Just when I thought I had completely outgrown any desire to own another motorcycle, I dreamed that I was driving down a highway with just one. Ever since I’ve been riding this bike in my sleep, I’ve dreamed of owning it for real.
The motorcycle of – and of – my dreams is a 1971 Honda CL350 Scrambler. Gold and black, to be exact. This is the first motorcycle my father ever owned. When he sold it 45 years ago and moved on to a bigger bike, it didn’t occur to me that the one he was giving up would mean so much to me later on in life.
It’s pure nostalgia. I considered having an artist paint a portrait from a snapshot. It would be fun to watch and easier to store. But I couldn’t sit on it.
My dad bought the 350 when it was fresh off the assembly line. He was 39 and had dreamed of owning a bike since sharing a scooter with a friend who grew up in Nashville. I was 10 the summer he brought home this brand new Honda. He took me for a ride around town the first night.
Dad parked it under the carport when we got home and put it on the center stand so he could come in and let me sit on it for a while, holding the handlebar grips and pretending I had control.
My imagination was energized by the smell of the engine burning new, the tinkling of cooling exhaust pipes and the hairs on my arms still growing back in place after the ride. Everything was very magical.
The bike was called Scrambler because it was designed for the street or the trail. Dad outfitted it for highway travel and took it on trips near and far. He would have been much more comfortable on a larger bike built for touring, but he didn’t care. The 350 was what he could afford at the time, and he was thrilled with it.
Three years after that first ride, dad took me with him on the adventure of a lifetime. We doubled the 350 from Johnson City, Tennessee, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and back. Most experienced cyclists would never embark on such a long ride with two people on such a small bike. Luckily Dad wasn’t more experienced riders.
Snapshots from this epic ride reveal how we didn’t look like long-haul bikers at all. In the photo my mother took just before speeding out of the neighborhood, the little bike is visibly overloaded. No saddlebags or sissy-bar backpacks for us. We used bungee cords to secure suitcases and travel bags.
Dad’s boots are the only protective clothing pictured. I wore t-shirts, bell bottom jeans and tennis shoes the whole trip. Dad wore polyester pants. We brought rain gear which is good as it rained for almost every two days it took to reach Fort Lauderdale.
I searched, and there are 51-year-old Scramblers. While researching online, I came across the site of a vintage motorcycle restoration shop. The company sells t-shirts that read, “Four wheels move the body, but two wheels move the soul.
When I went to find the origin of this quote, a photo came up of someone driving – you guessed it – a 1971 Honda CL350 Scrambler.
If that isn’t a message from the spirits of the motorcycle, I don’t know what is.