Motorcycles, Travel & Adventure


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About Free Wheelin'

Publisher Rathjen weighs in on different things pertaining to motorcycling. Sometimes a bit hard to the point and slightly abrasive, his Free Wheelin’ column is not afraid to make a stand on issues that he feels are of importance to riders and riding.

Name: Brian Rathjen

Current Rides:

Kawasaki KLR 650, BMW R1200GS

Favorite quote:

If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right.

- Henry Ford

Put Out to Pasture

A few friends and I were bombing around the backroads of Vermont last summer when I came up to a T intersection at the end of a long, hilly, and sometimes challenging gravel road.

Following the lead of my buddies I made a right, but then a sight came into view that had me roll slowly to a stop and pull out my camera.

In the middle of a pasture stood an old Corvette. Sitting there, basically abandoned I could not help but shake my head. I could hear a play on Prince in my head – “Little red Corvette – baby you look so sad.”

I grabbed a quick image, tucked away the Nikon and played catch-up to the group, who were now about a mile or two down the road. Most of them have learned long ago that Brian might ‘disappear’ for a minute or two for a photograph only to suddenly appear in the mirrors once again.

We found lunch at the great Rochester Café on Route 100 and in between sandwiches and mandatory maple milk shakes the ‘Vette came up in conversation.


“Did anyone see that Corvette?”

Indeed everyone did.

“You take a picture of that, Brian?”

“Indeed… it was like a sad combination of dereliction and Americana art. With a little bit of Photoshop that could almost be a display shot.”

“So you Photoshop everything? That is really a sad thing,” was a slightly snarky response.

“No,” was my firm reply, “Ansel Adams manipulated all his final prints, yet he is considered a photography legend and rightly so.”

My point made, well at least in mind. I am no Ansel Adams, although I do have a book of his prints.

How many times have we ridden by things that were once treasured and sought after and now find themselves left along the side of a house, tucked away in a barn with half a roof or put out to pasture in a field in Vermont.

Too many times I think.

The other day we were following a truck towing basically what was the chassis, frame and various parts of what was once someone’s pride and joy – a brand spankin’ new pick-up truck – now a hulking piece of rust but with, perhaps, a rescue attempt in the making.

I see shows on the tube where enthusiasts take years rebuilding, refurbishing and restoring old cars, bikes and even houses.

Last year I had trouble with my KLR and took everything apart looking for an electrical Gremlin. After a week of nightly searching I found I had little patience for a bigger rebuild.

I now know suffer from IGS, also known as Instant Gratification Syndrome, and this sometimes prevents me from slowing down to take my time with things… to get it right the first time.

There is a reason Shira shudders when I go to paint a room in our home.

Still, here was this - what once was a truck - being towed by another real running truck to some garage somewhere and in a few years something fine will roll out that garage, I am sure.

This truck had been saved from the pasture.

There have been some motorcycles I know, that might have wasted away, only to be saved from refuse obscurity by concerned riders as well. Our friend Rudy was at his uncle’s house when the subject of motorcycles came up. His uncle walked him out to the far barn and in the back there was a bike covered with an old tarp. Underneath, covered with a light patina of dust, sat an early 70s Suzuki GT750. Three cylinders, two-stroke and water-cooled. In fact, the first water-cooled Japanese motorcycle ever built. Back in the day it was nicknamed “The Water Buffalo.”

If these naysayers only knew that water-cooled machines would dominate the market a decade or two later they might not have been so critical.

Rudy’s uncle did not want it. Did Rudy? Indeed he did. Rudy has far more forbearance than I will ever posses and it did take some time but the old Water Buffalo lives and has seen the outside of the barn and the road again. If fact it spends a lot of time riding by pastures full of the less fortunate of its kind.

Next time you pass by an old bike, car or truck wasting away in a field or forest slow down and take a look – you just might find something that was once the apple of some owners eye; before neglect and apathy let it rot on the vine.

Some things should never be put out to pasture.