By: John Nispel
I didn't start out to own only Honda® motorcycles, that's just the way it worked out. My first motorcycle was a used 305 Dream. I picked it up when I was in college in the early '70s. When I moved from Springfield, Ohio to the Puget Sound area of Washington State in 1972, the Dream went with me, towing it rear wheel down behind my 1966 Plymouth Valiant. Financial necessity caused me to sell it a year or so later, but it was soon replaced with a K (zero) model of the Honda 750/4. The previous owner had partially "chopped" the bike, but he had saved the pieces and I was able to have them re-welded to the frame and return the bike to its stock condition. To this base I added a Vetter fairing and a luggage rack with a homemade wooden box to carry my law books securely.
In 1975 the 750/4 was replaced by a brand new Gold Wing®. It was soon outfitted with a Vetter fairing, a luggage rack (this time with a manufactured fiberglass top box adapted to the job) and set of after market saddlebags. It served me well for over fifty thousand, relatively trouble free miles, including the realization of my long held dream of a coast to coast motorcycle sojourn in 1978. Then in 1981, I saw an ad for a used Gold Wing 1100. When I investigated, I discovered a low mileage, virtually new machine whose owner was forced to sell due to pending back surgery. Suddenly I found myself the owner of a second generation Gold Wing and the Gold Wing 1000 moved on to another owner.
The Gold Wing 1100 proved to be another reliable machine and the 50+ thousand miles I put on the machine included the second quadrennial major motorcycle odyssey (QMMO), my second coast to coast sojourn in 1982. Each of these month long sojourns, which would become a quadrennial tradition in my life, used different routes through different parts of the states and Canada to and from my parents home in Pennsylvania. Stumbling across another deal I couldn't refuse in 1985, my next Gold Wing was a limited edition 1200, the only "Gold" Gold Wing Honda had produced to that date. This was purchased from a gentleman for whom the bike proved to be a bit too heavy for his small frame, mere months after he had initially purchased the vehicle. Again this was a vehicle which carried me 50,000+ miles including the third QMMO, in 1986.
As most of you know the 1200 generation of the Gold Wing had an Achilles heel, the stator. While the bike didn't exactly leave me stranded in the middle of a tour, I did have to purchase a spare battery and battery charger which was used to charge both batteries at night for the next day's ride. To conserve power I also pulled the headlight fuse since I was on the freeway and there was little danger of left turns in front of me, until I was stopped by Oregon's finest. At that point I found that pesky "loose" fuse and thankfully avoided a ticket, but that was the beginning of the end for me and the 1200. After replacing the stator on the 1200 (Honda was gracious enough to pay for the parts), the launch of the next generation of the wing, the 1500 found me at my local Honda dealer, trading the 1200 for a new 1988 Gold Wing 1500.
This machine was to serve me well over the next eight years and 50,000+ thousand miles including two QMMO's in 1994 and 1998. Just before I was scheduled to depart for the sixth QMMO, the opportunity to purchase a 1990 Gold Wing 1500 arose and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade to a newer machine. There wasn't enough time to make the personal modifications before the trip however and the 1988 made the trip while the 1990 remained garaged in Washington.
All in all the 1990 treated me well and the 50,000 was looming on the odo, but by 2002 when the seventh QMMO was looming, I made the mistake of test driving the next Gold Wing generation, the Gold Wing 1800. One test drive was all it took. In a line of great motorcycles, the 1800 was truly the product of all that Honda had learned and then some. I was at my local Honda dealer that weekend, a day after the test drive, to trade in the 1990 1200 and take delivery on my 2002 Illusion Blue 1800. A month later, it was carrying me east on the seventh QMMO and while I'm still a long way from accumulating 50,000 miles on this bike, it is clearly the best Gold Wing Honda has produced to date. Like I said, I didn't start out to own only Hondas, it just turned out that way.
Originally published in the December 2009 issue of Honda Riders Club of America.