Meeting the bike: New vibrations between my legs
After eight months of keeping an eye out for the right bike for Dice Travels, Joe sent an image of the CB500X to me on LINE. It was one of the largest financial expenses in my life. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
THE message came in through popular Thai social media platform LINE when we woke up in a tree-house suite on Phi Phi Island in January [well befodre starting my current relationship, which is important to note given where this is headed – Ed]. After months of keeping his eyes peeled for an adventure motorcycle for me, Joe had one.
Oddly, I didn’t want the bike to be perfect for the trip. It was a strange hope, but finding and buying the motorcycle for the trip was the first irreversible step toward making Dice Travels a reality – something for which I wasn’t sure I was ready. Additionally, the bike was an enormous purchase for me; it would make the top three on a list of the most expensive things I’ve ever bought, just behind my college education and my first second-hand car, a 1995 Toyota Corolla.
The bike was a mat-black Honda CB500X with 13,000 kilometers on it – mint condition. Joe, from Joe’s Bikes in Samkong, was asking 145,000 baht. Technically speaking, I didn’t have 145,000 baht, but I was close.
Joe, a Thai guy who has been wheeling and dealing bikes for more than a decade, seems to have a knack for knowing exactly how far out of my price range he can pull me. A similar situation occurred when he hooked me up with my first motorcycle, a Honda CBR250, about a year ago.
I agreed to look at the CB500X on Monday.
Two days after getting the message, I was heading to the shop on my lunch break. I was conscious that my cheeks were puffed out; I was anxious.
The bike was beautiful, but it wasn’t love at first sight. It wasn’t magic between my legs. It wasn’t a racer. It was a different riding position, with the saddle much higher off the ground, 81cm instead of about 78cm. However, it was exactly what I needed for the trip. As Goldie Locks might say, “It wasn’t too big and it wasn’t too small… it was just right.”
That was a Monday.
The first three and half hours of that particular Monday morning (midnight to 3:30am) was spent wading through the debauchery of Soi Bangla in Patong. Bill and Peggy (not their real names – I plan on keeping the number of professional reputations I ruin to a bare minimum) were in town for a week. They were the one married couple I knew that would genuinely enjoy the free flow of nudity at the island’s best-known strip club: Suzy Wong’s. After loads of tequila shots (seven for US $2.85) at a small bar down a side soi accompanied with scantily clad women gyrating on metal poles, we were ushered into the Chinese-themed club.
It was a small place with six girls on the center stage and a small crowd packed around them. Red décor pressed in on us as we found our seats, balancing the desire to watch the two girls, faces buried between each other’s thighs and the obligation to buy a drink before ogling.
The air cracked with the snap of black foam batons as the naked women and clients whacked each other. The sound is deeply satisfying in a strange way, but the batons don’t hurt – thank god; otherwise we would have woken up the next morning with some serious welts.
Then, in the midst of the debauchery, I found myself wrapped up in a passionate, animated discussion of grammar with the woman next to me. She and her husband of five years had saddled up next to us at the stage. They were visiting from Dubai for their anniversary; Phuket will forever be a strange place.
After Suzy Wong’s, there was Suzy Wong’s 2: Devil’s Play Ground, with medieval dungeon décor: chains and cages hanging from the ceiling. The better part of an hour and several more drinks disappeared while performing vanishing and reappearing foam-ball magic tricks for the girls, which was at least, a change of pace. It is hard to find a more receptive audience to a little magic than in a strip club.
Clearly, I’ve slipped down the wrong path with this narrative, so, let’s cut to the chase. After the night out, I was feeling fragile, to say the very least – I keep Soi Bangla ventures down to a bare minimum, which means they hit as hard as Thor’s hammer when they do land.
In this delicate state, I mounted Suzy – did I really just name the CB500X after a strip club? Of course not, she will remain unnamed until departure.
There was nothing to complain about. She was simply ideal. Further improving the situation, Joe said he’d take the CBR250 for 45,000 baht. (I bought it for 59,000 baht about a year ago.) It wasn’t the best deal, but it was the simplest.
Negotiations began through chat messages on LINE. Joe was getting upset as I pushed for a better deal.
My messages became more apologetic and friendly. He and I both knew he could get a bit more for the bike. Not from me, but from someone else.
“Cool, I appreciate you finding this for me. Let me know if you find saddlebags please. I’ll take at whatever price you say is right. Deposit on Saturday okay [sic],” one message reads.
Coming across the bike was like landing on Boardwalk on the first lap of Monopoly. There was no choice, but to empty one’s pockets; pass Go; and hope you can afford a place to park next time you roll the dice.
On Tuesday, I walked into Kasiborn Bank and withdrew my entire savings. My travel account went from 73,000 baht to 3,000 baht and my regular account dropped from 53,000 baht to 23,000 baht. With a bundle of cash in the inner pocket of my riding jacket, I began stalling. I popped into a local shop for some cow man gai (boiled chicken with rice), then looked for a lottery ticket.
Finally, I took my last ride on the CBR250 to Joe’s Bike Shop.
There were no discussions. I simply handed over the key to my first baby and looked apprehensively at my new baby. My mind was whirling with the additional costs of a rack, skid plate, saddlebags and crash bars. The list kept growing at a speed that my bank account could not match.
I put the thick wad of cash on the table and started signing documents. I’ve gotten used to blindly signing things in foreign languages; I expect to wake up on an operating table down a kidney at some point in my life.
A small plastic tissue box next to the desk where we sat had two dice on it. It read: Roll The Dice.
In a proper novel, such a clear plot device would be a great comfort to the narrator, or at least the protagonist. It would be a serendipitous sign that all was right. That he or she was traveling the correct path. A signal from the gods – Fortuna, Tyche or Inari Ōkami – that though everything might come sliding out from under him as he took the next bend in the road, he was at least on the right road.
For me, it did nothing. It was not a source of comfort. Amusing and interesting, but it failed to bring any calm to the internal turmoil of the transaction. I was simply moving forward with the plan, because there seemed to be no other choice.
Even the tissues were pushing for an adventure – though they did little to make me feel better about dropping such a huge chunk of cash. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli