11:47pm. A group of about 11 riders on a variety of mostly 2 stroke machines is doing laps around the “non-family-friendly section of the camping area. It is mostly kids with the odd 50 year old mixed in. The next thing you know, people are jumping on their bikes and joining the conga line. They are beeping their horns, and doing short wheelies on the rutted path, and waving adult beverages and whooping, and generally making noise as they round the circuit every few minutes. Joe and I watch, shaking our heads and smiling. The next time around, there must be 60 bikes, and it is even more raucous. Joe and I record some video, and laugh as the Viking helmets, 12-people-on-a-quad, and sidecars with citronella torches join the fray. The average age has climbed significantly rather than decreasing. On the next lap we can’t help ourselves, and join the now 100+ machines in procession. The GS is ridiculously large in this grouping, and all the more appreciated for being so. Joe’s Ninja is even more ill-suited, and it is a testament to his skills that the bike stayed upright. One lap later, the parade was continuous, guys were trying to out-stupid each other, people were falling down left and right, a fight started somewhere opposite us, and we bailed before we joined any of those categories. Reinforcements arrived soon after to supplement the overwhelmed security guards. It took over an hour to restore order, and another two before the fireworks, celebrations, and the bikes buzzing the tent at speed, stopped.
Welcome to Vintage Motorcycle Days.
7:40am. It is raining heavily. I have thankfully already hit the showers and bought coffee. The wind causes the rain to blow sideways at times, but the rain fly does its job and the tent stays dry. There is something cool about being in a tent during the rain, as long as you are warm and dry. I read a magazine and sip coffee in the yellow/orange glow of the tent. Nice.
8:55am. Light rain is falling on and off. The forecast calls for more of the same, so I might as well go start the tour. Muddy and wet will be unavoidable today. A surprising number of bikes are buzzing around, along with quads and golf carts. Ponchos abound, but of course I forgot mine. Compact umbrella it is. The skies open up and the umbrella is quickly rendered useless. At least it is not cold.
9:38am. Dark skies. The rain has discouraged the usual full display of items in the swap meet area. Already rusty bikes and parts are covered with tarps, virtual supermarkets of parts are crammed into the areas that are under tents, tables are out but covered in clear plastic drop cloths. Never the less, a walk through the area is wildly varied and interesting. Japanese marques are always most prevalent, and I don’t think that there is any part (or complete bike) from pre-1980 that cannot be found. The rain resumed at times and came down in buckets. People ducked into stalls and huddled against buildings, and waited. As soon as it returned to light drizzle, the aisles filled again with umbrellas and rain gear and just plain soaked individuals. 15 minutes later the process repeated. Rivers of muddy water, BSAs sitting in grassy areas covered by an inch of water, ponchos made of garbage bags, golf carts overloaded, nothing stopped the hunt.
12:42pm. The skies cleared, serious heat returned almost instantly, the pits crackled, food vendors swapped coffee and muffins for Gatorade and ice cream, activity began on track, the ring ding ding of two-strokes filled the air. Over the PA, the announcer read the agenda for the rest of the day. Seminars began, club activities got underway, bare-footed and bare-chested riders zipped by on trail bikes, home made sidecars emerged, viking helmets returned, merchandise was bought and sold, the full spectacle of VMD revealed itself.
The measure of this event is its scale, acres and acres of stimulation at a premier national event for the vintage two-wheeled aficionado that we have covered before (see the Rare and the Rusty). However, on this occasion it was measured by the passion and commitment of all involved. Many other events would have been cancelled with a weather forecast like this one had. Many other events would have had a very poor showing. Not only did people travel through the weather to show up, they waded through shallow lakes, to participate. They prepared racebikes under makeshift tarp-based shelters. They walked around soaked without umbrellas. They used muddy paths to create great brown rooster tails from machines that stretched the definition of motorcycle. They left British motorcycles out in the rain. They acted like the weather was just one relatively insignificant challenge in the vintage realm where perseverance is among the most valuable of currencies. Brilliant.