Stepping into the future from the depths of the past.
Somehow, I knew this bike would change my life the instant I laid my eyes on it. We come to sense these things as we get older. We grow sensitive to something, someone, some moment that will present a crossroad, and that the road we choose will have a profound impact on our lives.
I honestly can’t say what it was about the bike; I had admired thousands of motorcycles, all makes and models, over the years. I recall a vintage fully dressed Indian Chief with fringed saddlebags gleaming in the lobby of a swank hotel when I spent a weekend in Springfield, Mass., attending the annual model train show. That ride was arguably the most gorgeous machine I had ever seen. It transfixed me. But as breathtaking as it was, it did not tempt me to get another bike. My riding days were behind me. Forty years behind me.
Then, one Friday in the fall of 2020, the year of the Covid lockdown, my wife, Cheryl, and I were driving home from a shopping trip to Newport, VT, the nearest city to our rural home just south of the U.S./Canada border. (Jay Peak, a ski resort frequented by Canadians, casts its long shadow over our home in the late afternoon.) We were on a road we had travelled hundreds of times before.
Caught in a Light from the Heavens
Some 150 metres ahead, a motorcycle in the front yard of a house caught my attention. Even at that distance, I could tell that this was a unique bike, something less common than a Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, or Harley.
I pulled over in front of the yard. There, on the lawn stood a mint condition, wine and silver Triumph Bonneville America. I turned off the engine and told Cheryl that I simply wanted to admire the bike. I rolled down the window. Then I got out of the car.
An intrepid nature photographer, I had become addicted to travelling the world in search of sublime landscapes and wildlife to photograph. Now I was grounded. My days were spent mowing the lawn and picking up dog poop. (We have three English Setters, a Cairn Terrier, and two cats.) I’m not saying I don’t love living where people from all over the world come to vacation, but my pent-up wanderlust had me feeling like a caged animal. I needed a fix — something — but I didn’t quite know what. Could this Bonneville be what I needed to keep life interesting?
I hadn’t seen a Triumph Bonneville in years. Triumph discontinued the Bonneville line in 1988 and didn’t resume making that model until 2001. Since then, not many Triumphs had wandered into northern Vermont.
There wasn’t a “For Sale” sign beside…