Scoot Commute

65 degrees in November … It’s a Honda day!

Posted in Honda CB750 K3, Honda Dream 305, Pleasure Ride by sbahn on 2009/11/09

Erik with his CA77 Honda Dream at the Oxhead Tavern, Sturbridge, MA

All forecasts said that Sunday was going to be sunny and warm with little wind and highs in the 60’s…gotta love New England weather. Because of this fine forecast, we planned our weekend to have Sunday be about one thing: riding. Around noontime we pulled on our gear and headed over to the garage. I wanted to ride the CB750 and Erik took the Dream as it’s the only motorcycle of his that’s currently running. We’re in no rush to repair the BMW as it’s just going to sit over the winter anyway (someone is a wimp and doesn’t ride all year).

I straddle the CB waiting for a push from behind to get it off the center stand (how guys rode these things in the 70’s is beyond me as I’m no tiny little thing). Before he does, he says “grab the brake.” I reply, “Both of these are brakes, right?” indicating both front levers. He says, “uh, no, one of them is the clutch.” “Oh, that’s right, hmm, is this the brake?” I say, motioning toward the left lever. “Uh, no, that’s the clutch.” “Oh yeah, right. Duh. Clutch with the left, front brake with the right, rear brake foot, yeah right. Why do I forget?”

At this point he’s thinking I shouldn’t ride the Honda. “Oh don’t worry about it, it’ll come back to me once I get going.” We haul it out and it starts after a few pushes of the starter. That thing is awesome. I love it, I hate it.

We headed out, me in lead because it just felt so good to be on the bike. We stopped for gas (this one guy would not stop staring…he didn’t even pull his truck up to the pump properly, just sat staring out the window at us) and I told Erik he could lead after we conferred on which route we were going to take. I had planned on going back toward Southbridge, MA and continue up to Sturbridge, a ride I did on the Buddy a few weeks ago to attend a conference for work. The slow-paced, twisty backroads of Connecticut would be perfect in this fine weather.

As we approached the left onto Cahir to continue onto Dean Street, a horde of sportbikes approached from the other direction. All of them were on “vrrrip vrrrip” machines except one guy who was proudly tooling along on a CL175 with a red gas tank with white pinstriping. It was a little Honda lovefest smack dab in the middle of Broad Street as we all acknowledged each others’ good taste in Japanese steel.

Route 44 sucks. There’s always so much traffic and it takes forever to get out to the open part of the road past, say, Chepachet. It’s just people turning and shopping and lefts and rights and stoplights…I wish there was another way to get past the sprawl and congestion.

The ride through Connecticut was perfect. At one of the very few stops on the back country roads, Erik remarked that he’s never seen so many bikes out. I told him I felt like there’s no way we’re not being seen by the cars today…there’s just too many bikes.

We pulled into a gas station for a quick stop as Erik was getting chilled and wanted to put the liner in his Rukka. I pulled on my fleece neck thing as I hate the wind on my throat…it makes me feel sooooo vulnerable. Well, the electric start wouldn’t work. I have never kickstarted the CB so I asked Erik if he would do it. First kick, bam! Off we headed again.

In Southbridge we stopped at the convention center to discuss where to next. We got out the map and Sturbridge didn’t look too far away, so we decided to head up 131. The electric start didn’t work again, but this time I kicked while perched atop of the bike. Bam, first kick. We rode through Southbridge’s downtown, a neat look back at what New England downtowns used to look like with non-chain street-level storefronts with French-Canadian names selling furniture and dry goods.

There’s a hill that we headed down with a stoplight at the end. It was green so I was gathering up speed as we went down the hill. What I didn’t see was the light immediately following the first light. The second light was old and I didn’t see any light coming from it in the sunshiney glare of the afternoon. All of sudden I realize that Erik is slowing and stopping in front of me. Without even realizing he’s stopping because there’s a red light, I pull in the front brake and step on the back brake.

“Screeeeeech squeeeeeal” and then I’m stopped at the light. I had locked my rear brake and the bike started sliding to the right out behind me. Instinctively I let go and I felt the bike pull itself upright before I applied lighter pressure to come to the stop. I pulled up next to Erik; he looked at me with that “you rock” kind of look, and then I realized what had just happened. I started screaming “I have to pull over, I have to pull over!” As soon as the light went green, we pulled into a junk/used car lot that was on the immediate right corner…literally we rode 20 feet. In the lot I flung up my visor and sat staring ahead on the bike. I was shaking so hard my hands were all over the place. He leaned over and asked if I was ok. I said I didn’t know what happened. I felt the bike start to slide and my hand and foot let go. It was crazy instinct taking over. Thankfully it was good instinct! Erik’s response was “You’re taming the Beast.”

Me at the Oxhead Inn, Sturbridge, MA

Me at the Oxhead Tavern, Sturbridge, MA

After about half a minute we got underway again, and I’m telling myself inside my helmet, “It’s only another 12 miles or so, just ride.” We came upon Route 20 and the place we were headed, the Oxhead Tavern, was directly across the highway. We pulled in and I was very happy to get off the Beast. We know the Oxhead Tavern from going up for the textiles sale day at the start of Brimfield Week (it’s held in the conference center behind the Tavern). The Tavern is old. I love the hand-hewn wood and the giant fireplace (that uses real wood, no wimpy switch on the gas here). A pint of Guinness settled me down, as did a nice cup of New England clam chowder.

We plotted a different route home but got a bit off course (naturally). We eventually found ourselves on Route 12 which I knew would get us to Putnam and back onto Route 44. I suggested we swing off onto Route 102 in Chepachet on the way back. I love this road. It’s dark, it’s slow, it’s not well travelled, the tarmac is smooth, it smells nice. There’s not one thing to complain about. Before heading into the middle of nowhere, we filled up. My bike took twice as much gas at the Dream. All those CCs get hungry.

As we’re meandering along Route 102, I start thinking about deer. As in “I hope there aren’t deer here” and “I hope a deer doesn’t jump out” and “I bet the deer are afraid of the cars”. We come to the crossover onto Route 14 which will take us across the Scituate Reservoir and there are bright lights in my mirrors. I thought it was a car that had come up fast behind me (I had been watching the light from the distance approach ever so quickly). No, I was wrong. It was two jerks on giant bikes with three lights each in front who didn’t want to stop at the big red octagonal thing. I had barely gotten my feet off the ground and the first bike comes buzzing by me in my lane and then swoops around Erik. His idiot friend does the same. Just what I needed in the pitch black was to have the worst “cager” incident be with other bikes. I was so hoping to find bits and pieces of chrome and blue jeans all over the roadway in front of us at some point. No such luck so they can continue their harassment of other riders who want to take it slow (uh, posted speed limit of 35!) and enjoy the night air.

We’re putting along 14, going about 35-40 (again, it’s posted 35) and there’s no traffic behind us. My Honda Hands are hurting (read: the grips are not made of rubber but actually sharpened steel that cuts through gloves and skin and makes it feel like you’re squeezing razor blades) but not too badly and it’s a nice wrap-up to the day. All of sudden Erik pulls up. Bike is completely black. I pull behind him and use my headlight as a flashlight. He does some digging around with the headlamp and then goes underneath one of the side panels to pull out a busted fuse. We’re standing by the side of a not very well travelled road in the pitch black with a dead Honda Dream.

MacGyver springs into action! He opens one of his panniers and pulls out some of the wire from the taillights that are not hooked up. He starts twisting it and it finally snaps off. He pulls the rubber insulation off with his teeth. He rummages around in the other pannier and pulls out a roll of red bookbinding tape. He bridges the wires where the fuse should be and the bike roars to life. [I have shortened this…it took about 15 minutes and cars and bikes did pass us…no one stopped to help. Sometimes I hate Rhode Island.]

He throws a leg over and he rides about 1/2 mile and then pulls up. Note to all: bookbinding tape is not the best for connecting two wires. He fiddles with it a bit more and heads off again. This happens a couple more times until he finally removes the side panel. That did the trick because we made it into Silver Lake.

At this part of the journey he waves me ahead because I, *ahem*, supposedly know the way home. I say supposedly because I know I need to make a right onto a street that begins with an F and another right onto a street that begins with a W at the corner where there’s a yellow house with grass for a sidewalk. This should then get me onto Cranston Street. Well, I ride by a street called Farmington that a whole bunch of cars are turning onto/off of and I pull up. Erik pulls up next to me and I say, “That must be the street.” My attempt at a U-ey in the middle of Plainfield Street almost resulted in a little drop. I just can’t do the slow speed stuff after riding the Beast for 7 hours. I did get it turned around and made a left onto Fairweather. At each larger intersection, we peered at the street signs, but nothing seemed familiar. We kept heading up the hill and finally there was a sign for Webster Street. “This is it!” I shouted as I took the right. We made it to Cranston Street. At this point I could have ridden home with my eyes closed.

Man, I love the Honda. It’ll be very sad to see it go. But I really do think it makes more sense to keep the CB350 on the road as my “get of town” vintage bike. The bike has the same beautiful look I love but with a smaller frame and much less weight. I have no problem flat footing the CB750; it’s the darn weight of the thing. It’s about 560 pounds wet. I’m a scrawny chick with no muscles. It’s just not the right bike for me. Even if it’s the most beautiful bike I’ve ever ridden. Plus, I’ve got color ideas for the CB350.

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  1. […] I headed toward Brimfield, I saw the Yankee Spirits. Duh, it’s in front of the Oxhead Tavern. Duh. I had never been in the place. If you’re ever in Sturbridge, Mass and you like alcohol, […]


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