søndag den 22. juli 2007

Wednesday Nov. 15 - The Nimbus at The Honda Museum

The traditional Japanese breakfast they serve is - untypically - the size of the American equivalent, I wave goodbye to the old hotel host, and find the Honda-owned and run Motegi Twin Ring, which despite the name consists of a lot more individual track, asphalt or dirt. The place is enormous, has its own motel, conference center, and a wedding suite for those who want to get hitched while hearing wails from race cars. Of course the surrounding area looks like something straight out of a tourist brochure.

Walking around in the museum, at some point I notice a sign describing the Honda CB 750 as ‘the world’s first air-cooled four cylinder production motorcycle’. Indeed. So I drag the Nimbus over to the restoration department, and get to talk to an Australian accented woman from a bit higher up in the hierarchy. She tells the museum also has a Nimbus. This really lights me up, but sorry, it’s in storage and the man responsible for things in storage won’t come back until next week.

Now if everyone just accepted a ‘no’, there would be a lot fewer marriages, and I would drive away from here a disappointed man. So I go on for a while about all the things I probably can tell them about their Nimbus, about my involvement in the Danish Nimbus club, how long I’ve searched for them here, etc. etc. I walk through all three floors of the exhibits, and sit in the cafeteria, marking all the mistakes in their rather limited English Nimbus material, when she shows up again, telling me that the Nimbus is on its way. Right on, baby.

It turns out to be a nicely restored Standard model, where predictably a host of thing aren’t quite right neither for a Nimbus, nor for a 1938 version. Right away I can point out 10 or 15 such things, and when the experts back home get to see the pictures I take, they will likely find 30 or 40 more. Of course I promise to send whatever reading matter in English that I have, as well as a spares catalogue and other things they surely can use.

And the rest of their collection? In one word: Perfect. Mike Hailwoods 125 cc racer with its aluminium fairing greets visitors at the entrance, the six-cylinder 250 cc engines are there, a for me hitherto unknown 169 cc boxer livens up things in the scooter section, and so on it goes. Occasionally other brands are exhibited too, usually for reference to whatever Honda they’re placed next to, and on the small plaques loyally described as a better or more successful vehicle if they were so.

The second floor has the street bikes, while the third floor contains perhaps 100 racers. Lots of racing cars too, either Honda’s own or the many marques that just used Honda engines. There’s also a line-up of small cars with 360 cc motorcycle-derived twin cylinder engines, as well as the jet turbine used on the very recent Honda business aircraft is there, in the company of a stunning old Curtiss race car with a V8 aircraft engine. Just a pity the museum is so far away from everything, that you almost have to have your own wheels to get there.

Upon leaving I once again dress up with all the clothes I have, put in an extra pair of t-shirts over my chest, because now it is all of 13 degrees, in the sun. If I jump on the expressway heading south I can get down to Chiba just in time to have dinner with Crazy Pete, the guy who helped me get the bike through customs 1½ months ago. Like this morning I ride through a hilly landscape, there are few cars, the road surface is good, and the low sun casts a warm glow over the scenery. I’m still sorry I have to leave this kind of Japan, but feel this is nature’s nice way of saying goodbye to me.

It has happened before, and no doubt it will happen again, that when I plan to be somewhere at a specific time, I momentarily enter a parallel universe, in which neither traffic jams nor my Christopher Columbus-like talent for navigational errors exist. Things are not made easier with some major rain showers halfway to Tokyo, so I get to Chiba at 8 p.m., about two hours later than hoped. Parts of the trip is being made on the large, confusing toll-road network of the metropolis, at places everyone does 30 kph, and once again my instincts tell me to do what motorcycles are so good at; riding between the lanes. And I enjoy it, because this is my home turf. At other stretches traffic moves so fast, that even at my steady 85 kph, the large trucks roll right past me.

At the restaurant I tell Pete the condensed version of my travels, and about the chopper- and hotrod people I’ve met along the way. Turns out he knows quite a few of them personally, so I guess it is just like at home: A small incestuous bunch of mecchano-nerds, where everybody knows everybody.

Tonight my sleeping accommodations are as odd as they were last night; I am to sleep on a shelf in Pete’s workshop, high up under the roof, so the dinner and the highway tolls have not managed to do serious harm to today’s budget. But mainly I stay here because it is just such an absurd place to sleep, in the company of my Nimbus, two-three Harleys and seven Indians, when just counting those that can actually roll on their own wheels.

Ingen kommentarer: