The Joy Of Motorcycle Reacquaintance - Part 1

Parting doesn’t have to be sweet sorrow, or forever

Boca Grande Causeway
A stop on the Boca Grande CausewayPhil Buonpastore

The text on my phone read, “Hi Phil, hope this message finds you well. I bought me a Harley. Going to sell the Honda. Giving you first dibs. You interested?” The previous three years had been particularly tough ones. At the end of 2015, after struggling for several years to make things work in my longtime home of Atlanta, Georgia, I was out of moves. Working 12-hour days in a tractor factory in north Georgia, some 50 miles one-way from where I was living, it had long since gotten to the point that I was asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” I had no good answer. Atlanta had been my home for more than 30 years. In my time there, I had made many good friends, built a career in engineering, and had played music in the Atlanta jazz community for most of my adult life. I knew the city intimately, and the mountains surrounding it; riding through the beautiful made-for-motorcycling roads, the seasons, the changing colors. Beauty to the eyes and a balm to the soul. It was a lot to give up.

Boca Grande Rear Range Lighthouse
Golf carts replace automobiles as the transportation of choice on Boca Grande.Phil Buonpastore

But after the economic collapse of 2008, and a long period of financial struggle to maintain my life there, I was exhausted in every way a man could be: spiritually, emotionally, physically. Done in. My family had grown up in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, and after living in other areas of the country for a time, the whole of my kin had eventually moved back to Southwestern Florida. I was the last holdout. Now it seemed like my best choice was to move there too, get back to the family, reassess my future, and pick up the pieces.

Southwestern Florida is a retirement mecca, an understandable choice for longtime hard-core northerners tired of snow tires and shoveling the driveway, but other than service industries and medical companies that cater to the retiree set, not so much for engineering professionals like myself. For the first few months in Florida, I had been living on savings, working with my brothers in their construction company, and looking for work. But engineering jobs in the area were few, the financial well was running dry again. I had only one real asset left.

Boca Grande Rear Range Lighthouse
The Boca Grande Rear Range Lighthouse has been an area landmark since 1932.Phil Buonpastore

My 2001 Honda Aero 1100 had been my traveling companion for the better part of a decade. Purchased in 2007, I had gradually outfitted and continually maintained the bike for long-distance travel, with everything from the basics like a windshield and lockable hard bags to a throttle lock and a very comfortable aftermarket seat with a backrest. I had ridden it from the Appalachians to the Cascade mountains and throughout the Pacific Northwest, from the Florida Coast to North Carolina’s Outer Bank Islands, the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Arkansas, Arizona, everywhere. It had been the most trustworthy of companions, and my outlet on the worst of days.

But now she too had to go. It seemed the last insult.

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A posting on Craigslist brought Sonny and Angie Gartin, who lived locally. He was a longtime Harley rider, and his wife Angie was looking to get her own bike. Nice folks. I had cleaned and polished the Honda for prospective buyers, and after the required haggling she rode out of my life, sold to the first people who came to see it. It was a difficult day.

Boca Grande graffiti
Local artwork is as far away as your front door.Phil Buonpastore

Angie sent me an invite to become Facebook friends. I kept up with her travels and experiences on the bike. At one point I sent her a message, half-jokingly, remarking that when she bought her Harley, I wanted first dibs on buying the Honda back.

Several months later, I was fortunate to get a technical writer position with what might be the only real engineering company in Southwest Florida. I was back in the taxable income column again. After several months, I had resigned myself to my quieter, less adventurous life, accepted how things had turned out, and got a place of my own. Life seemed back on track. I thought about buying another bike—eventually—but while my income kept me comfortable, not much of it was disposable. I passed it off to “maybe someday,” and let it go.

Fast-forward a year, and the text from Angie. One reservation about buying a bike that would fit the budget is that it would have be an older model—with the inevitable consideration about how well it had been maintained. Of course, I knew how this one had been maintained because I had done the majority of the maintaining. Angie offered me the bike for $500 less than what I had sold it to her a little more than a year before. It was a hard deal to pass up.

Boca Grande
Palms, pines, fresh water and salt.Phil Buonpastore

Strangely though, I found myself struggling about the decision to buy it back. My life had become settled, and even at the good price, it was still, in reality, an unnecessary expense. And then there was the reality of being 14 months off a motorcycle.

I thought I should at least have a look. The drive a few towns away to see the bike was a mental ping-pong of “Yes, I think I’m gonna do this” and “Is this really the right move?” In the final analysis, there is no way of knowing. I saw the bike, hemmed and hawed, then wrote the check.

My first 50-mile “get reacquainted” ride was pure joy, and I knew in the first mile that I had made the right decision. Second chances rarely come.