08 September 2008

'Sickles an' old pals

I'm back from another whirlwind thrash to L.A. It was a dual purpose trip. The first purpose, chronologically speaking, was to pick up a piece of sporting gear. Backstory here and here. This is it:

Click photos to emhugen.

It's an '05 290cc Sherco. The engine is a watercooled two-smoke. I could no way afford a new one at about $7Large, but I got this one for considerably less than half of that and I know its backstory and where it's been. My friend Steve bought it new and sold it to the gent I bought it from at the end of the '05 trials season. It has not been ridden since. It's been sitting for three years, which in a sport where the bikes get dropped off of cliffs, literally, pretty regularly, is a heck of a deal for me. I saw examples of this year, make, and model with four seasons on them for a $Grand more than I paid.

I bought it from Mike, a New Zealander who owns Kiwi Indian in Riverside. We got treated to a showroom full of Indian motorcycles, most of which were manufactured before 1954, and in the Back Room AKA the Service Dept., a full-bore dyno run on a customer's bike while said customer stood there watching his sled run faster sitting still than it probably ever has with him on it goin' down the road. I don't know what the dyno run turned up in terms of numbers or problems but it sounded great!

I've done similar dyno runs myself, and have been an interested party at dozens of 'em, and I've always kinda wondered what happens if the engine goes 'POP' and there is sudden silence, a brief flurry of shrapnel, and a hot oily mist in the room. Thank you Lord for my ignorance...

I haven't ridden the Sherco yet, or even started the engine, but I know for a fact, on the basis of what you can see in the photo, that it will go 70+ miles per hour for hours on end in 100° heat. And sideways at that!

The photo was taken at the Coso Junction rest area on US 395 in the southern Owens Valley. Click the link and zoom out slowly to see what the middle of nowhere looks like.

Just as an aside here, you make your choice as to which end of L.A. you want to go to at an intersection about 130 miles out in the Mojave Desert. Quite handy, really. From Riverside to the Sunland-Tujunga area of the east San Fernando Valley was a straight 60-mile shot on the connecting 210 Freeway.

The second purpose of the trip, and by far the most fun, was to go visit our friends Dave and Joy, and to attend our friend Arnie's 60th birthday party.

Dave is one of the best friends it has ever been my good fortune to have. We have had untold numbers of adventures over 35 years and we have a damn good time whenever we manage to get together. Joy is just plain gorgeous in every respect you could think of. She makes me look like a wingnut, and if she ever upgrades from dial-up, she'd be on the Feds' shitlist in a New York minute. Heh. We weren't there for politics, so enough of that.

By trade, Dave is an electrician. He figured out a long time ago that the way to make money is to do custom work for rich folks, and since he retired (yeah, right!) has more work than he really wants. He'll keep doing it 'til he has more money than he wants...

By avocation and nature, he's a stone(d) gearhead. Here's a picture of his dining room:

That's my Maggie heading for the kitchen. I took a picture of that as well, but forgot to check the batteries or the result, so it didn't come out. Suffice it to say there's a row of potted palms(?) and a small-block Chevy engine between the counter, the corner of which you can see, and the stove across the room. He has more kitchen workroom since he moved one of his Triumphs to one of the sheds in his back yard.

Dave is an El Camino freak and has several of them in various stages. I swear I can look at which ones he's been working on, and which ones run at any given moment, by looking at his house on Google Earth and seeing what's been moved around. He doesn't work very fast, so yes, Google changes the photos nearly often enough...

We sat around and shot the breeze all afternoon. Dave and I left the girls to their own devices and traipsed out to his shop, well-equipped and with wall-to-wall projects going on, a good many of which we chatted about. His shop is about the most fun old Triumph guys can have in L.A., and it's quite exclusive. Dave's latest deal is to dismantle LED taillight bulbs and rewire them to work on positive ground English motorcycles.

We were gone a long time. I sort of apologized to Joy and Mrs. G for that and Joy just laughed and said for as far back as she could remember, every time me'n Dave would smoke some home-grown and go out the back door, we'd be gone a while! Some stuff never changes.

We all watched a DVD I brought with me, and this takes a little background, but it's germane to this story.

The motorcycle club that Dave and I and Arnie all belong to throws a big invitation-only desert party every year and has been doing so since 1960. It's not a race, but there's a dirt bike run as the centerpiece of a three-day party in the middle of nowhere (there's a lot of that in the Mojave). The club is kinda famous for it in some circles, and an invite is a sought after hot-ticket item. Since the anti-fun people may, probably are in fact, watching, I won't go into the details. Let's just say a rollicking, rowdy good time is had by all.

For about 5 years in the '70s, I took Super-8 movies of this thing, both to record it for folks to enjoy and to get out of doing any actual work to pull off the event. I spliced the reels into 30-minute films and showed them at parties, in the club hang-out saloons, etc. There are four or five of them. No one, including myself (my projector broke), has seen them in 28 years.

For the last coupla years I've been wanting to transfer the movies to DVD but didn't know quite how to go about it. The answer came one day a few weeks ago in a blinding flash of inspiration while I was walking past the photo counter at Costco and saw a big sign that read "Put your Super-8 movies on DVD! Right here!". Doh...

I took one reel in to have it done. Just one because I wanted to see how it came out. It's $19.95 for the first 200ft and 12¢ per foot after that. They'll put titles and music on it. Your choice of music genre from a list, their selections. They add features so you can click to a variety of points, and put a montage on the case. It cost $49 and included two copies. It came out totally bitchin', and I'm going to get the rest of them done toot sweet. I was a little worried that it might have faded, but it hadn't. The movies have been in a nice cool place all these years and in fact look better on DVD than I remember them.

Purely by chance, I picked the DVDs up at Costco the morning I left for L.A. On the way down there I decided to give the spare copy to Dave, since he's in a position to make copies and dole 'em out to interested folks in and around the club. I never made the mental connection between the movie showing up in L.A. on the day of Arnie's party and the fact that everybody there was in some way connected with the club and had been to these desert runs. Dave made the connection instantly when I handed it to him, and off we went to the party in Joy's Honda Hybrid, DVD in hand.

On to the festivities!

First, a little mush is order. This was a surprise party given by Arnie's main squeeze Vivian. They've known each other almost forty years, the same time I've known both of them, but have only been an item for a year or so. I think that's nice.

Arnie is a Vietnam Vet brown-water Navy river rat and was in the same class to learn that stuff as John Kerry, although that meant nothing to him at the time, it's just interesting. He's also a hardhat diver and once cleared mines in the Red Sea. He's a member of the Piledrivers, Divers, Bridge, Wharf & Dock Builders Union. I'm not sure if that's the right local. Hard work, good pay. Besides being a dirt rider, he's an old Harley guy since back before they were all middle-aged yuppies.

The photo shows Arnie, bag in hand, not being very surprised. Vivian is in pink on the left almost, and Dave is in the formal t-shirt and ball cap. In between them, sitting, is another old pal, Chris, who is 81 years young and still rides his dirt bike pretty regularly, although he admits he can't do it like he could in his 20s. He proved later on that he could still smoke enough weed and drink enough beer to fall down. Heh. He had a slight heart attack at his 81st b'day party, and since all the guests were getting high, they couldn't exactly call 911 so they loaded him into a car and took him to the hospital. The nurse wasn't exactly amused by the alcohol on his breath, and told him he should quit all that and give up riding motorcycles too. When he innocently asked "Why?" as in "What? It'll keep ya from livin' to a ripe old age?", she had no good answer so he didn't.

Also there from the octogenarian set was a founding member of the club from 1949, 81 years young, the #1 desert racing champion in 1960, and great-grandfather of four, who rides his 650 Triumph desert sled every week, along with his club member son who is the grandfather of the four. The old dude has gotten high every day of his adult life. If weed'll kill ya, it's takin' its own sweet time about it!

The SoCal hard partyin' desert-racin' lifestyle is not for the faint of heart. I suppose some would say not for the particularly intelligent either, but they'd be wrong.

It was a lovely evening so most of the party took place outdoors on Vivian's patio.This photo shows, l to r, Chris, Arnie's brother Howard, Vivian, Arnie opening presents whilst seated on the lowest chair he could find, and Jamie in the pink.

Everybody trooped in to a huge flat screen TV and Dave put on the DVD. It played over and over all evening and was a big hit. Most of the folks at the party had been to that run and a lot of 'em were in the movie. Everybody had a great time of the "Look! There's _____ passed out under his bike!" variety. Toward the end of the movie, a young lady pulled down her top, exposing a little slice of heaven. Actually, it wasn't 'little' at all, a honkin' great boobie! This may have been in response to the 'Show yer tits!' sign I had hanging around my neck. Anyway, one guy actually said her name and nobody believed it. Determined to get to the bottom of this, and not minding a little hard work, a small band of guys watched the scene over and over, trying to figure out who it was. They finally did, believe it or not, by her smile. Turns out it was Jamie, in the photo above, who when they told her, promptly grinned and did it again! As a compliment to a pretty lady in her '50s, I must say gravity has ignored her so far!

Another reason I'm glad I gave the DVD to Dave was I knew he could keep control of it and not 'lose' it, and he's going to have to do just that. Everybody wants a copy, and they know there are more to come.

It was not a huge party, maybe twenty or so people, but it was the best party in years, they tell me. Folks got drunk and stoned and laughed a lot. No bummers except Jamie lost her shoes for a while. A good time was had by all. It would have been worth the trip by itself. Click here to see the birthday cake if you haven't seen it yet.

It must also be said that there was word about folks who are no longer with us. We're at that age, though.

It was the latest night out we've had in years. We were asleep at Dave's house by midnight. The four of us went to breakfast and me'n Mrs. G hit the road for home.

Lotta old memories and a few new ones as well. Couldn't ask for more.


Since I described Arnie's service, in fairness I should tell you about Dave's. He is a Navy Vet. He was a machinist and has a rather odd service-connected disability because of it. He goes to the VA for all his health needs, and has for 40-some-odd years. He was using a grinding wheel in port when there was less demand on the compressed-air system than at sea and the thing blew apart from excess speed and opened him up from belly button to sternum. I've seen the scar. It is not pretty. I saw him take his shirt off in Mexico once and about a dozen Meskins crossed themselves from being so close to one who had had such a close brush with death.

Dave served on the Bonnie Dick and went ashore in Southeast Asia during the Laotian Incident in '61 I think, perhaps to bolster the Thai government. He doesn't really know why, just that he was tagged for a landing force to augment the ship's Marine detachment. He remembers getting handed a rifle and being told to "do what the Marines tell you". Woulda scared the shit outta me.

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