Mar 1, 2019

You Don’t Have to Experience Everything

Since I was a kid, I’ve had friends who are into vintage stuff (PC for “old crap”): motorcycles, bicycles, cars, guitars, audio equipment, tractors, boats, stamps, records, clothes, and probably other crap I’ve ignored or forgotten. A few years ago, I conned myself into thinking a ride to Davenport, Iowa for the Vintage Motorcycle Swapmeet might be entertaining. A friend emailed me that his wife wasn‘t convinced he was competent to ride 300 miles by himself. I’ve been there before and out of some sort of misplaced sympathy I volunteered to ride along.

I, honestly, didn’t have any idea what the event was going to be like. My two experiences with vintage motorcycle events are the Vikings swapmeet in St. Paul and the Steamboat Springs Vintage Motorcycle Week. The Steamboat event was an unrealistic introduction to what are usually fairly dismal events. Mostly, vintage motorcycle meets are an opportunity for way too many guys with way too much time on their hands to get together and trade crap. The Steamboat Springs event was mostly about competition: motocross, observed trials, flat track, and road racing. “Progress” and rich people contaminating Colorado eventually killed the Steamboat event and I suspect I’ll never see anything like that again. Davenport wasn’t even a poor second. The “races” were a dozen or so mile flat track with everything from seriously vintage clunkers to some modern and fast bikes.

The races supplied a couple hours of diversion, and then there was nothing left to do but “camp” for the night. I have never spent a night “camping” among a zillion other guys in an urban setting. It’s hard to imagine a much more ridicules situation than a hoard of tents, campers, and snoring old men within crawling distance from houses, motels, and stores. It’s not like these guys are all broke and can’t afford a decent night’s sleep in a motel or in their homes. It’s something else and I don’t know what. It’s damned silly, whatever it is.

When I was in my twenties, my step-sister got married and had a classic wedding in a church with all the trimmings. At the time, I didn’t own a suit, a tie, or a white shirt that wasn’t a stained tee-shirt. I bought all of that for the wedding because my father promised me, “Everyone has to go through at least one of these things.” He was wrong. I had to go through three more, including both of my daughters’ weddings. It isn’t true that you have to go through one of everything in a life. I could have easily missed out of sleeping in a fairground surrounded by snoring old men. I suggest you learn something from my screw-up and avoid those things like the plague.

Collections of old useless crap seems to be something handed down from my parents’ generation. Even my parents, who weren’t particularly enamored with old junk, had a houseful of “antiques” and memorabilia that mostly got tossed or donated or given away after my father died. The only people I know under 50 who collect old crap fall into two groups: 1) trust fund brats who are trying to appear useful or relevant or something and 2) grown children of hoarders who mistook their parents’ disease for a profession. There are always outliers, but for the most part hoarding “collectors’” junk appears to be a dying hobby. Good riddance.


Cas said...

I know that you are aware that I like old bikes, but I like to think that I do actually use them. I've started using a relatively modern bike for my daily commute, not because my old BMW wasn't up to the job, but because its 1974 levels of security are not up to modern standards. A helpful bouncer at a hotel across the road from where I park chased off a couple of kids who had discovered that the headlamp flasher worked independently of the ignition switch, and were then trying to use a bit of stick to jam the light on to flatten my battery. It was only a matter of time before they tried adding something to the non-locking fuel tank, and I really don't want to be stranded in the centre of Belfast instead of going home. Bike theft is at pretty bad levels here too, and if the toe rags are going to steal a bike, I’d rather it wasn’t that one.
So after a short trial of a Honda Innova (which I hated), I have bought a 400cc Suzuki Burgman scooter for commuting, and the old BM has now been retired to leisure only use. I keep a few spares for all my bikes, particularly these days since local dealers don’t hold stock. Things like service parts and spare cables predominate, but I have 3 or 4 seats for the BM as well as things like spare wheels, and a fairing that I may or may not fit at some point. Hopefully this does not make me a collector?
Like many ‘hobbies’ old bikes breed hoarders. I truly dislike the personal museums that some set up. While many of these static collections look like new, they have frequently received much more paint and polish than mechanical attention. When the old guys that own these collections die, their life’s work will be split up anyway, so what is the point? Factory specifications can/ should also be updated.
A wise man in an old motorcycle magazine once wrote that more than 2 motorcycles was a waste, because the ratio of road time to garage time would then swing in the wrong direction. For old bikes that probably do need more maintenance, this is particularly true.
On other collections, an example. While I can appreciate the beauty of a well-constructed piece of antique furniture, that does not mean that I would spend multiples of the price of a modern equivalent to have such a thing in my home. Neither in winter would I like to have to switch off my central heating to keep it in good condition.
I do have one or two pieces that have been passed down through generations of my family, and I think it is right to keep these and in turn they will be passed on again. They were precious, or perhaps just functional things to someone, but generally have a story attached. Keeping these in the family helps make my ancestors real, but the thought of adding similar things to make a collection is just ridiculous.
Old stuff has its place, but it needs also to have a relevant function. In the case of bikes, that means transport. If they can’t do that, they are just spare parts.

Kofla Olivieri said...

T.W. Day said...