TOWN OF MAINE, Wis. — It's not a pretty thing, the 1975 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle that has carried Al Zahrt more than a million miles.
The seat is patched with duct tape. The speedometer and tachometer dials are spider-webbed with cracks from exposure to the sun. There are exposed wires in the fairing that run from the bike's electrical system to a digital timer Zarht installed to keep track of the time he's on the road.
The bike is a lot like Zahrt, the co-owner of Pro Motorsports in the town of Maine. It's practical and quiet, efficient and unassuming. That makes sense because the 61-year-old Zahrt has been the bike's only owner since he bought it in 1976.
In the four decades since, he's customized and tweaked the bike to reflect his pragmatic and functional values. Zahrt doesn't want a motorcycle that attracts attention and swivels heads; he wants a bike that works.
In the 41 years, Zahrt owned the machine, he's replaced the motor three times. He's gone through eight helmets. He's visited all 48 contiguous states and a few Canadian provinces.
Zahrt rides an average of about 25,000 miles per year. Between April and November, the Gold Wing is his primary means of transportation.
He was 19 years old when he bought the Gold Wing.
"When you're 19, you're not even thinking about the next day," he said. "But I wanted something I could trust. And back then, motorcycles weren't known for their dependability."
Those were the days when AMF owned Harley-Davidson, and the company wasn't known for its quality control, Zahrt said. He owned a Harley Super Glide and "indeed, the Harley did leave me sit, in North Dakota."
After that, Zahrt bought the Gold Wing, for $2,348.59, including tax, title and license. The Honda never left him sitting, he said.
Motorcycles have been at the center of Zahrt's life ever since he was a boy. He was 10 when an uncle let him and his cousins ride a small motorcycle, and Zarht's been riding ever since. He and partner Dennis Potaracke opened Pro Motorsports, a motorcycle, snowmobile and ATV repair and accessory shop in 1990. Before that, Zahrt and Potracke worked at another motorcycle shop.
Zahrt just simply loves to ride, especially going on long tours with like-minded friends.
"When we were younger, we just enjoyed traveling," Zahrt said. "When you're in a car, it's always the same. But on a motorcycle you're smelling the smells, feeling the sun, feeling the cold. You're experiencing it all."
Whenever he's riding, though, he's doing it because he wants to ride, not rack up miles.
"It's got to be fun," Zahrt said. "If I'm not having fun, I don't want to do it."
He doesn't foresee it not being fun anytime soon. Now that he's wracked up a million miles on the Gold Wing, a milestone he started aiming for around the time his odometer turned 500,000, Zahrt is considering buying a new Gold Wing.
They're better now, with nice-sounding stereos, powerful engines, and sophisticated suspension systems.
But he probably won't. The '75 Gold Wing "starts good, still has power, gets good gas mileage," Zahrt said. "It's running so good."