The title is from a Neil Young song, a favorite of mine which begins: “We’ve been through some things together with trunks of memories still to come, we found things to do in stormy weather, long may you run”. The song was the title track of the Stills-Young Band album of the same name from 1976. A lot of people think he’s referring to a pet or lost love but the song is actually an ode to his first car, a 1948 Buick Roadmaster Hearse.
My V-Strom is now pushing 8 years of nearly daily duty and is showing signs of wear and tear. Back in 2005, once I had decided the V-Strom was to be my next bike, I had taken to calling dealers looking for one in red and black. I finally found one that was kept in a back store room. It was covered in dust; apparently someone had thrown a rock through the dealership window, which bounced off the rear luggage rack and then the gas tank. I thought, “every great story has an interesting beginning.” So I bought it and waited for the replacement parts to come in.
Back in 2010 I hit a deer and thought Big Red was headed for the junkyard, but my brother and I tore her down to the frame and built her back up again. As a result she’s now got character: a slight deflection in the nose and some hairline cracks in some of the body plastic. I’ve come to know all the ticks and rattles she’s likely to make and I can tell you where every scratch came from. There are even boot scuff marks on top of the left side case from thousands of dismounts that alone tell a tale of hard use. Both of us carry visible, and some hidden, scars that tell a story.
Big Red has seen me through thunderstorms so severe we had to take shelter wherever we could find it to keep safe. We soloed 1,200 miles on a ride where my hands were so swollen I could hardly open the cold beer my sister handed me when I arrived, with knees so stiff it was painful to walk. We’ve ridden through nerve wracking snowstorms and sweet smelling spring mornings; through miserable heat and freezing cold; over mountains and through streams; country roads and city streets; ridden away from hurtful distrusting relationships and into a caring, trusting, loving one; visited my mother’s home and my father’s grave, and stopped to admire hundreds of glorious sunsets.
I’ve never been emotionally attached to a car, but I will miss this bike when it’s finally time to give her up. She’s got 54,000 miles on her now; who knows maybe we’ll get to 100,000. It would be fitting that I be the only rider in the life of Big Red. There’s nothing like a new bike, but nothing as irreplaceable as an old friend. After 8 years and so many memories I can easily see what prompted Neil Young to pen his elegy to “Mort,” the hearse he had driven from Toronto to Los Angeles in 1966, the trip that launched his career.
Long may you run.