July 1, 1978 was a Saturday. The number 1 song in the US was Shadow Dancing by Andy Gibb which, for the life of me, I cannot remember even though it held that spot for 7 weeks. But it was the height of the disco craze and the songs were mostly forgettable anyway, especially after the great rock ‘n roll tunes that came out in the 60s and early 70s. Some of my readers were still in diapers and according to Google and Wikipedia absolutely nothing of significance happened in the world that day.
For me July 1, 1978 was the first day of a planned 9-week vacation, the day I was to load up my trusty CB550F and head for points west, Vancouver Island to be specific. A lowly civil servant, working as a software developer in Ottawa for Canada Post, I had been saving my vacation for a couple of years to make this trip. With some unpaid days thrown in I managed to scrape together enough time to be away all summer, as did a friend and co-worker. We had no plans other than a list containing the contact information for friends of friends who we promised to look up on the way and perhaps get a good home cooked meal or two and a place to sleep in return. I had packed and repacked my throw-over saddlebags and old military pack so often I could do it in my sleep (a skill that was later to come to good use). And I had found a spot on the bike to strap, hook, or bungee everything I needed for the next 2 months with room left over for the missus’ stuff on the return trip. So when I got up that morning I was pumped and raring to go.
It was as I rounded the corner in the underground parking garage that I saw my bike lying on its side in a puddle of gas that had leaked out of the gas cap breather. Fortunately it was beside the car wash bay so I dropped the luggage I was carrying and grabbed a hose with which I rinsed the area clear of gasoline before going over and righting the bike. My initial thoughts that a careless driver had clipped it and knocked it over were dispelled as soon as I saw the bent seat and broken seat latch. Some son-of-a-bitch low-life had pried up the seat and stolen the battery(!) and the Honda tool kit that was stored there, under the seat.
The seat pan was bent and wouldn’t lock any more, but the seat was still functional. The toolkit I could care less about but the battery was a problem. It was July 1 and everything was closed in the city. The next day, Sunday, the shops would also be closed as they were on Sundays in Ontario in those days. And Monday? Well because July 1 (Canada Day) was on a Saturday everyone got the Monday off in lieu. So unless I could find a battery somewhere it was going to be Tuesday before I could buy a replacement, and a 3-day delay to the start of our trip.
I called my travelling companion, Frank, and explained the situation. Then he and I got on the phones to everyone we knew who might have a suitable battery stashed away somewhere. By mid afternoon neither of us had had any luck. Then I thought to call my friends Bugs. I’m sure he wasn’t Christened Bugs but that’s the only name any of us knew him by. He was a great guy and all round motorcyclist. A competent amateur racer he usually had a couple of bikes around his place and was well connected in the Ottawa motorcycling scene of the day so if anyone could lay his hands on a battery it would be Bugs. I told him what I was looking for and he said he’d hunt around, reach out to his friends, and call me back in an hour or so.
Forty-five minutes later the doorbell rang. I opened it to find Bugs standing there with a helmet in one hand and a battery wrapped in rags in the other. He had pulled the battery from his own street bike. I protested but he was adamant and said he wasn’t going to ride that weekend anyway. I tried to pay him for it but he responded that it was an old battery he was planning to replace soon. So giving in I graciously accepted the battery, installed it, and we were on the road early Sunday morning, having only lost a day.
Well that ‘old’ battery took me more than 10,000 miles, zig-zagging out to the west coast and back, with not a single hiccup and proved, one more time, how special motorcycling friends can be.
The seat pan was still bent when I sold that CB550F a few years later.