Wednesday, August 31, 2016

OUT OF TOWN VISITORS - a follow-up

a follow-up

For those of us who may enjoy the adventures of others as well as their own, there’s this…

Kerry and Paul Dickson, residents of the Australian state of Tazmania, recently enjoyed a North American adventure wherein they acquired a 41-year-old Moto Guzzi El Dorado (think about that) in Nova Scotia and piloted her (her name was “Ellie”) across southern Canada the northern reaches of the United States. 

Their tour took the better part of two months and is chronicled in a blog they kept called “Sure Why Not?”

Along the way, they encountered beautiful scenery, wonderful people and a few issues keeping the old girl together for the duration.  But what a story!

A former member of the Guzzi community, Candi and I had the pleasure of hosting Paul and Kerry for an evening of wine, dining, road tales and (for them) rest before their final day’s run into San Francisco.  What a delight!

Courtesy: Paul and Kerry Dickson
Here is the link to the travel blog they maintained.

Sit down with your favorite spirit, spend an hour or so on their website and enjoy the ride with them.  (Understand that the series of posts will appear with the last day of their travels, first.)

© 2016
Church of the Open Road Press

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Vicarious Life through Others’ Travels

In 1971, I purchased my first new car: a Clementine orange VW Super Beetle.  I loved that car. While it still resides in my heart, I wish it still had a place in my garage.  It was truly the one that got away.  If I still owned the Bug, it likely would travel no further from home than the coffee shop on Sunday morning, because, well, what if it and its forty-plus-year-old technology broke down?

I was reminded of this the other night when visitors from Tasmania, whom we were yet to meet, tooled into our neighborhood on a 1975 Moto Guzzi El Dorado.  Paul and Kerry Dickson (again, from waaayyyyy down under) purchased this classic a couple of months back from a seller in Nova Scotia, Canada, basically sight unseen.  Her name, they were told, was “Ellie.”

The story goes that the Dicksons flew into New York, caught a hop across the border, took Ellie for a short spin, laid down their money and headed west.

That takes some measure of guts, I’d opine.  I suppose if I found a seventies-era VeeDub, I could attempt a similar journey because those old Volkswagens were not all that uncommon.  We still see a few of them belching about and parts still pretty available.

But on a vintage Guzzi?  Trying to find parts for a forty-year old Moto Guzzi must be a bit like finding the third tablet upon which the rest of the Fifteen Commandments are chiseled.  But Mr. and Mrs. Dickson were undeterred.

They rode and camped and rode and moteled and rode through some of the most scenic territory in all of North America seeking small museums, enjoying mom ‘n’ pop café meals in tiny towns and sticking, whenever possible, to America’s less travelled by-ways.

The story of their introduction to Ellie, the El Dorado, has a love-at-first-sight poignancy to it.  Photos of the motoring to the top of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington and Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower added more bullets to my burgeoning bucket list, while shots of Montana-Wyoming’s Beartooth Pass reignited the excitement I felt on my trip a few years back on my then four-year-old BMW.  Except they did it on Ellie, a contemporary of my beloved, long-gone ’71 VW.

Along the way, these travelers stopped in at our house for some ribs, some rest and this reminder to self: As long as we continue to expand our view of the world and our appreciation for the diverse gifts it offers, we can keep our thus-engaged selves young.  Perhaps there is no better way to do this than through travel on a motorcycle.

Better still if her name is Ellie.



More exact details of the Dickson’s transaction and amazing trip can be found on their blog “Sure – Why Not?”  Plan on being captivated by the pictures and the narrative.  And keep checking back as Paul and Kerry are still composing thoughts and selecting pictures that represent the completion of their journey. Here’s the link:  

Special thanks to Patrick Hayes (left) for arranging the connections necessary to allow for visitors from the other side of the globe to come to our little place for a meal and a night’s rest.  Patrick is a moto-aficionado (and Church of the Open Road reader) who somehow hooked up with me through the blog during my Guzzi ownership days.

And kudos to the Guzzi community – as Kerry refers to them – both in the states and in Canada who helped ensure that Paul and Kerry’s adventure would be the utmost success.  I'm thinking I need to make an effort to "rejoin" that community...

And this...

“You meet the nicest people on a Honda.”
- Corporate slogan ca 1964

I spoke with my 94-year-old mother the other day and shared that visitors from Tanzania would be stopping over.  “Where’s Tanzania?” she asked.  I explained and she said, “My, you do lead an interesting life.”

No, I thought to myself, but I certainly have met some inspiring people who do.

© 2016
Church of the Open Road Press

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


A product review

Over the nine-plus years that I’d owned my trusty Tour Master Coaster II leather jacket, somehow the thing had shrunk – just hanging there in the closet.  The process was gradual having occurred hand-in-hand with an increased consumption of bacon-cheeseburgers on my part.  Regardless of the cause of the “shrinkage,” it was time for me to find a replacement, so I did a little shopping around and recently dropped five bills on a Fox Creek Vented Racing Jacket. 

Shortly, I hopped astride the T-Bird and, with the chest and back vents open, headed out toward Napa, then across the Sacramento Valley with temps rising to mid-80s.  When the mercury started to embrace 90, I transitioned to the summer weight Dianese I was carrying along. 

The following day found me at the 5,000-plus foot level in the Sierra, where the jacket was again employed, vents closed for a while, against the chill.

My impressions of this jacket are quite positive.  The thing is heavy like that lead apron they put on you when they’re doing dental x-rays.   

But with the vents open, it is cool and makes me feel secure – if that's the right word – no matter what the traffic conditions. The quality of this jacket is superior to anything I've ever owned and I thought I'd been buying good stuff in the past. The zippers are substantial and appear not prone to failure.  Their antique bronze finish is a nice touch.   
The leather itself is supple and thick – doubled in impact areas – very nicely finished and smells terrific coming out of the box.  Seams and stitching appear flawless. 

Having heard about this while doing my research, I did find that because of the thickness and structure of the front pockets – there are inside and outside pockets to contend with – I get a little "Dolly Parton" effect as the bottom of the jacket tends to migrate northward from my waist when in the saddle.  This is just an observation, by no means an annoyance.  Besides, those pockets are quite commodious capable of stowing extra gloves, the cell phone or the camera easily. 

I am looking forward to how this performs as the temperatures cool in the fall and through the winter as I zip in the liner that seems easily deployed and comes with a neck muffler designed to keep cold air from entering your helmet from beneath your chin.

I appreciate Fox Creek's corporate story – a Vietnam era entrepreneur who dabbled at one thing and another until he struck upon making really good stuff out of leather.  Stateside.  Equally impressive is Fox Creek’s customer service.  They took the time to contact me prior to shipping the jacket to ensure the size I ordered was correct for my build.

Not only do I think this may be the last leather jacket I'll need to purchase, I am now hoping for a grandson who rides to whom I can pass this on in about twenty-five years.  Earlier, if I don’t cut down on those bacon-cheeseburgers.


Note:  Fox Creek Leather’s web presence:

© 2016
Church of the Open Road Press

Friday, August 5, 2016


I have a soft spot for silvering barns, rusted wire fences, weathered, hand-hewn livestock chutes, and old trucks.  The west is full of ‘em and each of these relics of our west has a story to tell, I’m sure. I’ll stop smack-dab in the middle of the road if I think I can get away with a decent shot at one.

Particularly the old trucks.

Some of the best “retired” trucks are found near the middle of nowhere, parked in a wheat field or subsumed by a thicket of brambles. 

Some you see a great distance away as you travel a rifle-shot straight section of road across the plain. 

Some spring upon you as you round a bend or crest a rise. 

Some rest in junkyards, but good photos are hard to shoot, given all the other good junk so near by. 

Some are displayed in front of farm stands or outside wineries, but these, posed as they are, seem a little less like an artifact and more like an ornament.  I don’t think they really count. 

Some are behind fences although I’m not certain the fence is keeping ‘em from escaping to somewhere.

Through decades of pausing for a photograph of an old GMC or International

– or worse, not pausing and wishing that I had –

I have begun to spin my own yarns about a flat bed delivering fodder to cattle in a parched August pasture, the stakeside fording an angry creek down from the bridge washout, or a workhorse ranch pickup getting spiffed up for a Saturday night on the town.

But all of those tales were made up, products of my romantic fantasies about ranch life with its early mornings, hard work and dreamless sleep beneath peaceful, starry midnight sky.  Yep, all of these stories were little fictions – little personifications – because derelict trucks can rust by the side of the road or out behind a collapsing barn, but they can’t tell stories.

That is, until one spoke yesterday.

Yesterday’s truck, a 50s era Studebaker was locked inside a cyclone enclosure designed more to keep passers-by such as myself from getting too close rather than having the thing roll off somewhere under its own power on its rusted wheels and arthritic ball joints.   

In faded paint on the driver’s side door were the words “Hopson Dairy.  Anderson California.”

I was nowhere near Anderson, California so I visited the Internet in search of the old truck’s story.

In bygone days, milk came from dairies and was delivered directly to the consumer’s door.  Milk came in glass bottles, the likes of which you may find at an antique shop nowadays.  In the northern end of the Sacramento Valley near Anderson, California, the Hopsons owned one such dairy.   For decades, the family maintained a small herd of cows, the facility to milk them and the means to distribute product throughout a small region of Shasta County. 

Up that way in the 50s, Redding Motors on Market Street (the old US 99 though town) held the Studebaker franchise.  I can’t help but wonder how many of these workhorses passed through that dealership’s doors.  One of them may have been the old crate I spotted so many miles from Anderson.

According to the Redding Record Searchlight, the Hopson Dairy was established in 1943 and ended production in 1987.  Twenty years later, on a Saturday in March, heir Ben Hopson auctioned the place lock, stock and milk bottle.  And the old Studebaker. 

Courtesy and (c) Redding Record Searchlight
It was included in the picture of the about-to-be-disposed-of dairy, published in the March 14, 2008 edition of the Record-Searchlight next to a stock trailer and some aging agri-implements.

We do things differently now. Mom and Pop groceries have withered as Safeways and their ilk have grown.  Many local hardware stores have succumbed to the presence of the Home Depot and Lowes.  Countless downtown haberdasheries and five ‘n’ dimes have faded away as Target stores and Wal-Marts have appeared.

On the plus side, these big stores offer value – or, at least, a perception of value – to the buyer.  The downsides – perhaps more romantic than economic – include the demise of some family farms, the loss of some independent businesses, and death of some of those chores for trucks like the old Studebaker.  

And their stories.

© 2016
Church of the Open Road Press