Saturday, October 15, 2011


Wow! That’s a real Lionel!
My response to a neighbor kid’s haul one Christmas morning,
circa 1959

“OOOH MAN! A Guzzi.” The man was in the passenger seat of an aging Subaru – window lowered. His wife or significant other was behind the wheel. My monthly breakfast buddy, Joe, and I stood outside the Old Town Café on Mill Street in Grass Valley, California, looking at my new-to-me ride. The woman efficiently parallel parked at the available spot adjacent to the B-1100. They exited and started down the sidewalk, but the man took a long and admiring look at the little black Breva.

“See,” I said to Joe, “the Guzzista are everywhere.” I pointed in the direction of the man who’d disappeared into a dress shop or an antique shop. “He’s either owned a Guzzi or would like to.”

OUR MONTHLY BREAKFASTS are too infrequent. The lapse between this one and the prior one had been well over six months. Thus, our visit from inside the Old Town Café spilled onto the street with much unfinished business yet to conduct; many of the world’s problems yet to solve. We stood just off the curb next to the bike between the Subaru and very mature Toyota Tercel four-by-four wagon, one that had seen many winters in the Sierra foothills.

An older gentleman, conservatively seventy-five years of age by my judgment, stepped out of the restaurant and shuffled over to the Tercel. He glanced at us – me thinking he was probably thinking our conversation would be safer somewhere than in the street. He entered through the driver’s door, sat. I could see him looking through the side view mirror.

The younger man had returned from the dress/antique shop. “I used have me a V-750 café.” The conversation began, three of us standing in the gutter. He shared that he currently owned a BMW 1100 GS, “an older one,” and asked if there was a local Guzzi dealer any more now that Good Times gave up the marque. We talked about the good service I’d recently received at the new dealer in Elk Grove.

“If Guzzi’s gonna make it in the states,” he said shaking his head, “it’ll be because guys like us actually support the dealers by buyin’ bikes from ‘em.”

I nodded.

He continued: “I need to go down there and check things out,” adding that when he and his wife first met, she was riding a Guzzi 850.

THE GENTLEMAN IN THE TERCEL probably had had enough. The driver’s door cracked open, he gave a careful look and slowly stepped out and began shuffling our way. I knew our self-centeredness warranted what I was about to hear.

He said something while pointing toward us.

“I’ll get us out of your way. Sorry…” as I moved our threesome back onto the sidewalk.

“What I said was, ‘nice Moto Guzzi.’”


The old man asked, “May I?” as he ran his hand across the tank and seat. “Yep. I used to sell these back in the late 60s early 70s.”

Other conversations stopped. Had there been traffic on Mill Street we have not heard his rather weak, crackly voice. “Down to Mountain View. Sold these and Laverdas and Ducatis for a time.”

“You sell the police bikes?” I asked, showing off for the other two. I’ve got to quit doing that.

“Sold and serviced,” he said. “I used to fix ‘em and then run ‘em four or five blocks up [he named the street], turn around and really goose ‘em coming back.” He chuckled. “Goosin’ the Goose. Anyway, one day I was on a CHP bike I’d just done something to. I’d hit the throttle pretty hard coming back, cornered into my garage and parked the thing. I come out toward the showroom, had just put my helmet on the rack when there’s this big shadow in the doorway. I look up and it’s a CHP officer with his legs spread and his hands on his hips, one of them on the butt of his service revolver. He says, ‘Who are you?’ I look at him and says, ‘Can I help you?’ Cop repeats, ‘Who are you?’ a little louder. I says ‘I own this place. Now can I help you?’

“The old boy relaxed and took his hand away from his gun. ‘Well shit,’ he says, ‘Me and two others were down ta the [he named a burger joint] and we saw some civvy tearin’ by on one of our bikes. We thought someone’d taken out one of our mounted. I’ll tell ya, there was food and Cokes and stuff flyin’ all over the place!’”

The four of us – the younger man’s wife had joined us by now – laughed heartily with the gentleman. The old man ran his hand across the tank once more and said, “Very nice.” He looked at his watch. “Well, I guess I’m late.” He smiled and returned to the Tercel.

As he drove away, breakfast buddy Joe asked, “Another Guzzista?”

© 2011
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. A Wild Goose reader comments:

    Talk about the extended Guzzi family!!

  2. And from a Pashnit reader:

    I've met people like him..they make any ride much more rewarding.

  3. Another from Pashnit:

    Welcome to the family.

    You've found the biggest drawback to owning a Guzzi (OK, the two - the lack of good dealers being the second) - anywhere you park it, you'll meet someone who owns, did own, or wants to own one.

    The best one for me was the older lady who looked at my bike one day and said - my late husband owned a Guzzi when we first met - we used to ride all over the country on it. I gave her my card and told her anytime she wanted to go for a ride, give me a call. It would be my honor to have her for a passenger.