Curtain Call on My Motorcycling

Big Red’s place in the garage is now empty

Yesterday my Honda Gold Wing, dubbed Big Red, left for greener pastures. We gave it to a cousin, Winston, who wanted to fix it up and ride it. I had let it set in the garage for over two years, gradually deciding to give up riding. Now I have only the license plate and the space in the garage.

I started riding in 1964, buying a Honda 90 to get back and forth to work. Later my older brother, Wayne, offered a deal on his 1962 BMW R69S. Great bike, and I rode it through much of the eastern U.S., but we finally crashed—totaling the bike—in 1967. 

Bought another BMW in 1969, and that summer I rode it across the U.S. and through much of western Canada. The following spring I married Barbara, and we rode it together for three years, then sold it in 1973 to help finance a move. Didn’t ride again until retirement.

In 2004, a friend, Bill Haynes, who has ridden most of his life, demonstrated how cheap used bikes were, and I bought a 1988 Honda Nighthawk. Then in January of 2006 I bought Big Red.

Bill and I rode through much of southern Appalachia together, then in August 2006 I loaded Big Red with camping gear and headed west. I crossed the South and Great Plains, then through much of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Came home in September. In October I headed out again for New England on a ride with my brother, Wayne. Rode out west again in 2009, through much of the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, eastern Washington and Oregon, Nevada (visited a friend in Reno), and back home through Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and across the Great Plains. Then in 2011 Wayne and I rode the entire Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway as well as the Cherohala Skyway.

By 2015 I could sense declining skills. Big Red weighted over 1,000 pounds when fully dressed, and he was getting harder to maneuver at slow speeds. My friends who rode were giving it up too. One friend, Ken, had a serious accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway, then in the heat of one southern summer Bill decided he’d had enough. In 2016 Wayne had a serious accident landing him in the hospital for a month and leaving him without full use of his left arm. He quit.

The motorcycle years were great, and they ended well—I’m uninjured and full of memories. Winston is a good mechanic, and one of his friends is a professional Honda mechanic. They’ll get Big Red rehabilitated, and Winston will enjoy cruising around his home and up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I told him that when he gets to the Parkway, he can sit back and relax. Big Red knows that one by heart.

You can find some earlier posts on motorcycling here:

A Motorcycle Journey

Danger: Motorcycling in the Coal Country of Virginia at Age 70

Hawking: Meet Jim Keighton on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A photo gallery follows with some pictures of some of the trips. Click on the first photo to enter the gallery. Press ESC to exit.