I walked out of the ER with both my parents by my side, a third of my shirt cut away, and a headwrap reminiscent of Erykah Badu’s made of gauze. The image would make a great album cover. I was injured for sure, but I survived without losing anything but some skin and blood. My father and I returned that night to where the Gold Wing was parked. It was scratched a bit, but nowhere near as much as me. We loaded it up on the trailer and took it to my garage. I sat there for an hour staring at the bike. I went to the bar afterwards, and as the bartender stared at my still bleeding head it finally dawned on me: the shop that worked on the Gold Wing robbed me.
Flashback three months, and me and my father were on a barely residential street in South End rolling the partially-inflated tires of the Gold Wing off the trailer. The owners came and greeted us and helped roll the beast down into their shop full of vintage motorcycles. There were Ducatis, Triumphs, Hondas, and Yamahas of all varying types. There weren’t any Gold Wings, which proved to be ominous later.
We told them to do any and everything they saw fit to get the bike in as good of running condition as possible. I left a check for two grand to get started and travelled back home. My dad and I kept riding together on the Harley’s week after week, racking up miles together. It was a fun time filled with stories and laughter, both of us getting time away from my mother (which he needed more than me) and enjoying the open roads around NC. Soon, three months had passed and the Gold Wing was still in the shop. Phone calls getting answered every time with informative responses to my questions devolved into a game of phone tag filled with excuses. One day I decided to call from a different number:
“Hello, [REDACTED] Cycles.”
“[REDACTED] is that you?”
“This is Ethan Gaines. I’m just letting you know I’m coming by the shop in an hour to see the progress on my bike.”
“You just answered your own question.”
I showed up at the shop, where the doors were closed and not a single light was on in the place. I called my dad and voiced concern that our bike would never make it out of the shop. The next day I made a more threatening phone call, with some curses and police action involved. I was asked for one more chance, and I obliged, not until reminding them that I had my lawyer waiting to gut them any second. Around a day later I got a call from the shop telling me the bike was ready.
It was running when I walked down into the shop the next day. It had a light hiccup and a nasty smell coming from the exhaust. They kept running a line about there being a bit of bad gas at the bottom of the tank. That varnish smell still sticks with me every time that bike crosses my mind.
I was just so happy to see it run under its own power I didn't even care if I was being lied to. I just wanted to ride my grandfather’s bike. The riding position of the big Honda was comfortable, but still wasn't exactly perfect for my gigantic frame. I didn't really care at all though, I just wanted to ride. So ride I did, I took the Gold Wing to do every in-town errand I could. It proved to be a solid fair-weather replacement for most tasks I did with an automobile. The trunk and saddlebags had enough space to contain a small grocery haul or everything you’d need for a weekend trip. The Gold Wing kept showing its usefulness and I kept riding, until the moment I didn’t.
I really don’t remember exactly what all happened. I was on Milton Road leaving Compare Foods, my limes and various dried peppers in the trunk. I was at a light and goosed the Gold Wing a bit because it started idling erratically. I do remember looking at the ground as I flew over the handlebars and when I landed. Beyond that there isn’t much I can put together. I hit the ground in just a way that my head landed first and rotated my helmet off my head before I slid on the asphalt another 20 feet. I still really don’t exactly know what caused the bike to stop so abruptly that day. I stumbled around trying to get back on the bike but I could barely take five steps before I was on the ground again. Passers-by stopped and kept me on the ground against a nearby tree.
Soon, I was on the ambulance ride to hospital and it seemed like no time passed before I was walking out with my half cut away shirt and headwrap to my Ford Edge. When we came upon the bike again after dark it started after a little effort, I remember the smell of the varnished fuel coming from the exhaust. It didn't stay alive long enough to ride it onto the trailer. I made it home and hopped on my Harley for fresh air, but my helmet and head dressing didn’t work together. So I hopped in my Subaru Legacy 2.5GT and headed into town.
I took a swig from my beer at my spot right by the corner of the bar at the Diamond Restaurant. I put my ice cold Stella Artois to my head and went into deep reflection about all that was going on. Hours later, I was sitting on the floor in my garage looking at the bike. I walked over to take it apart myself but just ended up back on the floor wincing in pain.
My dad came to me three days later with the info for a guy named Kevin, who was introduced to him by a friend. Kevin was a mechanic at the local Honda motorcycle dealer for over 15 years who did work on the side if he found the bike interesting. As soon as he heard what I had for him to work on he told me to bring it to him as soon as possible. So I did, and after another trailer ride to Gastonia, the bike was in his hands. This isn’t the end of the story just yet though, there is so much more to tell.