For the last year it’s been a tradition that nearly every Saturday I drop by BlueCat Motors to see what’s going on. At first, I often felt very in the way. Me and my camera, snapping away. Was I really supposed to be there? Was what I was writing on their blog doing them any good? A year on, I can’t imagine my week without at least one visit to BCM’s Prior Ave shop. I have two more weeks of posts to write, but today I dropped by for what will likely be the last time for a long while.

It seems like with most things, I never know it’s the last time until long after. Today I knew it. I knew today was my last blog visit to BCM. Sure, I’ll be back in the spring to get my Honda CB450. I’m planning to ride in for Bearded Lady in July. It’s not the last time I’m going to see this place ever, but it’s still the end of something really special to me. Writing the BlueCat blog wasn’t just throwing together a few hundred word each week. It meant being around — being involved in their business and plugged into the lives of the people who worked there. It meant learning more about bikes and more about the quirks of vintage machines. On the other side of my writing bargain, Jeff and Robb have made a mechanic out of me. Apprenticing under their misanthropic instruction has been as entertaining as it’s been informative.

When I arrived today, I was sad to see that both Robb and Ryan were out of the shop. Robb’s apparently been ill and Ryan is gods-know-where. It was just Jeff and Jeff (aka Rumpal) doing their normal Saturday thing. Rump was putting in two new shaft seals on a Honda CB350. Jeff was handling business stuff and researching oil certifications. So for the last time, I did my normal Saturday thing. I took photos. I asked questions. “What’s the story on this bike?” I must have asked that question 200 times this year. “What’s going on?” being the other one. Finding 52 stories to tell wasn’t hard. Staying interested in the comings and goings of the shop wasn’t hard either. There’s always something fun on the lift or something interesting happening around the shop.

Truth be told, I didn’t actually need to be there today, but I couldn’t not go. I wanted to be there. It was my last chance. Next weekend is Christmas, and two days on we’ll have moved to Chicago. This was my last chance to stand in the middle of the shop with a camera as part of this year-long thing I’ve been doing. I wanted to be able to have one last look around — take the opportunity to try to soak in the feeling of that place as much as I can. It was my chance to say a proper farewell to the guys. To somehow, even in that manly, side-staring, let’s not actually talk about it sort of way, try to express how much this year at BlueCat Motors has meant to me. To learn what I now know — to have experienced the naked livelihood of these people who became my friends — it’s an experience I’ll carry with me for a long, long time.

As closing time approached, I started walking around the shop trying to soak it in somehow. It had finally hit me that this was my last chance to really see this place — to take it all in and try to remember it. Memory is like the after-image of a really bright light. Close your eyes and you can still see it. I wanted this place burned into my brain. So I looked. I looked hard at the place that’d become so familiar — my garage away from home. I wanted to remember every smell, every shelf, every tool. I wanted the savor the feel of cold steel on my fingertips and the smell of carb cleaner on my hands. It was sad, but sad in that good, deep way. Sad because it’d been something good. Sad because this is a place worth missing. Sad because these are people worth missing.

There is simply no good way to end these things. There are no grand speeches to make. No hallmark moments to create. There is only the ending itself. It comes whether I want it to or not. I took my last looks. Jeff and I shook hands. That was that. That part of my life is now over. It’s an end, and it’s also a beginning. It’s the beginning of whatever’s next. It’s the start of a new life in a new city with a new motorcycle community. It’s the adventure of the unknown, and it’s escaping the peril of the familiar. But for all the things it is, it’s sad above all else. I’m going to miss this place.

Nathaniel Salzman