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Joining the fray

I am going to start my musings here.  I was thinking of submitting this to the magazine as a noob but will hold that thought for now.  While not strictly “on the road” (yet) all journeys begin somewhere; this is mine.


I am a latecomer to motorcycling.  Not exactly by choice, but my mother had a solid “not-while-you’re-living-in-my-house” policy on the subject.  I once passed up a BMW R750/2 for $250 because of it. Sigh.


I was 36 when I acquired my first motorcycle - a Honda CX500 Custom purchased locally off of eBay.  My wife, Karen, and I were living in her parent’s basement during my career change into teaching and I needed (really?) “a reliable vehicle” for going to my grad school classes to become a teacher.  I knew within a few weeks that the fun little CX was too small for me long term, but it served the purpose.


In the intervening years (8 moves, 7 teaching positions, 7 school districts, 2 states) the stable has included a BMW Airhead, Harley Electraglide (gifted from very good friends, now living with my BIL), BMW Oilhead GS, Yamaha V-Star (Wife’s), Honda PC800 with bolt on trike kit (wife’s).  At present, only the BMW GS is resident in our stable.


To be fair, my wife and I learned to enjoy riding together after our first long excursion on the Airhead BMW.  On the way to our first rally, the tent fell off of the bike and dragged along for a while, shredding a pole or two (we won the long-distance-two-up award).  She describes riding any BMW as “riding on an anvil perched in a sequoia.” OK, truth be told, the only time she truly “enjoyed” riding with me was during the Electraglide sojourn.  I can’t say I blame her.


After moving to central Nebraska (where I was finally able to settle in as a teacher) her desire to ride her own bike prompted purchase of the Star 650 that was brought by a friend to Nebraska from Minnesota.  Good intentions notwithstanding, Karen’s health issues (diabetes, heart patient, kidney transplant) quickly persuaded us that a more stable platform was a good idea. OK, send that one on to a new home and welcome the PC800 (with training wheels) - retrieved from north-central Minnesota, became “her” new ride.  I wish I could say that she jumped right on that. In the end, on a ride home from work one day, I nearly got shoved across the road three times by the wind. The hopes for Karen to operate her own ride vanished that day in a gusty Nebraska breeze.


It was becoming clear - the best intentions were no match for reality and the bike was put up for sale.  Meanwhile, the lovely red PC served in parade duty as opportunity arose.


Fast forward a year when a call out of the blue from a fellow we met at a gas station on his own PC asked if ours was still for sale.  His had blown up something important and he wanted another one. Cool!


Four days after transferring “Claudia” to him, my wife suffered a “minor” stroke (sorry, but any time part of one’s brain dies can hardly be termed as minor!).  Well Crap! Are our biking together days over forever?


Karen has been a trooper through rehab and extensive PT.  She’s optimistic but becomes frustrated about the things that were once “easy”.  She still has weakness/instability in her right leg and arm so getting up and over the seat of any motorcycle is problematic.


I had been considering a Can-Am Spyder as alternative, stable, open-air conveyance but geez! Folks want STUPID money for them.  Also, being smack-dab in the middle of the country, a LONG way from any regular service center, that idea was becoming unworkable.  


Just as I was about to lose all hope - EUREKA!!!  SIDECAR!!! Duh! A quick call to a local friend who had put a rig together convinced both of us that it’s a great solution to the problem.  And, Karen caneven try knitting in the car. I should add that meeting and reading Barley’s sidecar adventures has me hopeful that we can get a dog that’s willing to play monkey.


The hunt was on!


The options have been...several (can’t say that there are a lot of rigs for sale at any time, much less in our neighborhood).  After seriously considering an early 90s HD rig and an early 80s BMW rig, we have found a rig that should serve: A Honda GL650 Silverwing with Hitchhiker Sidewinder sidecar.  


Long story short, I had seen the rig for sale in a CL ad in Ohio.  Then it was gone. Then it showed up again, this time in West Virginia.  The folks we will be buying it from rescued it from neglect, did some maintenance (carbs, tires, cleaning) and were planning to make it their rig.  Evidently plans change. Thankfully, the price is right and it’s the right combination of tug and tub. We will be the third owners.


But Nebraska to West Virginia?!?!?  Sure, why not. The route takes us through Champaign, IL where a good friend lives who we need to visit and it’s only 7 tanks of gas there and back.  Can you say “ROAD TRIP”!?! The seller was trying really hard to talk me out of it (old bike, long distance, what if’s), but everything looks good overall.  Remember my first bike? - the GL650 is a longer, larger version and it’s got a lot to recommend it as a tug. Also,the car isn’t a low-end universal fit, and it was set up professionally by Hitchhiker so I’m game.


More story to come about the trip to fetch her!  Assuming, of course, that I can get across the Might Mo in May.



Good Luck on the trip and Welcome to the world of Sidecaring.

Lee / Summer Grove, Louisiana: Ural cT, CJ750, Burgman/Texas Ranger, Zuma 50F, MB5, TW200, CRF250L, GTV300

Hi Thane:

You have quite a story which seems to eventually lead to sidecars.  The story seems to be ongoing and will continue to develop.  This is the kind of story that will certainly be considered for publication in the Sidecarist. Do you have any pictures to add to the story?

Thanks for what you have written so far.

Will Short

USCA President


Thanks, Will.  Yes, the story will continue in May when we go to fetch the rig.  I hope to add photos as the journey progresses.  The adventure will continue with the (almost immediate) learning to operate a sidecar upon return from the trip.  Further, I plan to attend the CMA National Rally in Gilette WY in June.  Yes, I am a glutton for punishment!  Oh, and we plan to get a dog some time in there, too; hopefully one that enjoys sidecar adventures.


for the curious, a digital image of the rig:

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T minus one week and counting.  The excitement is mounting.

Wife and I took a trip to Minneapolis to return my mother to her home over the weekend.  Quick turn trips aren't as much fun as they used to be.

Still, I'm excited to get the rig home and get some miles on it.  It will be in a bike show on Friday the 1st!

Departing tomorrow morning!  Pics of the road trip will be taken and shared!

Safe travels, looking forward to seeing pix from the road.


just worry for one thing:

Get home in one single piece!

Worry when you start to feel comfortable. (in a bad glance you will react as solo rider)

Get down on speed and shift weight before the bend.

Have a safe and enlightening journey. Afterwards you will ask yourself as most of us had to do too:

"Why didn't I do that years ago?"

On, on.


We arrived home Saturday afternoon.  2200 miles, seven states, five days.

Outbound trip across I80 - I74 to Ohio then down to northern WV.  The skies POURED on us those two days.  It sounded like we were inside an oil drum with maniacal children beating on it with tiny hammers.  1193 miles.

Departed Thursday morning and took a much more sedate path home (except for Indianapolis.  I officially hate that place).  Took I76 across IL to US 36 across MO.  Some small amount of rain was acceptable each day, but not out of line.  We crossed back into Nebraska at Nebraska City hours before they closed the highway there again due to flooding.  No telling when it will reopen with the huge amount of rain we've received the past few days.  I think I've been witnessing animals gathering for some sort of boat party...

I took it out today to get registration and insurance taken care of.  First couple of turns were lurchy and pucker-worthy but it settled out quickly.  I will say that I need to not be in any sort of hurry with this rig.

Here are some pics of the rig in our driveway.



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You're quick learner.... speed limits apply to auto and sidecarists...

These machines are too much fun to ride fast and miss every moment of the ride. Go slow, stretch out a ride to enjoy more time in the saddle.


Thanks for the photos, good looking rig.

Sorry for not responding to my own musings sooner.  My computer got lost between the repair shop and boss' office for a couple of months and I've just gotten it back.  FWP, I know.

Any way. after returning with the rig from WV, the first outing with it was to the CMA Nebraska State Rally in Lexington, NE.  As far as I know, it was the first time a sidecar has competed in bike games there.  It is of some note, that by myself, I claimed second place in the games for our chapter.  Yes, I had a lot of monkeys in the car to do it, but for one guy on one bike, I call that a win!

Sadly, a week later, I took my wife, Karen, for her first ride in the car to the DQ in town.  I noticed a VERY unpleasant engine knock from the GL650.  Subsequent research and oil inspection showed that the big end of the con-rod was going out and it would require an engine rebuild/transplant to keep the rig running.  not happy.

Yet further research revealed (unsurprisingly) that I completely lack the skills, patience or knowledge base required to perform an engine rebuild and finding a decent engine for a 37 year old bike with a one year production run that would be worth transplanting was asking a lot.

So I parted the bike out.  sigh.  Made $50 on the bike itself when it was done and now I have a Hitchhiker Sidewinder car to attach to my 04 BMW 1150 GS.  I had originally thought that I would eventually need to transplant the car to the BMW and keep the GL as a runabout, but that plan changed in a hurry.

Now my biggest challenge is finding someone local to do the install.  I have a line on just the fellow, but he had to move from his shop at the end of June and hasn't gotten back up and running.  So I wait.  Something I have become fairly good at over the years.

Big box from DMC arrived Monday.  Subframe and parts to go onto the 04 1150 GS.

The big hill at the top of the rollercoaster is being climbed!