Guess who this is for a chance to win a pair of free tickets to the XDL stunter championship this weekend! (Taken with Instagram at See See Motorcycle)
If you ain’t got anything going on swing by and say hi. Maybe stay for a cold beeeeeer. (Taken with Instagram at See See motorcycles- 1642 ne sandy)
Interview with Roland Sands and Thor http://www.rolandsands.com/wp/2012/07/19/thor-drake
Coffee Shop Is Open!
“HEY ALL YOU SONS-A-BITCHES, THIS HERE IS A MOTOR-CICLE RACE!” Blares over the
1960’s style speaker hoisted up by an old log. Which was all too apparent to anybody within a 10 mile radius of our location. 500+ bikes packed into a football field length two lane main drag of the wild west mining town, Virgina City, Nevada.
The excitement in the air is a mix of two stroke smoke, motor oil and anti freeze. The noise is like an army of hungry warriors grunting and yelling on the front lines waiting for battle, as racers snap the throttle clearing the pipes. Locals poke their heads out of old brothel windows on the second floors of the ramshackle mining town saloons in a hopes to catch a glimpse of some action or the ambitious chance to quiet down whoever has just stirred them from their sleepy hangover.
Looking down the sea of helmets one can’t help but notice the wavy rooftops corralling us on
either side, reminding me of something a local told me about how the town is believed to be unstable in the likely event of an earthquake. Sketchy old mine shafts riddle the underworld of the Hugely profitable goldrush town. I think to myself 1,000,000,000+ CC’s all spinning in unison may create something of a vibration? None-too-worried I redirect my attention back to the start line, as Bob Covakis aka Motomouth yells over the mic “HEY HEY HEY, all you sons-a-bitcc-cough cough… need some voice lube…trusty old Southern Comfort, AH… there we go, pay attention for our National anthem.”
As freedom rings I look over at the Bucket of Blood Saloon, old stomping grounds of VC local humorist Mark Twain. First Mark Twain quote that comes to mind is “God created war so that Americans would learn geography.” War, not so dissimilar to this 25 mile loop of rocks, more rocks, still more rocks on top of rocks, hills of rocks, a few not so rocky parts and a sweet rockless 5 mile street section.
(The stated above viewed more clearly upon reflection.)
Virginia City Grand Prix would be my first official race of the season. Most of my time has been directed at opening a motorcycle shop in Portland Oregon, more than 600 miles north. Let me just say any race I’m able to do is on a dime budget. what I am discovering very quickly is owning a motorcycle shop and riding motorcycles DO NOT go hand in hand. In order to afford the journey I traveled with a crew, Travis Gardner; a red haired 2-stroke wizard riding a ktm 300 some-thing-ruther, Jared the long hair hippie machinist atop a 74 Yamaha. And Mr Chad250, the whiskey soda whisperer. Travis would be racing with me on Saturday and Jared on Sunday. Mr Chad 250 would provide multiple rounds of high fives, whiskey sodas and tons of pure stoke all weekend. We where a funny looking crew no less, to round off our presence Cody Mcelroy, a local gypsy rocker and brother to FMX gypsy rider Drake Mcelroy, would be our official pit crew manager.
I had a few goals for the weekend all of which were set in complete ignorance.
First goal: finish expert race on a modern bike. The night before the race I was informed that more than half of participants don’t complete the whole race and it was unlikely I would be part of the percentage that does. Admittedly I’m not the type of racer that has extra tires, levers, tubes, preparedness in general. I stand by my trusty off the couch approach to racing. I’ll do an oil change, adjust the chain, inspect for major disabling wear and tear, basics to get ready for a day on the bike when I’m in my shop. I sometimes falsely brag that I leave my tools at home because I do all my maintenance there. My system seems to work, however, I wish it was different sometimes.
second goal: Complete race on a Vintage bike.
Not just any vintage bike, a trusty old 1969 Bultaco Matador 250cc. A bike that was sold a year before the creation of the Virginia City Grand Prix, no later than 1969. This may be the most ambitious goal I have given the Ol’taco. My Bultaco Isnt one of those sparkly gems with OEM race parts that sit in collections, it’s more like one you would find in your grandpa’s barn or an estate sale, Loved but obviously ridden.
Third goal: compare and contrast vintage racing VS. modern racing. this would mean completing both days of racing. I figured it would be hard but I did not account for 25 mile loops, thus resulting in another oversight of physical ability and preparedness. That is to say “off the couch racing” could stand to lose a pound or two and needed to pack a bitchen set of tools. (luckily I did too, which you will read about later.)
Back to the start line.
5 minutes before the race begins 00 spots are auctioned for a starting price of $500.00. The 00 spot puts you at the start of the 500+ bikes making you the Hare in the Hare and Hound format style racing. In the true style of Nevada, the $500+ dollars spent on pole position is a gamble only suited for racers with massive coconuts. The course is strictly run blind so if you’re in front, you get a no-dust view of the great unknown. The 00 spot is filled and the race is on! Groups of 10 are sent on 30 second intervals. The course hooks a tight left off the start into a long asphalt downhill with a jump halfway down, giving the rows of spectators a big show. By the time the last row is released the Hare has almost completed the first lap, which gives you some scale to the number of riders involved.
My start was good and I was picking off slower riders by the dozen. Not five minutes into the race the true advantage of getting released early is discovered, as way-to-many bikes try to funnel up an 8 ft wide boulder ridden hill. Let me give you an analogy of the scene: It was like 100 ants trying to attack a giant scorpion. People and bikes are flying everywhere just like the helpless ants. At one point I saw a guy on a Kawasaki pin the throttle off the side of the road launching him and his bike 50 feet down the hill. Bikes overheating, clutches being smoked, rocks flying through the air, people bouncing off each other, and lots of yelling are all part of the chaos frenzy no-self-restraint cluster of bikes and riders trying to make it past. 10 minutes later I made it through thanks to push button starting and a little patience. the course winds up the hill, down the hill, around the hill, into the valleys, up another hill all over the world’s stockpile of sharp rolley rocks. half way through the race, racers are treated (in my opinion) with the best 5 mile stretch of perfectly paved twisty roads all locked off from oncoming traffic. I’m pretty sure I achieved speeds of 80+, whizzing past riders as though they were standing still. The road unfortunately comes to an end where the second rocky section begins. This section much like the first dirt stage has a bit of single track, some hunting roads and plenty of rocks. A second check point is placed about 8 miles in marking the home stretch back into town. When you reach the town the course sends you around the back side of the high school, a long stretch down a side street where crowds of people are cheering. When you get to the finish line you can either pit in or continue. My goal was to do as many laps early with out pitting, an attempt to try to get out front. I did 3 laps with out pitting before my desert tank was parched. Of course my pit crew was nowhere to be found, actually worse yet, they were in the “Comfort Zone,” Motomouth’s very own announcing lift. If I had been paying attention I might have caught Motomouth letting loose one of his gold nuggets. Couple such nuggets: “You guys are boring i’m going to play some cowboy music.” another while playing Cyndi Lauper’s “She Bop”: “hey can anyone guess what this song is about??? Nope it’s about girls rubbing one out, I see some of you girls practicing down there.” Back at the pits my crew is gone. Luckily the nice kid we pitted next to helped me get some gas and water. Gassed up I was back on the trail, when all of a sudden my back end felt like I had a basketball for a tire. The all too common flat tire, I had to back off and limp the bike back into the pits over the next 10 miles. back in the pits we changed the tire in 15 minutes and I was back on the trail. Finished the last lap of the race receiving the ever coveted finisher pin. I had done 125 miles which was nothing compared to the 6 laps Ross Neely did in 04:26:58, that’s 25 more miles and 30 minutes faster than my 5 laps. I place 162 overall and 17th in open expert and boy I was sore already. goal 1 complete! After the race we headed down the hill to Fernley where I arm wrestled a few cold ones and chatted with Big Al McElroy, (pops to Drake and Cody). The Mcelroys have a long history with motorcycling in the greater NV area. Even Big Al’s older brother Eric is something of a legend in Virginia City going by the alias “Space Cowboy”. Big Al had done the race a few times and told us stories of Motomouth and other little anecdotes of VCGP. As an outsider, one cant help but pick up on the “family-ness” of motorcycle racing, it becomes almost a tradition. All these characters have all grown up with each other, thick and thin. Motorcycling is the religion, one could argue its almost politics, its a binding knot, its what they do. The next morning would come all too fast. Peeling my face off the pillow I rallied the Portland boys and we headed up the hill. Back up in Virginia City day two of the GP was well under way. Bob “Motomouth” Cavakis warms up his PA with this gold nugget; “HEY, hey you down there, you have a huge booger hanging out of your nose. Someone’s kid, over here, has a giant booger hanging out of his nose. someone get this kid a tissue!” followed by “Welcome to Virginia City’s 40th Grand Prix.”
I do some last minute adjustments to the Bultaco in a half-assed attempt to make the bike more suitable for the harsh 25 mile loop i know is coming. The start order is announced and racers start to head to the main drag of Virginia City. As I’m riding up to the start everybody is giving me the thumbs up, the Bultaco national anthem. During the whole weekend I talked to at least 10 different gentlemen who all said the same thing; “I used to have that exact bike but mine was (insert different model and year here)” I politely obliged as I knew it was somewhat of a nostalgic moment for them.
Back at the starting grid same as the day before a mess of racers and spectators filled the main street. The same locals peeking out windows and a few old miners stumbling down the worn out wood sidewalks. As if the ghost of Mark Twain ubiquitously inhabits VC, I remember another set of inspiring words from the ol’ writer. “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Thanks Mr. Twain I’ll try and remember that when I’m taking on the grueling mess of hills, other racers, rocks and steep inclines with 4 inches of suspension and almost no brakes. The race starts and we are off, I feel like a kid on a 80 cc bike as big modern bikes fly past me. Just like the day before congestion hill quickly backs up 100 bikes deep. I decide to take the opportunity to tune in my carb a little better off the trail. 30 minutes later I’m off pulling up the hill, around the hill, slowly down the hill, into the valley, up another hill, and make it to the halfway mark and the start of the street section. Today they have a Police speed reader marking the mph of each rider. My speed was 52 mph - not bad I think for the 69’ taco. Bopping along I’m just happy to be running. I pass the occasional rider enjoying a leisurely pace, thinking to myself, I wonder if he is bummed he just got passed by an antique? I complete one full lap hitting reserve 6 miles from the finish. I filled up with a little gas adjusted my brakes which at this point did not work at all. Out i went jamming along, the Taco was working with all it had to keep going and I was working with all I had to keep it on the trail. I passed the halfway mark and wondered if we both had it in us to continue for yet another lap. I found out three miles later we didn’t. As if the Bultaco had given up completely all of a sudden, the break lever fell off, the rear fender fell off, and when i stopped to fix them I discovered the motor was not happy either, frozen solid. Thinking the bike was in gear I coasted down the hill to try to bump start it, popped into second only to skid 30 ft more down the hill. I was then at the bottom of this canyon, I could see the road way at the top. Not willing to accept that I was done I gave it my all with a hard kick. No luck, the piston was the sword in the stone and I was NOT King Arthur. I sat down, had a drink of water and mulled over my options. Hike the bike to the top of the hill, wait a couple hours for the sweepers to come rescue me, or take the bike apart. For some reason I brought just the tools needed to disassemble the bike, and so I did. Pulled the tank, pipe, and lastly, the head. I could see the piston was still intact so I waited with the head off maybe another 20 minutes, fitted the bike back together, tried a few more times to get it unstuck with no luck. I had just about given up and sat down again when I started to think about the “fight in the dog.” I was going to get that motor unstuck if it meant breaking the kick start lever. Anything was better than giving up, I thought. I locked the handle bars over, grabbed on with all I had and pushed on the kick start with my foot. “click sho sho” is the sound I was given and the bike was free! I got my stuff back together, helmet on, started the Taco and I was off. What a twist of fate I thought, this was just another layer in the Virginia City saga. I may have been the only person this year to have rebuilt the bike on the side of the trail which in retrospect was probably the standard back in 1969? Trying to be easy on the bike I cruised along and finished the race earning a 5th in the vintage class and receiving my second finishers pin for the weekend.
Goal 2 complete!
What is it about Virginia City Grand Prix that makes this particular race so special? more than authenticity its for the reasons I will try to recap here. Its a race, more than that its a really good race. If you think you can just show up and win because you are really good at riding motorcycles, think again. This race has some heavy competition and the more you do it the more you figure out what works. Artichoke Joe has done VCGP for, get this, 40 years of which this year was no exception. Also This year More than 1000 racers entered in hopes to get, at the very least, a finisher pin. The competition is heightened as 3000+ spectators line the streets of Virginia City cheering and yelling for you and other racers right behind you.
The track; its a closed course circuit so you can go flat out without worrying about plowing into anything but other racers, rocks and trees. The track is long; you get more than your moneys worth of riding. For the $70.00 you get from 1 to 150 miles depending on your determination and skill.
Organization; 40 years of operation has provided a little insight as to what works and what does not. The boys running the race run a tight ship with plenty of deck hands to help you have a good safe time.
Ring what you bring; No bike is turned away at the gate. So long as your bike has the required safety equipment, spark arrest etc. If you have an old bike your dieing to put to the test,do it. I felt it was strongly encouraged. I was on the only Bultaco and I think the oldest bike there. People were happy to see old junk bikes racing, maybe more so than even some of the nicer modern bikes. 600 thousand thumbs up, even kids where flipping them up.
Organization; You can sign up and race without waiting in line for 6 hours and everyone is welcome. Send in your entry form with a check and your pretty much good to go. You dont have to be part of AAA or the Diners Club or any other club for that matter, the race runs independently.
History; All you have to do is sign up and automatically you are put on the race pamphlet as a participant. This race has been going for 40 years hosting some of America’s best motorcycle riders. You can go head to head with the pros and ex-pros.
Motomouth; if your lucky enough to here some of the offbeat wisdom Motomouth has to offer you at the very least will have some good stories to share with the boys at home. He has been announcing the race for 35 years and from what I gathered, he will be doing it a lot longer.
Family; become part of the Virginia city family, it would be hard to participate without meeting some great people. close quarters all add to social aspect. Like I said before the race has become a family tradition. Families from all over the country come help each other out to participate in the race.
The town; Not only a cheap place to get drunk, its a preserved view of what a wild old mining town in Nevada once was. The town itself is pretty relaxed on rules, being that its Nevada the sauce never stops and ordering a drink and stumbling out of a bar and around town is permitted and legal. If boozing is not your fancy there are plenty of soda shops and souvenir shops to soak up some extra cash.
My final words on Such a glorious race… You can have fun racing VCGP on a modern bike, you can have fun racing the VGCP on a vintage bike, or you can have fun racing VCGP both on
modern and vintage. This race is for racers, pacers and spectaters. Anyone with an interest in motorcycle authenticity.
best new song ever
New shop and coffee! Currently see see motorcycles is looking to opening a bigger shop and coffee spot. I’m working hard to get everything off the ground. Stay posted I’ll update when I got more info on the whole matter!
memories from the great 555.
this is a great review of the trip.
awe thanks, yeah sometimes its tough to keep up on it but its good people like you that make me want to do it more.
i guess as far as street bikes go, i would suggest figuring out what style your interested in, the in line 4’s are great and reliable. old dirt bikes that are street legal are really fun as well. there are so many options, if you ever need an opinion an a particular bike hit me up.
SR 500 strikes again!
kick starting a 500 single can be just a dangerous as ridding one. The bike was a little warm i will admit but i never expected to kick through almost 3/4” steel.
The way it went: I was trying to start my sr500, as i kicked back on the kick start the engine fired which engaged the kickstart gear pushing the kick start forward. instead of sending me forward as well the linkage on the leaver, almost 3/4” thick, gave way breaking it clean off. subsequently i hit the foot peg with my heal bruising my arch and chipping part of the heal bone. ouch!