We were running late. Tony’s job at at the dealership keeps him there every Saturday until the early evening, which we knew meant a late arrival at the home of Noel, our host. I had prepared Noel for this earlier in the week, but I hadn’t prepared him for THIS late of an arrival. By the time Tony got his bike loaded up (with the help of his girlfriend, who must weigh a whopping 90lbs), the truck gassed up and out to my house, it was 8:30.
Of course, by now, darkness had made it’s way to our corner of the world, which made moving Tony’s bike aside and sliding the marauder in next to it take even longer than expected. It was 10pm before we were finally on the road North. Erring on the side of safety, we grabbed a couple sleeping bags and a tent. With us leaving at this hour, I wouldn’t be surprsed to see a big neon “No Vacancy” sign outside Noel’s place.
“Don’t think we’ll make the Cretin’s Pre-TT party, ” I remarked. But it didn’t matter. We were on our way to Vashon. The place where old bikes rule the road and 10w-40 is served with breakfast in lieu of milk or orange juice. The place where spark plugs grow on trees and the word “unmolested” replaces “unrestored”. I couldn’t have been more excited about what lay before us.
Bombing up I-5 for three hours in a slammed fifty year old truck can be an adventure. Throw a couple of classic bikes in the bed and you have a fucking physics exam. Every driveway is an exercise in geometry and sprung vs. unsprung weight. Every bump a theoretical conundrum in which the answer is how fucked up your bike is in the back. Tony’s loading and strapping prowess is unparalleled, however, and even after setting up in the dark, the only casualty was a scuffed up mirror shipped out of Hong Kong a few weeks before.
We finally made it to Port Orchard around 1:30 or so. I texted Noel when we were about fifteen minutes out, and to my surprise, he texted back. He was still awake, meaning we wouldn’t have to camp in his yard. We pulled the truck into his driveway off the street, left the bikes loaded because were beat, and went inside for a beer.
I can’t describe how gracious and welcoming Noel was. Even at that hour, even after having waited for us since probably shortly after him and his family ate dinner. After showing us around his place, we sat back and talked about bikes, global economic policy (not really) and the next day. At 2:30, we called it a night. In order to hit the ATM, the gas station and make the 8:25 ferry, it was going to be an early morning.
Noel gave us the run of his basement and headed upstairs. Wanting to make sure that everything of value was out of the truck (lest the bikes) and that nothing had tipped over, we went outside for one last check. Hearing the door shut behind Tony triggered the realization in both of us that we had just locked ourselves out of Noel’s house. At 2:30am. The first night he met us. Perfect.
What to do? A bunch of the windows were open, but covered by screens. Getting Noel’s attention meant waking up his wife, so that was not our favorite option. My wallet was in the house, so there was no using a credit card to unlock the door like I had seen in movies. Does that even work? Regardless, could a guy who wasn’t able to negotiate leaving a house without locking himself out do it? I doubt it. Just as we had given up, and Tony was about to go knock on the door or ring the doorbell or do whatever he had to do to wake up Noel, I was able to pop out a screen. I was standing on the window pane, half way to breaking into the home of our new friend, when Noel came down the stairs and peeked his head around the corner. “Um….Hi Noel. It was Tony’s fault.”
Vashon or Bust
We hit the 8:25 ferry with time to spare. There were already some bikes lined up waiting, so we started the oggling there. Bikes of note: a nice Suzuki rotary that looked like it was ridden regularly, a nice GS1150E, a Moto Guzzi and a few Triumphs. Ed and his brother Evan showed up on their CB750s just as we were loading onto the Ferry. Ready to roll.
After getting off the ferry we all rode into Downtown Vashon. We found a spot to park near the end of all the bikes and spent a solid hour walking around checking out the iron. What an amazing showing; Triumphs, Norton’s, CZs, Hodaka, Ceccato, Matchless, Beemers, Beezers, Urals and even a Nimbus. Most of those bikes, including the Nimbus, would take part in the poker run. Almost any kind of bike imaginable. We registered for the poker run, put our name in at a restaurant called the Hardware Store and then walked around some more as we waited for the call letting us know our table was ready.
Breakfast was great. We talked bikes (easily the most popular topic of conversation), I gave Noel the idea that I couldn’t tighten down a bolt, and I watched out the window as the bikes rolled in and out of downtown Vashon. We wandered around a bit more as Ed and Evan registered for the poker run and then we got on our way.
The poker run circles the island using secondary roads on which the posted speed never exceeds 45mph. The VME requests that riders obey the speed limits, and while I’d normally use such an opportunity to see how often I could drag my tailpipe, I was more than happy to look around at the seventy year old bikes out riding around, drawing cards and manually lubricating their valves. Somewhere after the third checkpoint, while riding in second position behind Noel, I noticed something shiny bouncing off the ground in front of me. I could see that it was moving to my right, so I maintained speed and lane position, realizing as it passed by my right knee that it was a kick starter….Off Noel’s CB750. I passed him and pulled over, as did everyone else, and we started back up the road in search of the kick lever. Evan ended up finding it about a hundred yards or so from where we all stopped – About six feet past where I would have given up. Nice get, Evan.
At the end of the poker run we grabbed some lunch and checked out some more bikes. There are field events, but we didn’t catch them. Tony and I were both seriously putting off leaving, though we both knew that we should start heading home. The lack of sleep was starting to catch up with us, and we still had a roughly 3.5 hr drive back home. The other guys were gracious enough to call it a day with us, and we all headed back to Noel’s. Noel’s wife Deena was around and was every bit as generous and welcoming as he. The six of us sat on the Deck, enjoying a beer, the beautiful day, and the even better view of the bay visible from Noel’s house. A perfect end to an amazing day.
Tony and I made it my house almost exactly 24hrs after we left. Exhausted, hungry, drenched in sweat and exhaust, I could barely function well enough to find a spot to sit down and decompress. If there was one thing I could be sure of, though, even in that state, it was that I need to get ready for next year.