Indian Chiefs and Scouts

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Last week’s MCN really caught my eye. Not the R1 or the sport stuff. I liked the new Ducati and doesn’t Nicky look a bit tidy in basic red. No, it was the news that Indian is coming back.

The interest on my part was that they were produced in Gilroy, California in 1999. That I didn’t know. Well, that got the juices flowing. I went to my trophy cabinet and got out one of my prize posessions. I tried to photograph the lighter but failed so I scanned it and attached it to this e-mail.  

It is not very often that anyone mentions Gilroy but I have a little story to pass along about my personal connection to Gilroy. It all starts in 1975 when I went on a year long tour of North America. I started in the west of Canada and rode to the east coast and then turned around and went back to the west coast.

Along the way I worked a week at a time to further the tour. I had enough clothes etc. to last a week and for one night every week I stayed in a hotel to clean up (hot shower) and do the laundry. Then I just kept on riding till I got to the next stop. I fancied myself as Captain America in Easy Rider. The difference was that although the Captain rode a Harley chopper I was on a Honda 750/4. Probably the finest motorcycle ever produced for all round pleasure.

One thing I should point out is that I did have a tent and sleeping bag as well for those outside nights and when I wanted a swill I had a bar of soap and found a lake or river. Not every bodies cup of tea but I was clean and it was as they say now, “cost effective,” .

I met a chap in a lay by (stop snickering, it wasn’t like that) on a blue 750/4. Mine was red. He was going to see his Dad in Los Angeles so we rode on from Iowa to LA. I stayed at his Dad’s for a couple of days or maybe it was a week and this chap took me everywhere I’d read or dreamt about in southern California.

There are times when, in the MCN, there are the stories about this road or that road, you have to ride it, well, I know it is a long way away, not every one can do it but the next time any of you Dudes are in LA I recommend that you ride down the Pacific Coast Highway to San Juan Capistrano near San Clemente where Richard Nixon was exiled after Watergate. Turn left and take the road to Lake Elsinore. If the Lookout Cafe is still there on the side of the road take in the view.

Does Elsinore ring a bell? Honda used it for the name of their off-road bikes years ago. Another place you might like to take in is the Rock Store on Mulholland Drive especially on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Maybe even go down to Long Beach and take in a short track race at Ascot if they still run.

Back to the story. The original thinking that started this marathon was to go to Laguna Seca for the AMA National road race when King Kenny Roberts carried the AMA #1 Plate. Junior was a babe in his mother’s arms in the pits as we called them not the paddock as they are called now. Yes, he won it. No one was even close not even Tiger Gene Romero who as it happens was the last rider to win the AMA Title aboard a TRIUMPH flat tracker. Road racing consisted of Daytona and two other races at the time.

After the race I was in Gilroy and I met a dude name of Paul Skaggs. He rode a Suzuki Water Buffalo. One of the original blue ones with the chromed radiator side covers. We got on like a house on fire. He drove a semi (arttic) for a living delivering orange juice for a diary around the Bay area. It didn’t take much persuasion to get me to be the swamper (assistant) on the semi.

Paul let me drive once on I-5 coming back from San Fransisco. I was King of the Road for awhile anyway. What I didn’t know at the time was that the area around Gilroy was a motorcycle hotbed. Hollister, a town just south of Gilroy was the town where the film “THE WILD ONE” with Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin was shot. The actor James Dean’s tragic car accident happened on a road just north of Gilroy.

One thing that I must not leave out is that Gilroy is known locally as the “GARLIC CAPITAL of the WORLD.”  No prizes for guessing why ! Braquet Suzuki as it says on the lighter was one of two bike shops in town. I got on well with Richard Braquet who owned the shop and for the next 4 or 5 years the annual holiday was the Laguna Seca National road race. I had a place to stay not for from Monterey and always had a great time.

Also in the late 70’s the Canadian dollar was $1.30 plus against the American dollar and if I needed any parts I got Richard to order them and when I went to Gilroy I had a shop to work in. One that comes to mind is that I wanted a KERKER 4into1 pipe for the Honda. In Canada the price was about $300 and in the states it was $120. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work that with the exchange rate at 30% I got the exhaust for less than $100 and rode the bike back to Canada and the Customs Meanies just waved me through.

At the time I lived in Vancouver, British Columbia and as you get older things change and we lost contact and have not seen or heard from each other for the best part of 30 years. The last I heard of Paul Skaggs he was living in Caeur d’Alene, Idaho. What with the Internet I just might make contact again. You never know.

There are a lot of other humorous stories that happened over the years of holidaying in Gilroy and it won’t take much effort to remember some of the best but this one should just wet the appetite. We’ll see you in the funny papers and keep it on the black stuff.

Derek Taylor

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By Derek Taylor