After the week was over, a resident of Volcano, California who had overheard the many stories of breakdowns and get-offs told me, “The St. George is cursed you know.”
Well, I don’t believe a word of that. Besides it wasn’t just the people who stayed at the St. George that had adventures. Velocette riders have been pursuing that flighty temptress, Adventure, long before Dumbledore extended his invitation to Harry Potter.The St. George Hotel in Volcano, (population 103) was the location of the VOCNA welcome dinner at the beginning of the week and the AGM at the end. It was a funky setting with colorful characters that somehow managed to bring the members, some of whom were staying at the Union Inn, others at the nearby Indian Grinding Rock campground, together.
Although the official meeting date was Sunday, Jeff and I left home Saturday to make the short jaunt across the central valley. Our journey was hot, but uneventful, marked only by the great shake in Walnut Grove and exuberant wave from an elderly bicyclist in Galt.
Although we arrived in Volcano a day early, we were not the first to arrive. Jim Romain greeted us and introduced Jeff to the funky bar while I checked into the St. George hotel. I was hoping for an encounter with a ghost, but the only ghosts we experienced were the ghosts of Velocette rallies, past, present and future.
On Sunday, Jeff and I set up camp near the grinding rocks and joined other campers such as Jeff and Amy, Fred, Paul and Julie, Kent, and those Beezer boys, Matt and Blaise. (It was officially determined that they were too young to be Beezer Geezers.) Meanwhile VOCNA members arrived from all around the world, and the excitement grew. Amongst the usual suspects were quite a few new participants such as Blaise and Matt, matchless Charlie Taylor, Don Turner and his wife (Shirley, I think), Mick Delany, (Jack’s nephew) and Penny and Bill, George Shoblo’s friends from Australia, (I apologize to anyone I forgot, and for the misspellings I’m sure to have inflicted on you.)
At 8:30 Monday morning, president Kim Young held the riders’ meeting. Then maps in hand, everyone got their bikes to start and headed out every which way. Later John S. said, “I knew it was going to be a good ride, when I saw bikes going off in different directions.
The first day was no easy shake down cruise of rider and machine. There was no key for how the route map should be interpreted. No. No. No.
Five minutes out of town, new rally member, Mick hit a deer. According to Kevin Burrell who pulled him out of a ditch, Mick was able to dust himself off and ride the rest of the day due to wearing proper riding gear and a bit of luck. His brave words were, “Just don’t tell my wife.”
In the throes of map-reading frustration, Jeff and I became separated and the group I was riding with became lost. However we found Frank Forster who knows these hills and cow trails like the back of his hand. It was great following him even as he became hungry and took us on a tour of empty parking lots by favorite breakfast stops that were closed on Monday mornings. Do Californians not eat breakfast on Mondays?
Around 11 a.m. in Diamond Springs, we pulled off the road to discuss the state of our stomachs. On the road nearby, a driver fell asleep and coasted his Buick towards us. This may sound like the beginning of a Stephen King novel, but really it was much less exciting. The driver managed to miss everyone behind me, but clipped the back of my left hand, which unleashed a torrent of words that belong only in horror movie. Maybe this worked, because he woke up in time to brake before hitting Fred who was sitting on his Venom in front of me. The car came close enough to knock the mirror loose.
After a brief conversation, the driver headed back on the road. According to those who continued on the route, the driver was last seen in a ditch with all the emergency crew around him. He must have fallen asleep again.
Although we put ice on my hand, it swelled in an alarming manner so off we went to the nearest place to get it x-rayed. Fred Mork and Dave Smith stuck with me throughout all of this. Others that I was riding with, like Frank and Terry made sure I had all the support I needed before they continued on their way. Norlene Wolpert turned up with another chase vehicle. I had quite the support team! Once the results were known, (nothing was broken!), Dave continued on with his life – what is in his future, Korea or China? Then Fred and I got back on the route.
Meanwhile, others were having their own adventures and misadventures. Jim Abbott volunteered his Volvo and trailer as the chase vehicle. Paul Zell volunteered to drive it the first day. George Shoblo had a flat tire, so he and Sachi got in the station wagon. Somehow they got off the route on a dirt road that was hungry for Volvos. One bump and it was all over, a broken motor mount and a flat tire and who knows what else.
In them thar hills, cell phone service is sporadic at best. Rumors however fly the old West equivalent of a jungle telegraph. At some point I learned that I had been knocked off my bike and was laying in the street until I was scraped up and taken the to emergency room. The Volvo incident suffered similar exaggerations. In reality, the worst part was that the rescuing tow truck didn’t come for them until 7 p.m.
Meanwhile newcomer Don split the gear cases in his Velo and was stranded on a particularly hot section of road. I’m not sure how he got out of that situation, but he was a good sport about it all and willing to take a different marque out the next day.
One of the extenuating problems of a chase truck break down is that stuff like tents may not arrive. Back at the camp, the Padulas spent a lovely night under the stars on one of the picnic tables, as sacrificial offerings to the mosquitos. No photos though!