©By Sam Taylor
A tall man with a Kennedyesque accent poured himself a finger or two of Jack Daniels. Another tall man, soft-spoken and with impeccably creased chinos, was just sitting down with his vodka rocks. They both generously offered me a pop. I had wandered randomly but fortuitously in through the open door of Bill MacColl's and Tony Cameron's motel room at the opulent San Benito Inn (Best Western) in Hollister, CA.
I'd pulled in just minutes before on this warm Thursday evening. It was April 1992, and I had thoroughly enjoyed the ride on my relatively new K75s down from my financial district job. At this point, I only knew one thing: meet at this Best Western Thursday night so that I could follow 30 guys to Death Valley the next morning, a place where I'd never been, with people I didn't know, on a motorcycle (I discovered) I couldn't ride.
Funny how in my seven years of memories these first are still so vivid and not just because I was scared out of my wits at the speeds I was trying to maintain. Let's see: a dusky lunch in Buttonwillow, the beer stop in Trona, the long ride up the Panamint mountains trying to keep up with Tom Hall, Craig DeWolf's massive hangover, Megan Hall in her leathers: these things all made a deep impression on me. Was this the year Mark Wurtzel distributed the contents of his tankbag across the plains of Bakersfield? Was this the year that the oil in Bill MacColl's Harley and the borax of Trona merged to form primordial goo? (95% of all Harleys are still on the road today, as the joke goes). Was this the year that Rob Brown nearly got into a fight at the Furnace Creek Inn bar over a woman twice his age and thrice his weight? Was this the year that multiple moons were sighted over Badwater?
Well, if I dwell too long on my first ride with the club we won't really care, will we? Suffice it to say that memories are made of such stuff. Even though I couldn't ride for sour owl poop, I was generously inducted into the club at the next overnighter up to Hopland. I have several poignant memories about that particular ride, but nothing that penicillin couldn't cure. Nevertheless I really began to feel as if I were in heaven with this perfect recipe of riding, brewpubbing, dining, and, er, lodging. Here's a Club I thought I, that could take care of its members.
The next ride (don't worry, this little ditty won't recount every one, but the first are so vivid!) was out to June Lake in July. Or July Lake in June. John Greene knew those Sierra roads so well and led us on a tour that only recently have I been able to repeat. That weekend was eventful for me as I was moving into my new house and had to get back early in order to take possession. I had a little help from Marshall Roath who considerately volunteered to return to the Bay Area with me, asking only that I drop him off at the hospital on the way back. Pesky broken shoulder--but the Duc lives on!
Speaking of ducks, it was on this ride, I think, that I first observed men quacking, then putting certain CBR900's in front of certain member's certain motel doors. Strange ritual, I thought--but this guy Jim Kelly seemed to take it well. And I'll never forget his passing me in the corners on the way up to Feather River--who was this nut? Or was that Mark Anderson, who wouldn't take "Pavement Ends" for an answer?
The fun had only begun but the rides began to blur. I recall a birthday party for Tom Hall out at Johnson's Oysters in Point Reyes. It was here that I first met Dave and Diane Peterson about whom more later except I'd like to point out that they showed up on the venerable ST1100 then and they show up on the even-more-venerable ST1100 now. Just an observation. I also recollect riding up to Mendocino with my girlfriend-of-the-time (on her EX500 or something) asking me why didn't I ride faster? Ego now bruised by the fairer sex, I began myself to reconsider the K75, and signed up with Dave to take Pridmore's CLASS down at Laguna Seca.
Now the details really whiz by. I can perhaps use as a guide which motorcycle Tony Cameron had at the time. Can we play a little game? Match the year to the bike: Harley, Ducati, PC800, ST1100, R1100RS, R1100GS, CBR1100, R1100RT, a Couple of Dirt Bikes, another Harley. Extra points for naming the ones I've missed. Winners announced at the next Christmas Party.
Speaking of Christmas Parties, in my years we went to the Cliff House twice, the SF Golf Club, the Olympic Club (rocking to rap-master Megan), the Mira-Vista (jammin' with Craig), Villa Taverna, and the Alta Mira. I also remember too much champagne but never quite enough oysters, Gloria, the next morning.
Looming large in my tiny brain are memories of the major trips I've taken with club members. My North Coast fetish, in fact, began with a tour that Bill, Tony, Jim, Steve Anderson, Lyman Casey, and I took throughout the Trinity Alps. I started my ride-leading career the next year based on that tour, a ride I call "The Ride On Which I led Stan Rosow". It would have been "The Ride on Which I led Stan Rosow and Jungles Jingles Johnson", but we left him behind.
Of course, those trips were a precursor to the Great Southern Excursion Tony, Lyman, Jim Whitten and I made from Florida to home one year. It was on this leg that Lyman decided he was tougher than a Texan in a truck (if I may invent the aphorism). Jim pushed the earnings of ATT to record heights calling Nancy 3 times a day. She agreed to marry him and have his child anyway. Tony discovered the carrying capacity of his topbox, measured in pints, quarts, and miscellaneous 12-oz. units on an emergency Sunday run across the New Mexico/Texas border. We ate everything from oysters in Apilachicola to burgers at a McDonalds in Seminole, Texas (Lyman's first visit to a Mickey D's, but probably not his last) We rode the Natchez Trace and descended into Carlsbad Caverns. We affirmed the old couplet:
"the sun is 'ris and the sun is set
and we ain't even out of Texas yet"
We weathered a fair share of rain in the Southeast and again along the California Coast. We had a marvelous time.
The following year Dave, Diane, Pat Bruce and I made the Great Northern Excursion From Portland, Maine to home on a most ausable ride (a word we coined to mean awesome). We wandered through New England, got tickets in New York, crossed the falls at Niagara, discovered culinary paradise in Canada, rode strange watercraft in Minnesota, and finally took a break in Sturgis--just in time for the Black Hills Harley Rally. Here we met up with Bill and Stephanie, Stan Rosow, Mark and Katrina, John and June Mera, Steve Anderson, and other riff-raff of the Harley persuasion. Stephanie, June, Pat, Katrina, and Diane are still arguing over who won the wet T-shirt contest. You just never know whom you're going to bump into when you belong to a club like the MSMC.
The following year an even larger group embarked on what came to be known as the Spine Ride--a tour of the Rockies that necessarily included Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Oregon. Participants included Dick Howard, John Trefethen, Mack Terry, Jim Whitten, Lyman Casey, Pat Bruce, and Tony and Lydia Cameron. We learned a great deal on this ride. Here are several of our new commandments:
Yes, it's nothing but a rigorous learning process in the MSMC.
In between all this cross-country touring the Club managed to get to know the Bear Flag Republic pretty well. During my years in the Club a good deal of the credit should go to Dick "Richard" Howard, who did for the shortcut what Johnson did for Vietnam. The saying "the longest distance between 2 points is a shortcut led by Dick" will always be an MSMC maxim. In fact, it was my monumental lapse of financial judgment that prompted my challenge to beat me in capturing oneself on film in front of all 58 California county seats, on or astride one's bike. Accepting the challenge in earnest were John Trefethen, Dave Peterson, Tony Cameron, and--uh-oh--Dick Howard.
Result: not even close. Dick wrapped it up while I was still trying to find the county courthouse in San Francisco, and he's got the pictures and my $100 to prove it. You know, though--it was money well spent!
For a club that prides it's self on maintaining that certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to lodging, we occasionally have stumbled upon other venues. No, I'm not talking about Virginia City. I am referring to the annual Songdog Ride, Rally, and Herradura-fest traditionally led by Earl Minkler. For only at Songdog can one truly enjoy drinking a bottles of expensive tequila, singing Marty Robbins classics, riding 50cc Yamahas, shooting pistols, watching biplanes, pooping with 3 of your closest friends back-to-back, and dropping your expensive motorcycle in the last 500 yards of a 300 mile trip. Then you get to drive home through the haze of the Valley and Your Mind. All this in about 24 hours: there's nothing like it.
We Came, We Saw, We Ate
Of course, memories aren't just made of rides--they're made of food. And this club has eaten at some of the, well, some of the most, well, some of the most interesting places around. How's this for a smorgasbord: Denny's Corte Madera, Denny's Cordelia, and Denny's Serramonte. No. Just kidding. Try this, in no particular order: Benbow Inn, Nepenthe's, Granzella's, Howard's, Beullah's, The Hilltop in Quincy, Il Fornaio, Marina Joe's, Liverpool Lil's, The Diggins (hey, pretzels count!), Duarte's, Perko's, The Thatcher Inn, The Ahwannee, Nicely's, Samoa Cookhouse (mmmmm, eggs)--the list is too long to possibly continue. And the best value of all? It's got to be the New Pisa.
The People Beneath the Stripes
So now its almost the new millennium and I'm getting ready from my 4th trip to Feather River and my 6th Songdog campout and my 7th Christmas party and my 8th Death Valley adventure--and still looking forward to them all. I love to ride motorcycles. I love to visit new places. I love to eat well. I love to do these things with my friends. Where else, I wonder, could anyone be so fortunate as to have all these passions fanned in one place? In my time The Club has been featured in The Pacific Sun, The Marin IJ, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Robb Report--all because it is so special. The only thing more special is the people themselves: each of the 40 peculiar members--and their wives and friends and the others we've met on the way. To each of them, then, I owe my memories--at least the ones I can remember.
The adventure continues....