Back in the Saddle—Again

May 23, 2016 View Comments by

As you may or may not know, I have been “off my feet” for quite awhile. Well, the worst of that stuff (God willing) is behind me.

If you follow my blogging you will also know that I sold my Honda VTX1300 last year. Now, that would make you think that I would then be “bike-less,” right? Wrong.

WaynePeterson1970

Wayne Peterson and his SL350, 1970.

I still have my “Forever Bike”: a 1970 Honda SL350, which I bought new about three months before I was to report for Basic Training. I bought the Honda because the Triumph 650 I had wanted was backordered. If you can remember back that far, 1970 was a bumper year for motorcycle sales. Why, I really don’t know. The SL350 was new that year, and was for all intents and purposes a scrambler. Equipped with a generous  ground clearance, skid shield, raised fenders, and cool upswept flat black exhaust, she was (and still is) a very cool machine. The best thing, at least for me, was that the bike was stock and at $350.00 F.O.B. Yes, it was smaller than the Triumph by 300ccs, but “a bird in the hand…”

Facing months of Army training, the Honda was the hands-down winner. I got in a few rides (too few) before Uncle Sam requested my presence. Funny thing, after about four weeks into Basic Training I got a letter from my hometown Triumph/BSA dealer informing me that ‘if I was still interested they had some sweet Triumph 650 Scramblers in stock.’ Too late, as by now my time was otherwise “occupied.”

Fast forward. My girl may not have been waiting for me when I got out, but my bike was. Needless to say we chased many a sunset together. And, she, the bike, never got jealous of any of the other strange bikes that cluttered my garage.

My point is this: I still have that bike, which is in mint condition. During the time I owned the VTX I ignored the little Honda, then while I was recuperating from my transplant I ignored her (and everything else) even more. Strange—machines don’t like being ignored, they tend to react badly, mostly by not starting—which is what mine did when I tried to renew our acquaintanceship this past fall.

I couldn’t blame her; after all it had been three years since I had shown her the least bit of interest. Fortunately I had put her up for winter storage prior to this so she was “set up” for a long nap. Of course it would need a new battery, that I expected. What I didn’t expect was that durning my hospital stay my family cleaned my garage and lost my key! As luck would have it, I was able to find one on eBay, an SL350 NOS switch and key set. While I waited for the switch to arrive, I decided to pull off the tank to inspect the fuel lines and wiring, just in case mice had gotten into them, like they had my seat! The wires were all intact, but as luck would have it the fuel cock was gummed up and needed a good cleaning. Durning this process I decided to touch up the paint on the frame, too.

I should have known that because the fuel cock was gunked-up, so too would be the carbs. I realized this AFTER I put the tank back on and turned on the fuel cock, at which point gas was flowing (make that overflowing) out of one of the carbs! This was becoming a much more complicated job than I had anticipated, and I was getting angry, not at the bike, but at myself for being so stupid. Needless to say everything had to come back apart. The jets and floats needed a complete cleaning, and this is when “it” started. I was dropping screws, rubber gaskets, nuts, bolts, and tools all over the place. During this excellent adventure I noticed that no matter where the odd part dropped, it didn’t stay there! In fact, each bounced, rolled, and scattered into what can only be described as my driveway’s “black hole.” I tried using a magnet to scan the area—no luck. I took a broom and swept the area—no luck. I even dropped another part and watched to see where it went—no luck. So I did the only thing I could do to guarantee that I would find it; I went out and bought a new part. You guessed it, that’s when I found the lost part, in … my shoe.

Well I got the bike started and now came … the moment of truth.

I hadn’t ridden in three years and was afraid that maybe I had “lost it.” We have an orchard behind our house, where I first learned to ride, and if I was going to put her down, at least it would be a soft landing. So off I went, more than just a little gingerly. I admit I was a bit unsteady at first, but gradually I regained my confidence (and my balance) and started picking up speed. At that moment I knew that I was back. I hadn’t intended to take her out on the road, not yet, but it felt so “right” that I turned on to our side street and ran her through the gears. Yes, now I was sure, I really was back in the saddle again. And how appropriate that it was on this bike, that, like me, had been tossed aside, and thought useless. I guess you just never know, or maybe you do?

I had one more thing to do, to make sure this bike would never again be ignored or forgotten. My “Forever Bike,” is now in my oldest son’s name. He loves it as much as I do, and I know he will take care of it as I have. But before his time comes, there are still a few more sunsets to be ridden into for the old girl and I.

Ride Safe.

 

Text and photography: Wayne Peterson

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