Archive for June, 2006

The Farmington Addendum

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

For those of you who asked…

Here are some more of the photos I made at the Farmington Antique Motorcycle event. Wandering around the grounds on Friday afternoon, I was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of the machinery on display. In the limited time I had, there was no way to stop and chat with all the owners to learn all about each and every incredible motorcycle I visited. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are several thousand for you to savor. I hope you enjoy them.

For those who don’t know… roll over the thumbnail with your mouse to see the caption. Then click on it to see the ~800 x 600 image.

Ride well,

An eclectic assortment... Inline-4 Indian... wow. Frogwing's Granddad 100-plus mpg, anyone? Hog Heaven... Board Track Racer? I don't know for sure... Zen and the Art of... a beautiful Honda 305 Scrambler. BSA Firebird... Oh Baby! Saving the Best for Last... My Favorite Bike of the Show: BSA Gold Star Cafe

Back to the Scooter Life

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Weather: Sunny, 80’s, monotonous perfection.

Scooter Life is One Long Picnic...
Hey Booboo, is that a pic-a-nic basket I see on your scooter?

My first thought was: Somebody shoot me! Please, tell me that I am not riding a bright yellow maxi-scooter in public! This can’t be happening! But then, the adult, mortgage-strapped, wage-slave Gary woke up and took charge of the proceedings. And a good thing it was, too…

Ahhhhh, it is so nice to be on the parkways again. I don’t know what it is about a full-size motorcycle that makes me want to mix it up with the maniacal morons on the freeway. Sure, I save half an hour getting to work in the morning, but that’s at the expense of any peace-of-mind I might have started the day with.

I arrive at early meetings full of adrenaline, muscles bulging and veins pulsing, and people are kind of stand-offish until I settle down and blend into the daily flow of life around the office.

No, I think I have finally made up my mind: The twist-and-go, automatic scooter is the best way to commute to work within the confines of the cities.

On Saturday, I was finally going to take delivery of my very own Baron scooter. My wife Amy drove me over to the warehouse in the family Beetle. Emily was sitting impatiently in the backseat, waiting to see this new wonder.

I had chosen the 250 SX, in the same red and silver colors as the Baron I rode last winter. This bike is capable of speeds around eighty miles per hour, and still gets around seventy miles per gallon. I proved that with the shop Hot Rod that I tested earlier this spring.

Riding a variety of scooters that belong to the Company is certainly fun, but there is nothing like having your very own little hotrod, that you can modify however you want.

We arrived right when they opened. I went in to inspect my Red Baron Hot Rod, and saw the vented grille that my testing had made necessary. That was a good feeling. Everything else was the same as my winter Baron, except we had gained 100cc’s more displacement and an equivalent amount of horsepower. I couldn’t wait to take it out…

Unfortunately, this particular scooter had problems with mid-range throttle response, and that is not good when you intend to ride about in normal traffic. Certainly just a glitch in the plumbing or maybe the carburetor itself, I didn’t know. I had to go to work that day to check on an experiment I was running, so I couldn’t hang around while we figured out the problem.

So we looked around the Baron warehouse, and found a demo that was ready to go. It was yellow… very bright yellow with silver accents. Ugh. The name on the side says “Hammer 2.5″. Well, being a Baron Scooter Test Pilot, I felt it was my duty to take her out and see what she could do. So I saluted my crewchief Loren, and launched out of the parking lot at thirteen hundred hours.

This scooter is very similar to the Black Baron PM 250 that you have seen here before. But this one has the bold graphics necessary for it to sell in the Miami, Florida marketplace from whence it came. Not exactly my cup of tea…

After break-in, I took it up to seventy miles per hour on the freeway, just to validate the manufacturer’s claims. Since then, I have ridden it to work every day and home each night, on my beloved parkways, and it hasn’t let me down at all.

On Tuesday, my wife Amy and I, along with our daughter Emily Rose, went for a scooter picnic at a nearby park. We met another couple we know, who have a daughter in school with Emily. The ride was great, and we had a wonderful time, and the girls posed for the following picture:

Starlets on scooter...
Emily Rose and her friend Annabella… glamour personified.

Today, I rode Old Yeller to work again, and afterwards we went back to Baron HQ to check on my Red Baron Hot Rod. Well, the problem persists, even though we swapped carburetors with the other Hot Rod. That means the vacuum plumbing is wrong, or maybe the fuel check valve… I don’t know. I’m leaving it to the experts.

Meanwhile, I am riding Old Yeller, and I guess that isn’t so bad. This is a comfy ride, and it runs just fine. I sit down in the saddle and twist the throttle, and away we go. We can outrun most cars from a stoplight, and squeeze through the spaces that we need to get through traffic. It is so much simpler than riding Frogwing, and there isn’t that pressure to conquer all. Meanwhile, the full-face helmet and sunglasses afford me a small measure of anonymity.

Yeah, I guess I could get used to this. In fact, I think I already have.

Antique Motorcycles at Farmington

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Weather: What do you think?

Harley made mopeds?
This bike left me speechless. It never looked this good brand new.

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?

Frogwing's Grandpappy?
One of Frogwing’s ancestors, this old warhorse was ready for inspection.

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…

Ice Cream Man!
Paul Meisel is the AMCA’s Ice Cream Man. Stop him when he’s passin’ by…

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.