2013 VOCNA Spring Opener

Line up of Velocettes at the end of the day.

Line up of Velocettes at the end of the day.

John and Sue Ray did it once again For the VOCNA Spring Opener, they arranged with the weather gods for perfect riding weather, sunny but not too hot. Cool enough for Jim Abbott from Tucson Arizona to have goose bumps, but John Stanley from Oregon was ecstatic that it was not raining, and Polly and Adrian, visitors from cooler climates across the pond, were beaming with the sunshine.
Omar, Jeff and Fred get ready.

Omar, Jeff and Fred get ready.


Of course I traveled to Napa from nearby Vallejo with a Bay Area entourage , Captain of Industry, Fred Mork, shade tree mechanic extraordinaire Jeff Scott and first timer Omar Hernandez.(a Fonzi doppleganger for those old enough to remember the TV show Happy Days). Fred and Jeff were on Velocette Venoms and Omar rode a borrowed Velocette Endurance.

The enlightened gathered at the barn. By the time we departed there were 24 Velocettes and one non-Velo (my Buell). This included many makes and models. Pete Young’s 1913 Veloce was the oldest. but each bike has a story Omar and Mark Frost, on a KSS, were first timers. We all listened closely as John Ray dispersed words of wisdom at the rider’s meeting. Ride safely!

Gathering in front of the barn

Gathering in front of the barn


Riders Meeting

Riders meeting


With the maps stuffed in pockets close to our hearts we took off down the hill (makes it easy to start the old bikes), one left and then another left to get out of civilization and into real riding.

Right away we met our first challenge: bicycles. Yes there was some sort of organized bicycle ride with a route that copied ours and this was on a narrow twisty section of road that wound up and over the hills. Imagine a bicycle and a motorcycle and their riders playing Twister. Rant about the advances of technology versus sustainable practices. Whatever. The bicycles were interfering with my vibe: I just wanted to go!

Enough said.

The VOCNA club made it safely to our first stop, breakfast in Glen Ellen. While I paid tribute to a former denizen of Glen Ellen (Hunter S. Thompson lived here in 1964), Don Danmeier worked on his Velo. It had an annoying intermittent electrical malfunction. The bike fired while in the back of the truck, but once delivered safely to the asphalt, it would not start. Back into the truck it went.

Welcoming cafe in Glen Ellen

Welcoming cafe in Glen Ellen


Where was ambassador Pete Young when you need him? This bike was parked outside the cafe when we arrived.

Where was ambassador Pete Young when you need him? This bike was parked outside the cafe when we arrived.


Paul Adams cleans his bike in Glen Ellen

Paul Adams cleans his bike in Glen Ellen


In Glen Ellen, one side of the parking lot was lined with this amazing fence which showed off John Sims Velocette

In Glen Ellen, one side of the parking lot was lined with this amazing fence which showed off John Sims Velocette


Omar arrived on the Endurance

Omar arrived on the Endurance


Don worked on his bike in the back of the chase truck

Don worked on his bike in the back of the chase truck


Nice tool bag!

Nice tool bag!

Later in the day, Abbott and I came across Olav Hassel whose bike was exhibiting the same intermittent symptoms. We figured there must be pyramids or some other errant energy power sites in the area.

Olav kneels before the battery

Olav kneels before the battery


From Glen Ellen the route took us to Kenwood. This was a part of Sonoma County I’ve never seen before. Vineyards and wineries lined our road, but in a more discreet way than such farms illustrate the Napa countryside.

We crossed over the mountains from Kenwood to Calistoga on a wider, less twisty route than the earlier ride. Here there were astonishingly beautiful views of the Napa Valley that made me want to sit back and open my arms wide. This is the gold that made California famous.

Calistoga was busy doing a roaring weekend trade in wine and mud baths. We waved at Frank Recoder as we rode through the town. He’s a sly devil and was either buying wine or meeting his wife for a romantic getaway.

We hopped on the Silverado Trail and headed back to Napa. By we I mean whoever was on a Velocette. As we followed the route, we passed other riders who had stopped to pull their maps out and make sure they were headed in the right direction. Since I’d been here before, they let me lead the way.

In fact I had been on many of these roads before and couldn’t help glorying in the idea that this, the ribbon of road that wove in and out of the Napa Valley, was my playground. At one stop on the Silverado Trail, I looked at the single male driver in a red convertible and thought, poor guy, you’re not having as much fun as we are.

From the Silverado Trail to the Oakville Grade to a spirited romp on Dry Creek and back to Casa Del Ray for refreshments and story telling. At this time a few exotic guests that only show up for the Spring Opener like Rob Drury and Christina joined in the stories. (They aren’t married yet, but have acquired a very cute dog that is learning how to ride on the tank).

Story Telling, Paul Zell, Don and Jim Romain

Story Telling, Paul Zell, Don and Jim Romain


More story telling:  On the right and in the background Fred Mork with John Sims, center Frank Recoder with Dana Shatts and Elizabeth, and to the left, Kent Bell with Olav, and Adrian and Polly

More story telling: On the right and in the background Fred Mork with John Sims, center Frank Recoder with Dana Shatts and Elizabeth, and to the left, Kent Bell with Olav, and Adrian and Polly


Most of the stories were in the form of what-I-did-to-make-this-bike-run-better. Others were tales of the-bike-that-was-left-at-home (some of these bikes have never been seen by any one except the owner, and have taken on mythic status.) And everyone had a story of the day’s ride. Some were worthy of awards.

The bike of Paul Adams had an oil leak? What?! This is very uncharacteristic and worthy of the Oil Slick Award. Runner up, Eric Hassel got away this time.

Voting for either Eric Hassel or Paul Adams to receive the Oil Slick award

Voting for either Eric Hassel or Paul Adams to receive the Oil Slick award


Pete Young’s bike won for the best Velocette in absentia. He had to hightail it home to pick up his son.
Pete and his 1913 Veloce at the Quail

Pete and his 1913 Veloce at the Quail


There was a tie for the remaining two awards, the Lucas black bulb award and the Rat Trap. The bikes of Don Danmeier and Olav Hassel were each worthy and each was worthy of both awards. It was decided by the grand poobah, John Ray himself, that the awards be split. This way both Olav and Don could take home one award.

In a close count, the decision was that Don take home the black bulb award but he had to glue the bulb back on the award. Olav was awarded the Rat Trap.

The dreaded Lucas and Rat Trap awards presented to Don and Olav

The dreaded Lucas and Rat Trap awards presented to Don and Olav


The feast came in the form of a buffet: enchiladas, tamales, rice, beans, salad and all the trimmings, with flan for desert Thanks to Maritza for all her work and cheerful serving. Special thanks to Sue for organizing all this.

Doesn’t get more romantic than this: One woman’s new health regime meant she put on some weight. So much weight that she couldn’t fit into her leathers. She came home one day to find her husband had sorted it all out. He’d made an appointment for her to get a new set of custom-sized leathers.

For those that don’t or only vaguely remember Happy Days, check out the episode where Fonzi meets Mork (no relation to my traveling companions). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46cG2foNwiU

Final view

Final view

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