At 10,000+ feet there are many places where things can go horribly wrong on a motorcycle. Add in the complication of international drivers on technical roads in new vehicles and the constantly wary eyes of engineers, managers, and business partners and the stress could be overwhelming. But it never was. With the exception of a near “stall-fall” that again had me humming Ms. Franklin’s hit, the 950 and I bonded. Massive power and that long-travel suspension had me clearing up chicken-sized-boulder hills, crabbing past solid-axle cages on gravel flows alongside “trails,” and occasionally executing lovely smooth jumps and wheelies out of sight of the unconvinced.
Over the course of five days of some of the most spectacular riding any enthusiast could imagine, mixed with the fun of photography and the joy of getting paid for it all, she never let me down.
Brimming with confidence, a month later we were exploring trails in the Black Hills of South Dakota. My blue sweetheart wept only some fork oil, the by-product of her aging seals and my endless pounding. We brazenly clipped up trails with a renewed sense of companionship and a shared lust for what was around the bend—and then I was on my head. She had rejected me with a cold slap. It seems the simple addition of the saddlebags had made a pronounced impact on her trail worthiness—and an equal impact on an unmovable part of Mother Earth.
There we lay, our collective egos and some of her lovely bodywork bruised. It was in the moments that followed that I finally committed to naming her. From that point on, she took a name as unexpected as our relationship. Aretha and I will proudly ride on to more adventures together as a couple.