As we are getting ready to move, some major ‘house cleaning’ is in order. A big piece of work was to empty and get rid of a 1984 AM General mail van my late father had in the yard. The ‘work’ part is getting it going; it has been parked since 1993. I did though and moved it where it can be easily pulled out of the driveway.
I have been using the van for years as a storage shed for my motorcycle where it was safe and dry. With the convertible parked in the garage I had no room in there and I certianly was not going to leave it outside. I filled the tires, rolled it out of the van and as I looked at it a whole bunch of memories washed over me.
I came across the bike one day as my father and I were visiting a old friend of ours. I do not remember how long Billy Cove and my father knew each other, but I first met him when I was 10 and was spending my first summer with my father. Over the years he has remained one of my dearest friends and, in fact I am in the process of buying his old house now that he has moved to another. Billy is now retired but back then owned his own garage and had a rock solid reputation of treating his customers with respect and fairness. You always knew that you would get the best deal on auto repairs from him because he never gouged his customers and stood behind his work 100%. For his personal friends He was even more dedicated. A couple of years back we were having a hard winter and in a conversation with him I mentioned that I was going out to find a generator because I was worried about a possible power outage. The woman who lived in the apartment below me had emphysema and was on oxygen; I was worried about her having heat in the event the power went out as well as keeping her oxygen system going. Billy thought a moment then motioned for me to follow him. With his knee problems he walks with a swaggering limp, he led me to a small shed and offered me a generator he had. When I asked what he wanted for it he waved the question off and explained with a shrug “I’m never gonna use it”
My father and I were at Billy’s garage that day because my father needed to talk to him. So, while they were busy I made myself comfortable sitting in his office. I noticed, parked along one wall, two motorbikes. One was a on/off road style bike and the other was this small black thing, dusty, missing a front fender, it was so homely it was cute. As Bill and my father were finishing up they came into the office. I had never seen the bikes there before and asked about them. A woman he knew had them sitting in her garage for years and asked him to try and sell them for her. They had been there awhile and he was tired of looking at them. I told him I kinda liked the black one, and asked what she want for it. “She wants $100, but give me $50 and its yours.” It was a done deal. I came back the next day, gave him the money and he delivered the bike a couple days after that.
I found a fender in Hemmings Motorsport Magizine, replaced the loud straight pipes the last owner had put on it with something a little quieter, and brought the bike to a motorcycle shop for them to go through. I knew next to nothing about motorbikes and didnt want to take a chance riding it with any potentialy hazzardous hidden problems. The bike had a little less than five thousand miles on it and only needed a few minor things to get it road worthy. The head mechanic had taken it on as a personal project and thanked me for the opportunity to work on it “It has been a long time” he said “since I have had the pleasure of working on one of these”.
Doing some quick research I found that it was a 1964 Honda 305 Dream and, in its day, was a very popular bike. It looks kind of like a Harley Davidson, with a big front fender, but also a bit like a BMW bike from that period. After I got it legally on the road I set out to learn how to drive the thing by practicing up and down the street till I knew enough to ride comfortably, without fear of getting myself killed. From the day I got it I had hardly a problem; it started easily with either the kick or electric start, it was quick and just as at ease on highways as it was on back roads. If the weather and roads were dry I rode the bike instead of my car. I met a number of great people while riding, and always got a kick out of it when I’d be passed by another bike and the rider would twist his head back over his shoulder as he slowed down to try and figure out what it was he just saw.
There is a ritual, when two motorbikes pass each other on the road: the riders give each other a wave. Harley riders though almost never seem to wave to anything other than another Harley; bit snobish if you ask me, but so be it. This bike though did get some respect from the older Harley owners. Most evenings during the warmer months I would ride at night to North Hampton (MA) and park out in front of Barts ice cream shop on route 9, along side the other bikes, and walk around town a bit. Occassionally some young Harley rider would see me parking the bike; be curious about what it was, approach, then make some comment about ‘Jap Crap’ and scowl as he walked away. If a older Harley rider was within earshot though he would set him straight; tell him ‘naw man; you dont understand, this is a Honda Dream – this was the bike to have when I was a kid, and what my first bike was’. I used to get a kick out of the site of a bunch of burly grey haired bikers fawning over my little Honda; and more than one wanted to buy it from me.
One day I came downstairs to go to work….and the bike was gone…Stolen from right in front of my house.
There is a distinct sickening feeling you get in your gut when you have been violated that way; you just can not comprehend that sort of act against you and you really feel ill.
I called the police, filed the reports; they really didnt seem all that caring to tell you the truth, but I hoped for the best.
A couple of years went by and I never heard a word again about my beloved bike. I always thought about it and after awhile decided to get another bike. One day, on the radio tag sale my father loved to listen to, a 1974 Honda 750 was being offered for sale. We went over to look at it, bought it, and brought it home. It sat in front of the house for awhile till I finally got up the ambition to do something with it. One thing it needed was a front fender, ironic, I thought. I went over to Hogans cycle shop in Agawam; he delt mostly in Bultaco’s, but had a wide assortment of used parts from other bikes as well. He and I were chatting a bit about my old Honda as a young kid listened. Hogan had a similar bike, smaller motor though, had really liked mine, and he was curious if I had ever gotten it back. While we were talking about it the kid butted in; “I think I know who stole that bike” I asked him some questions: what did it look like, how did he know the bike, who took it, etc. He knew the bike because he used to live in my neighborhood and had seen me riding the bike around. He described it perfectly and told me that one night someone he was aquainted with came up to him pushing the bike and said “hey, look at this old Honda, help me get it started”.
The kid told me that he suspected that it was stolen, didn’t want anything to do with it, and the guy left with the bike. He told me the name of the kid and where he thought he had ditched it, because, from what he heard the guy never got it running (what he didnt know was that I had hidden a kill switch on the bike). I took his address and told him that there was a reward for finding the bike and I would be happy to send it to him if I got the bike back.
I took the name of the guy who took the bike to the police, again they didnt seem too interested in the matter, and thought to myself how amazing it was that I had met a guy who actually knew what had happened to my bike. I also checked out around the place he had said he thought the bike was ditched, but, not surprisingly it was not there.
The next day I went over to chat with my buddy Haj who was a manager at Just Rite; a company where you could get work done on your vehicles like vinyl and leather seat repairs or accessories added to it. I told him the story about the guy I met, and how amazing, I thought, it was and he agreed. A day later I get a call from him; he had told the story I had told him to another buddy of his, Wayne, who said ” I think I know where that bike is”
Wayne worked as a computer guy for Bay State Hospital. One day, at their warehouse, the employees found a motor bike leaning against the building. A couple guys pushed it into the building and called the police. He said that it was years ago, but as far as he knew it was still there.
The warehouse was in the area the bike was said to have been left, so the next moring I called into work to let them know I would be a little late, dug out a old registraton I had recently stumbled across and went to the warehouse to see if this was my bike. A young lady was sitting at the receptionists desk and I told her why I was there. She looked up at me, thought a second, then asked “did yours look like a little Harley?” I smiled in return and got goosebumps as I replied yes.
She called the warehouse manager on the phone who came into the office and who took me out to the back. Some other guys had heard I was there and followed us as the manager brought me into a storeroom and pointed to the bike. I pulled out the old registration from my pocket, and showed them where the VIN number was on the bike – not easy to find if you do not know where to look – so they could compare it with the one on the registration. Then I pulled out the one that was still with the bike, under the rubber panel on the side of the gas tank, to show the name on it was the same as the one I first gave them.
The guys were all amazed that someone had actually come to claim the bike after all this time. They told me that after they found the bike and called the police that the police came, looked at it, and then told them that if no one claimed it in a few months they could keep it – this is a registered and reported stolen motor vehicle mind you. Well of course nobody came to claim it and, although the hospital didnt want the bike to remain there, the guys had a fondness for it and tucked it out of the way hidden in the storeroom.
Less than a week after I met the kid in Hogan’s shop I pushed the bike the two blocks to my home. I sent the kid a check for the reward and dropped a case of beer off at the warehouse. When I got it home I locked it in the van and there it has remained till today for, maybe, ffifteen years now. I sold the 750 years ago, but never had the thought to get rid of the Dream.
I think that I am going to bring it over to Hogan and ask him to get it going again; I had it running after I got it back, but the kid who stole it messed up some things and the bike is difficult to ride. After I met Sue it was no longer a priority; she had seen so many sad cases in her work at Bay State hospital of people getting messed up on their bikes, so, for her peace of mind, I let the bike sit; later my convertible became a decent compromise for my love of open air driving. But it is long over due.
I miss riding the Dream, and it would be fun to ride it with the rest of the Shriners in a parade and let the little bike stretch its legs again; it only has about twenty thousand miles on it, its just a baby.
You can see a larger photo of the bike taken yesterday here: