Il Mostro, in Black

My therapist chides me for drinking Bud Light.

“Don’t only frat boys, drink that?,” she says.

“What can I say?,” I shrug, “I’m getting old and I gotta reckon up somewhere.”

In one of my more hair-brained schemes, I lit out yesterday morning for San Fransisco to buy a 2007 Ducati S4RS, the king of the Monsters.

Miguel Angel Galluzzi designed the Monster back in 1993. It was a parts bin amalgam, vaguely inspired by Harley’s dirt track racer, the XR-750. Brutally aggressive looking, it was something a pussy-cat to ride, and thus very popular. In 2007, Ducati shoe-horned the famed “testastretta,” four-valued engine into the original frame and bodywork, called the result “the S4RS,” and then announced an entirely new version for 2008.

I’ve always wanted one of those 2007 versions. The newer ones are more refined, but no faster, and “The king is dead, long live was the king” myth that surrounds the S4RS appeals. It sure does.

I found one on Craigslist and, after a little negotiation with its owner, Brian, I decided that he was careful and trustworthy, and I wasn’t going to get much better.

I hit the road yesterday in the Jeep and got to Sacramento by ten thirty. The salt lake went by in a blur.

The whole plan seemed a little ambitious, even for me: drive to San Fransisco, get a U-Haul, size up Il Mostro, and drive back. I set myself three days, and didn’t post anything, just in case I had to turn back.

This morning I hit my favorite breakfast place in San Fransisco, The Plow. Belly up to the counter, the forty-year old programmer next to me started chatting away the minute my biscuit arrived. Sure she knew Ducati! Her girlfriend’s boyfriend worked for them, and he was—eyes rolled back in her head in mock faint.

Ms. Programmer was a thrill-seeker by proxy. Visited forty countries, ready to jump on the back of a bike, or clip in to the front of a parachuter, but would never ride herself.

She had just quit her job and gone on a mommy-daughter trip to the Italian Alps. “Oh, how old is your daughter?,” I stepped in it. Her eyes widened in shock: “Not my daughter! My mother!”

Brian lived on beautiful cul-de-sac on the edge of the park and the top of the world. Expecting a third kid, it was time to let the Monster go. We took the seat off, so I could touch the ground, and I took it for a spin around the block.

Hunched and low, the Monster exudes strength and menace. Its pipes bellow off idle like a bull in heat, and its clutch chatters like its shaking the very keys to Hell. But Italian bikes, like American bikes, have a soft edge—they communicate their limits beautifully, so you always know where you are. The end result is powerful, but not intimidating, a willing partner in seduction and, perhaps, misdemeanor.

I got off the bike when back at the cul-de-sac: “Okay,” I said grinning and sweaty, “let’s sign the title.”

“That’s it?,” said Brain, seemingly stunned. I paused—I hadn’t really gone over the bike besides riding it a bit. It was dirtier than I expected, and it lacked the owner’s manual and original seat, but it was everything Brian said it would be, and I trusted him. Besides, I had driven 1,250 miles to get this bike. I had played my hand. All that was left was to count the cards. Did he expect me to nickel and dime him now?

We loaded it into the U-Haul trailer. It barely fit. Hulking in the dark, it looked the part: A monster in the can.

We shook hands and I headed back into Bay Bridge traffic, my second time in the day, and then through the Sierras, past Sacramento, a little way into Nevada.

After a BLT and Bud Light at the Black Bear Diner, I think what Brian wanted was transition. How do we reckon life changes? How do we mark them. Feel a mid-life crisis and go on a trip with your mother or blow up your Harley and so go get a twelve-year old Ducati? Third kid on the way, so its time to let the monster go.

The symbols we live by are important, and we have to reckon them as we go. It’s hard to reckon life from the perspective of living it.

So that’s how I came to be drinking Bud Light in Fernley, NV, with a monster in the can.

I just gotta get it home now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Incredible story! Safe travels….love the spontaneity and linking the pursuit of the bike to our cycles (haha!) in life.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: