Old Bike, New Places
November 10, 2011
Filed under Rider Magazine Blog
Mornings are getting cooler here in South Georgia, and I’d been talking and thinking about taking my old (1975) Honda CB750 for a real ride. Not just buzzing around the neighborhood to the drugstore and back, but an honest to goodness ride. Something like three or four hundred miles that would really blow the dust off me and the bike. I mentioned my indecisiveness about taking this old bike on an autumn journey in my last article (“Decisions, Decisions”) and one of Rider’s editors, Greg Drevenstedt suggested I take the CB750. Greg’s father owned a bike similar to mine, and he fondly recalled the rides taken with his father. He also reminded me of the reliability these bikes were famous for.
So last Saturday I packed a bag, filled the tank with gas, checked the chain tension and headed west, my destination was Montgomery, Alabama. I waited until 9:00 a.m. to leave my home Tifton, Georgia. I figured I’d let the morning sun work it’s magic on the brisk morning air before taking off, and I didn’t want to wear my chaps. I had chosen to take Route 82 from Tifton to Montgomery and Mapquest put the mileage at just over two hundred miles one way. This would be a good test for me and the old bike since the furthest I’d ridden since swapping the mini-ape hangers for the flat bars now on the bike was 75 miles. The CB750’s gas tank holds over 4.5 gallons, but I hadn’t checked to see what kind of mileage I was getting, so I stopped just before Albany and topped off. Of course, I’d forgotten to reset the trip meter so I still wasn’t sure of my mpg. I estimated around 35 and decided I’d stop after crossing the Alabama state line and top the tank off again.
Route 82 proved to be a great choice for a leisurely Saturday morning ride. After getting out of Albany, 82 veers off and winds through the southwestern Georgia countryside. Traffic was almost nonexistent and the temperatures reached the mid-70s by 10:00. The old Honda ran like, well, a Honda. I’d forgotten how well balanced and responsive the CB750 was. Granted, we weren’t twisting through the Tail of the Dragon or rolling up and down the hills and curves in southern Ohio, but there were a few challenging curves (when exceeding the posted speed limit) and the tree-lined, two-lane blacktop made me smile.
Crossing into Alabama, the first real town I came to was Eufaula. What a cool little town! It had a wide, tree-filled median separating east/west traffic on Broad Street and lots of charming red-brick buildings. I immediately thought of Savannah, with Spanish moss hanging from the trees and antebellum homes lined the road as I meandered through the town. Stopping at a convenience store/gas station to top off the tank again, I was pretty close in my estimation with just over 37 miles to the gallon. I pulled the bike over to the side of the store, went inside to buy a bottle of water, and decided I should check the chain tension. It’s a good thing I did, as the chain was pretty loose. I set the bike up on the center stand and dug out the 36-year-old tool kit. While I was adjusting the chain several locals stopped by to comment on the Honda. I couldn’t help wondering why most modern bikes don’t have center stands anymore. A simple chain adjustment would have been a real pain in the butt without the center stand. Maybe that’s why so many Hondas have drive shafts these days.
I’ve always said, there’s no better conversation starter in the world than a motorcycle. I’m changing it to old motorcycle. By the time I had the chain adjusted, I had an audience of four or five bystanders ranging from 12 to 60 years old. They all wished me well as I pulled out and headed for Montgomery.
I arrived in Montgomery earlier than expected, so I checked into my hotel, unpacked the bike and headed to a casino for dinner and a chance to win big money. Dinner was good, fairly cheap, and I only lost $20 at the casino so I left considering myself lucky. I got back to my hotel before dark and called home. Deb was glad to hear from me and I think she was even happier to hear that the old bike had performed so well. I think she was afraid she’d have to drive the truck to somewhere between home and Montgomery to rescue the both of us.
I got up early Sunday morning and went through my motorcycle checklist before leaving the hotel. The chain appeared to be holding up well, all the lights were still functioning, the tires were no worse for the wear and I had remembered to shut the fuel petcock to the off position so no fuel had escaped the tank during the night. I had a light breakfast at the hotel and by 8:30 was on the road heading home.
Drawn in by its charm, I stopped in Eufaula again for lunch, and found that the people were as nice as the town is pretty. A fried oyster po’boy sandwich from the Cajun Corner really hit the spot. The bike and me didn’t hurry home, we just ambled through the countryside, enjoying the sunshine and taking in the scenery. I was pleased that the flat handlebars hadn’t caused me any shoulder pain. The riding position had me slightly bent over but it felt surprisingly comfortable. I arrived home at about three in the afternoon, and pulling the bike in the garage I could smell pizza coming from the kitchen. I looked at the bike and thought to how well it had ran for the past two days and cussed myself a little for ever doubting the bike. I had put just over four hundred miles on the old girl and had no problems, just a little slack in the chain. Over the audible growl of my hungry stomach I could hear Deb yelling at football referee on the television. Ah… the joys of a good day on the road and the feeling of being home.