Tag Archives: Vincent Black Shadow

Everybody has a story to tell

There is something about traveling on a motorcycle that is different from any other type of travel. Sometimes we ride with specific destinations and time frames and other times we just wander. I have ridden rally’s with check points from Mexico to Canada and then spent days just wandering the western US on my way home. In forty years and and nearly three quarters of a million miles on two wheels, I have a lot of stories and memories but I find I spend more time listening to and enjoying other riders stories. Everybody that travels on a motorcycle has stories of great routes, favorite destinations, the best restaurant in Wyoming or Utah. Tales of breakdowns and rescues, new friends made and occasionally tragedies. Everybody has a travel story.

Last week while covering the World Superbike races at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah I met a couple of men with a truly great story. Heather and I were sitting outside enjoying an end of the day beverage and our view of the Wasatch Mountains when a man stopped and said we looked so happy he wanted to take a picture of us, then we got to talking. CIMG6249

Terry and his friend Guy had ridden down from Vancouver, BC to attend the races. Terry took a few days off from his job as a tile setter and Guy is retired so, time for a ride. I need to back up a minute here, when we arrived at the campground the evening before the first thing I saw was a Vincent Black Shadow across the way. My first thought was that someone trailered it and is just riding to and from the track. I was wrong. CIMG6259

After taking our picture, Terry told us that he and his friend had ridden down on on that Black Shadow and his old Norton Commando. I was impressed to say the least, to have that kind of faith in old English motorcycles, brave men indeed. But then story got even better. CIMG6261

A year or two earlier these two guys got a wild hair up their fannies and decided they wanted to go see the TT, The Isle of Man TT. It would be easy to fly over to England, rent a couple of bikes, take the ferry across to the island and have the trip of a lifetime…but NOOOOOO (in my best John Belushi imitation), they’re going to take their own bikes. Both the Vincent and the Norton are treated to rebuilds and upgrades, crated up and loaded onto the plane.

Terry, Guy and their wives had a fantastic time at the TT but now the trip was just beginning. For the next two months for Terry and four months for Guy they traipsed all over Europe. Now, most people going to a foreign country get a bunch of maps, spend months poring over them, planning a route, changing it half a dozen times and reading the tour guides. And again…But NOOOOO, these two decide that a compass is plenty good enough. “ Today we go North”, let’s see where we end up? It was like that for two months, they have very trusting wives. The days ride ended wherever it ended. Now let me remind you, this wandering the country side and the cities, the story about navigating a European Roundabout while looking at the compass to see which exit to take was hilarious, was done on a 1952 Vincent and a 1974 Norton. Not for the faint hearted.CIMG6264

Terry’s story continued on for a while and I just wanted to hear more and more, I wanted to do a trip like that. We said our good nights and thanks for the story now it was time to refresh the beverages and start making dinner. The rest of the night I replayed his story in my head and loved it again and again.

All motorcycle travelers have stories and thank you Terry for yours. You’ve made my day many times over.

Pack Rats…you gotta love ’em

cimg54302

Boxes and boxes of motorcycle parts stacked floor to ceiling, some have labels, most don’t. Frames and wheels hanging from the rafters, gas tanks here and there, a bunch of mufflers piled up in a corner along with a stack of tires that you would never ride on. There are motorcycle parts that haven’t seen the light of day since the Nixon administration. You’ve got  a few ‘project’ bikes scattered around that haven’t seen any ‘project’ since he brought them home and there may be a bike or two that actually run…well, if he had a battery for it. And then there is that one motorcycle that actually does run, has decent tires and he rides regularly. We all know someone like that.

cimg54071“Well,  this here’s a story about a man named Mel, a poor pack rat whose garage looked like hell”… , you gotta go with the Beverly Hillbillies theme here…Mel is the consummate pack rat, as a matter of fact I think he could get his own TV show on HGTV, ‘How to be a professional pack rat’.

Mel is my son’s Father in Law, a really great guy and I’m lucky to have him as a family member.  We didn’t  meet until the kids had decided to get married. “Uh Oh…guess we better meet the other side of the family”, over to the house for dinner we go. In typical guy fashion, we head out to the garage. Mel opens the door and I can’t see a thing. Not because the lights aren’t on, no…it’s because there is stuff floor to ceiling and wall to wall. From antique radios to junk picked up at yard sales and thrift shops, work benches covered with boxes of who knows what (even he doesn’t know!!) and some really cool motorcycles and motorcycle stuff.

Mel  told me about some of his motorcycling history and, as it turns out,we have a few mutual friends. We had a lot of fun talking about this bike and that bike. He points out the ’73 Ducati 750GT hanging from the rafters, but where’s the motor I ask? “um, it’s somewhere over there?” pointing in the direction of a stack of old marine radios. OK.  The conversation switches to radios for a while but I’m still looking for motorcycles.  I know there are some buried treasures somewhere in there.cimg5414

Last Wednesday I stopped by Mel’s to give him a manual for a Zenith Trans Oceanic radio that a friend had given me. I knew that Mel had a least a couple of these radios and would like the book.  When I pulled up to his house my eyes bulged out and my jaw dropped.  It looked like a quarter of his garage was in the driveway and in amongst the boxes and radios was… and you need to be sitting for this.. a Vincent Black Shadow, getting ready to be loaded into someone else’s truck, a Norton International also on it’s way to a new home and a beautiful Harley Davidson ‘K’ model just sitting there.  These were the treasures I knew were buried deep in that garage.

A little more digging turned up a ‘1976 BMW R90S that has been sitting for fifteen years, a Harley XR750 Flat Tracker in a few pieces (with hand cut Goodyear tires and all), a 1939 HRD Comet that needed some TLC and a hand built Schwinn Paramount racing bicycle.   Hanging in the rafters are gas tanks off Velocettes, Ducatis, a BSA and a brand new handbuilt aluminum tank for the XR750. Wheels with vintage exotic brakes, bits and pieces of exhaust systems and a fender or two for good measure.cimg5428

As Mel was searching for more parts for the Harley that was going to new home, he would come across something else special and every one of these parts came with a story. “This one was handmade for me by a guy in England, it’s the only one of it’s kind…” or, “ my friend met a guy at the Playboy Club in London and they rode out toCoventry to get this part and…”. The stories went on and I realized that though the parts had stories, the real story was Mel himself.