Beside the Road

So you’re out on a country road – road dancing, self-contained, in the zone.

But something blurs by – in your peripheral vision – that seems to insist you give it your attention.

It’s got wheels and a seat – and the mind sees a shadow of a sign…. it says ‘For Sale’… but you need to set up for the next corner and the moment is past. I make a mental note – next time I ride this way back it off to see what’s sitting on that front lawn. Noted and the road once again requires my full attention.

A few days later, hitting the same spot I’m out of the throttle – what was it I missed?

Mostly it’s Harleys, and Japanese cruisers, and things that aren’t worth having slowed down for.

But every once in a while, it’s something…. interesting.

It might be a CB360T. Or a nicely farkeled VeeStrom 650 with expedition cases. Or an early naked GoldWing.

At least where I ride, one doesn’t see old Ducatis on the lawn, sadly.

Some of these yard sale motorcycles are even enough to have me hammering the brakes and looking for a driveway in which to turn around.

Put a modern Triumph Bonneville on your lawn, and you get to see me demo my moto-u-turn skills. Haven’t had a single adverse outcome anytime lately, if you were hoping for drama. VT500 Ascots, any kind of Buell (even though I ought to know better), or a MotoGuzzi Ambassador, and I’m executing that turnabout like a charter member of the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps.

But on this ride, I run into something entirely new.

For the sake of discussion, let’s call it The WTF.

I’d slowed waaaaay down. I’d gotten a good eyeful of the thing. It did indeed have a ‘For Sale’ sign. But in trying to identify the silhouette, my processor had pegged, I’d run the entire catalogue, and after what is probably an objectively life-threatening cognitive lockup, error code processing, coredump and reboot, I concluded I had no freaking idea what that thing was.

And even at 25 miles an hour, once active guidance had been restored, I was already about a third of a mile up the road. I go by that spot in Jefferson nearly every night. I gave a classic Loony Tunes Humminna Humminna Humminna shake of my helmet – this was going to remain a mystery for at least one more night.

The next evening, I needed to pick something up at my daughter’s, so headed past the location of the thing with my pickup. I had my phone out and came to the spot in the road opposite it, and I stopped. It became quickly obvious why I had been unable to ID the thing – this was a refugee from the chopper and dune buggy mad 70s – a completely oddball one-off created by somebody way braver than me if he’d actually ever ridden that thing.

Under the patina of rust and Cherokee read paint was a small part of the structure of a Volkswagen Beetle – the transmission shifter tunnel and the supports for the rear axle and suspension. The transmission and the VW’s aircooling fan manifold were there to see. The boxer engine, sadly, was not. The floorboards and the body had been cut away and discarded, and then someone had started welding things onto other things. There was a headstock that carried the basic dimensions of the transmission tunnel up to where a set of steering head bearings needed to be. Someone had apparently liberated and repurposed what looked to be a set of forks, front brakes and wheel from a Yamaha Venture touring bike. Some of the suspension linkages were cross connected with what looked like plumber’s steel strap. If there had once been a fuel tank, it seemed to be AWOL chasing the motor.

Lawnmower? Dirt Drag Terror? I got nothin’.

A kid in a muscle car appeared on the road behind me, so I snapped a shot or two and moved on up the road.
“Holy Shit,” I thought to myself. “What a suicidally insane monstrosity. They’ll have a hard time finding a home for that. I gotta go back tomorrow and talk to that guy.”

The next day, of course, that thing was gone.

I don’t know if I’d have bought the thing. I’m not sure there was a place in my life right now for chasing down a Beetle engine and fabricating a lot of missing stuff to see if that was as bad an idea as it appeared to be. Truck like steering swapping cyclically with hairy wheelies caused by questionable weight distribution? I certainly would have wanted to hear its caretaker tell me whatever story there was to tell of it.

But it’s another illustration of the oldest rule in the book. He who hesitates is lost. Carry cash, and get really comfortable with that two-lane road turn around. Go look at whatever it is right now because tomorrow – unless you have angels riding on your shoulder – is almost always too late.

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