Unfavorable weather conditions found us rescheduling this event for the first time. Unfortunately, the new date conflicted with Barber’s Festival. Noted BMW vintage restorer, Ron Rohner, collector and curator Tony Karas, R90S aficionado Mac Kirkpatrick and vintage enthusiast/motto blogger par excellence http://www.classicvelocity.com/ all had reservations and decided to leave us behind and head south to leeds, Alabama. Their smiling faces and energetic personalities were missed. As, the saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait”. Thankfully, we were greeted with much more accommodating skies and moderating temperatures on our second attempt. Terrific. Game on!
Twenty-eight vintage motorrad enthusiasts from the surrounding countryside, rose early, dressed in appropriate riding attire and then quietly walked into their garages whispering adoring words to their aging and sometimes temperamental motorbikes in hopes that they would be rewarded with a smooth start-up procedure and NOT one requiring removing the helmet and leathers time and again with sweat pouring off their faces.
Veteran riders with an appreciation of an era long passed, when machinery was far less complicated, yet styling never more elegant, gathered in the quaint and cozy Village of Skippack, Pennsylvania for this annual ritual which includes a three hour scenic tour of the neighboring hills, valleys, lakes and streams and concludes with a Bavarian feast and an abundance of tall tales.
Around 9:00 am, riders sporting crusty, cracked and sweat stained leather jackets and oil saturated boots would start to appear from all directions, mounted on iron relics that pre-dated the Industrial Revolution. Yes, twenty-eight proud owners slowly rolled in, one by one, heads held high, circling the group before landing a spot for all to view and admire. Pleasantries and compliments would be exchanged, coffee consumed and friends reunited while waiting for the last to arrive.
This year’s rolling works of art were the achievements of manufacturers from five nations. Germany’s BMW lead the list as the most represented marque. Not too surprising, as the horizontally opposed air-cooled twin has won over the hearts and minds of riders around the globe for almost a century. Notable examples from this years entrants came from Dave Zillhardt’s R60/2, Stoney Read’s R69US, Todd Trice’s Monza Blue Metallic R75/5 “toaster” with color matched Avonaire fairing, Horst Oberst’s Henna Red R65LS, John Langsford’s R80 and Joel Jackson’s one of a kind, custom R75/5 from the late Karl Duffner’s highly acclaimed and much publicized collection. Andy Anderson was performing some preventative maintenance on his sparkling Daytona Orange R90S which. prevented him from riding it this year.
The British Invasion was lead by Eric Heiveil’s award winning ’52 Vincent Black Shadow, Digger O’Dell’s ’68 Triumph Bonneville and Brian Nolan’s’ 78 Bonneville. Rick Kramer was planning on bringing his BSA Spitfire until his tank sprung a leak two days prior. It seems that today’s highly regulated, environmentally friendly toxic brew they call gasoline is not compatible with fiberglass fuel tanks..even though this one was professionally treated with a special well regarded protective liner. Rick wasn’t too concerned as he has a plentiful selection of old iron to choose from and decided to join the others and bring his trophy winning ’66 Bonneville.
The Italians are known for their flamboyant styling, flashy colors and high performance in the areas of output, handling and braking. Perfect examples of this were Dave D’Imperio’s Moto Guzzi Sport 1100 and Roland Schwagerl’s Ducati 900ss. David Dilworth chose a more conservative format.his ’75 Moto Guzzi V1000 Convert. This particular model is equipped with an automatic transmission. David, sensing my fascination, tossed me the keys and let me experience the feeling first hand. In my 45 years as a rider, I never once rode an automatic. I must say, it was very strange not having to shift, but I was impressed.
Filling out the rest of the field representing the Asian marque, we had Dave Harris aboard his Honda CX 500 Turbo and Tom Kramer on his SR500 single. Sadly, only one motorbike in this year’s event was of American origin, but what a beauty it was. Leigh Bleam rode his recently restored ’62 Turtle Tank Sportster, orange and black of course. Maybe next year Doug Raymond will have his ’41 Indian Scout road ready.
It was almost time to depart when I notice Horst Oberst pacing back and forth. So, I asked him if everything was all right. Horst replied, “Yes, but you know I’m 82 years old and if we don’t leave soon, I may not be around to finish the ride”.
So, with that in mind, I quickly made some brief announcements before we departed on the group ride. No one would dare forget to top off their fuel and check their oil without suffering the consequences. I witnessed Leigh Bleam shaking and squeezing the hose to extract every last molecule of petrol into his peanut-sized tank. With jackets zipped, helmets strapped and all engines firing, we were ready to roll.
Down the road we went over hillsides and valleys, through forests and farm fields, along streams and lakes, one sweeper after another, leaving a gentle roar in our wake. Multi-colored autumn leaves were making a gentle descent from the maple, hickory, and oak trees above until they crossed our paths. Then they would start to spin and whirl rapidly until finding a resting spot with all the other leaves along the side of the road.
All was going well right up to the midway point where we had scheduled a break. We suddenly took notice that a third of the riders were no longer with us. As it turns out, Bill Zane was having some difficulty keeping up with the group. Bill was riding his ’68 R60/2 BMW complete with a sidecar and a Heinrich “Barn Door” fairing. A beautiful and nicely appointed rig, but due to all that extra weight and surface area, his coefficient of drag was off the charts. Riders behind him took notice that Bill’s net average speed climbing the hills was actually a minus 7 mph. On top of this, Bill threatened to run anyone off the road who dared to try to pass him. So those riders became trapped behind his rig.
This should not have mattered as the course was marked, but instead of following the yellow dots, Bill decided to use some old-fashioned intuition along with his limited edition “Lewis & Clark” floating compass. We found out that every 50 miles, Bill was taking a compass reading and charting a course for the next leg. Bill’s group was about to board a ferry crossing the Mississippi River heading toward the Northwest Passage when modern technology caught up to him. An electronic signal dancing across 46 consecutive cell towers finally found its destination and had Bill’s wayward travelers heading back to the tiny town of Topton, PA where the rest of us were patiently waiting. or not so patiently.
Trying not to waste any of this free time, Karl Myers reached into his saddlebag, grabbed his lab coat, and gave an impromptu tech session. He had John Melchor rebuilding the transmission on his R90S, Dave Harris giving his turbo a boost, Larry Suglia installing a big bore kit on his R65LS, Rocky Chung replacing his Bings with a set of Dellortos on his R90/6 and John Chay stripping and painting his R80/7 BMW. Tom Swan rode the first half of the ride 8 more times and Digger O’Dell flew to Frankfurt, had lunch with his fiancé, and flew back. Dick Bregstein was involved in a high-stakes poker game with the remaining riders and did quite well, I was told.
Once reunited, we were quickly zigging and zagging, singing and humming our way through hill and dale. The second half of the ride went much smoother as one, not to be named, unidentified rider, (Andy Anderson) poured 4 gallons of octane booster into Bill’s rig and inflated his tires to 75 psi while Bill went behind the building to water the lemon tree. Well, before long, we were on the home stretch and making our approach to Upper Salford Park where crews of busy beavers have been preparing for the Bavarian Feast for the last several hours at the pavilion. As we were kicking more tires and lining up the bikes for a photo session, Horst Konrader was warming up the band. they looked very sharp in their Oktoberfest Lederhosen.
While we loaded up our plates and sat down for a nice, enjoyable BBQ, I handed over the microphone to Eric Heilveil so he could speak to the group about “the good, the bad and the ugly” of searching, buying, and restoring his ’52 Vincent Black Shadow. Eric is a very enthusiastic and passionate rider who spent the better part of three years tearing apart and rebuilding this machine. I know it had to be agonizing at times, but he didn’t seem to have any regrets even though he had to sacrifice his firstborn and re-mortgage his home four more times. The bike looks wonderful and he said it is running well. What more can you ask for. He will have the rest of his life to admire and enjoy the results of his hard efforts.
Conspicuous only through his absence was Jack Riepe. I tried to get Jack to join us for some storytelling and a book signing session, but Jack had a deadline to meet and was busy pounding the keyboard editing and re-editing his latest book “Conversations with a Motorcycle”. The book is now complete, I’m halfway through it, and highly recommend you pick up a copy. You can reach Jack through http://jackriepe.blogspot.com/.
Joel Samick proprietor of Retro Tours, Kennett Square, PA was also planning on joining our group this year. Our rescheduling was in conflict with his plans to guide a group of riders to the Barbers vintage event. Joel created a very unique business, where he supplies vintage motorbikes to riders, then guides them on a variety of tours of their choice through the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond. As he likes to say “Ride a piece of the past on the path less taken”. Joel hopes to be around next year to join us for the ride and to tell us about his business. Until then you can reach Joel at www.retrotours.com .
I want to thank all of the riders for participating in this year’s event and I really appreciate those who helped to offset some of the costs through their donations. I also want to thank the love of my life, Laura, her mother Roseann, my mother Joy, and Dave and Susan Wood. I want to give an extra hearty thank you to Master Chef Alphons Schuhbeck, who sacrificed much of his time and hard work to make this possible. I could never pull this off without ALL their efforts.
Ride ’em, Don’t Hide ’em.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen,