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Member's Story: 

Capt. Bob Grant USN/MM/ret.                                              
Albuquerque, New Mexico 

"Black Diamond From The  Land Of The Rising Sun"

Many  years ago I remember listening to a chronologically- enhanced gentleman tell a group of new bikers, "Once you have ridden a 'Wing', you will never forget that first ride."

It  has been many years and several bikes since I heard that, no need to tell you that he was right. I have been blessed with a wife that enjoys riding as much, if not more, than I do. So, it's no wonder we both love "Wings". We have spent the past several years in France, where I moved about 250 ships a year, as a Merchant Marine Ship's Captain. Our plan was to find a used 'Wing' and tour Europe on my off time. We looked at a lot of 'Wings' but most were out of our budget so in the end we settled for a very nice Suzuki Savage 650 and did very much enjoy touring most of France, all the time thinking about the day when we would retire and return to the USA and find a Great Vintage Wing just waiting for us.

We chose Albuquerque, New Mexico to retire for a lot of reasons, but "Peg " will tell you it was because we were meant to be here. Getting settled into living on land and in a house has taken a few years, but at last it was time to find our Wing. I started by checking E-Bay everyday, my  plan was to find a nice bike some place like Florida or California, and have  fun getting it home. Peg, on the other hand, felt it would be better to find one around Albuquerque -- pointing out the cost of getting one home, along with the fact we have a dog that goes everywhere with us. How did I plan on carrying him? So, I gave up the E-Bay plan and at Peg's suggestion placed an ad on Craigslist looking for an older Gold Wing.   

You  can only imagine how many calls I received. Ugh! Then the call we had been waiting for came from Dennis Elliott, GWRRA #117657.

"Hi  Capt. Bob, I have two vintage Wings for sale and only live a few miles from  you."

Great price on either bike. I could hardly wait to tell Peg about the good news.  I was surprised when she did not jump up and down when I told her. 

"What  are you going to do with the Suzuki?"
Ugh! Why is she always right? The rest of the day I acted like a little kid that just lost his Game Boy. Then it hit me! I will just ask Dennis if he would take my Suzuki as part trade. With this renewed plan I had my Game Boy  back and Peg just smiled, thinking "No way!  Ha!".   

I  made the call to Dennis. "My bike and some cash?"

"Sure, sounds fine, come on down and pick the one you want." With that, Peg and I were off in a flash. Up until now I had only seen E-mail pictures of Dennis' bikes. It only took me a few minutes to fall in love with his 1980 GL1100.

"Ok, Dennis, let's do the deal!"

We agreed on the cash difference and had a handshake to seal the deal.

Dennis then told me the history of this Wing. The bike had belonged to a chap that had ridden it from Anchorage, Alaska to New Mexico and sold it to Dennis, who then did a fair amount of work to get it running like new.

Peg  then dubbed it the "Diamond From The Land Of The Midnight Sun".

Later, after a repaint to black, did its name become "The Black  Diamond".

Now, Peg and I had our ride at last -- but what about "Red the Wonder Dog"?   she asked.

"No  problem," I said, "we'll add a sidecar." This began my hunt for a suitable, affordable sidecar. Back to E-Bay. Ugh! Ugh! They cost how much??? You have got to be kidding!

I was about to give up when once again, Peg, suggested another ad on Craigslist looking for an affordable sidecar. I did receive a few calls, but the cost had me thinking I might be trying to carry "Red" in a backpack!!

Then when I had all but given up, I received a call from a chap very near us in Albuquerque that had purchased the contents of a storage building and found, what he believed to be, the "running gear" to a sidecar and would part with it  for $350. It was worth a look since he lived so close to us. I made arrangements to meet him and as it turned out he did indeed have a very nice California sidecar "frame" and "wheel" along with a lot of different  mounts; We bought it on the spot. Later that same, day I sat Peg and "Red the Wonder dog" on a sheet of brown paper and began a pattern for what would be the sidecar body.

I decided to build it as light as I could using marine plywood to make the ribs and the base. Then covered it with 1/8" bendable plywood, all glued with waterproof glue and stainless steal  screws. I then covered it with fiberglass. Lots of sanding and  primer, later I painted the project black to match the "Wing".

Because I was lucky enough to get so many mounts, I was able to fit the rig to the Wing without losing too much of my thinning gray hair. A few test runs to get the alignment right with Peg and Red onboard and we were ready for a short road trip. They both love it and the Wing doesn't even know it is there, it continues to handle like a Wing should.

With that problem solved, I moved on to the next challenge. How to carry Peg, Red, myself and enough camping gear to make real road trips.

After such great success with the sidecar project, I felt good about building a small tag-along trailer and would use the same procedure used on the sidecar, ribs, base, bendable plywood and fiberglass. So far, so good.   

Now, all we need is some good riding weather and a road map.

I wonder if that chap I listened to those many years ago ever thinks about what  a seed he planted? All you need is Wing and a Dream. Ride safe and think about that first ride on a Wing.

Read More Featured Stories From March 2012 Wingin' It.