Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Riding high

The flight from Honolulu to Hartford was mostly uneventful; I slept most of the first two legs -- HNL to LAX and LAX to Dulles. On the ground late Monday afternoon in Windsor Locks, Conn., Herman von Oy's big, yellow Dodge RV materialized as promised and we cruised to his home in Harwinton, about 45 minutes to the west.

(I say "mostly uneventful." I pulled out the laptop during my Los Angeles layover, checked email, hit "Standby" instead of "Turn Off" and put it back in my bag. Doh! When I pulled it out in Dulles, it was hot to the touch, showed two blue indicator lights but a blank screen and wouldn't respond. I took out the battery and repacked it, crossing my fingers that it would work after cooling off. Reading this, you can see it did.)

At Herman's the green KLR shared a garage with two scooters, a big yellow Suzuki Burgman (Herman says: "I like yellow!") and a Dragon Red Vespa GT 250, so new it still had the warning stickers. He trailered the KLR behind his RV to Mexico, Utah and up to Newfoundland, but his new plan is to carry the Vespa on a rack on the Dodge -- the Burgman is too large.

"Would you like to take a test ride?" he asked. Would I? Of course! Herman took me over the Kawasaki's controls and we put on helmets and jackets. He led the way on the yellow scooter. "It's probably the only yellow Burgman in the world," he said. He had it repainted to match the RV.

We cruised some pretty back roads, both paved and dirt, riding out to Thomaston Reservoir, a flood-control dam, empty today. We ran a few miles of divided highway, too, so I could see how the green machine handled.

Releasing the clutch for the first time pulling out of Herman's driveway, I felt the KLR was eager to take me on a trip. Compared to my Vespa GT back home, it isn't smooth or refined. Rather, it feels anxious to get moving. Once the wheels are turning, it's willing to pull in any gear, but happiest at 3,500 rpm. The ride is plush, the handling immaculate and the sound when you roll on some throttle at speed is exhilarating. This is going to be fun.

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