24th Annual Northern California All-British Ride

Beginning line up - just one portion!

Beginning line up – just one portion!

On Saturday November 2nd, 169 fans of British Bikes registered for a spirited romp through Marin and Sonoma Counties. This was the 24th anniversary of a ride that began as a birthday celebration and has become the event that closes the riding season. Often the ride includes some rain, but this year the weather was sparkling, crisp, cool and clear, and the sunshine brought many riders out.

The one requirement of this ride is that all riders be mounted on a British motorcycle. This means that the Cockney on the BMW is not welcome to ride with the group. The owner of a Velocette who leaves that bike at home and shows up on a Harley is also not accepted. I parked my Buell and rode on the back of Jeff’s Velocette Endurance.

The Velocette Endurance

The Velocette Endurance


Although it may seem limiting, this one rule encompasses a wide spectrum of bikes, from AJS’s and Ariels to Vincents and Velocettes and including lots of other marques in between. Old or new, doesn’t matter. Shiny or patina-ed, original or heavily customized, all are welcome, as long as they are British.
Shiny BSA and Triumph

Shiny BSA and Triumph


Not as shiny, but love the color combination

Not as shiny, but love the color combination


Don't know the story on this one, but I liked it

1971 Eddie Mulder Triumph


This red Vincent is museum quality

This red Vincent is museum quality


The route meandered through rolling hills and along the coast, and stopped at the romantic coastal towns of Tomales and Bodega before returning to the Marin French Cheese factory for a meal and awards ceremony. There was much story telling, a few reunions, some introductions, and lots of adventures. The misadventures included one flat tire and a few falls, but the potential hard landings were more in the style of the 3 Stooges and accompanied with plenty of laughter.
Lou Brero got an award for making the ride on this BSA

Lou Brero got an award for making the ride on this BSA


Other winners included Ron, the LifeSaver, Jim for the oldest bike, his Velocette KTS; Jeff got the Wanker award, and John whose Norton

Other winners included Ron, the LifeSaver, Jim for the oldest bike, Jeff got the Wanker award, & John whose Norton picked up a nail

Although I was told that I looked like a little backpack, and snug as a bug on the back of the Endurance, I prefer to ride my own bike. It’s a lot more exciting!

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6th Annual Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club Rally

Jeff enjoys this mural in Carpinteria

Jeff enjoys this mural in Carpinteria


Let’s Go!
When Brady Walker invited Jeff to participate in the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club Rally, of course Jeff said yes. But then there was a matter of space between the SF Bay Area and Venice. No problem – That meant a road trip!
Venice Vintage Motorcycle Rally

Venice Vintage Motorcycle Rally


We packed up our trusty 1956 Velocette Venom and 2005 Buell Blast and got on the road. Well, first we had to take care of a little business (like a job interview) so we got a late start, and being on small displacement bikes Interstate 5 was not an option. Our route, both there and back focused mainly on Highway 1.
Pismo Beach in the morning

Pismo Beach in the morning


The first night we camped in Pismo Beach. After that, Highway 1 tootles around many beautiful beaches and wends its way through farmland before descending into Santa Barbara, where the population has overgrown its throughway. Carpinteria is still charming, but soon after that Highway 1 dissolves into surface streets and detours through Oxnard. The coast ride through Malibu was spectacular. Then there is Venice Beach.
View of the boardwalk from our hotel window

View of the boardwalk from our hotel window

On Saturday over 500 bikes joined the ride through Santa Monica and up Pacific Coast Highway to Pepperdine University where an installation of waves of U.S. flags honored 9/11 victims.
It’s wild to ride in such a big group. This group, which was made up mostly of modern bikes, was very well behaved overall. Most of the time we rode in two orderly lines. At some intersections, uniformed riders blocked oncoming traffic.

Bikes line up in front of the flags at Pepperdine

Bikes line up in front of the flags at Pepperdine


Then back to the show. Brady and Caroline (and countless others) who didn’t go on the ride, had been busy. Instead of an empty parking lot, there were venders, a dunk tank, a stage with live music, food, beer, and a bike show. There was a raffle bike and some awards that qualified as sculptures.
East Side Moto Babes were present

East Side Moto Babes were present


One Vixen is about to get wet

One Vixen is about to get wet

The raffle bike and the trophies

The raffle bike and the trophies

Thanks to Caroline, Jeff entered his bike in the Best British Category and I rolled mine into the Ugliest. For a long time, my bike had no competition. Eventually a few others demonstrated a sense of humor and added their bikes.

Ugliest Bike Competition

Ugliest Bike Competition

Then it was time to sit back and watch and listen and eat lunch. We were surprised to see the Young family from San Francisco. Pete and Kim were on their way to the 2013 Del Mar Show – a completely different side of motorcycling than the one we were participating in! Pete’s posted some amazing photos of epic bikes on his blog, Occhio Lungo

Beautiful 1936 Norton

Beautiful 1936 Norton


Diversity takes on new meaning

Diversity takes on new meaning

What is in that pod?

What is in that pod?


Lunch supplied by Oscar's Cerveteca

Lunch supplied by Oscar’s Cerveteca


Jeff won the Best British Award!
Brady honors Jeff's Venom with the Best British Award

Brady honors Jeff’s Venom with the Best British Award


The bike that beat mine for the Ugliest trophy

The bike that beat mine for the Ugliest trophy


Then as if motorcycles weren’t enough, there was the Miss Venice Vintage Pin-Up Contest
Contestants all eager to make a good impression

Contestants all eager to make a good impression


Never a quiet moment for the winner

Never a quiet moment for the winner

Many thanks to Brady and Caroline!!!

The morning after - a long slow walk along the beach

The morning after – a long slow walk along the beach


Instead of coming straight home, we continued deeper into the LA basin and came out the other side to visit VOCNA stalwarts, Larry Luce, & Mike Jongblood. At Mike’s home we also met up with Mick Felder and Craig Rich. Interestingly we’d heard about the last two while at the Rally – and we heard all good things!
Jeff shows off his trophy to Mike & Larry

Jeff shows off his trophy to Mike & Larry


Whoo Hoo!  I'm riding a MAC!

Whoo Hoo! I’m riding a MAC!

Finally it was time to turn around and head back up the coast. We took our time, camping and eating all the way. Back roads like highway 192 through Santa Barbara were much more enjoyable than the tense high-speed burn alternating with splitting lanes of highway 101. Lake Cachuma was beautiful – and the campground was empty! Cold Spring Tavern was challenging to get to, but the twisty ride in the dark was worth the trip.

Morning view at Lake Cachuma complete with rowers from UC Santa Barbara

Morning view at Lake Cachuma complete with rowers from UC Santa Barbara


Glam shot of the Venom in the morning light

Glam shot of the Venom in the morning light


Highway 1 up and through Big Sur was sunny and clear and very very windy. It was quite exciting to be going around a corner and feel the wind pick the whole bike up and move you over six feet. Both Jeff and I noticed that any cars that were behind us, fell way back. Our ride must have looked frightening to them too.

The road provided one more major thrill – as we went across the Golden Gate Bridge, we saw the America’s Cup race going on right below us!

Unfortunately, my bike, which had been riding rough, decided to die at Sears Point. I coasted to the intersection of 121 and 37 and found Jeff waiting in the shade. He rode home alone, and drove the truck back to pick me up. A fouled spark plug.

Now that we’ve put a new spark plug in, I guess I have to go for a test ride…

Dessert at Bui Bistro in Napa

Dessert at Bui Bistro in Napa

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148th Scottish Highland Gathering and Games

Couple from the Living History group check out the GTP

Couple from the Living History group check out the GTP


When we arrived at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, the sun was just warming up the horizon. Jeff and I were in an unrestored 1964 Dodge pickup with two motorcycles in the back, a 1939 Royal Enfield and a 1946 Velocette GTP. The bikes were to go into the show of British bikes, as part of the 148th Scottish Highland Gathering and Games.

The man at the entrance booth looked at our parking slip and said, “Well, that’s the wrong color paper, but since you look like the real thing, I’ll let you in.”

I don’t know how you can get much realer than us! Still I was mystified about how British bikes fit into these Scottish Games. Kent Bell organized this show as well as Clan Bell tent. And he went on this year’s Velocette Owners’ Club of North America Rally.

Kent Bell on his Velocette

Kent Bell on his Velocette

Fit seemed to be loosely applied. The Scottish Games has something for everyone, from the traditional competitions, to bagpipes, clan tents, whisky tasting, dancing, sales of everything from soap to kilts, living history, sheep dog trials, birds of prey, men in kilts, Clydesdale horses, rescue dog adoptions, and a British motorcars & motorcycle cavalcade. The motorcycles were between the Morgans and a beautiful Rolls Royce, and across from the Triumphs and MGs.

View of the bikes with the Rolls Royce

View of the bikes with the Rolls Royce


Royal Enfield and Morgans

Royal Enfield and Morgans


It’s a good thing this is a two-day event. It would be easy to spend one day shopping and one day watching the competitions. Or one day learning and playing at the Living History camp. Or one day tracing family history and learning about specific clans….
Mary Queen of Scots and her court

Mary Queen of Scots and her court


Sheep dog herds three goats into a pen

Champion dog herds three sheep into a pen


The birds of prey

The birds of prey


One of the many bagpipe bands warms up

One of the many bagpipe bands warms up


I darted out to check on all the above activities, but the best spot was right with the bikes. We got to hear all sorts of music! Behind us, bagpipers warmed up.
In front of us, was a bandstand where my new favorite band, Albannach, played three times a day.
Albannach on stage - and the crowd goes wild!

Albannach on stage – and the crowd goes wild!


Albannach's Jamesie liked the GTP.  Note he secured his kilt before starting the bike.

Albannach’s Jamesie liked the GTP. Note he secured his kilt before starting the bike.

At quieter times I collected silly comments and learned about the other bikes in the show. The GTP was labeled a “Bad Bike,” which made the little 250 very happy. One person bravely asked, “I always thought BSA stood for Boy Scouts of America, but what do they have to do with motorcycles?”

Kilts and Bikes, what a great combination

Kilts and Bikes, what a great combination


Next year, I’d like to bring more information about the old bikes. Provenance is a huge part of each bike’s history, and for those who wanted to listen, there were plenty of stories.

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Day 5: Nevada City to Volcano

Friday: Nevada City to Volcano
Jeff was wondering why we always end up at the back of the pack. Below are some photos that illustrate some possibilities of why we end up last. However I didn’t have these photos and I figured being last was all my fault. Feeling guilty I set my goal for the day to ride faster. Remember the tortoise and the hare fable? This day was a bit like that. But first:

First we enjoy camp coffee.

First we enjoy camp coffee.


Some people, like Larry, polish their show bikes.

Some people, like Larry, polish their show bikes.


Kevin gets ready for another day on the road

Kevin gets ready for another day on the road


John S. was caught washing his bike

John S. was caught washing his bike


Note what John E. carries in his bag.  If you need oil, he's your man

Note what John E. carries in his bag. If you need oil, he’s your man


Kent is a good man to follow; he has the map

Kent is a good man to follow; he has the map

So after coffee, getting reports on each bike, and packing, we rode into Nevada City for breakfast.

Our breakfast spot is not the saloon, but the place next door where Jeff is standing

Our breakfast spot is not the saloon, but the place next door where Jeff is standing, the Nevada City Cafe Classic


Others saw the bikes out front and joined us in the cafe.

Others saw the bikes out front and joined us in the cafe. Oh the food was great!


Stylish helmets can't compete with the chef's thick white hair

Stylish helmets can’t compete with the chef’s thick white hair

Not long after breakfast we came upon Kim. Her bike once again sported the dreaded orange tape. She had ridden out yet another flat tire.

Just because you use your orange tape once to signal that your bike is ready to go on the chase truck, does not mean you  won't need it again.

Just because you use your orange tape once to signal that your bike is ready to go on the chase truck, does not mean you won’t need it again.


We are not your usual tourists

We are not your usual tourists


cross from the auto parts store, Kim takes her bike off the chase truck and prepares to ride again.

Across from the auto parts store, Kim takes her bike off the chase truck and prepares to ride again.


While in Georgetown, we stopped and had some great Mexican food. Good thing because it would be a long time until dinner.

Here’s where the tortoise and the hare fable and my goal to ride faster came into play. Remember, I was riding with a swollen left hand, that didn’t close all the way and no glasses. (Mine were lost on the day of the accident.) I was able to see the road okay, but could not read the map. Anyway I was determined to push myself, but could not keep up with the fast guys and got ahead of those riding slower. Then I got lost. Finding my way involved finding dirt roads, talking to one guy who seemed to think I wanted to go swimming with him, and encountering a group of very helpful – and handsome young men. Eventually I found the wooden suspension bridge and rode over it, but did not get the chance to really see it. Fortunately, Jeff took a video of Kim riding across this one lane wooden suspension bridge.

Getting lost took up a lot of time. I felt bad for the chase truck and others who waited for me at this bridge. Kevin saved the day by keeping me moving and then suggesting we miss the loop to Folsom Lake and go wine tasting in the Shenandoah Valley instead. This was great fun! But then we had the last ridge to navigate before getting back to Volcano. On this ridge, we more than made up the miles we missed by not going to Folsom Lake. Eventually however we made it back.

Back to Volcano and the St. George Hotel

Back to Volcano and the St. George Hotel

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Day 4: Mineral to Nevada City

Thursday: Mineral to Nevada City

Loading one of the chase trucks in Mineral.

Loading a BSA into one of the chase trucks in preparation for leaving Mineral.


Other VOCNA members will have to tell their own tales of adventure and misadventure. For some reason, Don D. determined that both of his bikes were belonged on the work bench at home and he volunteered to drive the chase truck on Thursday and Friday. He and Shirley drove the Volvo which had been repaired thanks to the super-human efforts of Paul Z. However Don couldn’t put his bikes on the trailer and be able to pick up anyone who broke down. Matt’s truck was the auxiliary chase vehicle. The riders who had volunteered at the beginning of the week were grateful for another chance to ride.

One thing Kim’s maps did very well was tell riders when and where to get fuel. From Mineral the route took us a different way to Chester for gas and then led us to Quincy, for the last gas for 78 miles. Here the maps mentioned a cafe, which meant eat up, because you leave not only the fuel supply but also the known culinary map after this. The Morning Thunder Cafe was well worth the stop.

From Quincy, we rode up a steep, twisty road. Here on the narrowest section, in the hottest part of the day, Jeff W.’s Velo seized. It had been running very well, carrying two people, but now it wouldn’t go an inch further.

Our fellowship broke up. After he confirmed that he could not be of assistance, Fred raced off in search of shade. Jeff W. and Amy waited for the chase truck (the Volvo, now being driven by Don Danmeier). With great effort I got myself going out of a bad stop (never stop on such a steep incline again!) Eventually Jeff Scott caught up with me – but there was a painful time of exploring dead ends and riding in circles, chasing each other.

A sign on the backroads

A sign on the backroads


Then we got on the best section of road yet, the Quincy La Porte Road. We were in the back country now! There was pavement and good quality dirt. We went over a narrow dam. From here the road looked like it disappeared. We even asked an electrician where the road went. He gestured forward. The road became a single lane with plenty of switchbacks, all camouflaged in pine needles. We caught up to a water truck that was was sometimes the only sign of where the road was, but we had to get around the truck because water was being sloshed out of the top of it.
We came out of the hills and into a familiar area of another part of my life. I was almost possessed by the spirit of muffins past to take the wrong turn. (If you don’t understand this, you weren’t there. Don’t bother asking.)

We looked longingly at the watering holes near Bullards Bar Resevoir, but were too hungry to stop. There’s never enough time on these rides.

Jeff S. walked into the lake at the campsite just before dark

Jeff S. walked into the lake at the campsite just before dark


Unfortunately, the campground was far from the hotels, a few miles outside of Nevada City proper. It was crowded and noisy and had dirty bathrooms. However, the showers were separate from the toilets. Besides, we had a good location and a great group – just enough to squish around one picnic table and sample what everyone carried in their flasks.
Campground stil life

Campground stil life

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Day 3: Lassen National Park

Day 3: Lassen National Park
Today the route took us on a short loop and then dove into Lassen National Park. Here there vividly colored lakes (emerald was my favorite), hiking trails, hot springs, evidence of lava flows from early in the last century, and other tourists.

Earlier, one VOCNA member, Allan Dow, told me an amazing tale. He believes he may have been the first person to ride a motorcycle to the top of Mt. Lassen. In 1952, he rode a 500 T Norton to the top. Well, if he wasn’t the first, he was among the first. That is one steep trail!

Amy, Jeff W. and Fred Mork at the parking lot at the base of the trail to the top.  We didn't go up on either feet or wheels!

Amy, Jeff W. and Fred Mork at the parking lot at the base of the trail to the top. We didn’t go up on either feet or wheels!


Jeff S.cools off in what little snow there was

Jeff S.cools off in what little snow there was


This as the shortest and easiest day – to give people more energy to play shuffleboard in the bar in Mineral. The park was beautiful, but like every where we went, it seemed dry.
Velocettes and other bikes parked outside of the Mineral Lodge

Velocettes and other bikes parked outside of the Mineral Lodge


Jeff S. and Fred look at the bikes parked in front of the lodge

Jeff S. and Fred look at the bikes parked in front of the lodge


Typical country western view

Typical country western view


yet another handsome model

yet another handsome model


Instead of either camping or staying at the Mineral Lodge, some people rented a house - which was also in walking distance!

Instead of either camping or staying at the Mineral Lodge, some people rented a house – which was also in walking distance!


The Endurance carried Dai and Judith with no problems this year

The Endurance carried Dai and Judith with no problems this year


Back at our camp, we have a visitor, Jack

Back at our camp, we have a visitor, Jack

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Day 2 Downieville to Mineral

Tuesday, Downieville to Mineral

Kent tells John and Kevin a tall tale about a Fishtail

Kent tells John and Kevin a tall tale about a Fishtail


Jeff-Ward-and-Corey-Padulla

Jeff W. ties more red ribbons on while explaining to Corey how they make his bike faster.


Larry thought he'd heard everything until Jeff began a story about the longest fishtail...

Larry thought he’d heard everything until Jeff began a story about the longest fishtail…


Fred oversaw the making of the coffee and the wrenching

Fred oversaw the making of the coffee and the wrenching

First things first. On Monday night, when Fred and I arrived in Downieville, a man with whiskers down to his knees came out and looked at the bikes. “I used to have a couple of those,” he said through tobacco stained teeth. “I might have a few parts laying ‘round still. Come back tomorrow morning early and see.”

Tuesday, well, Fred knows what’s important. First he shared coffee with all the campers. Then he oversaw the wrenching. Finally we rode into Downieville and Fred went into the gas station to find out what parts might have shown up. The original old guy was gone, but he’d left a young relative to negotiate for him. He’d shown up with a magneto complete with a timing gear and the nut to run the tachometer as well as an almost pristine rocker box. After examining the parts, Fred decided to buy them. But how were we going to carry them?

Penny and Bill in Matt’s bright blue truck were designated as the chase truck today. The couple loved taking on such an important role in the ride, but they didn’t know what they were getting into when they accepted the box with the newly purchased parts and fell into place directly behind us.

Today was a beautiful route with rolling hills, lots of twisties, incredible scenic views, acres of burnt forest and miles of dirt passages.

We stopped in Portola for a meal. Here, the chef listened to the police radio as she cooked. Local news such as an unconscious body on Main Street was announced to all the customers.

Soon after this, the route led us onto a dirt road, and not just packed dirt, but washboard with big rocks. The only way I know to survive such terrain is to go slow and relaxed. However my mind still raced and worried about every possible turn off. Was I going the right way? It was fabulous to see the rocks indicating that the route would now return to some very rough pavement and a little embarrassing to see a number of riders waiting for me.

Checking the bikes after the dirt road.  The chase truck is not far behind.

Checking the bikes after the dirt road. The chase truck is not far behind.


Kim organizes all including how she would continue on the ride.

Kim organizes all including how she would continue on the ride.


Around a corner and there was Kim with the dreaded orange tape on her bike. She’d ridden out a flat tire and if that wasn’t enough, she got to experience what riding behind her husband felt like. Bet there’s going to be some improvement in seating for the kids next year!
The swimming hole and yes, that's Bill

The swimming hole and yes, that’s Bill


We stopped to swim and at a great grocery store in Taylorville. This shop had great food and made a good coffee shake.
A fabulous grocery store deserves a fabulous cash register

A fabulous grocery store deserves a fabulous cash register


eff Scott and Amy with a coffee shake.  Note the sign

Jeff Scott and Amy with a coffee shake. Note the sign


However somewhere outside of Taylorville, Don Turner found a patch of sand and went down. He was only wearing a t-shirt and so scraped up his right arm pretty good. He’d been riding with Frank Forster and Frank set up some rocks, so no one else would hit this treacherous sand.

In case the one stretch of dirt road was not enough of a challenge, Jeff led me down two more dirt roads. He’s determined to make me a better rider but it made for a long day.

Mineral was like an oasis with camping, a restaurant, hotel and the liveliest bar all in walking distance. It even had a wide porch with rocking chairs.

Mineral Lodge

Mineral Lodge

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VOCNA 2013 Volcano Rally – First Day

Volcano, St George Hotel and me offering blackberries.

Volcano, St George Hotel and me offering blackberries.


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.

Directions to all the hot spots in and around Volcano

Directions to all the hot spots in and around Volcano

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.
Indian-Grinding-Rock-park

Indian Grinding Rock Park


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.

The-You-Bet-Room-and-Jeff

Anything could happen in the You Bet room


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.)
The buffet at the St. George

The buffet at the St. George


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.
President-Kim

President Kim had no idea what she was getting into


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?

Jeff Scott's Venom carries everything he needs.

Jeff Scott’s Venom carries everything he needs.


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.
That's me in red, Fred is in blue and the sleepy driver is wearing the orange safety vest

That’s me in red, Fred is in blue and the sleepy driver is wearing the orange safety vest


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.
My hands don't match here.

My hands don’t match here.


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.

Whenever a Velocette is stopped on the side of the road, the curious and helpful stop.  Here Don talks with Jeff Ward (one of the helpful).

Whenever a Velocette is stopped on the side of the road, the curious and helpful stop. Here Don talks with Jeff Ward (one of the helpful).


The what-in-the-world-happened crack

The what-in-the-world-happened crack


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!

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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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2013 Quail Motorcycle Gathering

Jeff and Lanora in front of the Velocette Booth

Jeff and Lanora in front of the Velocette Booth

The 2013 Quail Motorcycle Gathering illustrated not only the set theme of the Past, Present and Future of motorcycles, but also how art can be functional. The pictures here illustrate only a small fraction of what my senses took in.

On Saturday May 4th I traveled with Team Mork, to the scenic Carmel Valley to participate in this civilized event. Imagine a proper English Garden Party with perfect weather combined with bad boys of motorcycling and lots of female riders, and you come close to this event.

Team Mork included Fred Mork himself, Ron Perconti, Jeff Scott and myself. Due to some mechanical issues we were not able to take the ten motorcycles that we’d planned on transporting. Instead we chaperoned two racing Harley Davidsons from the 1960’s and in the long run that turned out to be fine.

Fred and Ron unloading the van

Fred and Ron unloading the van


Kim and her family set this bike in the space for bikes that finished the Cannonball cross country tour.

Kim and her family set this bike in the space for bikes that finished the Cannonball cross country tour.

From a distance, we saw the racing Velocette MAC arrive

From a distance, we saw the racing Velocette MAC arrive

The Velocette Club of North America booth

The Velocette Club of North America booth

From the 1913 Veloce on the left of this photo, the very rare Velocette Mk VII factory racer, to Frank Recoder’s 1966 Thruxton, many decades of development are covered. Next to the VOCNA booth were the bikes of the future. The 2012 Molinari G2 is a flying bike. As the motorized vehicle moves forward, it powers the lifting propeller (not pictured). Once in the air, the other propeller (visible behind the seat) moves the vehicle forward.

The flying machine

The flying machine


In addition are many prototypes for bikes of the future. Electric motorcycles. Diesel motorcycles. Stream-lined motorcycles. Who knows?
Other bikes of the future

Other bikes of the future


Art and function meet in this amazing motorcycle

Art and function meet in this amazing motorcycle

The Deco Liner also blended art with function, and was a big crowd-pleaser

The Deco Liner also blended art with function, and was a big crowd-pleaser

Jeff in the drivers seat of the DecoLiner

Jeff in the drivers seat of the DecoLiner


The liner came with its own matching scooters and helmet

The liner came with its own matching scooters and helmet


From the top of the liner, we took some photos. It was still early in the day. The field became much more crowded later.
A view of the show bikes

A view of the show bikes

Our lunch menu

Our lunch menu


Everything was magnificent. The weather sparkling. The food great and abundant. The only mistake was in the sign for Fred’s collection. It seemed to predict the problems he would have getting his collection to the show. However getting a prize more than made up for any mistake.
Sign with name misspelled

Sign with name misspelled


Fred accepts an award for the KRTT

Fred accepts an award for the KRTT


Yes that’s Paul d’Orleans interviewing Fred. Paul was in his element as Official co-D.J. Other VOCNA members present included Frank Recoder who had two bikes in the show and was quite the star himself, and Elizabeth Recoder, John Ray who set up the VOCNA booth, Pete Young & Don Danmeier who were working as judges, Kim, Atticus and Siri Young, Debbie and Niel Macdonald, and John Sims who rode his silver Venom to the event. (He was told to park across the street, because they didn’t identify what his bike was.)
Finally it was time to go home.
Pete and his 1913 Veloce at the end of the day

Pete and his 1913 Veloce at the end of the day


One last look at the DecoLiner

One last look at the DecoLiner

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