I started attending church when I was eight years old. The local Presbyterian church is where my grandmother decided I should go to learn about God and Jesus. Ok?…when you live with your grandmother and you’re only eight years old you can’t argue can you?! But, eight years later I really learned about God and Jesus.
In 1968 my mom married Mike, a good guy who loved motorcycles. 1968 turned out to be the year I left the Presbyterian church to join ‘The Church of Speed’ and really came to know God and his Son. Most all Sunday’s I found myself either going way too fast on a canyon road or bouncing along in the middle of the Mojave Desert (occasionally wondering where the hell I was??) on a Bultaco motorcycle that was as untrustworthy as an unattended dog near a big picnic table loaded with food. In both situations I was constantly saying “Oh GOD help me” or “Oh Jesus get me out of this” and more often, “Holy SH*t”.
Recently I was searching my library for a book I hadn’t read before or at least not in the past few years when my phone rang and divine intervention took over. The call was from my old friend Rob, the Pastor of Bikers Church back in Ottawa Canada. He is planning another trip out west this summer and was asking route advice. As I was pulling out my old maps I told him about my search for a new book and it took him less time to come up with a suggestion that it takes Ricky Gadsen to come off the starting line at a National Drag Race…”The Bible” he said. “When was the last time you read it?” I told him I was sixteen when I last read the ‘Good Book’, “well it’s about time you revisited it” he said. After talking about his trip and his urging me to read the Bible numerous times we said our goodbyes and made plans to meet on the road.
Knowing that Rob would ask me Bible questions when we next talked I picked up the book and started reading. Genesis was good but it was Exodus that really got my interest. It was in the book of Exodus that I discovered that Triumph motorcycles have been around a lot longer than most people think. Sure, Triumph has been telling everyone that they have been around since 1902 but if you read the book of Exodus closely you will find that Triumph has been making motorcycles since biblical times. When Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, he did it on a motorcycle! Really. And how do I know this? It says it right there in the bible…”the roar of Moses’ Triumph could be heard throughout the hills!”
And…here’s the original Triumph owners manual!
Long way to go for a bad joke huh?!
A couple of years ago I found myself the proud owner of a 1976 BMW R90 S. It’s a wonderful motorcycle. Shortly after I bought it, like a week later, I took off on my ‘new’ BMW with a couple of friends for a two thousand mile road trip. We did all my favorite Sierra passes, saw new places, discovered new roads, got rained on…it was a great trip. And, I fell in love with my R90.
Two months later my friend Jeff called asking if I wanted to take another ride for a few days. His mother had passed away recently and he needed a road trip, leaving the next day. How could I say no. I packed up the BMW, got a good nights sleep and dreamt of twisty roads up the coast and over into the Sierra’s we both love.
I woke up to a perfect morning for traveling. While water is heating up for tea, I rolled the BMW out of the barn, double checked my packing, hit the starter button to warm it up (old BMW’s are quite cold blooded beasts) and…nothing. Flip all the switches again, nothing. Ok, quick, now what? Attach the battery charger, go have a cup of tea, call Jeff to tell him I’m running late and go over the bikes electrics one more time. Well, none of all that helped, the BMW just did not want to go for a ride.
Rather sheepishly, I went back into the barn, uncovered my old traveling partner, my ’95 Triumph Daytona, turned the key to on, pushed the starter button and…the triple roared to life. What a beautiful sound. It wasn’t beautiful just because I had a motorcycle to take this trip on, the Triumph triples song is so wonderful it makes you want to ride.
When I said ‘sheepishly’ it’s because the Daytona has been my traveling partner for many years and I felt bad asking it to be the back up for this trip. I know we all personalize our favorite bikes, some of us even give them names, my old CB350 (with a few mods), ‘The Mighty 350’, and my old ’63 Ford Fairlane’s name is ‘The Fabulous Freddie Fairlane’. I have never named my Daytona, but I hold it as dear as if it had a name. Donna Daytona??? Uh, NO…
It only took about thirty minutes to transfer all my gear to the Triumph, like I said, it and I had traveled many many miles together, so loading the Super Three up for a trip was an auto-pilot event. Jeff rolled up in the driveway and after one more cup of tea we were on our way.
The whole story of this trip of ours (which turned out to be quite an adventure with some long lasting effects) is another blog post on this website, this story is about the Daytona itself.
When we got home after riding through hurricane force winds, the Daytona and I were both stressed out…physically, mentally, and structurally. Blown fork seals on the Triumph, stress fractures on my right wrist (no, I didn;t crash…but there were times it was awfully close…). I parked the Daytona promising it I would give it the care it deserved. Well, that care didn’t come all that quickly…like two years later.
Last month I finally decided the Super Three couldn’t just lounge away in my barn doing nothing, it needed to get back on the road. The forks came off and were delivered to my friend Lance at Thousand Oaks Powersports in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The forks had been refurbished with new springs and all the necessary parts a number of years…and a lot of miles, ago, so the job was not easy. After the rebuild was done I quickly reassembled the front end, made sure the bike was running (it’s been on a battery charger for two years) and rode it to the shop.
I decided that the long way from Fillmore to Thousand Oaks was the way to go. West on Hwy 126 to 12th Street in Santa Paula, a quick left onto South Mountain Road. A few fast curvy miles later I turned right onto Balcom Canyon Rd.. Balcom Canyon is fast and flowing at the bottom then turns tight as you get to the top and down the other side. It felt great to be back on my Daytona. All the little things that make you one with your motorcycle were right there. It was a great ride that morning.
A couple Saturday’s ago I was riding up in the Santa Monica mountains on my way to a Vintage BMW gathering down in Venice, California, and one of the required stops on that kind of ride is The Rock Store on Mulholland Highway. It’s always a good stop because you’ll see a few really cool motorcycles, (on Sundays you see hundreds…), maybe friend or two and, if you’re hungry or thirsty, good food and drink. While I was hanging around and checking out a couple of bikes, I saw a flyer tacked to the oak tree in the parking lot advertising a motorcycle film festival in L.A, cool. I took a picture of the flyer so I would have the info and headed my way down the coast.
As I was sorting through my photo’s of the day later that night, I saw the flyer and thought this is an event I really want to go to. I showed Heather, my usual passenger and wife, the flyer and she agreed, I should go. I’m a lucky man. Actually, I think she just wanted a Saturday night all to herself.
The film festival was being held at the Cretins Motorcycle Club in downtown Los Angeles. I know a couple of those guys and I’ve been wanting to interview them for my podcast program for a while, this is perfect!
Film Festival day came and the weather was looking pretty iffy for an outdoor event but I had faith it would come off no matter what. For me, I had to decide to either ride or drive. It’s a pretty long ride for me and if it does rain, the LA freeways are not where you want to be. If I drive and it doesn’t rain…what a wimp. Every now and then, style trumps practicality. I rode.
It was an easy ride to Downtown until…I got off the freeway. Google maps and downtown Los Angeles apparently don’t have a good relationship. Without going into boring beyond words yet comical details, I was lost for a good half hour. I made more U-turns, asked more people in cars at a stoplight I had been through at least five times to roll down their window and tell me where the hell Sotello St. was, (not one of them knew either..), even the guys at a gas station (that turned to be just about six blocks away) had no clue. About the time I decided these guys really are Cretins, Google maps that is, I thought I would give it one more try before heading home…I’m not letting some computer directions beat me, no way! The last try paid off. As I rode up the driveway I knew all the frustration of being lost was well worth the price of admission…six dollars by the way.
What a fantastic event. These guys, the Cretins, have it together big time. The Cretins clubhouse is on the roof of a parking structure looking right into the LA night line. Picture this, a couple hundred motorcycles with skyscrapers for a back drop…too cool. When I got off my motorcycle, I checked in with my friend, and Cretins club member Scott Fabro. After a fast visit and swapping of a few racing stories ( we used to have some epic battles in the Formula Singles class at Willow Springs ), I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough.
The Cretins are known for being a cafe racer / rat bike kind of club and it’s true. But…this event, and as it turns out, pretty much everything they do is open to all riders. On this beautiful roof top were ratty ass old Honda’s, long in the tooth BMW’s, a big Suzuki Cavalcade tourer, Harley’s with ape hangers…you name it it was there. As at any motorcycle gathering, we all walk around, look at bikes, talk to the owners, take pictures and start making wish lists.
As interesting as the bikes are, it’s the people who make any event an ‘Event’. Believe me boys and girls this was an ‘Event’. I don’t think I have seen a broader group of motorcyclists talking, telling stories and laughing in one place than I did Saturday night on a roof top in downtown Los Angeles. The Flaming Knights Motorcycle Club, The Pyrate Riderz (yez, I spelled it ryght)…I’ve never heard of these clubs but that doesn’t matter, we were all hanging out together. Couples that rode in looking like movie stars on bikes that just came out of a fashion magazine photo shoot to guys riding on bikes that made you wonder how they made up the driveway. It’s the people and their stories that are always the most interesting…and, they all came out for a good cause.
There were two reasons for putting together this event according organizer Mark Duncan. First was, in his words (sorta) “there all kinds of film festivals but none about or for motorcycles, so I decided to do one”. On top of that, he wanted to help his favorite charity, Riders for Health. The Cretins Motorcycle Club, being the good charitable guys and gals that they are, offered up their clubhouse and all their good (?) connections to help out. Mark sent out emails and built a website www.lamotofilmfest.com looking for film makers to join in.
After going through about twenty five short films he settled on fifteen for the festival. There were movies about ice racing (the true lunatics of the motorcycle racing world), traveling across Libya, learning how to race at Willow Springs, even a great comedy about Captain USA capturing Osama Bin Laden, this film had everybody laughing their asses off. Films about off road adventures and urban adventures, racing old Honda 160’s and how to travel on $54.80 a day. It was all great stuff and we were all watching these films shown on a brick wall, on a roof top, in LA. How lucky were we.
While having some pizza and moving a trash barrel, I had a good visit with Mark Duncan; Willow Springs racer, creator of the event and, film maker in his own right www.nckfilms.com. This guy was so stoked as to how the evening was going, you couldn’t have wiped the smile off his face with a blown motor. It only took Mark two months to pull this all together but he’s already planning the 2nd annual film fest. The Motoworld interview with Mark is at www.themotoworld.com it’s short but really great.
I can’t say enough about how great the 1st Annual Los Angeles Motorcycle Film Festival was, the Cretins Motorcycle Club as hosts and, all the people who came to support the film makers and the Riders for Health organization www.riders.org
A full photo album of the gathering is on the website www.themotoworld.com this is an event that you really don’t want to miss. I have a feeling that with the success of this years film fest, the Cretins club house is going to be way too small next year
Feelings… we all have them. No, this is not about getting in touch with my feminine side, or getting my feelings hurt when a woman didn’t like what I made for dinner, it is however about intimacy. The closeness we motorcyclists share with our bikes.
Currently I have a friend riding around the country over roads he has never ridden, weather conditions he has never experienced, towns he has never seen and people he has never met. The one constant is his motorcycle, the bike he has ridden for years and trusts completely. His journey is and will continue to be great.
The other day I was preparing to leave on a short trip up the California coast then over the Sierra’s and home through the desert, my idea of a perfect ride. I loaded up my relatively new to me BMW, donned my riding gear, pushed the button and….pushed the button…and…damn. Change of plans…change of ride.
Sitting in the corner of our barn is my Triumph Daytona, battery tender still attached. Take the blanket off, turn the key, hit the button and…the growl of the three cylinder motor fills the barn. “Baby..we’re goin’ for a ride!!” Change the luggage from the BMW hard bags to the old soft saddlebags..eliminate a few things…”let’s see, do I really need a rain suit?…uh yeah”…it went like that for a few minutes and packing was done. Set tyre pressures, check the oil and chain adjustment…it’s time to go.
Roll the Triumph out of the barn, kiss Heather goodbye, climb on the bike, hit the button, pull in the clutch, click into first gear and head out onto the road. I know this feeling. I have spent nearly 100 thousand miles on this bike, I know this feeling very, very well.
The feeling you have when you know something so well is so unique and so special it is hard to describe but it’s there. The feeling of each corner of your favorite road, the curves of your favorite wife…wait…better be your only wife…and the feeling you get when you ride a motorcycle that you have traveled many, many miles on.
On this trip we rode familiar roads where everything just flowed, the lightest push on the handlebar moved my Daytona just where I wanted it to go, just the right amount of throttle and brake kept everything under control. On new roads my comfort on the bike made the ride easy and enjoyable. On our way home, knowing my motorcycle became more important than I could have imagined.
Highway 395 here in California is actually not a boring ride; mountains, lakes, valleys and deserts…if you have to ride up and down this state, 395 is a good ride. Normally. This time we encountered hurricane force winds that scared the bejeebers out of us. It was a very hard long ride home. For nearly three hundred miles it was a fight…me and my Triumph against the wind. We won.
Once home and completely beat, I started to think how grateful I was that I was riding my Triumph on this trip. Under the worst of conditions I was on the motorcycle I knew best. I know everything that bike will and won’t do. There were times I was truly scared of getting blown off the road, but knowing just how much input to give the bars, throttle and brakes because of the intimate connection I have with this motorcycle, I got home safe and sound…worn out, but home.
Have you ever thought about ‘divine intervention’? or whatever you might call something happening for a reason you can’t explain? Well, the thought came to me during the ride in the wind…I was planning on riding my BMW which we have only spent a couple thousand miles together, but it decided it didn’t want to go on this ride. So, I rode the Triumph instead. I honestly believe that because of my closeness with my Daytona I made it home without incident. If I had been on the BMW the trip may have ended differently.
Final thought for the day…The BMW didn’t want to risk itself being tossed on the ground, so it decided not to go. You know how I know this…it started just fine this morning. Who says motorcycles don’t have feelings?
We have all seen Star Wars more times than we would like to admit…hold up your hands…how many have seen it more than once? more than five times? have a Darth Vader costume ready for Halloween? The first step in recovery is admitting your problem, congratulations. Do remember the scene where Luke Skywalker is telling Yoda he’s not afraid then a very menacing Yoda says “You will be..You will be…” ?
In my over forty years and hundreds of thousands of miles of riding motorcycles, I have ridden in every condition imaginable and survived..inspite of some really stupid decisions. Rain doesn’t bother me,I have a rain suit; snow makes me wish I had warmer gear; nine million degree heat in the desert sends me looking for water…and ventilated riding gear; fog…well, fog makes me nervous…I can’t see all too well and drivers in cars can’t see me at all. I, like all of us, have had plenty of the “OH SH*T,…OH SH#T…OH SH^T…WHEW…saved that one moments, but I have never been afraid riding a motorcycle. Until yesterday.
I was on my home from a quick ride up the coast of California and back down through the desert…pretty normal for my friend Jeff and I. We came from Lake Tahoe over to Highway 395 above Walker, California. A very fun ride…if you have little regard for those signs that tell you how fast you can go…Nice weather, no traffic, great scenery…I think the yellow lines on the road at speed are great scenery, don’t you? A perfect start to a blast home.
A quick gas stop in Bridgeport…$4.09 a gallon for premium!!?? My Triumph and Jeff’s BMW have expensive tastes in petrol…those Europeans. After the gas stop our ride changed. A lot. From Bridgeport you head towards the Virginia Lakes and Conway Summit. The Conway Summit has a beautiful view of Mono Lake and one of the most fun sections of road along Highway 395 you’ll ever ride. Not today.
As we started up the summit the wind picked up. We have all ridden in windy conditions, headwinds wear you out and ruin your gas mileage, tailwinds help gas mileage and crosswinds…well, crosswinds make you ride at a funny angle and wear one side of your tyres out faster than the other. I had never experienced anything like the crosswinds we had that day. Coming down from the summit the gusts got so violent I was pushed across the road no matter how hard I tried to stay in my lane , or even the next lane, on coming traffic was getting way too close for comfort. Trying to navigate a long downhill right hand curve while you are being pushed across the road…not my idea of fun.
I made it to the bottom of the summit still on my side of the road, but the gusts were getting even more violent. At the bottom there is a sign saying “Subject To Strong Crosswinds”, all I could think of to say was “no sh*t”…attached to the sign is a bright orange windsock standing not just straight out but almost pointing upwards as well. I had slowed my speed down to about fifteen miles per hour for fear of losing control of my motorcycle. I was riding on the shoulder of the road trying to stay out of traffic’s way, while still getting blown all around. The gusts would hit so hard it felt like the handlebars were being ripped out of my hands. It got so bad I finally pulled off the road and stopped out of sheer fear.
After checking to see if I needed to change my underwear, telling my motorcycle how much I loved her and doing some serious praying, I continued on…albeit at a much slower pace. Jeff and I met up in the town of Lee Vining. These were hurricane velocity winds, eighty to one hundred miles per hour. We debated on whether to keep going or maybe wait it out, we both wanted to get home and we figured it had to ease up somewhere. We got a couple of breaks along the way but for nearly three hundred miles along the Sierra Mountains and the Mojave Desert we fought crosswinds like we had never experienced before. Even the strongest winds while racing at Willow Springs were mere breezes compared to this.
The last fifty miles home were thankfully wind free, but we were so beat up from the days ride it was hard to hang on to the handlebars. Every muscle in my body hurt, even my fanny hurt from being puckered up for hours. All I wanted to do was get home and sit in the hot tub.
For the first time ever I was actually afraid riding a motorcycle. I spent all the hours telling my trusty Triumph that between the two of us we would get home just fine and praying heavily. Both things worked and we arrived home safe and sound. My motorcycle and my faith in God never left me. Maybe a little riding skill and a whole lotta luck played a small part as well.
I love creativity with motorcycles. I love a good cafe racer, a clean bobber and a nice chopper. When I say ‘chopper’ I don’t mean one of those $50K jobs you see on TV from the dysfunctional family in New York or a star struck guy from So Cal, I mean a nice long bike built by a guy in his garage with some help from a few friends. But then I really head off the scale. Side cars.
My good friend and traveling partner Jeff got me hooked on Sidecars a few years back. He got himself a older BMW R80 with a rig and started loading it up. I have talked about Jeff many times, he is the McGyver of our group of riding friends. If your bike quits running, Jeff probably has the part to get you going again. If you forgot something on a week long ride, Jeff probably has it in some bag somewhere on his motorcycle. You know, as I look back over some pictures, you generally can’t see Jeff’s bike just luggage? Well, when he got a sidecar rig you could just see his brain spinning…I can carry this and this and this and this and I can’t forget that…I have always wondered where he found room for his daughter Amy?
Jeff and I have been to the big Griffith Park, California SideCar Rally more than a couple of times..the rally is partially sponsored by Doug Bingham of Sidestrider Side cars www.sidestrider.com and is always lets say..entertaining. We have seen some very creative rigs there and Jeff has gotten some very strange ideas for a new ride. Fortunately he has a wife with more sense than he. But, this really did pique his interest. Hey how can you not like a scooter with a VW van attached??
Well, as things tend to happen to all of us motorcyclists when we get intrigued by something, we may get carried away a bit, in this case it’s carrying people away. Looking through the internet for interesting rides I came across www.motorcyclefunerals.com. After I stopped chuckling I thought “this is way too cool”. I pulled my wife away from her website work to look at this hoping she would like it as much as I did and in the back of my mind hoping she would think it a great idea to do here. No such luck. She looked at me, knowing what was going on in my motorcycle addled brain and said..”NO”. Back to her web work and that was the end of that.
Like I said, I was looking for interesting rides and really there are none more interesting I think than sidecars. Besides being utilitarian, they offer a lot of style, a lot of fun and everyone points and stares..in a good way.
So whether you are looking for utility, style or fun…a way to haul groceries, Fido or Uncle Quido..a sidecar rig may find it’s way into your garage. Hey, Uncle Quido would love to be there when you ‘fly the car’..especially with him in it