For 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!