A Triumph Odyssey


Dennis Fisher and his 1968 Triumph Bonneville

This is a photo of me and my original 1968 Triumph Bonneville. I drove it home from the dealer through a snowstorm in Pennsylvania in January of 1968. Photo by Paul N. Fisher.

The tagline of Motorcycle Classics inspired me to set out on a six-day adventure around the southwest United States on my 1968 Triumph Bonneville with two friends: my old Marine Corps buddy and fellow combat photographer R.J. DelVecchio “Del” mounted on a 1987 BMW K75, and David Howell, a retired national sales/tech rep for Panasonic, on a 2002 BMW GS1150. David is a seasoned rider and having him along provided some comfort in the fact at least one of us had some recent experience with long-distance motorcycle riding. When I announced my plans for the trip to a few friends in our Central Coast Classic Motorcycle Club the responses were not exactly ringing endorsements. I heard everything thing from “you’ve got to be crazy” to “bring plenty of spare parts” to “not on that old Triumph.” In my heart I felt the bike was solid and had been running without problems for years but in my mind I conjured up a thousand things that could fail. The last time I embarked on a long trip like this was in 1969 when I had returned from Vietnam and took my original 1968 Bonneville on a trip from New Smyrna Beach, Florida, to Derby, Connecticut, and back, a 2,200 mile odyssey that saw the Zener diode fail and the battery split open. Back then there was a Triumph dealer in every town and having a bike repaired while on the road was a simple matter. Now I was going to have to be my own mechanic and as a result I ended up taking along a lot of tools and the phone numbers for sources that could overnight parts to me on the road. Prepare for the worst and hope for best was my motto for this trip.

Dennis Fisher in 1969

I rode my original Bonneville from New Smyrna Beach, Florida, to Derby, Connecticut, in 1969 after returning from an 18-month tour in Vietnam in the Marines. This photo of me was taken in West Orange, New Jersey, where I stopped to visit Rich Verderamo, one of my Marine Corps buddies who had a 1967 Triumph Bonneville. Photo by Richard Verderamo.

My wife Mary and I have been married for going on 44 years and she used to ride with me on my original Bonneville back when we were first married. She has endured my latter-day return to the bike of my youth with forbearance and good cheer, which has been a blessing to me. Embarking on a trip like this requires that you have your mind focused and free of distractions. Her loving acceptance of my journey gave me the peace to mind that I needed to enjoy the trip and for that I’m truly grateful. We love to travel together, especially to the National Parks, and have visited many of the locations I would encounter on this trip. I felt some sadness that she would not be along for this adventure even though I knew that this was not something she would enjoy doing.

11/29/2015 2:50:21 PM

Hello Dennis! Thanks for the colorful and well-written road trip report. I rode some of the same roads about a month later on my '88 Hawk GT. The afternoon I hit Kingman it was 105, followed up with a 25 mph headwind all the way to Vegas where it was 115; no need for a sweatshirt--I should have gone when you did! It IS rewarding to pull into the garage after a long ride on an old bike (2200 miles in six days in my case, on my 85.000-mile one-owner Honda) with no major problems. I hope you and your Triumph get to take a lot more trips together!

11/28/2015 5:55:58 PM

Thanks for the going to the trouble of writing it up and the photos, making an entertaining story of a long distance ride. Greetings from Australia, I hope to take a similar trip, taking in Monument Valley, in the future. In 1972 at 21 years of age I was in Australia's compulsory conscription ballot based on birthdate and was expecting to be called up and sent to Vietnam with Australian forces. I wasn't chosen. +++++++++++++

11/26/2015 9:34:44 AM

I enjoyed the read. I am restoring a 1970 Suzuki T500 2-stroke and this has inspired me to take it on my next motorcycle trip. Thank you.

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