Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vintage Motorcycle days background

I first went to VMD at Mid-Ohio Racetrack in 2004 when BMW was the Marque of the year and the Vintage BMW club had a special in-field camping area that I enjoyed. I rode my 1968 R60/2 and it and I enjoyed being with many other such bikes and kindred spirits that rode the bikes. The evenings around the fire were pretty special. I met the 'Bump Brothers' who represented the best of a family that wrenched and rode together. I was camped next to them and they made me feel like a part of the family for that three days. I hope to run into them again one day. The camping in the in-field area was so much better than the mud pit that was the regular camping area.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that the next year when Ducati was the Marque of the year and had again gained use of the in-field camping area, I leveraged the fact that my first bike was a Ducati in order to get a place on the hill with them.

I even told them I'd be riding my BMW sidecar rig, and they were OK with that. The Ducati people were wonderful. Wine, great food, olive oil and crisp bread, fresh herbs growing in pots. Lovely new and old RED bikes. Great hospitality and again a community that formed and dissolved in three days.

In 2006 MV Agusta was the Marque of the year and the Hodaka Club was a new featured "club of owners of bikes no longer in production." I contacted them and assuming they had use of the in-field camping area, offered to help 'manage' it for them in return for driving my stakes in the same place as the previous two years. They were OK with that as many of them were coming from the NorthWet where Hodaka's were made, or actually distributed. A passionate bunch, the Hodaka folks put on a display that rivaled the factory financed displays, had technical talks, demonstrations, raced in moto-cross and observed trials, and generally treated us great.

This was the year of Anilia and Ron's Excellent Vintage Adventure. A co-worker designed us T shirts and we were a team: The campground managers and just plain fun travelers. I picked her up at home a few days after she finished her MSF class, we stopped at the DMV so she could get her license endorsement and blasted on out to Ohio. We stopped at the AMA Museum in Pickerington on the way to Newark OH for a haircut and lunch. We arrived at the racetrack Thursday evening and got in to set up in the special camping area. We were the only one's there. It turns out that none of the Hodaka folks camped there as most of them flew in. For sure no-one was riding a Hodaka any long distance to Ohio! So My daughter and I had the hill pretty much to ourselves. We were joined by a great guy from Germany who pulled in with an older BMW sidecar rig and proceeded to set up a 1850's era tent (canvas and 3" diameter wooden poles) by the light of our led flashlight. Old tech meets new tech. He told us he uses this tent for winter camping and runs a woodstove inside it. As I recall he is from Wisconsin or Michigan. I think he could have parked his sidecar rig inside the tent had he wanted it in there. He also brought a big cast iron pan and cooked a big steak for dinner. Real fun!

My daughter got to see and sit on a lot of bikes to create a short list of short bikes that she felt might work for her. In the end, a couple of bikes that she liked became the target of my hunting expeditions. One of her choices was the Honda Ascot VT500FT. It was a bike that I liked because it was simple, had shaft drive, had a 'first' technology (Honda's first V twin, water cooled engine). More about that in another entry.

So, like every year, the VMD weekend includes all kinds of racing at the ractrack and at nearby Ashland County Fairgrounds (flatrack on Friday night). Friday morning starts out with observed trials in the woods and includes moto-cross seemingly all day, every day. Trials is one of my favorite styles of racing and after a few years I even recognize a few of the competitors, like Beano. He races (using the word loosely) the most interesting late 1940's Matchless girder-fork 500cc single. This thing has to weigh 400 pounds, which is a lot of iron to climb around in the woods. But he loves it - you just know he is having a good time! And I am having a good time watching folks like him have fun.

Then there is the road racing, most people would say this is the main stage of the showplace. To see bikes as old as the 1920's racing on a track is really something: sounds and sights and smells (yeah, Castrol, just like in the old days). And then there are the people. These are all amateur racers, and most are willing, even anxious, to talk and show off the hardware in the pit area which is open to the fans. Great time to take photos. Singles, twins, multicylinder bikes all blasting down the straight full throttle and braking into the turns makes one wonder if I could ever do that one an old bike worth a small fortune. Well, I'd rather sit on the grass and watch and take photos!

Oh, then there is my favorite part: The Flea Market. This is not like anything I had ever seen. About 30 acres of small booths with every kind of bike imaginable and some that aren't. Whole trailers full of "Anything for $5" parts and by Sunday, "Anything for $1" for what is left. Some people sell nothing but manuals, or decals, or dented tanks for $5 (yeah, I did buy one...) so whatever you need you are likely to find or at least talk about it....

In 2007 during my planning I found a hostel in nearby Lucas, so I decided to try this for a change. It was a fine experience and I am going back again, this time with my wife and son-in-law. The hostel deserves a blog of its own, so I devote one to that soon. 2007 celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Harley Davidson Sportster. Many of these older sporty's showed up as did the Motor Company with celebs Willie G and Jay Springsteen. OSSA, a Spanish made bike, was the club of the year. Since I didn't camp on the hill I had no contact with those guys.

And another tradition is the worlds strangest breakfast place (24 hours a day) that is also a general and ABC store. And the Saturday morning pancake breakfast at the church on the way into the track should not be missed. Mid-day meals and break-of-dawn coffee is supplied by friendly food truck vendors in the infield. No lack of animal fat at this locale. Last year I did note that the vendors were offering caesar salads instead of fries, right next to the pump where one can buy racing fuel. Is this fun or what?

Enjoy the photos I will add soon!

1 comment:

tedspeed said...

As much as I want to I don;t think I'll be able to go to VMD this year, since the Nicaragua trip popped up. I just can't take off that much time from work in the summer. But next year I'm in!

Love the blog!