By on February 7, 2013

His avatar in big

Remember TTAC’s Future Writers Week? You chose the writers. The writers wrote. The stories are in (well, most of them …). Here is the first one. Do you like it? Tell us. The stories will be published in the sequence in which they arrived in TTAC’s mailbox.

My neighbor growing up, Wayne Stork, was a quiet, gentle guy who loved machines. Growing up as a car nut myself, it was hard to miss the fact that the Storks had almost every kind of cool machine you could imagine – motorcycles, trucks, cars, boats, tractors, hay bailers, even a couple of bulldozers and a ramp truck. If it rolled, floated, or crawled, Wayne probably owned it at one time or another.

For a guy who loved machines, however, Wayne had one fault – he never took care of anything. As a result every machine he owned died within a few years of purchase. That was no problem, however, Wayne simply dragged it out into the woods and got something else. Nature took care of the rest.

Like everyone who loves machines, sooner or later Wayne brought home a motorcycle. It was beautiful black Honda 300 Dream with chrome exhaust pipes and hard plastic saddle bags. It was the first real bike can recall and the effect was mesmerizing on every kid in the neighborhood. It drew us in like moths to a flame and we spent hours admiring it as it sat on the car port.

Wayne was proud of the Honda. He doted on it, bought various doo-dads from JC Whitney and polished it religiously. Unlike so many machines that had preceded it, Wayne’s interest in the bike did not wane and he took good care of it – until he had his big crash.

Wayne’s crash was caused by a slick road in the latter part of autumn. His spill was not enough to do any real damage to the bike but it scared him enough that he brought the bike home, parked it under the eaves of the house and never threw a leg over it again

The years passed and the big Honda suffered as it sat semi exposed to the elements. The saddle bags filled with water and their once bright felt red linings rotted away. The seat split and its orange foam spilled out into the elements where it eventually hardened and chipped away in tiny pieces. Chrome parts pitted, then rusted and the paint faded to a dull hopeless shade of black. Generations of spiders lived in the nooks and crannies of the engine and their webs collected debris. The tires cracked with age and grass grew up through the spokes where it withered and died every autumn. The bike sat there so long that it ceased to be a vehicle and became a part of the yard. It languished, hopeless and forgotten, until the that I bought my own motorcycle.

Wayne’s son, Kenny, was especially excited when I brought home my Kawasaki. At 17 he wanted to ride in the worst way, and because my new bike was obviously off limits, he determined that the best way to get on the street was the old 300. So, like countless motorcycle obsessed teenagers before him, Kenny hatched a plan.

I wish I could say Kenny restored the old bike, but that didn’t happen. Together, we pulled the old Honda away from the side of the house and pulled the many strands of dead grass out of the spokes. We then used the garden hose to wash away a decade’s worth of cobwebs, dead bugs and dried leaves, pumped up the tires and added some lawn mower gas to the odd smelling liquid sloshing around in the old bike’s tank. After cleaning the spark plugs, Kenny used a screwdriver to jimmy the bike’s ignition switch to “on.” Then, Kenny started kicking.

He kicked once, then twice and on the third kick the old bike fired and struggled into a clattering, uneven idle. As it sputtered and belched smoke, Kenny revved the engine, pulled in the clutch and kicked it into gear. Easing out the clutch, he rolled the old bike down the driveway and into the street. After a moment of amazed shock, I followed on my Kawasaki.

The old bike chugged down the street and then out onto the six mile loop around a local lake. At every stop sign the bike shuddered and shook, but, when the time came to go again, it gathered itself and struggled onward. It wasn’t fast, but it was glorious. Upon our return, Kenny rolled the bike back to its place under the eaves from which, so far as I know, it never moved again.

You can say “they don’t build them like that anymore.” You can say that technology has stripped the emotion from the driving experience. You can say that today’s cars lack soul and that they will never be more than the sum of their parts. They said that back then too, and they were wrong.

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, he talks mostly about himself.

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34 Comments on “A Future Writer Story: My Neighbor’s Old Bike...”


  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    It’s a 305. Don’t shortchange that little engine!

  • avatar
    probert

    Sweet

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Momma

    Wow thanks! I own a ’67 Dream. It has managed to derail every attempt at awakening it from a decade + long slumber. Somehow the coil is so powerful it internally shorts the spark plugs. Ask me how long it took me to figure THAT out. The carb resists all attempts at fine tuning. Once I got the carb mostly sorted it still fouls the plugs every time I ride it. It’s nearly impossible to order the correct jets. I had the engine rebuilt but my Dream fanatic mechanic used an unfamiliar head gasket kit that might as well have been made out of white bread and it leaked oil within moments of its first start. I’ve pulled and replaced the damned engine 2x in a cloud of mosquitoes in Austin’s blistering summer heat. No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to get the points properly adjusted. The clutch is so stiff I’m going to have an enormous left hand. The front drum brake is a mere suggestion. Naturally I have an affinity for your story. Good luck.

    • 0 avatar
      Thomas Kreutzer

      Ask me about the time I tried (and failed) to rebuild a CBX. What a costly lesson and a miserable experience that turned out to be…

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Momma

        Do you mean that rhetorically or do I really have to ask you? Either way I’m quite interested.

      • 0 avatar
        Thomas Kreutzer

        http://www.motorcycle-database.com/forums/articles/2198-lifetime-experience-best-laid-plans.html

        I doubt I will ever use this story here so I guess it’s OK to post this link – unless there is a rule against driving traffic from the site and, if that is the case I’m sorry, let me know and I won’t do it again.

        Note that the way that site posts articles that the entire story takes up two (or sometimes more) message fields.

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Momma

        Having read the CBX saga I can affirmatively say I sleep-walked into my Honda Dream project thinking I was wide awake. Unlike your harrowing tale, my bike was intact, no gaping wounds so I’m finally at the finish line. My TR6 however sits half disassembled in the garage mocking me while I steel myself to finish it. I really admire guys who fearlessly dive into crazy projects like putting a Subaru engine in a 914 or rebuilding a 700R4. I couldn’t pull off something like that as much as I wish I could.
        Conversely, the guys I know who are really handy with tools couldn’t write an evocative sentence if their lives depended on it…

      • 0 avatar
        Thomas Kreutzer

        The worst part is, and I didn’t include this in the story because it makes it even more maudlin, that my father was dying from cancer when we had this bit of drama. It was about two weeks after he died that I finally decided to do what had to be done.

        I still look for projects, but when I see something really horrible I dredge this whole experience back up and it squelches the desire like you wouldn’t believe.

  • avatar
    Rusty Shackleford

    Excellent story! Just enough detail and inventive description that I can almost see, smell, and hear the entire episode. I’ve never owned a bike of my own, but I feel like I’m right there watching.

    One day, I hope that I can tell a similar tale about an old racing car, mothballed in an alley, that I walked past every day to grade-school. I’ll need some of your skill with prose to do it justice.

  • avatar

    Great first story effort. I read it and I was engaged.

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    Great start for the series. Bring it on!

  • avatar

    What an excellent story, Mister Kreutzer!

  • avatar
    Macca

    I found it clumsy and disjointed how this sentimental bike story finished up with a line about today’s cars. Not really sure how anything from that (well written) piece relates to cars – there was no previous parallel drawn until the next-to-last sentence.

    I’m also not thrilled with the subject as this isn’t TTAM. But I would like to read a more car-centric piece from you.

    • 0 avatar
      Thomas Kreutzer

      I won’t say I disagree entirely, the original story had a more languid style and I was asked to cut it from around 1300 words to 800. Some of my edits didn’t come off as smoothly as I would have liked and that comes through in my own rereading as well.

      Originally I posted those story on a bike site and went back to it for the contest since it had some good comments before. As you suspected I changed the ending for this version, although to be honest the previous version’s ending wasn’t as well refined as it might have been, in the hopes of sparking a discussion about the odd kind of spirit some machines seem to have.

      I have two original car related writings in he wings should I be asked to continue contributing, so we’ll see if those are more to your taste. Thanks for the astute breakdown, though.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Honda marketed these as ” Dream 300 ” ~ it even said so on the original tank badges .

    Back when these were $25 Motos , I bought many , tinkered them back to life and rode the living crap out of them .

    Not being able to awaken one after decades of sitting is almost impossible ~ they were built to incredibly high quality standards .

    Sudco or Siruus Conic has all the carby jets and kits you’ll ever need for any old Japanes Moto .

    Jets never wear out so just soak them in White Vinigar to un clog them good as new .

    CA77 (305) and CA72 (250) were the ” Dream ” Models , they were also made in 150 , & 160 displacen=ment but marketed as ” Benly ” (means ‘ convenient ‘ in Japanese and is pronounced ‘ Benri ‘) .

    Points are easily set to the correct .012 ~ .016″ gap then you time this as well as ALL old Hondas to the “F” mark ~ very important as the ‘T’ mark is the TDC mark ,used to set the valves cold to .002″ .

    If you’re fouling the sparkplugs the coil may be kaupti ~ get any old tandem 12 volt 1.6 Ohm coil and wire it in for bright blue / white sparks .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Momma

      Nate feel free to deposit here any link to the recommended coil because otherwise I’d just be flying blind. Re. proper timing, I’m going to spring for a custom electronic ignition kit so I can put points & condensers back in a museum where they belong. I can’t wait to get the damn thing on the road. I even scored some vintage Buco-lookalike saddle bags that should fit after some creative bracket fabbing. And a few hits with a big hammer.
      Now I’m off to real Herr Kreutzer’s CBX tragicomedy.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        O.K. , the original 1960′s vintage Japanese coils were so-so in quality , I’ve changed quite a few over the years .

        Anyways , I just go to my local Indie Moto Shop and they have large catalogs on the counter ~ look in the ” EMGO ” catalog for a 12 volt , 3 Ohm impedance dual coil and buy it ~ if they have an Epoxy coil , buy thet .

        Make 100 % _CERTAIN_ you test the impedence before fitting this new coil as the wrong impedence coil will blow the breakerless ignition in short order .

        NAPA used to sell really good Moto coils & points too , I no longer have that catalog .

        I hope this is sufficient info , if not let me know and I’ll look it up for you when i get back in two weeks ~ Mom is going into Hospice Care next week .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    vaujot

    I liked this story. Good start to the series.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    Thanks everyone for your kind words.

  • avatar

    I voted for you on the original series and I’m glad I did. Very good thanks!

    I sorta disagree with the end though. It does seem older cars and machines had more soul. Perfection is soulless. I was thinking about this today. I seem to bond more to cars that give me trouble than those that don’t. Part of the reason I’ll never own a Japanese car (if the stories are to be believed)!

    Thanks again.

    • 0 avatar
      Thomas Kreutzer

      I remember seeing your post at the time and thank you for your vote. It was a close competition and watching the results come in made for a long day for me. The whole thing crushed any political ambitions I might ever have – election night would kill me.

      One of the things I find interesting is that the bike in question was accused of being soulless when it was new as well. It wasn’t a V-twin or a two stroke so it didn’t, according to some people, make the right noises and it had that legendary Honda reliability. You met the nicest people on them because you didn’t have to live and breathe bikes or be a grease monkey to use one. They were appliances.

      Every machine, no matter how well built it is, gets quirky as it ages. I think maybe the quirkiness is what gives them a personality and eventually soul. If I get to tell it, I have a story about a Nissan 200SX that was there for me when I needed it most in my life – that car had a soul, I know.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      Yes the Japanese Motos are appliances , the older ones were *very* much so when viewed against the Harleys and Triumphs etc. of the 1960′s .

      Nevertheless , I rode ‘em all and still have some elderly Hondas , one reasonwhy I chose Honda over any other Japanese Moto is : they’re _ALL_ designed to be run ” On The Pin ” (wide open throttle) in top gear , as long as your bum can stand it ~ no other Japanese Moto from the 1960s & 1970′s can do this .

      For the soul part , I rode PanHeads , KnuckleHeads , BMW /2′s & /5′s before moving on to my current Urals , these are quirky Russian sort of BMW clones , very fun and reliable too in spite of what you’ve heard .

      My Son the Racer , rides only modern Hondas as he wants to go blisteringly fast every time he rides a Moto , I’m more a Cruiser .

      -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        Bimmer

        Nate, is your URAL 2WD? As some of them had a drive shaft for a sidecar. My parents have Ukrainian BMW replica – Dnepr:
        http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dnepr_(motorcycle)

    • 0 avatar
      henkdevries

      Perfection is not a Soul-blocker. Every car has it only it comes in different forms and shapes. It takes time, effort and the right circumstances before it will reveal itself to you. Didn’t your Karate teacher tell you that?
      Japanese perfection? You know the Japanese are a bit stiff, but if you throw 20 years at a car it will slowly reveal its Soul.

      My Hyundai Accent X3 had Soul. Not surprising from a care made by people who named their capital after it.
      A couple of years ago I was at a gas station and in front of me was a guy from Surinam. He had a purple Accent with flags of Surinam all over his car and his hub caps were of course extra flashy. I thought to myself: Wow, this guy really understands the designers. They made a car that wasn’t finished, it was up to the user to complete his car and thereby revealing the Soul. But with most of these things: people are too caught up in their daily lives that they don’t have time to see things in the right perspective.
      So there I was sitting behind my computer 3 years ago figuring out which car I had to buy for my road trip through Europe. The big destination was a festival in Serbia which can be quite hot during summer times. Through some scrutinizing I found out that the Accent was kind of reliable and cheap. Cheap because people didn’t see it’s Soul or only see a car that was halfway finished/halfway ugly. After searching up and down Marktplaats (the Dutch Ebay) I found one. It was 100 miles away, in the Netherlands that is a lot. But what was more important, this car had everything. It was pink, the color of the roof showed discoloration from the sun. A big black racing stripe emphasized it’s spine from front to back. The spoiler was black as well and the most important thing: it had tribals on the front bumper! The dealer also knew how special this car was. It was advertised as the Pink Lady.
      I went to see the car, found nothing really bad and declared my love to it. I bought it and took it within a week for a 3000 mile road trip. She gave me no problem at all during this hot summer in South-Eastern Europe. The 12valve engine actually purrs a little like a cat when driven at 70mph. I later added flags from Surinam at my back windows as a tribute to the guy who put this idea in my head.
      In the years I had it she never had any serious problem. Perfection does have Soul. You’ve only got to open up to be able to see it.

      I’m Dutch btw and the first gen. Accent on sale here were purple, pink and mint green. Awesome to me, misunderstood by most others.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    Is “Wayne Stork” some kind of mashup of Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark?

    • 0 avatar
      Thomas Kreutzer

      No, Wayne’s name really was Wayne – unfortunately he passed away more than a decade ago. “Stork” is close to his last name but I dropped a few letters to protect Kenny’s privacy in case he didn’t want his name blasted all over the internet.

      Kenny has seen this because I linked to it on facebook and approves. It is a true story, actually. We grew up together and Kenny and his sister Karen were probably the first people outside of my own family that I ever called friends. Their parents, Wayne and his wife Claudine, were wonderful working class people who led lives filled with the kind of stories that seldom get told. They, along with my own parents, set a great example and help set me on the right path in life. It’s an honor for me to remember them and to share them with you.

  • avatar
    Georgewilliamherbert

    Nice. Amazing that it worked…

    Good job on the story.

  • avatar

    Good start, with pics to back the story up.

    I had the scrambler version myself. It stopped running a couple
    weeks after I bought it. Kindly my drunken fathead neighbor offered to take it apart and “overhaul” it. The pieces sat in a box for some time.
    I don’t remember what I did with them.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    I see that I’ve made a right choice when I voted for you. Enjoyable read!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    See now ?

    This is why I like TTAC so much : this thread has meandered a bit and folks with interesting stories and information keep jumping in , this is priceless to me .

    Anyways , I own three Urals , a ’94 Tourist Solo with the scary (non DOT Compliant) sheet metal brake drums (YEEK !) , a ’96 Solo and a 2012 Solo sT I bought whilst recuperating from my fatal Moto accident , I wasn’t supposed to survive much less ride again but…..

    2 WD Side Cars are useless anywhere except on glare ice . Americans always want the biggest flashiest thing so they order 2 WD Hack Rigs then blame the Moto when it gives them trouble after they mis use it .

    If you look on You Tube you’ll see Urialists doing things in the deep mud & snow with just one wheel drive , it’s simply amazing .

    Dnepirs are no longer made , maybe because they didn’t seem to think round wheels were necessary =8-) .

    -Nate


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