I hadn’t been in the cold wintry flatness of Kansas very long before Alice started encouraging me to look around for a decent, but cheap, motorcycle. The idea was that I could have some cheap transportation to work in all but the worst of the weather, and that we’d have a bike to do some playing around on when the weather got nice later on.
In the process of doing this, I ran across an ad in the paper offering an almost new ’99 Concours for $6,500. Since these bikes retail for $7,995, that was a pretty good price; even if the dealer came off a new price $500 or so, it was still a very good price. Assuming the bike was in any kind of shape, of course.
I called the man and arranged to go take a look. When Alice and I arrived and saw the bike, we were shocked.
This bike was immaculate! And it only had 120 miles on it!
We took it out for a short test ride. Alice had been very cool to the notion of looking at a $6,000 bike - it certainly didn’t meet the definition of "cheap". But, after seeing the Connie, and after riding on it, her attitude changed dramatically. She was suddenly quite interested in it.
As for why Ol' John wanted to sell the bike, when I asked him, he motioned his head toward the house where a cute little blonde was watching us from the front door and said, "She wants a bigger boat." My personal belief is she gave him an ultimatum, and he made the wrong choice. Oh well. My gain!
The next day we called the man up and told him we’d buy it. A couple of days later, Cognac the Wander Bike came home to live with us with 126 miles on the clock, 6 of them ours.
Until August, we managed to average putting close to 1,000 miles per month on Cognac. I rode him to work on a daily basis from early February to the middle of August, when I was laid off the job, but even with coming home for lunch most days, that only put 14 miles a day on the odo. On a few days off and a couple of weekends, we made some longer trips. At first, Alice was barely able to tolerate an hour on the pillion. We worked up to two, then three hours. Saw some of the more interesting features of Kansas, found a couple of neat spots for breakfast, and at least one cool place (Cassoday, first Sunday of every month) to meet up with a LARGE group of other riders.
In May, we took a "long" trip; rode to Harrison, Arkansas to check out the living there, then went on down to Fort Smith, via some fine twisties, including the Pig Trail, to meet Bams and Bear, two friends from Motolist who were making a 40-State tour. We missed them, but we had a fine ride. 1,158 miles in 3 days. Alice was impressed with herself.
This was our first overnight trip on the bike; Alice had been skeptical that there'd be room to take everything she needed. Well, she had good reason - but I still had the soft Tour Rider bags I had used on my Nighthawk, and I found I could stuff them to the gills and then mount them atop the Concours' hard bags, and she would still have room to ride behind me.
Hey, it was a tight fit, but it worked!
Still, the shortcomings of riding two-up were painfully obvious after this trip. We started talking about Alice getting her own bike.
Then, in June, after talking about it for a couple of months, we got serious about it. Did a lotta looking, and finally found a really great deal on an almost pristine 91 750 Nighthawk. (You can check out Miz Scarlett on Alice's pages.) She quickly practiced up to the point she could take her test, and got her M/C endorsement. Since that time, we've ridden together on separate bikes almost exclusively.
In July, Cognac went in for his 6,000 mile maintenance. Everything was A-okay, except they found that the main fairing bolt wasn't tight. From then on, the loud "clunk" I was getting when I hit sharp bumps was gone!
If I have one complaint about the bike, it's that it's so damn hard to photograph it. That Candy Aramanth metallic (NOT purple!) is so dark, it tends to disappear into shadow. Really hard to get any contrast when shooting a picture of it.
In September of 1999, we moved to Mountain Home, Arkansas. But if you've read my main page, you already knew that...
(By the way - if you own a Kawasaki street bike, DON'T take it to Extreme Sports in Harrison, AR. They are totally clueless when it comes to street bikes. I was never so relieved to get out of a place with no damage being done as I was to get Cognac out of there with the new tires installed. Go anywhere else! I'm looking at either Springfield, MO or Jacksonville, AR.)
In October 1999, we played host to a bunch of Motolisters who came from all over to Motomeet Arkansas. The weather wasn't perfect, being a little muggy and holding the threat of rain over us, but it held off enough that we got in a really fine 225 mile ride and had a lot of fun meeting people we had only known through e-mail and webpages up to then.
The fall of '99 was a magnificent one here in Arkansas - riding weather prevailed until near the end of November. We made great use of it, too, riding almost every day of the week. Went on several camping trips, including one at The Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky - Great Fun! We had planned on making a run down to the Texas Hill Country around Thanksgiving, but on November 14, Alice had a little mishap on Miz Scarlett. Went down at about 45 mph under improper braking. The bike slid on its right side, and she did some rolling and tumbling. Man, I hated to see that!
Fortunately, she wasn't hurt much - one little scrape on her arm requiring a stitch, and lots of bruising and battering. The Nighthawk looked pretty sad with several scrapes, dents, and a broken front fender. The insurance company totaled it, but we bought it back and did some light repair and it still runs and handles as good as new. Unless you really look closely, you can't tell it's been down - we often hang with groups of bikers and she gets lots of compliments on Miz Scarlett... most people don't notice the small dents and scratches.
We didn't go to Texas in November, but we did manage to do it after Christmas. Quick, short, trip of three days, and we took only the Concours because the Nighthawk wasn't fixed yet. Hauled Cognac to Fredricksburg on the trailer, stayed in an el-cheapo motel, and spent one full day riding the Hill Country. Had a great time, although it was just a tad cloudy and cool. Also drove into San Antonio and took in the River Walk that night. That riding put Cognac right at the 13,000 mile mark, and that's where he finished the year.
January 3, 2000, I went to truck driving school in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Yep, rode the bike down there! It was plenty warm enough the first week, but by the time I rode home the second weekend, the weather was a'gittin' cold. Alice drove me back for the last week of training, and after that I went out on the road, leaving poor Cognac sitting in the garage. I got to ride him only a few hundred miles over the next six months.
Things didn't improve a lot the last half of the year, either. I rode him to work at Ranger Boats in Flippin every day, and that added roughly 200 miles per week, but there wasn't much recreational riding going on. We couldn't take any trips and weekends were often busy with non-riding activities. We did enjoy attending the middle leg to the Continental Drift, the annual Concours Owners Group rally, which was held here in Mountain Home, and got in a couple of good rides in conjunction with that. We also got in another Motomeet Arkansas. Had a nice 200 mile with the Motolist folks then. Also partook of the annual Ride the Twisties gathering of Connie riders in Mountain View, but that was just a few hundred miles as well. Still, I estimated Cognac would see 24,000 miles by the end of the year. We were, after all, planning on another trip to Texas after Christmas. But, two things happened that flat put an end to the riding in early November.
First, I became ill. Caught the mother and father of all bad colds, almost flu-like. Only missed a couple days work because of it, but I felt so rotten that riding wasn't the smart thing to do. Secondly, at about the same time, the weather went to hell. Got colder'n kraut, and stayed that way. Coupled with a bit of frozen precip now and then, it pretty well shut me down. And, it only got worse. Bad ice in December, and at Christmas, it even iced in southern Arkansas and in Texas, putting the quietus on that trip. Both Cognac and Miz Scarlett languished in the garage for most of two months. Cognac finished the year with a mere 23,778 total miles.
It finally warmed up enough to clear the roads and permit riding on January 6 - we celebrated by taking the bikes out for fresh fuel and a 20 mile run. Still kinda scarey because of all the sand and gravel on the roads, but it felt really good, too. Then it went cold again - Hey, I love to ride, but temperatures below 20 degrees F are just a bit too extreme for me!
So, that about sums up my motorcycling experience. Hope it didn't drag on too badly. Thank you for taking the time and putting forth the effort to follow it with me. (If you didn't, and jumped ahead to read this last page, shame on you! Go back and do it right!) I hope you enjoyed it!
Who says you can't go