One of these days, I’ll make it out to the Isle of Man to watch the most amazing motorbike race in the world. Until then, I’ll make do with videos like this.

I’m really not a racing fan, but the history and sheer awesomeness of the Isle of Man TT coupled with the beauty of the island make for a pretty compelling “Hey darlin’, we really need to make a vacation of this” story.  The Catalina Grand Prix (on again for 2012!) is another. I’m mostly interested in motorbike races on beautiful islands. ;)

I really enjoy listening to Guy Martin – he’s an interesting cat.

Written on June 30th, 2011 , Motorbikes Tags: , , , , ,

I drove out to the country yesterday to visit my dad for Father’s Day, and he showed me his latest project – a ’65 Corvair Monza. Now, I’m really a Ford guy, having owned cars like a ’62 Galaxie 500 XL and a ’62 Fairlane 2-door, but I have a particular thing for American cars of the early sixties. Also, I think the Corvair is one of the more interesting Chevy vehicles. The rear engine, pancake six drivetrain was a substantial departure from American car design of the time, and the car was at the center of a PR nightmare.

This is a true barn find – the Corvair belonged to a friend of my dad who died recently. It’s been sitting, unregistered and pretty much ignored for something like 20 years. It’s in remarkably good shape – most of the interior is intact, and the body is super clean. I think it’s missing one of the original hubcaps or something ridiculous – about as complete as you can get. It even has the original “180 HP” turbo stickers! Awesome.

It’s well known that I’m a big fan of stripped-down, old school rock ‘n’ roll. So when I heard Wanda Jackson was coming to the Great American Music Hall here in SF, I bought tickets immediately.

The show was last night. Wow. Seriously – wow. What an incredible show. Wanda kicked ass. Her voice was on. Red Meat did a great job of backing her up, too.

The awesomeness of this show is certainly a commentary on the simmering cauldron of weaksauce that is modern “rock ‘n’ roll” but that could de-emphasize how much she rocked. Let me say it again – Wanda Jackson rocks. I’ve seen a LOT of shows, and two things stood out for me:

  1. Wanda is in her mid-seventies now, and I believed her rockin’. She was totally into it – the real deal.
  2. The audience loves Wanda. The constant screaming and cheering reminded me of the old tapes of crowds going nuts for rock stars when rock ‘n’ roll was still new.

It turns out I’m not immune to a bit of nostalgia, either. I almost teared up when she talked about how Elvis inspired and encouraged her (a young country-western singer at the time) to try this new kind of music that they didn’t even have a name for yet.

So here are some crappy iPhone pictures from the show. I wish they were better, and I hope they convey at least a little of the awesomeness of Wanda. Angelica and I had a hell of a time.

Honda ATC 250R

As I said last week, I’m a motorbike addict. It’s Friday afternoon – I must be lusting after motorcycles I don’t need.

Today during my afternoon browsing-for-bikes-on-Craigslist coffee break, I came up a 1986 Honda ATC 250R. ATC as in all-terrain cycle.

As a kid, I rode all kinds of motorcycles ranging from late-sixties, barely-ridable suicide machines to newer, sweeter machines. We had several three-wheelers, and the pinnacle of awesomeness was my 1983 ATC250R. It was brutally, unforgivingly fast – and therefore incredibly fun. Kids these days on their gently-tuned, softly-suspended four-stroke ATVs have no idea of the fury you unleash when you whack the throttle open on a two-stroke screamer. I remember cackling maniacally inside my helmet every time I hit the gas, front wheel pawing the sky, arms stretching as I struggled just to stay on the bike.  I was 13, and felt like I was riding a rocket ship.

This guy’s ad title sounds like me back then, breathless, all-caps screaming, “RUNS GREAT FAST!!!” He’s not joking – this is a crazy-fast machine, a “nasty little bugger” like HST wrote about in Song of the Sausage Creature. To paraphrase, “There are some things nobody needs in this world, and a bright-red, warp-speed 250cc two-stroke ATC is one of them – but I want one anyway, and on some days I actually believe I need one.” Rule Pismo Beach, indeed.

I always lusted after the ’86 ATC250R. It was the last – and greatest – of the three-wheeled Mohicans, due to a ban on three-wheeled all-terrain vehicles. They occasionally turn up on Craigslist, and I immediately fire up my daydream machine. “What I need is a little truck and this here ATC, and I’ll spend my weekends roosting the dunes!” Never mind the last time I rode an ATV up at Prairie City a few years ago, I ate it hard on some river rock and couldn’t walk upright for about a month.

I never really felt comfortable on four-wheeled ATVs, though. I’m pretty sure three wheels are safer, no worries.

My first street bike - 1969 Honda CL350 Scrambler

Gateway Drug: '69 CL350 Scrambler

I’m a motorbike addict, a junkie too far gone to even bother with denial. My morning coffee and lunchtime routines includes a lot of “researching” of the Craigslist motorcycles section and the BARF Classifieds.

Today I came upon a 1969 Honda CL350 Scrambler for sale down in Santa Cruz. This was my first street bike! No, I didn’t start riding in 1969 – I wasn’t even born then, contrary to what the gray in my beard may have you thinking. I bought my CL from a friend of my dad in 1988 for $100. That’s right, one hundred American dollars. It was clean, too – at least as clean as this one, and it ran. I tore around the backroads without a license (wasn’t old enough) or a helmet (I know, very bad!). A year or two later, I got a license, a helmet, and a 1981 Yamaha XT250.

DUDE. I want this bike. There’s no sense to it, none at all. Yeah, early Hondas CBs and CLs are cool bikes – I’ve had several, and loved them all – but there’s no real good reason to buy this bike other than nostalgia. I’d been riding on the dirt for many years, but this is the same exact bike that introduced me to the evil powers of street bikes.

It’s too small for me, and I’m too accustomed to *ahem* real horsepower, the brakes will be about as good as dragging my feet, Flintstone-style, it’ll be impossible to find parts… the list goes on. But I still want it.

So the rationalizing starts… I could get it, hang on to it, eventually restore it, ride it around the neighborhood now and then. Angelica could ride it. Ooh, there we go! And it does look reasonably unmolested, even has the original paint. Sure, the frame has been repainted, but it’s probably ok. The side covers are missing, but that’s nothing that hours upon hours of combing eBay and motorcycle wrecking yards can’t solve. I can probably talk the guy down on the price, maybe get him down to around two grand… hey, that’s only 20 times what I paid for my first one!

And it just so happens we’re going to be down in Santa Cruz this Saturday.

© 2013 Surj's House of Awesome

Surj's House of Awesome

Surj Gish – eCommerce & Online Marketing Expert / Gearhead / Musician