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In May 2011 I made what I consider to be one of the worst decisions of my life: I traded my beloved 2008 Triumph America for a bigger bike, a Triumph Rocket III Touring. I had gotten it in my head that I needed a big bike. Not just a big bike, the BIGGEST bike.

Almost from the moment I brought the Rocket III home from the dealership, I realized it wasn’t the right bike for me. I really missed my America. I was sorry I had traded it in. I was disappointed in myself for getting bitten by the ‘bigger is better’ bug and had been kicking myself ever since. I pined to have an America back in my stable again.

Early this season I sold the Rocket and bought a used V-Strom, which has proven to be a very good choice for me. But I had it in the back of my head that if the opportunity presented itself, I would add another America to the stable. For much of this season I had my eye out for another used one.

A recent class at a racetrack had me thinking sportbike yesterday.

Then a few weeks ago I took a riding class at a racetrack and had suddenly gotten bit by the track day bug. Now I had it in my mind to get an inexpensive track bike and do more track days – something like a mid 2000’s R6 or CBR-600. So yesterday I made the rounds of local dealerships looking for a candidate to buy.

As I pulled into Martin Motorsports, one of my usual haunts, I noticed a woman standing next to a Pacific Blue and New England White America just like the one I used to own. “Cool,” I thought. “An America like my old one.” I parked my ‘Strom and walked over to say hi.

“Hi there, I used to have a bike just like that,” I said with a smile as I approached her. Then, as I got closer, I noticed something. Not only was this America just like my old one, it WAS my old one. There was a telltale scratch on the tank that had its roots in a camping trip I had taken with some friends in 2010. We had paused to rest and take some pictures near a pretty lake, and as we were gearing up and getting ready to go,I swung my leg over the tank and a rock in the heel of my boot made an ugly scratchmark.

The telltale scratch occurred about 5 minutes after this picture was taken.

The telltale scratch on the tank.

This bike had the same scratch.

“Did you buy this bike at Hermy’s?” I asked.

“Yes, we did,” she replied.

“Last May?” I asked.

“Yes, my husband and I bought this last May,” she replied.

“This used to be my bike.”

I told her the story about how I had traded it and missed it, when she dropped this bombshell: “We just traded it in for a Thunderbird.”

I could not believe it. I had missed this bike for the past year and three months. I had thought about getting an America to replace it. And here it was, about to be placed on the showroom floor of my favorite motorcycle dealership.

Today, my beloved 2008 Triumph America is back in my garage. It was an expensive round trip, as I got trade-in value for the America in May 2011 and paid retail value to buy it back yesterday; and I bought the Rocket at retail value in May 2011 and sold it for something less than retail value this past February. I don’t want to think about how much money this bad decision cost me, really. But I am so grateful that the bike is back in my life.

When I tested it out yesterday, it was like being back with an old friend. When I drove it home, it was like it had never left. When I was signing the papers to buy the bike, the woman who handles transactions at Martin’s remarked, “You just can’t get away from this bike, huh?” I literally started to well up and replied, “No. It’s not that. I have an emotional connection to this bike. I made a mistake and it found its way back to me.”

So many strange coincidences had to happen for this bike to get reunited with me: I went out yesterday shopping for a sport bike and ended up at Martin’s at around 1PM; Frank and Holly, the couple who owned the America, were just out riding, stopped at Martin’s, and fell in love with the Thunderbird they ended up buying at around the same time. I believe that the Pacific Blue and New England White 2008 America that I started my motorcycling career with will now be in my garage forever. Perhaps one day one of my grandchildren-to-be will inherit it…

Me and the America. May 2008, the first day I bought it. August 2012, the day it came back into my life. Then and now. We’re both a little older and have a few more miles on us, but I’m also a whole lot wiser and I’m filled with gratitude.

It’s that time of the year. Sometime tomorrow evening we’ll all be singing Auld Lang Syne, embracing our loved ones and friends and wishing Happy New Year to all. And over the past week, journalists from every beat have done their “Tops of 2011” lists. So without adieu, here are my favorite motorcycling memories from 2011:

Rider Insurance comes through.

Smoke rising from the underground fires of Centralia, PA; one of the spookiest places on earth.

It was a weekend late in the summer. I had no plans. The weather looked good. So as a lone wolf like me is apt to do, on Saturday morning I loaded up the camping gear and headed out on the Rocket towards Central PA. I stopped at Hermys to peruse the inventory and test out a few bikes, then headed up 61 through the ghost town of Centralia (spooky, spooky place) and then West and North with no particular destination in mind. Just a plan to ride until I was tired, then camp somewhere, and head back on Sunday morning.

It was a perfect day, the Rocket was humming, and my spirits were high.

 

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As I mentioned in my first post, I spend a lot of time on weekends visiting local motorcycle dealers and testing out new bikes. I’m grateful that most of the dealers in my area support test rides and will let me take a spin. I’ve even been honest with them: “I’m not looking to buy.” They seem to get it. Maybe I’ll take a ride and just have to have the bike. This has happened recently. Twice this season, in fact.

So as the season winds down, I’m going to list the bikes I tested this year and provide a brief blurb on each. When I put this list together, I was pretty shocked. I’ve ridden a lot of different bikes this year.

With my Rocket III Touring on the Blue Ridge Parkway, October 2011. The Rocket was made for trips like this.

1a. Rocket III Touring. Numero Uno on this list is the bike I currently own. I rode the R3T a number of times at a demo day at Eurosports back in May. I liked it so much I ended up shopping for one and bought my current ride from Hermy’s later that month. Since then it’s been a love/hate relationship. In summer, on a 90 degree day, in traffic, I hate this bike. It is like riding a convection oven, it throws off so much heat from that 2300 cc powerplant. When I’m filling it up with gas, I hate it. I’ve averaged 30 miles per gallon this year and more often than not been in the mid 20’s. But when I’m rolling up heavy miles and cruising along on a nice twisty, or passing a tractor trailer on the slab, I absolutely love it. When I’m on a trip with my friends and hauling my camping gear, I love it. When I park it on Main Street in New Hope next to about a dozen ElectraGlides and the peeps walking by stop to look at my bike and ignore the Harleys, I love it. Read the rest of this entry »