LAST RUN WITH AN OLD FRIEND

The old GT380 needed a lot of work after the crosscountry run, and over the months that followed I did some extensive fixing-up. (Details here.) And did a lot of riding, including one longie: to the Florida Panhandle, and back by way of North Carolina and Alabama - but for some reason I didn't bring a camera, or make any detailed notes, so that one will have to remain unrecorded.

Despite my best efforts, she was showing her age; she had, after all, been asked to do far more than she was ever designed for. On the way back from Florida she started making odd sounds, though it was hard to tell since, like all the old two-strokes, she made odd sounds as a normal thing.

Early in the spring of '85 I took her up through northeast Arkansas and Tennessee to a little-known stretch of Kentucky that runs along the Mississippi shore. There are no cities of any size and the roads are all two-lane blacktop - at least they were then - with hardly any traffic.

At Columbus I stopped and spent some time watching the action on the river, looking at the towboats and barges, wishing I could go aboard; working boats and ships always fascinate me. There was a park nearby - apparently this had been the site of a Civil War battle - with a small campground, overpriced but with a great view of the river.

All night I could hear the towboats' engines and see their searchlights.

Not wanting to retrace my route, I rode on north and crossed the river at Cairo, Illinois.

On the way back through Missouri and Arkansas, though, the noises got worse. At a truck stop in Arkansas, a truck driver watched me making some futile adjustments. "Man," he said, "you just about beat that old two-stroke to death, ain't you?" I scowled at him and didn't reply, but I knew he was right.

After I got home I fiddled with this and diddled with that, without much luck. The noises turned out to consist, among other things, of fourth gear lunching itself; I pulled the engine and split the cases and rebuilt the transmission, mostly to see if I could do it. The frame tubes turned out to be cracked clear through beneath the seat; I got a friend to weld the breaks but it was no more than a temporary expedient. By now I was no longer trying to heal the sick but to raise the dead.

She finally died on me, seizing up solid, on a country road in south central Arkansas, not far from the town where Keith Richards once spent a night in jail. I thumbed a ride as far as the small town where I'd gone to high school, got off at the local bike shop, and rode away on a used Kawasaki that I didn't like much. Later I went back with a pickup-owning friend and hauled the old Suzuki home and sold her for parts.

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