If a picture paints a thousand words and the song remembers when…than the nose inhales an instant flashback!
It’s finally starting to cool down a little here in Nashville. It’s been one hot summer and the humidity that goes hand in hand with it in this part of the south has been relentless and seems to just suck the life right of you. But, I believe fall is around the corner and the trees concur because they're dropping leaves like crazy here at the house.
The visual of autumn always conjures up certain memories of youth for me with the leaves turning colors of rust and yellow, bales of golden straw and orange pumpkins taking center stage at just about every store front, and bins filled with the deep red hues of freshly-picked apples that could make even the finickiest anti-fruit fanatic cave to the sweet crunch of Adam’s downfall.
But, as much as I love the sights and colors, it’s the good ol-factory receptors that get me going this time of year. The smell of the last cutting of lawns, piles of burning leaves and the pumpkin spice candles that Nan seems to populate every room in the house with, all let my nose know it’s autumn. After all, it’s 84 degrees here in Nashville today, so if it weren’t for these things, you’d not be able to tell it was October!
The good news is that as the temps drop here in Dixie, we finally arrive at the "comfortable" Tennessee riding season and fall rides are the best! Just outside of Nashville, there are some great roads to check out. River Road from West Nashville to Ashland City is a lazy 13 mile stretch of two lane that will lead you to one of the best catfish restaurants in town. Of course the Natchez Trace is also a smooth ride-just watch the speed limits. A ticket from a national park rangers is almost twice as much as a Davidson county ticket!
What’s almost as good as the ride though, is the smell of the engine firing up on my 2003 Honda Nighthawk.
This is my third CB750 and simply put, it's one of the best machines ever built to me. This classic, bullet proof in-line-4 cylinder engine tucked into its simple but beautifully dressed (to me anyway) frame, begs to get out and run this time of year.
No windshield, no faring, no fancy stuff at all, just face to the wind riding the way it's supposed to be. Because it’s carbureted, it still has an exhaust smell that takes me all the way back to my earliest recollections of motorcycles.
My dad had a Honda CB350 Four, my older brother rode a Honda Elsinore 250 and my first motorcycle was a Honda MR50. And, although these were Japanese-made machines, they're just as iconically American as anything to me because they were a huge part of my all-American childhood! Growing up on a farm, there were lots of places to ride. Natural trails made by the cows’ journey back and forth to the water trough made for a great dirt track and there were plenty of bumps and humps that became our own mini motocross circuit. That little MR50 is long since gone, but when I bought a 48cc chainsaw recently, I was reminded of just how small that bike was, but man, was I fearless on that thing! I still have a few scars from one particular crash on that bike that are over 40 years old at this point. Of course those were different days too where kids played outside, had a little more freedom and were expected to skin knees....among other scars, scratches and breaks! You'd be far less likely to see a kid riding a motorcycle in shorts, cowboy boots and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt these days.
Every time I start up the Nighthawk though, I remember those days because it emits the same smell as my Dad’s 350 Four. The nose takes me on an instant stroll down memory lane that I could take with my eyes closed and ears plugged. While I have thoroughly enjoyed our Honda NC700X and the Kawasaki Verysy 1000, they just don’t smell the same. I know I’m a weirdo! But I’ll fire up "Big Red” just to get a whiff of her sweet, adrenaline-pumping perfume. I can’t really describe the smell, but if you've ever had a pre-fuel injected Japanese motorcycle, you probably know exactly what I'm referring to. I had a Yamaha Radian back in the 80s that had "the smell" too. I miss those days and I miss those bikes. The modern fuel injected engine is nice, no complaints there, but those carburetors created some strong memories for me beyond the ride itself.
I’ve threatened to sell the Nighthawk a time or two, just because we could use the space in the garage, but I don’t think I ever will.
It gets a lot of looks these days since there aren't near as many on the road as there used to be, it’s a lot of fun to ride, and it’s as fast and quick as it ever was! But more than anything, the feel of it, the sound of it, and of course that lovely smell of the exhaust created by carbs, the only way carbs can create it, takes me back to 1970s Darnestown, Maryland. And although I’ll never be able to recapture those daring days of my youth, rolling through a Tennessee back road filled with autumn leaves on the good ole Honda Nighthawk gets me pretty darn close.