From Memphis to Nashville on a Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to own an Indian motorcycle. The Indian is, in my opinion, the ultimate classic design for a motorcycle. It was born in the era that also gave birth to the flowing lines of Art Deco which is reflected in buildings, railroad streamliners, signage and steamships.

But classic Indians cost a premium. The original company stopped manufacturing them several years ago. When new owners opened up again, contemporary versions cost as much as a luxury automobile. Beautiful as they are, they are beyond my pocketbook and my sense of financial stewardship.

It came as a surprise to me that during 2000 to 2006 Kawasaki introduced an Indian replica called the Vulcan Drifter. When one came up for sale in Memphis, I went to see it. It was priced right. In good shape. I bought it.

It’s as close as I’ll get to owning an Indian, but it’s close enough and hardly a compromise.  It’s newer technology and a tested dependable motor. On the ride home, an adventure itself, I found it served as a conversation piece in parking lots and service station driveways. It also garnered waves from motorcyclists passing in the opposite direction on the Interstate.

But that’s not really what’s most meaningful. It’s still about the ride. But I’ve long believed it’s also about style, and emotion. It’s about the spirit as well. A ride can be a meditation.

Robert Pirsig found it an occasion for a Chautauqua on values in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The bike inspired a sense of excitement and pleasure that is perhaps only understandable to another rider, and even then, perhaps to a rider who values a retro bike that looks like it came from another era.

For me that’s where the joy is; in the connection to the machine, to an aesthetic and its expressiveness. Classic motorcycles, as well as new rides, are about technology but they are also about design, emotions and, perhaps most of all, vaulting the human spirit.

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