The Queen is back. After six months in the shop, my Harley finally rolls into my driveway.

Readers of Onwards!, few in number though you are, will remember that we began with a cross-country trip, which ended abruptly on the shoulder of I-15, outside Cedar City, Utah. 

Yesterday, almost six months later, I rode my Harley home from the shop.  

If I’m honest, I’ll confess that I put our reunion off a few days. That my driveway has been frozen solid for the past two weeks provided a good excuse for not hustling up to High Country Harley Davidson the minute the phone rang. Ice and snow were not really to blame. In truth, I was ambivalent about picking up my bike and privately happy that it took so long to get her back.

Wherefore ambivalence? The cost of the new engine—enough to buy a brand-new motorcycle—gave me no small pause. The new engine’s size is a testimony to my excessive exuberance and a little embarrassing at that. That the original engine only lasted 30,000 miles hangs over me like a cloud. 

It all sits poorly. Getting back together with The Queen is going to take some time.

The box of parts unpacked on my desk.

The Service Manager wheeled out a big box of the old parts neatly boxed up. I handed over my envelope of cash, packed the big box into the Jeep, which I left in the parking lot for later, and rode the Harley home.

My height has always been the single determining factor for my motorcycles. If I were taller, I’d probably ride Adventure Bikes like the other members of my demographic. At 5’3”, most bikes feel tippy to me. Fine as long as the plot is in motion, but I’ve found that much of riding involves pulling over on a sloped shoulder or turning around on a dirt road. The Softail is Harley’s lowest big bike, and mine has smaller controls fit to her so everything is perfectly within my reach. After thirty thousand miles, we have an easy way together, the Queen and I.

She fits me like a glove.

The engine is entirely new. What hasn’t been replaced has been machined to exact tolerances, soldered together, or polished for efficiency. The new engine is huge: 117 cubic inches, or 1917 cubic centimeters, larger than many automotive engines. The power in the new engine isn’t that much more than that of the old one but the torque curve, the uppermost blue line on the print out, is impressively higher.  Suffice it to say, the new engine makes the bike lithe and small and smooth on the road. 

She feels like she was put back together with care.

At home, I unpack the box and spread the parts across my desk, fascinated but also a little queasy. I look at the scarred cylinders and the oil pump and fit the worn camshafts back into the camplate.

It’s quite a Christmas gift, my old bike made new. It’ll take 500 miles to break the new engine in, and I’m looking forward to it now, ambivalence chased away with anticipation.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

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