A Decades Long Search Finds Its Fruition
September 30, 1992, a Wednesday, and I made a decision that rippled in my subconscious for decades. That day, one month into my first teaching job, I held my first real paycheck. It wasn’t much but I felt the money burning a hole in my pocket.
The devil on one shoulder muttered lies into my ear, telling me to squander my paycheck on a 1993 VFR750 which Honda had painted an angelic pearl white that year. I felt my paycheck slipping away.
But I resisted. Instead I obeyed the angel on my other shoulder and purchased a 1993 Honda Accord, in white of course. In my mind I told the VFR that, like MacArthur retreating from the Philippines, I shall return.
Then my recurring dream began.
You see, I have trouble sleeping. Most of my nights are spent waiting an hour to fall asleep, then waking up in the middle of the night, then trying to fall asleep again and eventually getting up early out of frustration. Sleep and I are strange bedfellows.
Then I read that having a bedtime routine helps program your body to fall asleep easier. So, starting that fall in 1992 and ever since, my bedtime routine has been the same: have a snack, make tomorrow’s lunch, lay out my gym clothes, brush my teeth and when my head hits the pillow, I close my eyes and play the same dream.
I imagine October in the Pacific Northwest. The sun is setting. Chilly air permeates the land as red and gold leaves rest on the road. I’m speeding north on my motorcycle, roadside trees flying by like I am still and the earth is rotating beneath me. Leaves stir in my wake, hover briefly, then fall back to the ground as my steed and I keep a brisk pace. Occasionally the smell of burning leaf piles fills my helmet. It’s sublime. I inhale deeply, hold my breath, then exhale. And my motorcycle?
A pearl white 1993 Honda VFR750.
The setting sun filters through the auburn sky painting pink hues onto the pearl white paint. Behind me, the 8-spoke rear wheel revolves on the end of the single sided swingarm like blades in a blender slicing the wind. God I love that rear wheel. In my dream I leave my body and watch me ride from behind just to see it spin. In my helmet a song plays: Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel.
I bought an 8-spoke rear wheel with a bike attached. When I squint, I see an RC30.
Why that song I never knew. Strange really. It’s an old song, overplayed and not my favorite, not even Peter Gabriel’s best work. But I never questioned any detail of the dream, or the song. Who among us questions how we are wired? Can we help what we love? So I accepted the dream without question and played it on repeat every night.
The decades after that fall brought a house, a mortgage, a son, a daughter, another son, another mortgage, and a minivan, or two, or three, or as Zorba the Greek called it, the full catastrophe.
And in the decades following September of 1992 the dream played on. Unbroken, unchanged, every night. Every. Single. Night. Same dream. Same odd song.
Fast forward 28 years to today. The kids are gone. There is no minivan. There is no mortgage. The catastrophe has surrendered. Two motorcycles live in the garage: a 1998 Honda VFR800 and a 1998 Honda SuperHawk. Yet despite these bikes the dream persists, every night, unchanged for 28 years: the October sunset, leaves, trees, something burning, a pearl white 1993 Honda VFR750, that heavenly 8-spoke rear wheel and damn that ridiculous song.
Every day I open my computer and search for the bike in my dream. I have searched the Pacific Northwest so many times for so many years that the Craigslist search parameters are the most common website visited on my computer. (a note to my editor-in-chief Rob Brooks: please feel assured that RoadDirt.tv is second. A distant second, but second nonetheless. Sorry Rob. I still love you man.) For sure the white VFR is out there somewhere but its existence, once certain, has become more legend, almost mythical. Like a unicorn, I know the magical white steed is out there yet no one has seen it. A beast that was once everywhere is now nowhere to be found.
Thursday, July 2nd, 2020, a morning like any other. I grab my morning coffee and sit down at my computer after a crappy night’s sleep. Typical. Reflexively, I click on my search engine looking for the unicorn like I have in vain for years. I stare up into space as the webpage loads, sip my coffee, stare into space some more and sigh, then look back at my computer.
And there it is. In Dallas, Oregon, a pearl white 1993 VFR750 in perfect condition. My unicorn. I inhale so hard I nearly aspirate coffee into my bronchial tubes.
If you saw this on Craigslist, you would choke on your coffee too.
“What is it?” asks my wife Vicki. “Oh my God,” I gasp to myself. She looks confused. I explain the dream. In almost three decades I have never revealed the dream to anyone, not even her.
“Why don’t you just buy it?” She says immediately.
“Wait, what? What did you just say?” I ask her to repeat what she said just in case I’m still dreaming.
“If you want it, if this has really been your dream for 28 years, then just go buy the darn thing,” she says.
I talk to the seller before Vicki can change her mind. Questions are asked, then answered, and a deal is made. I hang up the phone and stare into space. Is this really happening?
Monday, July 6th, 2020 and I have been driving since 5:30 a.m. from Wenatchee, Washington to make it to Dallas, Oregon by noon. I pull into the driveway of the seller’s house where the garage is open. I see the unicorn.
A pearl white 1993 Honda VFR750 rests there on its kickstand. It is pristine, save a paint chip or two, stock and complete, right down to the fairing piece that covers the kickstand, an item that usually flew off or broke after a few year’s use.
Twenty eight years is a long time to wait. It was worth it.
I give the cash to the seller as I prepare to take the unicorn for a test spin when I realize that I was so thrilled to leave that morning that I forgot to wear socks. Pulling on Sidi Cobra Air boots over bare feet is no fun. I start the bike and take off down the seller’s country road, a twisty, tree lined road meandering between Oregon evergreens. It’s an ideal testing ground for the VFR.
The unicorn performs. It pulls smoothly, stops well, shifts easily and makes gear whine noises like a precision dental instrument. Slightly heavy steering requires decisive inputs but the geometry and weight feels planted in corners. The unicorn and I bond immediately while behind me, spinning elegantly, is that angelic white 8-spoke rear wheel. God I love that wheel.
Taking the unicorn for its sunset exercise. You should know what song is playing in my headphones.
I ride back to the seller’s house, load the bike and head home. That night in bed, with the bike still on the trailer, Vicki and I have the conversation I was not prepared for.
“I love the bike,” she said. “I didn’t think I would like it, but I do. It looks…classy.”
“I love my unicorn,” I reply.
“So which bike are you selling?” Vicki asks.
Oh you silly, silly girl. That was never part of the deal.
“Sell a motorcycle??” I said. “Why would anyone, anywhere, ever sell a motorcycle?”
For the sake of marital harmony, what came next shall not be disclosed. Ever. I roll over and close my eyes.
I let the dream play.
Am I dreaming?
It’s October. Fall permeates the land as God’s meticulously crafted masterpiece pours colors and smells into my helmet. Gold leaves. Red sunset. As I ride, trees tick by in time measuring my velocity like a metronome for speed. Somewhere, something is smoldering. I can smell it. It’s glorious. I inhale deeply, hold my breath, and exhale. Beneath me is my unicorn, a long sought after beast finally corralled after 28 years of hunting. An 8-spoke rear wheel on a single sided swingarm spins behind me like a turbine as gear driven cams whine in the engine beneath me, rotating, intermeshing perfectly like a precision watch, always the same, never out of time. The unicorn and I are reunited, and it feels so good.
That night, I sleep well.
The next morning I unload the bike and take the unicorn for its first lengthy exercise. I insert my headphones before donning my helmet and play a song on repeat on my iPhone. Just one song.
Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel.
Can we choose what we love, or does it choose us?
Do you have a “unicorn” story? A bike you’ve lusted after since the days of your youth? A bike that got away? One you regret selling? What bike do you still find yourself searching for? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to converse with you about these.
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My dreams were the same,so glad you brought her from us
Just bought one of my 2 unicorns.
Vf700c Honda Magna. 1986 model
A “Tariff” bike made for 2 years only. From the year I graduated High school.
My next Im looking for is its Big Brother
Vf1100 V65 Magna. A MONSTER machine.
I will find a clean one and make it mine.
I owned one when I was 20 and it most killed me. Now I belive I can handle what it has, but it was ridiculously overpowered for me when I was 20
We remember the VF700 and V65 Magnas. Incredible machines, both. So glad you found “unicorn” number 1.
Let us know when you procure the VF1100!
Thank you Rick, for taking the chance on a long distance transaction over Craigslist. They don’t always turn out well. This one did. Well, for me at least.
Can’t wait to see the Unicorn in person. My dream bike is always my next bike. I change my mind as often as I change my cloths. Honda African twin, and another Yamaha FJR ES 14-16. Really like the Red 14 but think I need a 6th gear which comes on the 16.
You did let Vicki know the list of must have bikes for the garage was 5 when we all took turns trying to list our 5 only bikes for the garage. The search I believe moves to the RC 51 next. ?
I look forward to see what bike shows up on our next ride. They have their own way of talking to you and asking why it’s not my turn to get out. I’m sure the unicorn will understand why 98’VFR girl will needs to stretch her legs too.
It does sound odd if you tell your wife that letters like RC51 regularly appear in your dreams.
Ted, Peter Egan would be proud of your insight. Suffering too with chronic ninetythreepearlwhitevfrlust syndrome,
I understand your joy in the hunt!
Out of respect for my 78 year old “chassis and software” I am still in search of a museum quality 82 cb900f Honda. Just missed one from a dealer in Tennessee.. I have owned 2 of these and miss both.
HAPPY for your find.
If I buy any more motorcycles, I might be moving in with Peter Egan and sleeping in his garage. Which, actually, might not be all that bad.
My unicorn is a 650 goldstar BSA with a nickel tube frame polished aluminum tank and hack. I always wanted to take my dog for rides. I’d put beveled glass leather goggles on him and let his ears flap in the wind.
Your unicorn is spectacular, even the 8 spoke rear wheel.
That, is quite the unicorn, Hutch. Here’s hoping you catch her someday, and she fulfills a dog’s dream.
Mine is an early 70s Bultaco Pursang. I also know that, as with romance, some fantasies are better left as fantasies. Finicky and unreliable even when new, I know that bike would leave me with so much time holding a wrench that I’d never have time to ride any of my bikes. But, man, what a bike.
Get it Marcos. If it stirs those emotions in you, then you will never regret getting it. I had to pull all four carbs on my Unicorn and rebuild them while still connected as a bank. Time consuming, but worth it. Turning a wrench is always a good way to build a relationship with a Unicorn.
Been wanting to buy a 1986 Suzuki GSX-R 750 since the day my friend picked his up from the dealership in May 1986. Such a fantastic bike, the one that set the sport bike world on its ear. In my mind, forever the standard when talking repli-racers and sport bikes. I found one once, but was destroyed in the bidding, never coming close to actually acquiring my unicorn.
Just this winter, I felt those incredibly jealous (and deflated) feelings when my friend sends me a pic of his new purchase; a 1986 Suzuki GSX-R 750 that he found online. He had been searching for years as well. I felt great happiness for him but deep down was completely gutted that I hadn’t found it first…the search continues.
The rarity of the bike makes the hunt even more sweet and the capture an event worth celebrating. If it was easy, everyone would have one. So hunt relentlessly, it is the only way to capture a unicorn.
I think, given my family history with Triumphs, I’ve captured my “unicorn” as well- 2017 Bonneville 900 Street Cup. I’ve always wanted to own a Bonney, but not being much of a mechanic, was always leery of acquiring one of the older gems like my dad’s.
I love this “modern classic”- modern, in that it’s reliable and refined. Classic, in that it resembles and reminds of the rich heritage it is descended from.