Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Symba Naming Saga

Tiny, Nancy, and Sampson were the tractors my Grandfather owned when I was growing up. Ping was the name he gave the farm truck. I suspect he named these beasts of burden just as he had named the horses they replaced. I don't remember him ever naming his cars, just the work vehicles. 

I named the first car I owned and several after that, but eventually I, too, stopped naming my cars. They became the Neon, the Lynx, the Jetta, etc. There were occasional exceptions to this pattern. One that comes to mind is a blue Suzuki Samurai hardtop. I drove that vehicle way over 100,000 miles. I still have a framed picture of it on my bookcase. I loved that little beast. It's name was Sam-I-am.

When I bought a little blue 49cc scooter I didn't plan to name it -- it just happened. I don't think I was out of the dealer's parking lot before I was thinking of it as Lil' Blue. I sold Lil' Blue in order to buy a Symba.

I knew I was going to name the Symba. I started thinking about a name before I even put down a deposit on the bike. I'll admit I even had one picked out before I picked the Symba up from the dealer. Heather had counseled me to wait and see if the Symba would reveal its name to me just as Lil' Blue had given me his. And, of course, Heather was right. When I took delivery of the Symba and rode it home it was obvious to me that the name I had chosen was all wrong.
The day I picked up the Symba. Before any farkles.

I took possession of the Symba on a Saturday. Shifting with an automatic clutch took more getting used to than I had expected. It was the end of February and it was cold. The Symba revealed a habit for stalling as I came to a stop or when I started out. I found if I maintained a little throttle as I stopped it wouldn't stall, but this made shifting rather clunky and harsh.

Day Two of my relationship with the Symba was not much fun. It was colder than Day One. It was stalling more frequently. The rotary shifting pattern wasn't coming together for me and I was having trouble figuring out what gear I was in. But, being the optimist I am, during the twelve mile ride over to Kirkwood I convinced myself things were beginning to come together. On the ride home I was thinking it was getting even better, and then it happened. I discovered that the Symba is quite capable of doing a wheelie.

I had taken to beginning in second gear. The four-speed transmission seemed to be like the transmissions in the farm trucks I learned to drive in when I was a kid: Three speeds and a granny low. So, I was sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to go green. I was confident I was in second and ready to go. I was keeping the idle up to make sure I wouldn't stall. The light changed, I released the brakes, and gave it a little more throttle. I don't know if I was headed up grade, or more likely, I was riding the shifter which later I found out slips the clutch, whatever the cause, it seemed to me I must be in third gear rather than second. So, I down shifted, but I wasn't in third gear. I was in second gear, which means I dropped into that very low first gear without letting up much on the throttle. Suddenly, the front wheel started lifting off the pavement. All I could think of was the image of Silver rising up with the Lone Ranger astride and the announcer saying, "Hi Ho, Silver away!" But away we did not go. First we went up, and then, after what seemed a small eternity, we went down.

Thankfully there was no damage. 

The only mark on the Symba was a telltale frayed rear fender.

But, as I was picking myself and the Symba up off the ground it occurred to me that the Symba had given me its name: Bronco Billy. And, that could have been the end of this story, but it wasn't.

In the days following my unplanned stunt riding, I found when I spoke about the Symba I would refer to it as a "he" and think "Billy". On the other hand, when I wrote about the Symba I found myself inadvertantly spelling the name "Billie" as in Billie Holiday. So, which was it? Was it Billy, or was it Billie? Was this bike a little stallion, or was it a filly? I began to look for clues to the Symba's gender.

One day I noticed there was a Harley that had began parking next to the Symba in the motorcycle parking area at work. It seemed to me that each day the Harley got a little closer to Billie. It was almost as if the Harley was putting the moves on my Symba. It occurred to me that if I found out the Harley's name it might give me a clue to my bike's gender. One evening when I came out to head home the deputy who rides the Harley was putting on his brain bucket. So, I asked him if his bike had a name. He looked at me as if I was from another planet and barked out, "Softail." It certainly seemed to me he was giving me the choice to end the conversation right there or continue and find out what other one and two syllable words he knew. I chose to end the conversation.

I was beginning to fear my Symba was going to end up like Pat, that once upon a time character from Saturday Night Live, a forever "it."

One night chatting with my friend Katy. I shared with her my Symba naming saga. And, she solved the mystery. She said to me, "It (the Symba) has to be a "she" because she kicked you to the curb the first weekend. A man would never hurt you the first weekend, he would wait until the next weekend." 

And, that is how Billie got her name.


  1. LOL. Great little story. Heather and Katy were right! -Lori

  2. You seem to have the gift of gab...well written story, but I never understood why some people like to name their bikes and cars....maybe someone should write the following book:
    Favorite boy/girl names for motorcycle expecting parents....lol
    Seriously though, well done

  3. I don't think I ever named a vehicle. But, like the others said, interesting story.


  4. It's my wife I blame for getting me to start naming vehicles. Her first car was a '66 Mustang that was green with a red fender and she called it "Rainbow". It wasn't a real pretty car, but it ran like a top for many years. After that, we named everything.
    Max's original name for a few days was "MaxSym", but eventually I decided that was just stupid and shortened it.
    Enjoyed this post,

  5. Lori,
    I learned quite a while ago that Heather is always right . . . I just sometimes forget. I adore Katy's sense of humor.

    Thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you liked the story.

  6. Baron,
    My Dad still owns the "Cultivision A" and the Farmall 300. He called them Tiny and Nancy when Grandpa was alive, but now they are just the "A" and the "300". Heaven knows I'm clueless why some folks name their vehicles. I'm blaming my Grandpa for starting me out. I've heard there are some that even blame their wives ;)

    Thanks for the comment and the compliment on the story.

  7. Richard,
    Thanks for stopping by and reading the story. I'm glad you found it interesting.

    I do think the older farm tractors and bikes often seemed to have a personality whether you wanted them to or not. The newer ones often are either bulletproof or a lemon. I suspect most people have names for the ones that are lemons :)

  8. Jim,
    "Rainbow", I love it. What a great naming.

    And, I wouldn't say the name "MaxSym" was stupid, but I think you were wise to go with Max.

    I very glad you enjoyed this post. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. lol - Great story! Love it!
    Love the pic too. I bet you couldn't stop grinning. When I rode my Sam home I was really nervous - new, strange bike and all. About halfway home I just started smiling and laughing and couldn't stop. :)

    Some people name their bikes/cars/etc, and the rest don't get it. Oh well. All my bikes have had names. All were girls, though I'm pretty sure the little Honda project bike is a boy.

    I can tell from the pics that Billie's a girl, and I know she can handle that ol' softtail!

  10. Interesting story Keith. I'm always curious how/why people name their bikes since I don't do it myself. I just, rather boringly, call them the make or model.