Weather: What do you think?
Last Friday, I took half a day off work to attend an incredible show of vintage motorbikes in a little town called Farmington, Minnesota. It was an exercise in self-torture, because so many of them were actually for sale, and regular readers know the precarious state of my personal finances. But it does me good to see these ancient machines kept in such fine fettle.
The Viking Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America have held their annual gathering in Farmington since 1986. Before that, they alternated with LeMars, Iowa, according to club historian Tom Jones. (Not THAT Tom Jones. I detected no trace of a Welsh accent over the phone.)
In order for a bike to qualify as “antique”, it must be 35 years old or older. They accept any make or model of motorbike, as long as it was produced prior to that magic date. This means that the first KLRs ever produced will be eligible for antique status in just fifteen years. Why am I suddenly feeling old?
I spent much of the time sitting in the shade of an awning with my friends Rob Himmelman and his partner Arlene, who have operated a T-shirt stand at this event every year I’ve come.
Now, some of you are scratching your heads, wondering why Rob’s name sounds so familiar. Well, I’ll end the suspense for you….
Peter Egan of Cycle World magazine often mentions Rob in his columns, and has even featured him in articles concerning dual-sport or trail riding. Rob is an experienced and accomplished rider, and he also holds the title of Overseer of the Marquette County Home for Wayward Cycles.
In July’s column, Peter alluded to the fact that one of his friends had a near crash, riding straight-on through a 35 mph curve at about 70. Well, that would be Rob, and there is more to the story….
Rob was riding his older R100 BMW, with two other riders on faster, more modern sportbikes. As often happens, the pace picked up as the ride wore on, and soon Rob found himself alone on an unfamiliar road.
Not wanting to lose the others entirely, Rob blasted up a hill at about 70 mph and, seeing that the overhead powerlines proceeded in a straight line over the top of the hill, naturally assumed that the road followed the same straight line. Not this time, however.
Topping the rise, he saw it was a T-intersection. The powerlines led to a farmhouse across a field. Rob grabbed as much brakes as he could without losing control. Then he did what any good dirt rider will do; balanced body-weight and throttle for the jump. Rob and his BMW cleared the ditch and landed several rows into the cornfield, in thick mud only recently unfrozen. They wibbled and wobbled for some distance before he could get it slowed down enough to plant his feet, one of which slipped in the mud, and they fell over at last.
Still, that was a virtuoso performance. The telling of it was almost as good as the actual deed itself. Bravo, Rob.
As the sun climbed into the clear June sky, the heat started to make itself felt. Leaving my jacket with Rob, I proceded to wander the grounds and look at all these beautiful motorbikes that I can never own. As the sun reached it’s zenith, a strange apparition appeared…
A vision in white, Paul Meisel pilots his Ice Cream Wagon around the fairgrounds to the relief of many an overheated biker. Modelled after a vintage Indian motorcycle, Paul’s bike is actually a modern Kawasaki Vulcan cruiser fitted with vintage Indian bodywork. Hey, it fooled me at first glance, until I saw that radiator between the front frame tubes.
I have so many photographs from this event, but I can’t share them all on the blog. It would take forever to download. I didn’t attend the auction, because it would have broken my heart. Trust me when I say that these guys have established a piece of heaven in the motorcycle universe.
All of those grand old classics that we talk about around campfires at our various rallies, were represented either inside the barn or out on the grounds. The number and quality of obscure parts for sale boggled my mind. The antique motorcycle hobby is alive and well, and some of the best of it is living right here in Minnesota.
Next time, I promise… back in the (scooter) saddle.