New Year’s Eve Eve Ride

Dan OneWhee croppedFor those of us VOCNA members in Northern California, New Years Eve Eve means a romp through the Napa countryside. Weather permitting of course. This year the weather was glorious: dry with no wind and lots of sunshine and it was the warmest day of the week. VOCNA Chairman John Ray intentionally chose roads that warmed up early so we avoided any ice in the corners.

About ten of us met at the Big Red Barn on a mix of motorcycles. Frank Brennan, Lanora Cox, Jim Romain, Jeff Scott and John Sims all rode Velocettes. Others included Dan Brennan on a Vincent, Don Danmeier on a TsS Triumph, J. P. Defaut on a BMW and Maïa on a 1980 Suzuki, and Gus Varetakis on BSA Gold Star. John Ray was unable to start his Velo so he began the ride on a Moto Guzzi. Down the road from his house part of a bumper fell off. (What? Did I hear that right?) Anyway Ray rode back and caught up with the gang at the gas station on a BMW. Gil Loe, visiting from Southern California and Neil Macdonald followed in a chase truck.

It was definitely a winter ride; that was not the end of our troubles. My MAC had idling issues as I rode from Vallejo to Napa. We adjusted the idle screw, and that helped, but did not stop the bike from dying at stoplights and other slow speed locations. The MAC started at the gas station, but died as I rolled onto the road. I caught up with the gang on Oak Knoll Ave. As we road towards Silverado, I noticed that the brake light on Danmeier’s Triumph stayed on. Soon after we turned left on Silverado Trail, he pulled over. After closer inspection and some conversation, it was decided that the brakes could not be repaired on the side of the road and so the Triumph was put into the truck. At the Sage Canyon turn off, the Brennans were pulled over. They waved us on. Supposedly there was a problem with the Vincent that also could not be repaired on the side of the road. Just wish Frank and Danny joined us later.

This was the first ride through Napa after the fires for many of us. The Thomas fire, which started terrifyingly close to Casa del Ray burned much of the landscape we were riding through. We past blackened hillsides and driveways that led to nowhere, but already nature is coming back. New growth has turned much of the burned area green.

Back at the warmth of the Ray’s home, the party was going on. Sue Ray, Debbie Macdonald, and Shirley Souci started things going while others who chose not to ride brought more food and cheer. This included Frank and Elizabeth Recoder, George and Sachi Shoblo, Paul d’Orleans and Suzie Heartbreak. Daisy and Chester wore festive bells and performed their canine magic everywhere they went.

My ride home had its usual thrills. Although we had the great idea of leaving before dark, it was still night time before we got home. Fortunately the lights on my MAC worked well. Still I was determined not to have the bike die while splitting lanes down highway 29. Then the main intersection near my house, and the blocks around it were closed off to police action, so I navigated an unexpected maze. The MAC performed wonderfully until the corner near my home. Good thing the MAC is easy to push!

Glam Shot

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Happy Holidays

grinch 2 velosDSC_0019Everyone celebrates differently.  Lets hope these holidays are full of Velocettes, or whatever brings you the greatest joy.

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Unbelievable. Ron Perconti is dead


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2016 VOCNA Spring Opener

Fishtails lined up after the ride

Fishtails lined up after the ride.  photos by Gil Loe

“It’s nineteen days until summer.”

“It is?”

“Yeah. I counted. I can’t go on a ride called the Spring Opener, nineteen days before summer. Isn’t the Spring Opener usually in March or April?”

“No. It’s always May”

“Well that’s just wrong. I won’t go on a Spring Opener in late May.”

All righty then. It’s the first time I’ve heard this reason for not attending the VOCNA May ride, The argument has it’s own philosophical stance, a position in the a struggle against all the dissonance and obfuscation of the Orwellian world we find ourselves in.

But further conversation weakened the philosophical implications of this person’s despair. He revealed that on the day of the VOCNA Spring Opener he was going on a different club ride somewhere in Marin.

And that was the reason many people had for not showing up at Casa Del Ray. There were rides, shows and other motorcycle events happening all over Northern California on this same weekend. However they missed out on a superlative romp through the hills of Napa county.

jeff jim romain tom ross at red barn.jpg

About twenty people met at the big red barn. Hearing the forecast for a late snow, Jack Saunders left the Tahoe area early to make the ride. Gil Loe and Dana Shatts as well as Tom and Zuma Ross traveled from the wilds of southern California. Jim Abbott came all the way from Arizona. Closer to the Bay area, Frank Brennan, Don Danmeier, John Ellis, Paul Adams and Dorothy, Lance Leavey, Jim Romain, George Shoblo and Sachi, Jeff Ward and Amy, Debbie and Niel Macdonald, Jeff Scott and myself.



red-hen-cantina.jpgFrom the big red barn we went down the hill for breakfast at the Red Hen Cantina. “Sea Daddy” Lance recognized a lost motorcyclist and directed him to the group. It was Frank Recoder on a BMW. He’d closed the garage and was ready to ride his Thruxton, when he heard some strange warning sounds. Although he quickly changed bikes, he arrived in Napa later than expected.

I too had suffered such disappointment. The night before the ride, Jeff determined that the magneto on my MAC had a fluttery intermittent yellow spark; I would be riding the Buell.

After this the ride was wonderfully incident free.   Down Dry Creek Road, up and over part of the Oakville Grade, along Silverado, past the reservoir to Pope Valley for another bit of story telling and tire kicking. Then over to Lake Berryessa. The most remarkable site was a club ride of Ferraris and new Austin Martin’s going the opposite direction. Although beautiful, they were taking it easy and not winding up the motors on these back roads. I was unable to hear much of the music of those powerful engines,. Instead, I had the unusual thought, “oh, wow, I’m having much more fun than they are.”




IMG_0541.jpgIn case anyone thinks the drought is over, we got an eyeful at Lake Berryessa. The water level is still very low. There are islands where there should be water and boating activities are not as popular as they once were at this manmade lake. This has the side-effect of less traffic and less business. Along this route, I only had to pass one four-wheeled vehicle, and slow down out of respect for one highway patrol officer. At Moskowite corner, the restaurant sign said “open” but if anyone was inside, they were hiding from us. Fortunately some people on the ride shared their snacks.



rest stop panorama.jpegNiel Macdonald did a wonderful job as chase truck driver, but it was time to say goodbye to him as Lance, Jeff S. and I broke off from the official route. Lance guided me on some back roads to his house where we admired his latest projects. You can’t miss the opportunity to see what people have in their garages! Then it was back up the hill for food, drinks and tall tales at the Rays.



lunch.jpegAs usual we ate a generous repast overlooking the five star view of the Napa Valley. Thanks to Sue Ray for organizing all this! Host John Ray handed out the awards.

Long- Distance Rider: Frank Recoder from El Sobrante on his BMW.

Shiniest Bike: Frank Brennan

Castor Oil Trophy: Gil Loe was the runner up for mosquito abatement. The winner was Jim Abbott for Ol Leaky.

Black Bulb for most pathetic electrics went to George Shoblo. If you don’t want this award, don’t demonstrate your lack of lights in front of the judge!

The dreaded and feared Rat Trap went to a car. Yes a four-wheeled vehicle! Debbie Macdonald’s Mini Cooper lost a drive belt on the way to Napa.

Apologies were later made to Jeff Ward & Amy who had ridden two up on a Velo from a town further away than El Sobrante. Who knows what b & b (bribery and blackmail) goes into the presentation of these awards.

What else could there possibly be to talk about on a ride with no crashes, no breakdowns, etc. ? It’s strange but I was left wishing I had more time. There were many conversations that I wish I’s made more attention to and had more time to develop. Even with this small group, I found myself later wishing I’d had more time.

Oh well, the rally is coming up very quickly. I’ll have to ask my calendar day counting friend just how soon. In the meantime, there is a magneto I need to replace…

As usual we ate a generous repast overlooking the five star view of the Napa Valley. Thanks to Sue Ray for organizing all this!






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2015 All Brit Ride

waveFor years, decades even, I’ve wanted to ride on the All Brit Ride. This annual even has been occurring on the first Saturday in November for so many years, its original purpose has been forgotten. (If you want to know, ask an old-timer.) The reason my attendance has been limited to the back seat, is that the ride is not only All-Brit, but also Only-Brit, and my only British bike, a Velocette GTP is not street-ready or street-legal.

scott on buell.jpg This year I was once again unprepared when November rolled around. Desperate, I came up with a ridiculous plan. I could put the Scott logo on my American-made motorcycle. The Scott Motorcycle Company operated out of West Yorkshire and had an illustrious career until it went out of business in 1978. Plus Scott is my Jeff’s last name.

This idea was doomed, mostly because I was constitutionally opposed to it. I have great respect for the ride leader, Don Danmeier. In addition I support the concept of All-Brit and Only-Brit bikes on the road.

However I made some effort. I printed out the label. I got my bike out and was ready to ride when friends gathered at my house.

gathing-at-home.jpg  A third factor clinched the deal. No battery. We were able to bump start the bike in the morning, but the battery did not charge up on the ride to Novato. So once again, I rode to the starting point and then hopped on the back of the Velocette Endurance.

Riding on the back was always a bit of a let down, until I realized I could take photos! It was a glorious day to ride around the back roads of Northern California and I’m certain we all felt lucky. There seemed to be a good turnout of over 100 riders, many VOCNA members.

The route created a figure eight in the back roads of Sonoma and Marin counties with stops at the usual places, Tomales and Bodega Bay. Instead of having lunch at the cheese factory, we gathered for a meal that couldn’t be beat at Stafford Lake Park.   Here Don handed out awards. No Velos won, but some VOCNA people and my friends were prominent in the awards. Paul Adams rode the oldest bike, a 1937 Norton, and Lou Brero won the “Chrome won’t get you home award.” Ron Perconti has won the Pit Crew award so many times he had disqualified himself.


Down we go to the ocean


turning south onto highway 1


The lunch gathering





Paul Adams and his Norton, the oldest bike on the ride


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2015 VOCNA RALLY – Getting there

Jeff and Fred outside Crater Lake

Jeff and Fred outside Crater Lake

Once again Team Mork, consisting of Captain Fred, IceBreaker Ron, mate Jeff and myself traveled in style to the site of the annual Velocette Owners Club Rally, at Diamond Lake, Oregon. On the drive, I tried to predict the theme of my 2015 VOCNA Rally.  The title of this year’s ride, “Rim to the Rogue,” didn’t work for me.  It could be the title of a modern Romance novel, but I have enough hooligans in my life already.  So what was going to be the unifying theme for me?

How we roll

How we roll

What was waiting for me when I got off work Saturday. The team was ready to go!

What was waiting for me when I got off work Saturday. The team was ready to go!

The Northern California landscape we drove through demonstrated drought and it’s dramatic cousin, fire.  In comparison Oregon seemed lush and green.  Diamond Lake was full of water (unlike the last time we were here).  The Oregon Fireweed was blooming and attracting lots of honey bees.

Oregon honey bees

Oregon honey bees

Fire and water.  Elemental forces.  hmmm…. was that my theme?

As usual the first order of business after arriving and setting up the tent was to see who else had arrived and to learn who was not able to make it to this year’s rally.

Many of the usual suspects were absent.  You know who you are.  You were missed.

Gary and Debbie arrive in style

Gary and Debbie arrive in style

Fortunately there were plenty of old friends to see and new people to meet.  Most excitingly Keith and Colleen were back in the United States and riding, after their terrible accident a couple of years ago.  Steve too returned after his epic tumble in Idaho.  In camp, we got to meet first timers: Jody and Bonnie from Ontario, Canada; and Gary and Debbie Roper from Oregon; as well as Kodiac Bill. 

John Ray holds cloth tribute to Sam Jowett

John Ray holds cloth tribute to Sam Jowett

Chairman and active ride organizer, John Ray got right down to business.  He combined the Welcome Dinner with the Rider’s Meeting.  Aside from the usual reminders to be safe, he went over the Chase Truck protocols.  Remember, the clock is ticking.  If the chase truck finds you, you have 15 minutes to fix your bike or refuse help.  (Chase truck driver Glenn is a great addition to the club.)  

John also suggested we remember Sam Jowett by doing two things, eating porridge for breakfast and spending the day riding under 40 miles per hour, and on another day, honor the memory of Ron Thomas by doing two things, consuming two six packs of Coors Light and riding all day over 70 miles per hour. I don’t know of anyone who managed to accomplish both of these.

Meanwhile back at camp we had a couple of visitors who came round to look at the bikes.  One of these visitors was Richard Vincent.  He not only bought a couple of Velocettes from Lou Branch, but also raced a Velocette!  These bikes meant a lot to him!  He had the original paperwork from the first Velocette he bought – he was so young his grandmother had to sign for him.  Richard visited us again in Gold Beach and showed off his racing numbers and two of his bikes.

Fred speaks with Richard

Back at camp, Fred speaks with Richard

Let the fun begin!  Jeff W, bartender extraordinaire!

Let the fun begin! Jeff W, bartender extraordinaire!

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The gathering at the Big Red Barn

The gathering at the Big Red Barn

Many of the usual suspects were not able to attend this year’s VOCNA Spring Opener. What can we say? They missed out!
Once again, our hosts John and Sue Ray, arranged for perfect weather. It was neither too hot nor too cold. Even the wind waited until the awards were presented before kicking up its heels. The Rays have adopted two new rescue dogs, Chester and Daisy, who added their furry selves to the mix.
john ray with chester and daisy

john ray with chester and daisy

The route was similar to past years full of twisty back roads that avoid heavy traffic. The road surfaces however… well, we could have called this the stone-lovers ride. There were no gold rings or diamonds, but perhaps too much interaction with dirt, gravel and boulders.

John Ray hosts riders meeting to a somewhat attentive audience

John Ray hosts riders meeting to a somewhat attentive audience

We all met at the Ray’s big red barn. And what a festive gathering it was. Mirek and Liam Sharp were special guests all the way from Guelph, Ontario. Mirek kindly deigned to ride Jeff Scott’s Endurance, while Liam stayed back at the house and helped set up for our return.
MIrek on  the Endurance

MIrek on the Endurance

Jim Abbott came from Arizona. John Stanley visited from Washington. And there were a lot of people from California, but this is a big state. Gil Loe, Dana Shatts and Tom Ross represented the southern California region. Tom brought a new convert, Cameron who rode a KTM. At the beginning of the day, he laughingly asked me, “Can you imagine a bunch of Harley riders celebrating just because their bikes started?” At the end of the day he was much more impressed with the riding skills and speed of the club members.

John Ellis, George and Sachi Shoblo, Kent Bell and John Sims arrived from communities in the southern San Francisco region. John Sims also introduced his friend Manuela who rode a Sportster. Paul and Sandy Adams came from the east. Sandy was the day’s only pillion rider and she was fearless. Fred Mork, Lance Leavey, Jeff Scott & I all rode in from closer Bay Area communities.
All in all, nineteen bikes took off from the barn and eleven of them were Velos. Other people such as Jeff Ward, Frank Brennan and Charlie Taylor joined the ride later on the route and departed as their lives required.

Fred Mork, Charlie Taylor and Jeff Scott at the Red Hen breakfast spot

Fred Mork, Charlie Taylor and Jeff Scott at the Red Hen breakfast spot

This year’s route followed the usual course, backwards. We stopped for breakfast and then rode down Dry Creek road. Unfortunately this wonderfully twisty road had a rotten corner hiding in it. Dirt, fine, silty, slippery dirt slid down the dry embankment and on to the road. John Ellis led the pack, lost traction and went down. As I went around this corner, I felt my tires get all squirrely just as I saw John Ellis’s bike on the pavement on the wrong side of the road. My senses were obviously mixed-up as it looked like his bike was upside down. By the time I stopped (safely) others were mumbling about ice and slipperiness. Kent Bell returned to kick as much of the dirt as he could back into the hillside where it belonged while others picked the bike up and took it to the shoulder. By latest report John Ellis had a sore leg and a broken foot peg.

Show's over.  The bike is up, the rider checked.  time to get moving again.

Show’s over. The bike is up, the rider checked. time to get moving again.

There was smooth riding after that across highway 29, up highway 128 past Lake Hennessey to Chiles Valley Road where Fred Mork’s bike stalled. He rolled safely to a shoulder on a straight section of road. While Lance Leavey stayed to help identify the problem, I rode on to catch Jeff Scott who is familiar with Fred’s bike. (Sometimes it feels like my role in life is to direct Jeff.) Anyway, I caught up to Jeff at Pope Valley, a scheduled stop. He went back to help Fred, but luckily didn’t have to ride far. Fred had found the problem: a high tension lead had become unseated. He fixed it enough to finish the ride and return to his home.

Fred Mork finds safe place to work on bike

Fred Mork finds safe place to work on bike

At this stop, Jeff Ward caught up with us. According to rumor, he’d been seen at a gas station in Napa with his bike apart and oil everywhere. Paul Zell and Julie who were driving the chase truck went to check out the scene. The problem was identified as a loose gasket. Paul had the fix – an empty pizza box. Cardboard was put into service and once more oil flowed where it should in the bike.

Jeff Scott demands to know why Jeff Ward was late

Jeff Scott demands to know why Jeff Ward was late

At the Pope Valley snack stop, we were entertained with the passage, twice, of some kind of high performance car club. Maserati, Ferrari, Porshe, etc were all represented. But this was no race track. There were plenty of reasons for keeping speeds down on these roads including bicyclists and the local enforcement agencies.

Pope Valley Market.

Pope Valley Market. Oh, Paul Adams was riding the Ducati

Dana Shatts, Sandy And Paul Adams

Dana Shatts, Sandy And Paul Adams

Gil Loe and George Shoblo with Mirek and Manuela in the background

Gil Loe and George Shoblo with Mirek and Manuela in the background

John Stanley gets a push to leave Pope Valley

John Stanley gets a push to leave Pope Valley

After the Pope Valley snack stop was a spirited romp on Pope Canyon road. A right turn and the road winds around Lake Berryessa. Wait! What is that? Oh no no no no… a 100 yard section of gravel followed by asphalt and another section of gravel… and these patches of gravel were present all the way around the lake. Well, this slowed me right down. It wasn’t bad – mostly it was hard-packed gravel, except where some had been churned up or spilled on the asphalt. The strange thing is that there was only one warning sign for all this work and it was a master of understatement. It said, “Bump.”

We all stopped at Moskowite Corner and here I recognized that I was hungry and tired. Not a good combination. Plus I haven’t done any riding this year and am quite out of shape for this kind of exertion. Still we were on the home stretch.
Down narrow two-laned highway 121 we went. Along the way, Jeff Scott passed me very closely and I lost my concentration. I stopped to take a breather and let other pass me. Just as I was pulling away from the turnout, I saw Lance come to a complete stop and get off his bike. Oh no! Before I found a safe place to turn around to see if Lance needed any help, I rounded a corner and there was another Velo down. Jim Abbott chose one of the few places where you can actually get off the asphalt to get close and comfortable with some boulders. Gas was pouring out of his tank while Manuela lifted the bike so Jim could get out from under it. At that moment, Manuela became my hero.

Jim Abbott gets ready to leave Pope Valley

Jim Abbott gets ready to leave Pope Valley

Next was a game of twister to get the bike far enough away from the boulders to stand up on its own. Somehow both rearview mirrors had snapped off Jim’s bike, but otherwise both the bike and rider were okay. (Later I learned that this was the second time Jim laid his bike down on this one ride. Wow! You may be tough Jim, but you don’t need to prove it to us this way!)
Jim Abbot was determined to ride the rest of the way. Fortunately the chase truck arrived because even though all of our bikes were now right side up and on two wheels, we all needed assistance in getting turned around and back on the road. Zell was instrumental in that.

As we continued down the mountain, I focused on returning to that wonderful relaxed and alert state, that focused meditative experience you can get while riding a motorcycle, and I had an epiphany. I’ve noticed how the moods of motorcycle riders parallel the quality of their ride. To put it most simply, when the bikes are running well, riders are happy. When the bikes are not running well, the riders take it personally. This goes beyond a value judgment of mechanic skills to the point where the bike is like an extension of persona. Once I heard a woman speak of the relationship her husband had with his bike in even more intimate terms. But as I was thinking about this, I felt something, one of those things that as soon as you put words to it, the experience dissolves. But here goes. The relationship between rider and bike is not about persona or ego, but spirit. There are times when the bike and the road and the rider are all one and the sense of motion is when the spirit soars.
Ok that’s not quite right, but that’s as close as I can put words to it.
Once we’d returned to the Napa valley the ride was a battle between memory – but I’m sure we need to go left – and map – but the map shows we turn right – and somehow we all managed to make it back to the Ray’s for a screaming bbq, tire-kicking and silly awards.

Manuela's reward for being such a good sport was getting a lesson on how to start a Velo

Manuela’s reward for being such a good sport was getting a lesson on how to start a Velo

So that’s what you who did not attend missed out on. The excuses for not attending this year’s VOCNA Spring Opener ranged from the hoity-toity Quail event, a dirt-loving Funduro, and graduation ceremonies, to one 50th High School reunion (guess who that was!) We hope all these events were as magnificent as possible.

We hope to see you all at the 2015 VOCNA Rally!

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StoryTime at the Library: BEES!

I’m doing a special Saturday presentation on honey bees at the library. This presentation will be live so there is no narration added to the video. I’ll talk mostly about the life of the bees in the hive and share important information like, one M&M weighs the same as 8 bees. This video will either be extra or to give me courage or to attract the restless. This bee extravaganza will end with a craft – probably toilet paper roll bees.
Wish me luck!

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New Year – New Project

Elemental bits of a Velo KSS grass-tracker

Elemental bits of a Velo KSS grass-tracker

Out at Team Mork workshop the KSS grass track machine is roughed out frame fittment-wise, foot peg placement, forks and wheels set up, fenders mounted and seat and tank attachment welded into place. Now its time to get cracking on the internals for the prime motovator! So down to the elemental bits for the engine, gearbox and primary.

Off with the head says the red queen and as it is written so it shall be done. Valves look serviceable but will be replaced with new and new guides. Seat pockets are acceptable with a little shaping. Piston is high dome and much work has been done to make it fit and light. .020 with .008 clearance in the bore. Cam is marked K-17 1 with normal wear and rockers to match. A few less fins on the jug but the bore looks good. Rod and crank look to be in good shape with .004 side play at the big end and no perceptible up and down play. Double row roller on drive side and single on timing end.

Timing case needs to be welded up where broken across lower mag mount stud. Probably why KTTs have base mounted magnetos.

So far we are pleased with the over all condition of the bits and the way the project is moving. The team Captain is confident we can have it painted, together and running for the Clubman’s show in the spring and out to Willow for some hot laps at the 2015 meet.

Stay tuned for updates and news.

Bare Frame

Bare Frame

The Head

The Head

Missing a few fins on the jug and the carved high dome of the piston

Missing a few fins on the jug and the carved high dome of the piston

The lightening holes and material removal from under the crown

The lightening holes and material removal from under the crown

Cam's in good shape.  It's marked K1710

Cam’s in good shape. It’s marked K1710

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TT Motors Not So Annual Picnic

TT Motors Not so Annual Picnic flyer

TT Motors Not so Annual Picnic flyer

Robin Williams said, “If you can remember the ’60’s, you weren’t there.” Well, if you can remember TT Motors from Berkeley in the ’70’s or ’80’s, you might have been like me, safely on the outskirts of the motorcycle scene at that time. I would gaze longingly at the bikes on display, weekly, before grocery shopping at the Berkeley Bowl. Sometimes I’d converse with local characters like Paladin. Just think, if I’d spent more time inside the shop, I might have met Jeff decades earlier.

Anyway, if you were involved, the above flyer will trigger something like a memory. And yes, the gathering is real and in 2014.

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