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Blog > April 2012 > Godzilla's World Tour - Ancient Hondas Roll Around the World

Godzilla's World Tour - Ancient Hondas Roll Around the World

Godzilla's World Tour - Ancient Hondas Roll Around the World

 

Honda CB550K - AKA the Interstate Destroyer
          “I assume you've heard about the SOHC/4 rally across America...” James said. I admitted I had not, though when it comes to old Hondas it doesn't take much to pique my interest. I listened as he explained that the Single Overhead Cam Honda forum (forums.sohc4.net) was exploding with interest. A relay was planned to travel through every continental US state, most of Canada, and possibly even beyond. Might I be interested in joining him?
Two idiots who have yet to comprehend the depth of their
commitment.
          When an event has “SOHC4” in the title, I go crazy than a dog in a bacon necklace. That somebody might want the participation of my vintage machine – even if it's to haul a 10” Godzilla doll to another state – filled me with vindication, as if the years of repair and maintenance weren't completely wasted. What do you mean, might I be interested?
          But I played it cool. I told James I would think about it.
That is why on a cold, April morning we're standing in front of my house staring at his red 1974 Honda CB550K prepping for a 750 mile round trip. I refuse to even look at my '78 550, which, a month later, is still eviscerated in the driveway – as with all rebuilds, this one is way behind schedule, and I'm stuck with my '09 Kawasaki Concours.
          James pulls our cargo out of his backpack – the 10” plastic, gray Godzilla doll is the mascot and baton of the SOHC/4 relay, which we'll pass off to the next group of riders in Williamson, WV. It's a great emblem, as Gojira (as the Japanese call him) has been a Japanese icon through the life of the Honda SOHC/4, and the tiny piston he's holding like an Olympic torch is only slightly smaller than a real Honda piston of the era.
James, his immobile fingers and his CB550K
          Virginia may consider itself ‘The South,’ but I know better. Even today, April, reminds me of Minnesota. The trees are bare, and I would typically stare into a morning like this through the dining room window with a hot cup of coffee and dreams of blooming dogwood trees. Instead, we pack the Connie full of gear, including our second most-important piece of cargo, a thermos of coffee. James is still shivering from the 25 miles he rode into town, and does not look ready to take up the saddle of his naked 550 – but, he pulls open the cuffs of his yellow riding suit to show me air-activated heaters and says it's time to go – I'm jealous, but then again I have a fairing.
The author's CB550K  '09 Kawasaki Concours.
          The interstate is empty, gray and sterile. The cold comes at us at 75MPH, and the loss of sensation marches across my hands, jumping from finger to finger with slow finality. I hope James and his heaters are holding up better.
Snowy West Virginia Mountains
          After about 75 miles, James takes an exit to a Chevron station. A 550 can go roughly 100 miles before coughing on fumes, then the reserve tank will get you, optimistically, 30 extra miles. Given our mileage goal for the day, a stop so early will put us behind schedule. James says he's just “playing it safe” with fuel, but he holds onto his coffee like the Swiss Miss girl, and Godzilla is the only one who isn't shivering. If his hands feel like mine, then he's been steering with wooden clubs for the past 25 miles. And I almost installed heated grips this week.
          Our modus operandi remains constant. We tear off chunks of the map in 75-100 mile increments and stop longer than we should – but only long enough to keep from losing fingers to frostbite, particularly in the mountains of West Virginia, where there are still piles of snow. Eventually, this gets us to Williamson.
Pretty pretty CB750K in baby blue
          As a motorcyclist, I believe that car drivers (or cagers) hold many false beliefs about us. Namely, that there is an archetype that can be devised for motorcyclists, perhaps a bad man in black leather or a half-naked teenager on a superbike. In reality, there is no archetype – and a vintage club is the perfect example. My riding partner for the day is small, industrious, clever, and tidy, and spent years methodically “dialing in” his machine. The first rider we meet at the relay point is a scruffy young bear, whose machine – a ragged, 750 cafe-rat-chop tells the story of its rider. It's seat is upholstered in paisley, the master cylinder cover is written in Japanese, and the rear tire is bald and square from burnouts. He's riding with a tall and clean-cut owner of an immaculate, blue 750. Motorcycling makes for interesting riding companions. Of course, they may think it strange that I – the scatterbrained owner of a non-operational machine – would be running with a clean 550, but it adds to the variety. We turn into a sort of support group for the clinically obsessed, and swap stories, compare machines, and trade envies like girls at a princess party.
He's got a sticker on there that reads something close to:
Touch my bike and I will kill you and butt fuck your corpse.
          We all agree it would be nice to ride together, but with a few hundred miles to go on both ends, we figure it best to get underway. The sun had burned
The handoff has been made
off the morning fog, and it felt more like we lived in the South again – except in the mountains of West Virginia, where I realized I had lost a glove. Say what you will about Wal-Mart, but they saved my left hand that day.
          The trip back is better, then increasingly dark. The Kawasaki performs extremely well, and after sunset I'm actually happy to have a modern machine. The old Honda lights the road like a whale-oil candle, but the Kawasaki is adequate for deep-sea exploration. I take the lead for the last leg of tedious miles, frequent stops and slow wits.
          In the end, we both make it home safely. I park the Kawasaki on the curb, and kick the Honda's “rolling chassis” as I walked into the house. Your big show, and you miss it! After a hot shower and a snort of brandy, I promptly fall asleep on the couch, where I dream that my hands freeze, fall off, and shatter on the tile.
          I don't know if Godzilla saw any burnouts after the hand off, but he found relative safety. Since James and I last saw him, he has terrorized all of the contiguous 48, 7 Canadian provinces, and flown around the world just in time for New Zealand spring. Soon, Godzilla will hit Australia, and then the plans get fuzzy. Nobody is sure how long his travels will continue or how many countries he will visit, but if motorcyclists around the world prove to be as dynamic and tenacious as they are in the United States, he'll be on the road for a long time to come.
 





Posted: 4/6/2012 10:01:08 AM | with 0 comments


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