motorcycles & more

Oil In My Veins: A Vehicular Autobiography

I think I was six or seven years old when I first became able to recognize different types of motorcycles. The first one I got was the Triumph Trident, which I knew by its distinctive mufflers. Not long after, I became able to recognize the script on the tank. Soon, I was seeing Triumphs everywhere. Unfortunately, it would take a while until I had a motorcycle of my own.

The first vehicle to be added to my fleet was a CT90 purchased in Palo Alto. I eventually bought another one for $100 in Siskiyou County. This one I still ride it as often as anything else in the garage.

Then there was the C105 I purchased from the lady I rented a room from in Menlo Park. After a misbegotten adventure living in a '63 Rambler 440T, I found my first real bike (I can hear you snickering out there), a 1967 Lambretta SX200. The Lambretta was a real learning experience. First, you learn patience, because the thing never starts on the first kick when you first get it. Then, you learn simple mechanics, because even if you could afford a mechanic, they won't work on it. Then you learn advanced mechanics, changing everything last bolt on the thing (including the main seals three times in one day! Finally, with the re-magnetized flywheel, the 6 volt VW coil, the headlight bulb purchased from the BMW shop ("Don't ask me what it's for -- just sell me the damn bulb!"), and a host of other cures, the machine finally gives up to superior technology and will, and you've got a reliable machine. Mind you, this takes years. And so it went at the Batcave, talking with Walter Alter until the wee hours, wrenching away on the SX, checking for the elusive spark or the 'possibly carburettor related' problem. While I had the Lambretta, I reached out to all kinds of scooters: Lambretta Ld's, a J125 Starstream, a Cushman, various Heinkels, even a Rabbit Jr. 150. I sold the Lambretta and bought first off, a BSA Lightning that 'Indian John' sold me for $300. My foray into 'big wheels' continued with the short-lived ownership of a Honda CB350, which I disposed of in order to buy a bike I had wanted for some time. Thus began a minor obsession with the Moto Morini.

I kept the Heinkel 103 A-2, because it ran so well and was the only one of its kind that most people had ever actually seen. Once in my many years in San Francisco did I ever see another, and the only ones I ever saw running were in Germany. I bought Ernie Schleicher's inventory of Heinkel Ersatz-Teile and became the Heinkel parts distributor. I met the fellow from Quantity Postcards in SF and bought one Heinkel 103 A1 and one burned out hulk of another from him. I managed to get them both running, and I ended up selling them. The A2 I sold to an architect/friend in SF upon my return from Italy.

Outside of San Marino Ah yes, Italy! Motorcycling Nirvana. In Italy, people actually like motorcycles. (The only other country where I found that people had the same affinity for motorcycles was Czechoslovakia.) Motorcycling is normal for Italians: everyone's father / uncle / brother had a motorcycle at one point or another, because in the post-war years, it was all they could afford. Also, motorcycles were good at navigating the not so good roads. One of my fondest memories ever was riding the Laverda on the back way from Possagno early one morning. The mist was just lifting and the schoolkids were on their way to class. As I passed them, a nun turned her head and smiled. Around the corner, an old man waved to me from his field. Motorcycling in Italy becomes paradise when you have the good fortune to know Maurizio Bavaresco. Known around the world as Mr. Pompone, he has contacts in all the Italian factories. I purchased through him a used Laverda (below) which I subsequently rode throughout much of Europe. One of my first stops was the Morini factory in Bologna. At the Pompone Ducati Rally, I met Fabio Taglioni, designer of the famous Ducati L-Twin motor. Maurizio helped me find a Laverda SF750 for sale, and I was 'off to the races'. A postcard of the ristorante is here.

After moving to Dunsmuir, I received a call from the fellow at the postcard shop. You see, he had in addition to the aforementioned Heinkels, two Maicolettas, a Salsbury, and a slate of other rare scooters that he had purchased sight unseen from someone in Pennsylvania. While staying up late talking with him (when I bought the Heinkels), I confessed my love for the Maicoletta.

The time had come for Wyatt to admit that he would never get the thing running, and he opened a dialogue with a fellow who already had a Maicoletta or two, and knew how to repair them. First, though, he had to call me, for he had promised me on that fateful night that I would have the first crack at buying his Maicoletta should he ever decide to part with it. Of course I accepted at once to pay the price my competitor for the bike was going to pay, and within a few weeks the bike was mine.

Another writer has called his Ducati "heroin" presumably for the addictive quality it possesses. Once you have experienced a Ducati, nothing else compares. My first taste of Ducati came in Italy, piloting a retired TT2 racer. I did manage a factory visit, and meet the old man before he passed on. Since moving to New Mexico, I have been fortunate to pick up a 1991 851 Superbike and a 1990 750 Sport.

The Sport I sold when my wife discovered after 15 years of marriage that in fact she did enjoy being a passenger. Though she seemed happy enough on the 750 Sport, I purchased an F650 ST to demonstrate that a more comfortable ride was possible. Now she is ready for me to invest in a proper sport touring rig. Plans to acquire a Ducati ST have been placed on hold while I recover financially recover from another recent purchase.

I have been looking for a Ducati F1 since about 1999. I think that is when I saw one sell on eBay for about eight grand. As went the stock market in the years since, so did the price of F1's. Eventually, one came up for sale in Oregon, and I was able to buy it.

The Current Fleet

On-Site Links

Garage Pics, Albuquerque, January 2007
Garage Pics, Saint Paul, June 2004

Off-Site Links

Mr. Pompone