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Minimalist on a Motorcycle

Michael Emerson, the optician at Hart Optical, rides a big Suzuki. He tells me, “It’s a Cavalcade 1400 cc. Suzuki gave up on them in ’88 and built the last generation in ’89 from parts they had in stock. Mine is one of those ’89s.

“The first owner was a dentist. He had short legs, and he kept falling over on the bike. He would be on his tippy toes, because it’s a huge bike, four inches longer than the new Honda Gold Wings. He kept falling over and breaking the plastic. So he set it in his garage, and he sold it to a lawyer who also set it in his garage for a couple years.

“I saw an ad and phoned. I told the lawyer, ‘If you ride the motorcycle to my office, I’ll buy it from you.’ He said, ‘Without even riding it?’ I said, ‘I know these Cavalcades, and if you can ride it here, it runs. So bring it over.’ I had the cash sitting on the counter.

“It’s only got 50,000 miles on it. I’m hooked up with about 700 Cavalcade owners worldwide, and according to some of the stories I read, people are still riding Cavalcades with over 100,000 miles on them. They were engineered like no other bike, because Suzuki was trying to gain a market share against the Honda Gold Wing. The Cavalcade was built to last and to break Honda’s grip on that touring market. But Honda had a firm hold on the market and bigger money. They squeezed Suzuki out.

“Besides putting quality into it, Suzuki put everything on the motorcycle. It has an air compressor, and air shocks that can be aired up when the load gets heavy, and air bladders for the driver and the passenger, so the lower lumbar can be adjusted.”

“The Lincoln Town Car of motorcycles,” I say.

“It is. It rides smooth, and 1400 cc gives it a lot of pep. Four cylinders, four carburetors. And it’s rated for 1600 pounds. Which is about two passengers and full saddlebags and pulling a trailer. That’s powerful.

“Considering the fun-per-dollar ratio, there’s nothing like a motorcycle. So I try to save mine for fun. For trips. I enjoy riding by myself, because the solitude is what I like best, and the scenery. The way the Cavalcade is built allows you to see without the wind beating you up.

“We call riding alone ‘one up.’ I usually ride one up and go three days. What I’m after on the trips is a different look at things, a different angle to look at the world through.

“When I have time, I close my store for a week or so, put myself on a longer leash, and take some longer trips. I’ve gone across the Rockies twice, all the way from here to Denver and back, zig-zagging across the Continental Divide. This September, I’m riding from here to Yellowstone. That’ll be 12 days.

“I’m a minimalist when I’m on the motorcycle. Taking trips like I do makes you want to see how far you can go on the least amount of money.

“The best time to ride is sunup and sundown. After sundown, you stop. You eat. You sleep. You get up and go, all day, six to six.”

  • Michael Emerson
  • MOTORCYCLE: Suzuki Cavalcade
  • Bought: In La Mesa during 1995 from a private party
  • Price: $3000
  • Mileage: 50,000
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Michael Emerson, the optician at Hart Optical, rides a big Suzuki. He tells me, “It’s a Cavalcade 1400 cc. Suzuki gave up on them in ’88 and built the last generation in ’89 from parts they had in stock. Mine is one of those ’89s.

“The first owner was a dentist. He had short legs, and he kept falling over on the bike. He would be on his tippy toes, because it’s a huge bike, four inches longer than the new Honda Gold Wings. He kept falling over and breaking the plastic. So he set it in his garage, and he sold it to a lawyer who also set it in his garage for a couple years.

“I saw an ad and phoned. I told the lawyer, ‘If you ride the motorcycle to my office, I’ll buy it from you.’ He said, ‘Without even riding it?’ I said, ‘I know these Cavalcades, and if you can ride it here, it runs. So bring it over.’ I had the cash sitting on the counter.

“It’s only got 50,000 miles on it. I’m hooked up with about 700 Cavalcade owners worldwide, and according to some of the stories I read, people are still riding Cavalcades with over 100,000 miles on them. They were engineered like no other bike, because Suzuki was trying to gain a market share against the Honda Gold Wing. The Cavalcade was built to last and to break Honda’s grip on that touring market. But Honda had a firm hold on the market and bigger money. They squeezed Suzuki out.

“Besides putting quality into it, Suzuki put everything on the motorcycle. It has an air compressor, and air shocks that can be aired up when the load gets heavy, and air bladders for the driver and the passenger, so the lower lumbar can be adjusted.”

“The Lincoln Town Car of motorcycles,” I say.

“It is. It rides smooth, and 1400 cc gives it a lot of pep. Four cylinders, four carburetors. And it’s rated for 1600 pounds. Which is about two passengers and full saddlebags and pulling a trailer. That’s powerful.

“Considering the fun-per-dollar ratio, there’s nothing like a motorcycle. So I try to save mine for fun. For trips. I enjoy riding by myself, because the solitude is what I like best, and the scenery. The way the Cavalcade is built allows you to see without the wind beating you up.

“We call riding alone ‘one up.’ I usually ride one up and go three days. What I’m after on the trips is a different look at things, a different angle to look at the world through.

“When I have time, I close my store for a week or so, put myself on a longer leash, and take some longer trips. I’ve gone across the Rockies twice, all the way from here to Denver and back, zig-zagging across the Continental Divide. This September, I’m riding from here to Yellowstone. That’ll be 12 days.

“I’m a minimalist when I’m on the motorcycle. Taking trips like I do makes you want to see how far you can go on the least amount of money.

“The best time to ride is sunup and sundown. After sundown, you stop. You eat. You sleep. You get up and go, all day, six to six.”

  • Michael Emerson
  • MOTORCYCLE: Suzuki Cavalcade
  • Bought: In La Mesa during 1995 from a private party
  • Price: $3000
  • Mileage: 50,000
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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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