Two Up on the Trace: Vintage Bikes; Road Racing Through Time; How Many Vincents?

 Checking out the Triumphs: Roo on a vintage, Bob on a Thruxton cafe racer. Click on left photo to see the worried look on Roo’s face!

The Motorcycle Song by Arlo Guthrie (from Alice’s Restaurant)

I don’t want a pickle….. just want to ride my motorsickle….

And I don’t want a tickle….. ’cause I’d rather ride on my motorsickle….

And I don’t want to die…. I just want to ride on my motorcy—cle.

(Listen to it here. Search “motorcycle song”)

Days 8 & 9: The Time Warp

We overnighted in Meridian, Mississippi, having traveled on a beautiful rural highway through the southern part of the state. Then it was a straight line hole shot freeway blast up I-20 to Birmingham the following morning. By the time we reached our hotel, we were full on ready to immerse ourselves in everything motorcycles. The hotels in the vicinity, ours included, had their parking lots full of motorbikes and motorcyclists. But they cast a tiny shadow compared to the hordes of motorbikes and their owners we would see at         Barber Motorsports Park for the Vintage Festival Weekend.

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If you are into vintage bikes and vintage bike racing, this is the place to be the second weekend of October each year. The number of vintage motorbikes here vying for prize money in the judging contest, as well as all the bikes in the museum (open year round), boggles the mind. Add the all day sensory input you are exposed to and you are on a weekend motorcycle high that will take a week to come down from!

Passing through the entrance gate, the perimeter road is lined with motorbikes. Traffic is  moving at a crawl, but who cares! Thousands of all kinds of bikes and people to gawk at! The only complaint was coming from my clutch hand.

Motorbikes line the road around the park.

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Throngs of people camping everywhere. Tents, RV’s, cars. Parking was at a premium if you didn’t get there early. People riding everything, everywhere. Minibikes, scooters, Vespa’s, BSA’s, Husquvarna’s, Honda’s, Bultaco’s….all vintage. 50cc’s, 125’s, 300’s all the way up to the “big” bikes of the day, the CB750’s. Long hair, flat tennies, jeans, a T, maybe a helmet; riding on road then off road then on again dodging the crowds; yelling to your girlfriend “hold on!” as she barely stays on while laughing all the way. ATTGATT? What ATTGATT? This is a time warp, circa 1970’s; whatever you’re wearing, ride in it. Just ride! The sights, the smells, the sounds; we seemed to have ridden right onto the set of On Any Sunday. This is a sacred gathering paying homage to two-wheeled internal combustion transport. We couldn’t have been more excited!

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Ever hear of that?

Having finally found a place to park, we secured our riding suits and gear to the ST, switched to walking shoes, and off we went into the depths of motorcycle culture. As we neared the race track, the MC announced the beginning of the Century Race. This “race” is a few laps around the road track for motorcycles 100 years old or older. In order to qualify  for this years race, the motorcycle must have been manufactured in or before 1914. What a thrill to get a peek at a 1910 Henderson screaming around the track.

Only eight motorbikes signed up for this event, so things were really spread out. In reality, the riders don’t really “race” these machines, for fear of blowing an engine or crashing their bikes. Lots of money in these antique beauties.

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 We watched races periodically all day long, 1960’s and 1970’s classes being the most popular to watch. This is a true motorsports park, where you can sit anywhere on the manicured landscaping around the track and have a great view of the action while eating a picnic lunch, which we did.

The race track is a true road course, hosting vintage, AMA, and Indy car races throughout the year. No Nascar here! Ya gotta make some right turns!

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 There’s even lawn art! Hello ant!

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Even the gates are moto themed

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Now it was time to get up close and personal with vintage motorcycles. After “bike shopping” all the bikes on the perimeter road, we crossed over onto the infield of the track where the vintage bike contest was being held. Also here were vendors from most every company that has anything to do with motorbikes and accessories. You could also buy your dream machine here or find parts for your restoration project back home.

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Roo being shown the finer points of motorbike restoration

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The gentleman in the pic above with Roo said this was his first trip to the Vintage Festival, and he couldn’t believe the sheer number of vintage bikes here. He said “I’ve been restoring motorcycles for over thirty-five years. In all that time I have seen maybe four Vincents. I come here to this festival and look, over there, there’s ten of them all together in pristine condition! This is unbelievable!”

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Vincent HRD’s, circa 1924-1926. It doesn’t get any better than this! Wow!

Norton motorbikes, a premier British marque from the 1960’s had a large presence

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Inside the Triumph tent sat this “rocket” land speed racer on the Bonneville salt flats. It is powered by Triumph’s Rocket III 2300 cc motorbike engine (with just a few mods, right?)

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 So many bikes, it just blew our minds. History brought back to life by the most talented artists.

By now we needed to give our feet a break, so we ambled on over to the race track and pulled up some prime real estate to sit on. The races were in full swing. The sight of 1960’s era racing bikes, the sound of their highly tuned engines, and the smell of burning petrol was just amazing. We were fully immersed in it all. I did take a video of some of the action with my camera, but I screwed it up and it didn’t take. Got to work on that. After a snack, it is time to go indoors. Barber’s Vintage Museum is on the docket, where we will spend countless hours oggling vintage iron, and still run out of time. You’ll see why.

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Next post: Gilera, NSU, Parilla, Excelsior, Montessa. Ever hear of them? They’re all here. Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.

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