Ten hours, four states, and one foolproof plan: How I learned stop worrying and love the motorcycle

Dear God, what have I gotten myself into.

[Part 2 in a series. Read Part 1 here!]

My parents could not be called for comment.
I obviously wouldn’t be riding the Honda almost halfway across the country, as I was too much of a wuss to even take it around the block. “Want to take it for a ride?” Don had suggested in a hopeful tone. I took a look at the rutted dirt path leading out of his driveway, remembered the culmination of my two-wheeled motorized experience up to that point (taking a friend’s 1977 Puch moped up to 40mph), and turned him down. After the drive I was simply eager to load the bike up and get the hell back home. During the drive back to Massachusetts that I had bummed off my friend Dave and a 1996 Mercury Villager that he dubbed “The Pillager,” I had hatched a daring plan. I would hitch a ride back home with my buddy back home for the weekend, then borrow my friend PJ’s 1998 Jeep Cherokee, buy a class III trailer hitch from Autozone before it closed at 9pm, drive to my friend Jay’s house and hook up his 12’ wooden box trailer, drive 10 hours across Pennsylvania in one sitting, pick up the bike, carefully sneak it back into Massachusetts, and surprise my parents by 1.) coming home from college on a random weekend, and 2.) cluttering their garage with a leaky old motorcycle, a notion that would inevitably give my dear mother an aneurysm. Oh, and I hadn’t told them any of this. It would be foolproof. Nothing could possibly go wrong, I reassured myself.
I learned to rebuild these so many times I can now do it in my sleep. Or hanging upside down from a helicopter.
Turns out, PJ’s father wasn’t as enthusiastic about seeing his son’s only mode of transportation being bummed across the country by someone foolish enough to buy a motorcycle on a whim. So the plan fell through from the beginning and I went home with my tail between my legs, where I spilled the dastardly plot to my parents. My father, a can-do type of guy, was vaguely amused. My mother, however, acted like I had wrung a puppy’s neck in front of her: a mixture of disbelief, shock, denial, and then anger flooded over her features like incoming tidal waves. There’s something that needs to be said about my father: when faced with a problem, he’s just as stubborn and resilient as I am. This is the guy who, when I was three, drove 2 hours across a sweltering Orlando summer in our beige 1988 Taurus because he missed the turnoff to Disneyworld and refused to turn back. And faced with legally binding financial transactions and the threat of legal action, we knew that we couldn’t just ignore the elephant in the driveway: we’d have to get the bike back home somehow by any means necessary. So when Don and his brother, who had just pulled up in a rusty Chevy C/K pickup (now that would have been a far more useful vehicle), saw the minivan that we had rented and driven from Massachusetts all the way to a rural Cleveland suburb, backed into the driveway with its tailgate wide open, they didn’t know what to expect. “Wait, how’re you gonna get it back?” his brother piped up. I sheepishly pointed at the minivan. “Wait, hold on…” he said, a look of horror slowly sweeping across his face, “you’re going to take it back in that thing?” “Jesus,” Don said. The man had a point. Nowhere in the clause of any rental vehicle contract does it say that it is a good idea to stack a motorcycle into the back of a Dodge Grand Caravan.

At this point I told my mom, "hey, it almost kinda looks like a real motorcycle!" She was still not amused.

We first took off the sidecovers and fuel tank. With the rear seats folded, we could crank the handlebars all the way to the left and slot the motorcycle in on its side. The rear wheel barely fit with the hatch closed, threatening to put a dent in the plastic shrouding the rear hatch. A drop of gasoline leaked out of a drain tube somewhere—enough to fill the entire cabin up with fumes. The carpeted floor mats were blotted with oil, fuel and grease stains that the rental agency would be livid about. I sat in the back, up against the passenger-side door. There was no room otherwise. “Boy,” said Don, as we began to pull out of the driveway, “you must have some awesome parents.” And on that note we drove the 10 hours across I-80 with my new acquisition in the back, with the windows wide open and the fan cranked to maximum power. The bike fit surprisingly well in the van, like a set of gasoline-filled matryoshka dolls, and I had room to duck my head to avoid being seen by cops wondering why I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. We finally pulled into our driveway at 3 in the morning. For someone who had literally spent all day sitting down, I was too tired to do anything. I stared at the motorcycle and the moonlight glinting off the headlight. That night we left it in the van; we were too tired from the drive to lift it out. But tomorrow, I would get to work.

How she stands now. All that's left is to install new coils off a Gold Wing, finish painting the tank, weld in the exhaust tip, fire up the engine after four years of stagnation without setting my mom's Civic (seen in back) on fire, and go pick up chicks. Alternatively, my friend has christened it the "Thrustmaster," and I shall be rocking custom badges to that effect. It helps to have friends who, unlike me, actually know what they're doing.

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