~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Just Reward

You might recall that a month or so back your's truly was the winner of the prestigious MotoHistory.com quiz number 77.  The redoubtable Ed Youngblood, moto history grand vizier, rider of fine motorcycles, past President of the AMA, and all around bon vivant, sent me my official MotoHistory Know-It-All Certificate not long ago and I knew you'd all want to see it.

The certificate is an impressive piece of documentation, calligraphy, and old world craftsmanship.  Hand lettered on velum by non-union Druid monks working by the flickering light of an old Triumph headlamp, the certificate positively exudes wisdom, insight, and more wisdom.  Very much like a page from a BMW shop manual, really.

Naturally, I've had the esteemed certificate suitably framed in an ornate frame made of American black walnut wood inlaid with goncalo alves wood shaped in a 420 chain pattern, and the wider surface tastefully gilded in gold leaf and burnished with burnishing cloth made of English waxed cotton.

The newly mounted and framed masterpiece was placed on display in the main gallery of the sumptuous 40on2 manor.  Below, a photo of the household staff hanging the certificate:

As word spread around the neighborhood, well wishers came to greet me and view the certificate for themselves.  Some said it was akin to viewing the "Mona Lisa" in person or witnessing a page turning of the Book of Kells or getting Willy G. Davidson's autograph.

It was a nice gesture by friends and family and brightened the day of this old rider who labors away at the computer day and night to bring stories and pictures to a motorcycle world hungry for something more than another article on how to change a tire or fit a helmet properly.

Thanks, Ed!

Friday, May 07, 2010

San Jose to Morro Bay in 1948

It was just a few years after WWII ended, the year after the infamous "Hollister Riot" that would spawn the movie "The Wild One." Young men in California, some just home from the Army, buy new Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The urge for adventure strikes and they set out down the road together taking the long way around to a small coastal town and the fun that young men might find there.

Imagine them racing down a new, wide, but still unopened highway, laughing, scoffing at the law, while their mighty Harley's hurled their 3.5 hp thunder at the quiet farms on each side of the highway.

Uh, wait... 3.5 hp? Well, not everyone that went riding in '48 rode a cut down Hawg or Indian. In this case, that not-so-wild bunch was my dad, then 29 years old, his younger brother John, and two friends. Three of them were on their brand new Harley Model 125's and Wilbur on a twin cylinder bike of some sort.

I'd heard vaguely about a trip dad and my uncle had made on their first bikes but Dad never liked to talk about his motorcycle days. By his own admission he didn't want to encourage his bike crazy son.  Later Dad  would ride bigger bikes than the the little Harley, including an Indian Four, but much to my dismay no pictures seem to exist.

At Christmas time a telephone conversation with my Uncle John, now well into his 80's, brought in response a single black and white picture and a short letter about their trip. Uncle John was always a great one for stories. Here's an excerpt of his letter:

"I arrived home in San Jose from the Army in 1947.
The 3 Harley's were new 1948 models---European style foot shifts, 3 hp. The fourth one was ridden by Wilbur N. Built in Europe. 4 hp.

We all decided to go for an adventure ride.

So off we went, thru Gilroy, past Casa De Fruita, and continued on 152 to the unfinished Hiway I5. [I believe he means Highway 99, I-5 wasn't built until the '60s - DK]. The asphalt paving & concrete were done. As you can imagine, the temptation was too great, so we yielded to the temptation and rode our trusty steeds on the new hiway for many miles, all the while keeping a sharp eye out for the black & white government vehicles.

We stopped in Shafter & had lunch with Frank & Luella. [My uncle and aunt - DK]

That evening we rode through the curvy mountain road from Atascadero to Morro Bay. Three of us were having fun, but Wilbur's generator quit functioning, so he couldn't see where to ride. We rode around 35 mph, keeping Wilbur between us.  He had to really concentrate on his driving.  By the time we checked into our motel Wilbur was [motion] sick!!

After we all had gone to bed, we heard the sound of escaping "gas" (Someone let one go). In the quietness Johnny F said "Speak again, sweet lips, I'll find you." which cracked everybody up." - Uncle John, January 23, 2010."

In the photo above, taken at their motel in Morro Bay, that's my dear ol' dad in the back and his buddies Johnny F. and Wilbur N. up front.  The photo was taken by my Uncle John.  I see in the photo that Wilbur is sitting on a twin cylinder bike but I can't find a record of a Harley parallel twin of the period.  Anyone have any ideas what the bike might be?

And lest we modern types with our luxo cruisers snicker just a bit at an "adventure ride" on a 3 hp, 125cc, 2-stroke Harley, I looked at a map and the route they took covered about 365 miles, most of it on barely paved "farm to market" concrete roads and '40s style tarmac.   No mean feat on bikes with skinny tires, rigid rear rear ends, and fat rubber bands for front fork springs. Some riders today would blanch at riding that far in a day on a modern bike.

 Image via Harley Hummer.com

Sadly, I don't know what route Dad & Co. took to get home and Uncle John doesn't seem to recall either.  In any case, I'll be in Morro Bay soon, my mom lives over that way and while I'm there I'm going to see if the old motel is still standing or at least what's in it's place.  It would be really cool to ride over there later this year and take a photo in the same spot 63 year later.

I wish I'd have asked more questions sooner, even if dear ol' Dad didn't want to talk about it; too many stories are lost now.   Be sure to talk those old guys in your family, they may have had more fun than you've suspected.

Update:  A conversation with my Uncle John and my mom indicates that they returned home to San Jose via Highway 101.   More info here.

Monday, May 03, 2010

My Podium Finish

I was reading UK rider Gary France's blog USA Tour On A Harley-Davidson and saw that UK motorcycle insurance broker Carol Nash [company] had listed Gary on their list of Top 20 Biking Blogs.  Cool for Gary! Way to go!  He's an avid rider, does an excellent job on his blog, and as you might guess, is planning a tour of the USA on his Harley this year.   I clicked on over to the Carol Nash site to see who else was on the list, frankly expecting that it would be UK-centric given the nature of CN's business, but thinking I might find new and interesting blogs just as I not long ago discovered Gary's blog.

To my surprise, there in the No. 3 spot behind Jesper Bram's Helmet Hair blog and Mike Werner's Bikes In The Fast Lane, was Forty Years On Two Wheels.  Excellent company for a humble blogger to keep!

In motorcycle racing everyone hopes for first place, but missing the top spot can be partially assuaged by finishing in the top three and getting on the podium for the awards presentation.  In this case I didn't even know I was in the race so a third is pretty darned cool.  Thank you folks at Carol Nash, for your recognition and kind words.  If my twelve regular readers wish to see the other blogs on the list here's the link.

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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence

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