBER, riders enter the icy basement of the touring season. Days are short. Temperatures dip below freezing and sometimes stay there. The motorcycle is mothballed into a dark crevice of the garage, oil drained, tank topped, battery on slow charge. Draped over the revered chrome and paint is a blanket or two – protection from the elements of the darkened shop. Atop the blanket are misplaced tools, waiting to be rehung or recabineted, or a derelict shop rag. Indeed, the mighty motorcycle, singular pride of the owner, has been demoted to little more that a storage shelf.

During these days, and about through the end of February, riders stay inside by the fire with a cup of coffee or a dram of something stronger. They pour over maps and guidebooks. Motorcycle periodicals are read forward, backward and forward again. Local dealers are visited by folks knowing it’s safe to look, even to touch, but unsafe to test ride in icy conditions. Polite salespeople make conversation resigned that this is the season of low commission.

(c) Ducati SpA - USA
I HAD YET TO “CUT THINGS OFF” or “make things right” with the “other woman.” A shipping blanket covers my GSA and, while I think longingly of the open road on that great machine, I still can’t avoid thinking of the little Ducati, her fluid lines and accommodating – even inviting - pillion and how responsive and lithe she might feel in a series of twisting switchbacks or running free along a high straightaway in the forested high country. In idle times, I am serenaded by the throaty report of her Termi exhausts and recall how the Italians understand form, function, color and sound and how these elements always seem to add up to something exotic and sensual. Something out of reach to the likes of me.

Removing a shop rag and a couple of end wrenches from the blanketed BMW, I shake myself into sensibleness and realize I must end it. I must make it down to the Ducati dealer, confront the little GT1000 and tell her that it is never to be.

Driving to the dealer, I expect the 2008 to be off in a corner, a dark place out of the traffic pattern for the dealer. Last time I was down there, I really had to look for her.

“Ducati builds motorcycles for a different market,” the salesman had said. “The retro style on this bike may be what you and I want, but apparently, the Ducatisti are looking for something else.”

“Too bad for them,” I tell him.

“I can make you a deal,” he says.

(c) Ducati SpA - USA
Ducati has discontinued the so-called sport-classic line. The last of the 2009s were marketed as 2010s and most dealers aren’t ordering up examples for show rooms. Now, on the cusp of another new year, the inventory has dwindled and few – very few – new ones are left on dealer floors anywhere. Still, I expect the silver and gray ’08 to be off in a cold corner, much like my BMW at home, waiting for someone to introduce her to one of those byways in the spring.

It won’t be me, however. I’m cutting her off. I’m not going to straddle her broad, comfortable seat, or twist her eager throttle. I’m not going to pull her clutch and shift through her five or six gears. I’m not going to sit there and imagine the songs her exhausts might sing. I’m just going to tell the salesman that she and I need some time. Alone.

I OPEN THE DOOR to the dealership and am immediately recognized. Without rising from the sales desk to shake my hand, I am told, “She’s gone.”


“Yep, gone.” Now the salesman rises. “Last week.”

I want to walk over to the dark corner of the show room just to make sure.

“Trust me.”

I stop. “How much?”

“You really want to know?”


“Just under eighty-five hundred.”

“That, that bitch.”

“Wh- what?”

“She sold for two grand less than retail?”  I am incredulous.

He shakes his head: “Three grand.”

I slump into the chrome-legged customer chair at the sales desk, and hang my head, muttering.

After a time, the salesman says, rather pointedly, “You gonna buy something today?”

NORMALLY, despondency is cured by a couple of hours riding some back road. But today, the outside temperature is 38. A covering of tule fog tells me that 38 is all it will get to be. I sit in the cab of my pickup wondering about what might have been. Condensation fogs the windows. It takes nearly five minutes for the glass to clear and during that time I determine I’ll take the long way home.

Traveling east on Auburn Boulevard, I pass the usual businesses – the muffler shop, the pancake house, the topless “gentleman’s” club, the Triumph dealer.

The Triumph dealer!

I wheel in.

(c) TriumphUK
In the window - looking like an earthy, late-sixties counter-culture lass, one dressed in well-worn khaki and flannel, rugged, yet steeped in a mellowness perhaps the result of several cannabis-fueled summer evenings singing by a roaring Humboldt County beach campfire – an old-looking new Bonneville. The T-100 model. Nineteen inch front wheel. Pea-shooter pipes. Tank, a luscious cream over chocolate with hand-painted coach lines.

With both feet lightly planted on the showroom floor, I lift the bike off her sidestand, pull in the clutch and twist the throttle. I wonder what she’ll sing to me on the road.

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. DH: I confess that I got over ever wanting to ride a motorcycle during my Ambulance Driver days. Still, if I did have any inclinations in that direction, that Italian job looked pretty keen...

  2. LB: This is motorcycle porn! :)

  3. TJS: A tale of longing...wonderful, fun, classic. Thanks

  4. SB: Trading in thoughts of a beautiful Italian for a beautiful Brit sounds very logical whether
    woman or motorcycle.

  5. Yikes! As of 4 Feb 11, the local (Sacramento) Triumph dealer has gone out of business.