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One for the Road: As the mileometer turns

By Shadow

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Our Western culture seems to be big on numerical milestones—for instance, it’s quite an accomplishment for a married couple to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary, or for a business to reach the century mark. I’m certainly not immune to this social phenomenon, even if it’s just a marketing ploy (“The 10th caller wins two tickets to see Bon Jovi!”).

But this time, the observance was for someone—or, rather, something—near and dear to my heart. As my annual Sturgis pilgrimage was approaching, my FXD was coming up on 100,000 miles. According to my calculations, the odometer probably wouldn’t roll over until I was on my way back home from the rally, but still, it seemed appropriate that those gears would turn just after I’d enjoyed another year at the motorcycle Mecca.

This was the first bike I’ve owned that would come anywhere near hitting that magic 100K number, and it gave me pause as I thought about our years together. It had been more than a decade since I bought her, gently used, from Frank Diehl, former tech at Black Hills Custom Parts where I was also employed. The Dyna was purchased for his fiancée to ride, but it turned out that she’d rather ride on the back with her beau. So Frank and his future father-in-law would take the bike to events and ride her once in awhile, with Frank dutifully performing maintenance, just so the Dyna would continue to run smoothly.

When I heard Frank was finally selling the bike some four years after she came out of the factory, I hightailed it to his house to check her out. She only had about 3,000 miles on her, and she looked like she’d just rolled off the showroom floor. (Yes, Frank is that meticulous about both mechanicals and cosmetics when it comes to motorcycles.) I didn’t even have to take her for a test ride; once I settled down onto her seat, I knew we were destined to be together.

Frank had already set her up with proper front and rear suspension, a windshield, and other amenities that I considered requirements for a comfortable ride. I asked him to mount a set of new tires which I’d purchased, and then the deal was done.

The love affair has continued to this day, but I must confess that for a while, I was led astray by the brand-new Switchback that Harley released in 2011. This happened around the same time that Black Beauty ate another stator (or was it a voltage regulator?), which was not long after her ignition switch quit working. I was starting to think that the old girl wasn’t dependable enough anymore, so I purchased that Switchback, leaving the FXD pining away in the garage while Lucille and I romped along the Interstates and through the back roads, traveling to two Sturgis rallies and many more trips before I rediscovered my old flame. OK, what really happened was one day the Switchback wouldn’t start so I had to take the FXD.

I’d almost forgotten how simpatico we are, how she fit me like a glove, how responsive and, well, fun she was. So the love affair was back on, hot and heavy, through one bottom-end and two top-end rebuilds, not to mention numerous other upgrades along the way. With all the S&S components she now proudly sports, I consider her bulletproof, and sure enough, she hasn’t let me down ever since that last rebuild 20,000 miles ago.

While in Sturgis this year, I checked the odometer and realized I’d done more riding than anticipated, and that she probably would turn 100,000 sometime during the rally. I’d hoped to mark the occasion with a series of photos as the odometer was turning, and then I forgot all about it as I raced from one rally venue to the next. Friday morning, when I finally remembered to look again, the numbers displayed “100037.” I was seriously bummed out. How could I have missed that magic moment?

It wasn’t until I returned home that I realized what had happened. Some of my friends were talking about a ride on Wednesday morning, except one of them, Tom Von Rothinfink, didn’t have a bike in Sturgis. I offered up Black Beauty, since I’d planned to spend the entire morning in the house anyway, catching up on work. He gratefully accepted my offer, so I cleared all the crap out of the saddlebags and turned her over to Tom.

Early that afternoon, I heard them come up the driveway. I think Tom was a little surprised when I exclaimed, “Baby, I missed you so much!” and then sprinted over to Black Beauty and threw my arms around her handlebars and headlight. I don’t think I’ve ever loaned her to anyone before, and I really was glad to see her back.

But I digress. What happened is that she’d turned 100,000 miles while Tom was riding her. That traitorous harlot! After all the money I’ve spent on her for trinkets as well as hard parts! All the TLC I’ve lavished upon her! And how does repay me? She rides away with a man instead of spending this landmark moment with me!

When I told him later, his first response was, “From now on, when I borrow a bike from you, I’m gonna check that first. If it’s even close, I’m not gonna take it.” He followed that up with, “Now that I’m thinking back, she did give me a little bit of a hard time leaving the Broken Spoke. She stalled twice. I’m wondering if that was the moment, or right before the moment it went over to 100,000.”

C’est la vie. I suppose I can always start planning for 125,000. But it’s just not the same.

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