Forced to ditch beloved motorcycle
And so my beloved Rocinante was no longer mine. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
GWEG'S flight from Khon Kean was delayed.
He's late. There isn't much I can do, but wait at Cheaunjai Cafe at the Mae Rim Plaza.
Gweg is the first potential buyer of Rocinante, my beautiful Honda CB500X. I have to sell her, but the whole process is making me nervous.
I don't want to sell her, not really. However, I can't take her with my any farther on Dice Travels. Additionally, I need the capital. I estimated that I would run out of money about six months into this 365 day project, and I'd be right on target if it wasn't for a few individuals' generous donations.
Nonetheless, I can't afford to take Rocinante to Africa. The realization my faithful steed would come no farther opened up a world of options for the next destination. The die was given the options of Mongolia, Kenya and Vietnam. None of them are countries that I could have feasibly gotten Rocinante into.
So, I'm selling her. It's strange to feel, genuinely feel anxiety about being parted with my motorcycle. It has to a great extent been a defining factor in my image, of how I define myself, as well as a keystone to the Dice Travels.
Ridding along, it's not unusual for my gloved left hand to pull away from the clutch and fall onto her broad tank, slipping down the side to where the tank meets the black plastic of her body. Right there, along this ridge, my hand strokes the bike, comforting the bike, and myself, my fingers following her curves like a cowboy caresses the jaw of his faithful horse. Other times, when the moon is high and the sun is long gone, I'd find myself walking past Rocinante and, a bit sheepishly, I'd lean in and press my lips to her tank, giving my baby a kiss goodnight.
I was devastated about a month ago when I contacted Bike Saloon in Phuket, which helped me prepare for the trip, to ask what was the going rate for a CB500X kitted up panniers. I sent some pictures of my baby via Facebook.
“Now for cb500x... the market price is only 90,000-110,000 depend on the condition,” Kan Noize wrote me. A price range like that is hard to wrap your head around. This is a big block engine in a Honda bike; it's going to hold up for years and years, yet the market dropped out on it.
I paid 140,000 Baht for the bike when it had 14,000 kilometers on the odometer; it was considered an excellent price. At that point, the bike wasn't ready for touring. It needed upgrades. I eventually tracked down reasonably priced panniers for about 18,000 Baht, a top box (10,0000 baht), an engine guard (3,000 Baht), a bash plate (4,000 Baht), a higher windshield (2,500 Baht) and a few other necessary bits and pieces. At the end of the day, the bike was getting closer to costing me 200,000 Baht. On top of that, there is of course general maintenance, new tires, new chain, oil changes and the such – not that those costs are something one expects to recover when re-selling a motorcycle.
That said, 90,000 Baht is a pittance. A 15 year old 250cc Enduro-style bike in Kenya is going to cost me 2,000 dollars. Such an animal is a significant down grade from Rocinante.
“Last time I sell with box and new tyre, only get 110,000,” Kan Noize wrote.
“Wow, not a great price na.”
“Not a great price at all,” she agrees.
That of course is for the Phuket market, I found myself praying the market in Chiang Mai would be more reasonable.
Chiang Mai is a big bike town and a launch point for motorcycle trips in Northern Thailand, as well as the Golden Triangle. It isn't impossible to think that I might be able to squeeze 140,000 baht out of the bike given the upgrades. Either way, I'll be eating a certain amount of the cost of the bike on top of the expected costs of upkeep.
Two weeks ago, after my savior in Luang Prabang, Greg, took a couple photos of Rocinante for me, I put my darling up for sell in the Facebook group Chiang Mai Motorcycle Buy and Sell and Chiang Mai Motorcycle and Car Farang.
The Facebook classified reads:
Adventure Ready CB500X motorcycle (2014)
This 2014 Honda CB500X with only 34,000km is in great condition and ready to roll out for an adventure. It's an insanely comfortable ride and a beautiful bike. Only selling because I'm headed to Africa soon.
- 32L aluminum, waterproof sideboxes
- 34L plastic, waterproof topbox
- Metal bash plate / skid guard
- Engine guard
- Handlebar guards
- Extended windshield
Price includes essential extra parts for touring: clutch cable, brake cable, throttle cable, oil filter and spark plugs.
Also includes CB500X SHOP MANUAL.
Two weeks out of Chiang Mai and in no rush to sell the bike, I decided to jack the price. Greg and the mechanics I was talking with in Luang Prabang think I should be able to sell the bike for 5,000 dollars, about 175,000 Baht. However, they didn't know the Thai market, and selling it in Laos would incur all sorts of problems, as it would have to be permanently imported into the country and the registration changed, which could costs up to about 1,500 dollars.
On a bit of a whim, I set the asking price at 172,000 Baht.
In order to boost activity, and feeling a bit dirty for doing so, I ask a couple Facebook friends to unfriend me and pretend to be interested in buying the bike. It's a trick I learned from Nora when she was able to snap sell a surfboard for me for a 1,000 Baht more than I asked for when I posted it a couple months ago.
Even before my friends had a chance post anything, there was a flood of interest. Only a couple posts below mine was someone asking where he could buy a CB500X for his wife.
“Ooooh Isaac I like her! But I am in Chiang Mai. You're in Phuket, right?” writes Gweg, the first person to contact me.
I start wandering if I put it up for too little.
“It's a really good price, right? I mean it's really fair. It's good for me and them I think. I don't want to budge on the price,” I tell Emma for the fifth or sixth time. She's allowed me to commandeer her guest bedroom while I'm in town. Patiently, she agree with me. “I've got two buyers, so I can always just tell this guy that I have other people interested if he tries to bargain for the bike.”
On the way to Chenunjai, I'm talking out loud to myself, “No worries man, it's perfect timing. The extra day gave me a chance to change the oil for you and top up the coolient and stuff like that.”
The phrase “change the oil for you” has run through my head dozens of times. It seems perfect. It implies that he's buying the bike and it also gives all the indications that I'm a straight forward person who has taken care of the bike, which is mostly true.
After her oil change just down the road yesterday, Rocinante was given a good scrubbing. This morning, I rubbed polish into the tank trying to get rid of the scratches as I shined her up.
Even now, hours later, she's glistening like a high school girl going to prom with her first love. In the exact same way, I'm sure she can think of a dozen little things that would make her more pretty. The aluminum parts could have used more polishing. A toothbrush scrub on a few hard to reach spots would have also done her some good. However, to the rest of the world, she looks perfect.
I've told the second buyer, the man looking for a bike for his wife, that I'd be in touch after Gweg and I spoke. Hopefully, it won't come to that. Hopefully, Gweg will fall in love with Rocinante, as well as understand that I love the bike and that it's a fantastic deal. Hopefully, he'll commit to buying it within 30 minutes of arriving and we can settle the paperwork the next day.
I'm considering allowing him to roll for a 3,000 baht swing price. So if it's evens I sell it to him for 75,000 baht, while if it's odds, I sell it to him for 169,000 baht. We'll see what he thinks about the idea.
It's nearly 4pm and Gweg isn't here yet. I know I shouldn't be worried. He's been in regular communication, even getting in touch with me a couple days ago to establish the time and place to meet.
I'm in good shape with a good product and another buyer, I remind myself, yet again, as I pour a glass of water wait.
Gweg's a thin man with a five-o-clock shadow and tight curly hair. He sounds Scandinavian, but is probably form somewhere in southeastern Europe.
It's not easy to watch another man straddle your baby. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Talking a bit too quickly, I give him a run down of the bike. Praising my little beast while also being honest about the USB charger needing to be changed out and the plug I had to put in the tire when I got a flat in Laos
“How about the tires?” he asks.
Kneeling down in the late afternoon sunlight, I look at the tires. They've seen a lot of wear and tear since I replaced them a few months ago.
“They should be fine for a while yet. I replaced them two or three months ago,” I say.
I hand Gweg the keys so he can take her for a spin.
“Bring her back in one piece.”
“Don't worry, I'll bring her back,” he says as he pulls away.
“I'm not worried,” I reply with a laugh.
I take a seat at my table and watch him take off.
I hear him pop the clutch once he's out of sight.
I wait. I wait a long time. Within minutes, I find myself turning every time I hear an engine approaching. It's usually a scooter, occasionally it's a car.
Gweg does return.
He likes Rocinante. If he buys her, it'll be his first bike.
Kneeling next to my faithful steed, we go over issues with chain tension, talk about the sideboxes and how they don't interfere with carrying a passenger.
“Okay, let me check with my wife and I'll get back to you tomorrow morning,” Gweg says.
The next day pass in silence.
Not a good sign.
I do have other buyers interested, but nobody as keen as Gweg.
I follow up.
“She doesn't want I buy the bike for now. I am still working on her but.. I am not sure man. I need peace in my couple so I work on it, but it doesn't seem to be on the good way. She wants i buy new one.
I know that's not ur problem of course but i just be honest on the situation,” Gweg writes back.
“Yeah, don't know mate. I'd love for you to have it, and there is so much add in value in this bike.
Obviously, things have to be good for her too,” I reply.
As Emma put it: Jesus she's really got him by the balls. It's his fucking bike, right? And she knew he was coming to look at it.
Though, I didn't word it so strongly in my head, I can't help smiling at Emma's no-bullshit approach to the situation.
“Oh, when I was falling sleep it occurred to me that maybe she [Gweg's wife] is under valuing the side boxes, which can cost between about 24k and 60k baht, which blew my mind when I was setting up the bike for this trip a few months ago,” I write, making a last ditch attempt to sell him the bike.
The next morning, Gweg's succeeded. His wife is going for it, but she wants a discount and for me to cover the costs of transferring the Green Book – the registration.
I write several optional replies, tweaking them – which is better than twirking them – before sending them to Emma for her thoughts. It seems like the key is to avoid sounding like I'm saying no to anything, but rather keeping everything positive without giving him a discount.
“Instead of a discount – it really is already set at a very good price – how about I just go ahead and cover the costs of the transfer, just to make everyone happy,” I write. “As you know, I went ahead and paid to get the oil changed and the bike tuned up for you before even showing it to you.”
“Okay. Let's do it. I'll push her a little hahahaha.”
A GIF of a auctioneer hammering a booth with a gavel pops up: sold.
Gweg wants the bike today, which is a relief – less time for me to crash her.
Of course, I end up at the wrong transportation office, despite Gweg being unbelievable explicit about where I'm supposed to go for the transfer. Officials can't do the transfer at the transportation office in Hang Dong; it's got to be done in Nong Hoy. I'm at the one in Hang Dong.
Every bend in the road, every intersection on the way back into town toward Nong Hoy shakes me. I'm a lucky person, but that luck has to turn at some point, and this would be a disastrous moment for it to turn. The idea of having spent as much time on the road with Rocinante and even the bike before her without ever having a crash fills me with the fear of the Gamblers Fallacy – it must happen soon, right?
Past the train station and a nearby post office, I pull into the parking lot, dismounting Rocinante for the last time.
Gweg's Thai wife is there with him to see the bike and facilitate the transfer. First step is getting the province of registration changed from Phuket to Chiang Mai. We're told that will take a day. Then, we can sell the bike.
The other issue is that Gweg needs to have his place of residence certification from Immigration, which he didn't bring.
I sign a blank contract that Gweg's wife hands me.
“So, why don't we do this: I'll sign off on everything and we can settle the money part today. Then you guys can come back and finish the registration,” I say.
Gweg sees a red flag and hits the brakes.
“No, until it's in my name, let's hold off paying anything.”
He hands me back the blank contract to reassure me that he isn't doing anything fishy either. It's basically two honest farangs doing their best not to get ripped off in case the other pulls a fast one.
“We can do it all today if we put it in my name,” Gweg's wife says after talking to one of the officers after our number is called. “Isaac can sign everything and doesn't need to come back.”
“Nothing I own is in my name. My house is in her name, the car in her sister's name and now my motorcycle – a birthday present to myself – is in her name too,” Gweg says with hesitant smile; it's a common story in Thailand.
Done and dusted. Rocinante is no longer mine.
Gweg hands me a manila envelope with with 170,000 Baht cash. I count it in the back seat of his car as fast as I can; his wife needs to go pick up the kids from school.
It's all about the money, money, money... I don't care what Jessie J says. Photos: Isaac Stone Simonelli
It's all there. It's more cash than I've ever held in my life. I try not to ponder what profession Gweg is in that requires him to exchange this much in Euro into Baht, avoiding any of it landing in a bank.
Just like that Rocinante is gone and I feel nothing.
I don't miss her.
I don't feel as if I've lost a piece of myself. All of my memories of her are only captured here in Dice Travels, no longer existing in my mind.