Pacific Ocean. – Inset shows bike before the tsunami.
Epic journeys always stir the imagination. There was Lewis and Clark, Shackleton, Lindbergh, even Milo and Otis. Some journeys are planned, while others are unexpected. Most of these travels are taken by people, but some have involved animals. There will be a story in the news a couple of times every year about some dog or cat, who made their way back to a family after an unfortunate, and usually unexpected, separation. So far the principals of all of the tales I’ve read or heard about were biological creatures.
But now comes the news of a 4,000-mile journey from Japan to Graham Island, off the coast of British Columbia, taken by a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The trek was taken over water, unusual for a motorcycle, and sans rider. The bike, owned by Japan’s IkuoYokoyam, was stored in a white container. It was washed out to sea during the March 11, 2011, tsunami. It was found on April 18, 2012, by Canadian Peter Mark. Apparently the bike, inside the container box, had ridden the ocean currents across the Pacific. No epic journey is ever leisurely, leaving the one undertaking it unscathed. And this one is no different. When found, the bike was covered in corrosion. It’s unclear whether it will be salvageable. But also, like all epic tales, this one ends with a trip home. The bike will be shipped back to Japan, and the shop that sold it to Mr. Yokoyama will help with the paperwork and storage. The faithful steed, after being ripped away from home, will return to its owner, somewhat worse for wear but undefeated.
There will be those who will snort and say that a piece of trash just washed up on a beach. Some will insist that this in an inanimate object and that imbuing it with the nobility of cause is nothing but anthropomorphizing.
“It’s a machine for crying out loud,” they’ll say. “It can’t have any affection for an owner.”
But those of us who’ve thrown leg over beloved machines know better. They can be cantankerous and pouty when left setting up too long. But they can bring joy and freedom of spirit too. They can share with you eldritch moments that only speak heart to heart. And when the chips are down they can hang in there for you, continuing to run even as they’re hurting to take you the last miles to home.
They don’t come from the factory like this. The soul of a bike comes from its rider. It absorbs, or maybe merely echoes, the emotions we experience as we ride. But eventually the bike will take on those characteristics, and its rider will feel and respond to them.
The reunion will be bittersweet. Mr. Yokoyama will feel joy at the reunion, and sadness for what his bike has suffered. Hopefully the wounds can be healed and they will share many more moments and miles.
－ Guy Wheatley