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Old 06-30-2014, 08:05 AM   #1
artbone OP
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“Adventure Before Dementia” W/The Red Neck Road Worriers

In which our heroes set off to darkest Western Europe, armed only with
two fourteen year old motorcycles and two wallets full of credit cards.

This trip began, believe it or not, sixty years ago, in Macon GA. I was attending Lanier Jr. High (Go Poets!) and I rode the city bus to school. I had to change buses in front of the Dempsey Hotel and I would go into the hotel tobacco shop and browse the car magazines most mornings. At fourteen, I was just getting into cars (and girls.) The two seemed to go hand in hand, or maybe hand bag and door handle. Even at two years away from that treasured document, the Georgia Driver's License, romance and road transportation seemed inexorably linked.
One morning my eyes fell on a new mag among the usual Hot Rod, Hop Up, and Rod & Custom. It was called Road & Track. The cover car was a model I'd never seen before; not surprising in Macon at that time. I had seen my first MG and Volkswagen in the last year. There was a Jaguar that some doctor drove around town but I had never really seen it up close. So I plunked my thirty-five cents down and hopped on the bus to school. In the fifteen or twenty minutes it took to get there I was hooked. The idea of a car just made to have fun was a concept I had never considered. In my little world, a four-door car was sort of posh. Pickups were much more "practical." A car that only held two people and was fun to drive bordered on blasphemy. No, not bordered; it was blasphemy.
It wasn't that much of a leap when I discovered motorcycles a few years later.
It wasn't only the machines; it was the whole enchalada (another concept I was ignorant of at that time.) These cars had more than one carburetor, multiple camshafts, multiple exhaust pipes; some had fully independent suspension and disk brakes, whatever that meant. And they didn't have cubic inches; they had CCs or liters. And they didn't race at big speedways like Indianapolis or Darlington; they blocked off the roads and had races.
To a fourteen year old kid, how cool was that?

Several years ago I noticed that four of the races I’d dreamed about attending were all within a month of each other. That and the fact that last year I bought a bike to use in Europe and the fact that my seventy- fifth birthday is coming up in July made up my mind to do my dream trip this year. I needed to use it before I lose it.

So it was against this background that my old friend, Charlie Brookman, and I set off from San Francisco headed to Europe to take in four major motorsports events in four weeks. Our plans included the MotoGP of France at Le Mans, the Gran Prix of Monaco F1 race, the Isle of Man TT, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We had booked nothing; no ferries, hotels, or race tickets. A couple of FaceBook friends in England and the Isle of Man promised us places to stay if we actually made it that far. Charlie works for an airline so we didn’t have to book plane tickets, just show up and get on if there was a seat.
I love serendipity.
Can you imagine anyone turning down a trip of this magnitude?

I tried to get my wife Carol to come on the trip with me but she thought four races in four weeks and staying in whatever places we could find might be more fun than she could stand. She decided to have a knee replacement instead.
Carol hates serendipity.
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Old 06-30-2014, 08:24 AM   #2
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Alton Electric Starters

Thursday 2014/05/15- It was a beautiful day in Paris when we arrived and took the train up to Brittany where our bikes are located. We decided to stay an extra day and get over jet lag plus we wanted to visit Alton electronics, makers of electric starters for Norton Commandos.
The ride over to Brest was pleasant and Paul and Beverly at Alton couldn’t have been more gracious, showing us whole operation. Alton is a very small company with only five employees, including Paul and Beverly.



They make small batches of their starters for Nortons, Velocettes, and Vincents.

I was very impressed with their workmanship and, based on my personal experience with Mexico Mike’s starter, their customer service.
The new Commando starter’s rotor is completely enclosed in a metal jacket. I want one for my 74 Interstate.
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Old 06-30-2014, 08:51 AM   #3
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MotoGP of France

MotoGP of France on the Circuit Bugatti – The Gendarmes were waiting for bikers to direct them around the toll gates without paying. I love this country.

The majority of the crowd was on late-model Japanese naked sportbikes with a lot of BMWs, Triumphs, and Ducatis mixed in; I saw very few vintage bikes. Most of the time Charlie and I were on the oldest bikes in the parking lot. I saw very few Harley Davidsons.


I didn't realize NASCAR has a European series.

Loved this guys hat.
In the race Marques was in a different class, of course. Everyone else was racing for second. At one point he fell back to about fifth place, then put on a riding lesson for the other riders before disappearing into the distance.
We took a stroll through the Museum before the race.
I doubt this model ever ran in the race.

After the race we had a great ride back to our hotel in a parade of bikes with cars blowing their horns and families on the curb waving flags. I thought we had won the race or the war or whatever. La Fleche is a beautiful little town with great atmosphere.

We had dinner at tables set up in the square as the sun set.

A couple of guys from England staying at the same hotel as us. When we told them our "4 races in 4 weeks" plan they were very jealous.
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Old 07-02-2014, 08:56 AM   #4
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Le Mans to the Gorges of Verdon



The ride down to Millau to view the world’s largest suspension bridge was very pleasant and then we took the river gorge down to Lodeve where we spent the night.



The next morning we rode to Classic Bike Elan in St. Remy and spoke to Sarah and Neil Thomas. Their shop sells Urals and Royal Enfields and conducts tours on vintage bikes. They have an Arial Square Four, a Velocette, and many other interesting bikes. CJ and I took a tour several years ago and I thought I would drop by and see how they were doing.


The above pics are from that tour.

They were doing fine but busy so we only lingered an hour.

On the way to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie something seemed to be going on with my GPS. Usually it sends me down motorways but suddenly it took us off the motorway and onto a single track road through fields of lavender, quaint little villages, and a twisty road through a forest. I’ve gotta find out what setting that is.

The Thomases suggested a place to stay in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. We had what looked like a little FEMA trailer, very cool, and walked into town for a fabulous meal; escargot, foie gras, fillet mignon, duck breast, and creme brûlée for dessert.


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Old 07-02-2014, 10:00 AM   #5
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The Gorges of Verdon

The Gorges of Verdon are known as the Grand Canyon of France and really are spectacular.







The gorge is about 25 kilometers long and up to 700 meters deep. There are several routes around the gorge, all magnificent, so you can't go wrong. Some of the bumpy roads would be better suited to a dual-sport bike than two sport-tourers but we soldiered on and finished up the day in Nice at a Comfort Inn.
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Old 07-02-2014, 11:11 AM   #6
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Great report! I did the route through Moustiers and the Gorge 8 months ago, but was sadly ensconced in a cage. Next time.....
For a very nice view in Moustiers, hike up the trail behind the village and there is a vantage point where you can see right across the plateau on the other side of the gorge. Very cool. Looking forward to the chapter on the F1! And the rest, of course! So glad you made this dream of yours come true! We should all learn a big lesson from you.
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Old 07-02-2014, 11:53 AM   #7
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WOW, who wouldn't be jealous of that trip. Looking forward to the rest of the story and dreaming of the day when I can do something like it. Jim
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Old 07-02-2014, 12:28 PM   #8
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Damn that looks beautiful. The Grand Canyon of france is simply breath taking.
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Old 07-02-2014, 03:01 PM   #9
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Monaco F1 Gran Prix

The next morning I got on PriceLine and found a cheap B&B. It was a nice old house with winding marble staircase. We had a big room with two beds, a beautiful view down to the beach, stove and refrigerator, and it cost 210 Euros for three days, about the price of one day at a Comfort Inn nearby. It was about a mile walk to the train station to ride to Monaco. We rested Friday and went to Monaco Saturday and found great tickets for race.

We were standing in front of the lower entrance of the train station when we were approached by a really (really, really) cute, blond, French girl, with a really cute French accent. In that cute French accent she said, "Would you like to watch the race from the top of an eighteen story building with champagne and food all day?"
"Absolutely," we replied.
"It will cost six hundred Euros each. Will that be a problem?" Remember that cute accent.
"Absolutely not."
We went up to the roof and it was exactly as she had described or even better; there was a big Diamond Vision screen near the track and two flatscreen TVs behind the bar.
"Do you like it?" said Emily the cute, French, with cute accent, girl.
"Absolutely," we replied (our vocabulary is limited when we're talking to cute French girls with accents) "but today's over half over. What about a hundred for today and four hundred for tomorrow?"
"Absolutely," Emily said and money changed hands.

You know that feeling you get where you think you’re involved in some sort of elaborate scam that everyone but you knows about? Some elaborate con engineered by Paul Newman and Robert Redford?
Well, that's the feeling I had at that moment. I kept thinking we would get back the next day and there would be nothing there. No tent, no bar, no flat screen TVs, no interesting international crowd of beautiful people.
Of course, it didn't happen. If anything there was an even more interesting group and we had a wonderful time. There were several young attractive women there who might have been on the job or so ol’ suspicious me imagined. The whole party was first-class and well worth the money just for the stories we’ll have to tell.




The view was spectacular with big yachts in the harbor and even bigger ones off-shore. We were looking down on the backs of sea gulls as the cars flashed by below. Rosberg and Hamilton were in a different race at first but Hamilton was falling back towards the end.
We left soon after the race was over, thinking we would get the train back to Nice but we weren't fast enough. The station was packed so we wondered around and found a really good band playing, listened for an hour or so, then headed back for the station. On the way we met two groups who had stayed on the roof to finish off the champagne and we were happy with our decision to leave early. They were not in great condition.

Several people (not race fans) commented that 500 Euros is a lot for two days of racing but my thought is that if you divide it by sixty years it’s very cheap at only 8.33 Euros a year. Charlie and I had already looked at the ticket booth and the cheapest tickets for Sunday were 350 Euros with no beautiful people, no champagne, and no food.
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Old 07-03-2014, 08:05 AM   #10
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Isle of Man TT

We had a pleasant two day ride back across France to Calais. I saw a thought-provoking sight on the way. In the distance was a huge nucular power plant with a wind farm in front of it. I wish I had stopped to take a picture; the energy of the latter part of the twentieth century and the energy of the future. Our B&B in Dover was a welcome sight as darkness fell and rain started falling.

It’s only 300 miles from Dover to Liverpool but it took us all day with the rain and the traffic and Charlie’s clutch had started pouring out fluid. We watched the ferry we wanted to take pull away from the dock as we arrived. When I inquired about stand-by on the next boat I was sold round-trip tickets, no stand-by required. So much for having to book ahead.

If you call yourself a motorcyclist you have to go to the Isle of Man. No argument, end of discussion. The Island is the spiritual home of all motorcyclists and no amount of Daytona, Sturgus, Assen or any other venue will change that. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where Everyone speaks Motorcycle.
The IOM is the place and nothing else will take its place.

The hold of the Isle of Man Steam Packet.
Up the ramp and off the boat, we were greeted by an early morning rain as we made our way around the course to Sulby bridge were we made a left and were soon at FaceBook friend Terry’s home.

Terry lives in a renovated Manx cottage with the usual low ceilings and even lower door frames.

He opened the garage and pulled his TVR sports car out so we could do some repairs on our bikes.

He has several interesting bikes as well as the car. Within an hour is was as if we had known each other for years.

Charlie and I met Chris and Clyde as we were watching the racing on Monday at the Sulby Hotel. Chris was wearing one of the new Norton jackets and I asked him if he had a Norton or just a jacket and he said he had just taken delivery on a new Cafe Racer. After a little conversation he really surprised me by asking if I would like to ride it. This was an offer I couldn't refuse.



Chris fired it up and it fell into a raucous idle at about 1000 RPM. I swung a leg over and, leaning forward, gripped the clip-on bars. The first thing I noticed about the new Norton Cafe Racer was how old I have become. I could hardly get on the thing! My knees no longer like bending that much, not to mention how low and forward the bars are. What they facetiously call a "seating position" is really a laying position. You're laying over the beautifully sculpted and painted tank. The minimalist seat is barely noticed. All your weight is on the pegs (through your cruelly bent knees) and your wrists. The clutch is flawless, with a very light pull and a wide friction zone. There are no worries of killing the engine as it moved away and I tried to get my feet up on the pegs. When I got my feet settled and flipped down my face-shield I went blind. I had a piece of tape across the top of the shield and, in my laying down position, I had to bend my head back to a totally unsustainable angle to see. As soon as I got out of sight of the group watching me, I pulled over and ripped to tape off.
Chris' bike had the optional "competition" exhaust system and, really, the whole bike had a competition feel to it. The motor is, to my taste, absolutely great. The 270 degree crank gives it a feel like a really big single instead of a twin, without the vibration of a single. There is some vibration through the footpegs but, oddly, not so much through the clip-ons and I didn't notice any at all through the tank where I was gripping it with my knees. The bike is a delight to ride, seating position notwithstanding. The brakes are flawless; the suspension soaked up the many bumps from the narrow Isle of Man lane. Simply, it feels like a race bike.
Chris told me to not exceed 4500 RPMs and I told him no worries. I'm an old man and I ride like an old man. I'm slow as dial-up internet. Also, I was riding a $35000 bike that I'd never been on before, on the left side of narrow lanes. You bet I was going to be careful.

Sorry for the out-of-focus picture but I think you can see my grin.

If I had one of these bikes I could probably only ride it for a half hour at a time but I would be grinning the whole thirty minutes.
To sum up, the bike is beautiful and fun to ride. Whether we’ll ever see them in large numbers is another question but I really liked the bike and can easily imagine owning one if they have one with a more comfortable seating position.
Chris’ friend Clyde offered to let me ride his hot-rod Honda Blackbird and, again, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
The Honda is a complete contrast to the Norton. It’s big, heavy, and very, very fast. It has nice suspension, great brakes, but the attraction is the motor. Clyde says it will do over 180 on his GPS and I have no reason to doubt him. It’s a monster but a very smooth, comfortable, easy to ride monster.

Here's some more pictures of the Norton's in the paddock.




And here's a few of the sidecars at the Gooseneck.





More on the IOM in the next post.
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Old 07-03-2014, 09:21 AM   #11
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nice.
well done.
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Old 07-03-2014, 11:49 AM   #12
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Wow! That is some amazing stuff!!! That just got added to my Bucket List.
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Old 07-04-2014, 07:31 AM   #13
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Random Pics from the Isle of Man





Cafe'd Monkey Bikes - The prefect IOM weapon.




The Gang pulling out from the Sulby.


Something you don't see every day; a psychedelic Benelli Sei.




The excitement was palpable at Quarry Bends. No one noticed the giant chipmunk until it was too late.

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Old 07-04-2014, 07:41 AM   #14
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Crosford RAF Museum and air show

On the way to the National Motorcycle Museum we saw a sign for the RAF Museum at Crosford and an air show so we decided to see that the next day. Charlie being an aircraft mechanic the museum was very interesting to him and it was much more interesting to me because he could explain what we were looking at. The air show was spectacular. Seeing the only Cold-War era Vulcan bomber still flying was a highlight.



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Old 07-04-2014, 08:01 AM   #15
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British National Motorcycle Museum



Note the drip pan underneath. It is British, after all.


Love the "backwards" levers on this Coventry Eagle.



I loved this poster of TC Christenson's Hog Slayer. It says the bike is supercharged but it's not. It is fuel injected however.



The museum is great but, like many museums, it suffers from a lack of space. The bikes are hard to see because they're too close together. That said, it's still a national treasure. I'll go back any time I'm in the area.
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