Passing a pleasant evening by saying little and listening a lot
A Southsider stands alone in a crowded room. People laugh and push and drink and eat. The Southsider says nothing but for a few minutes just listens. "What's going on in Paris? I never saw this before" says a cynical (but stylish) Parisian biker as he bites into (what our hosts call) finger food. A Brough Superior (Pendine model), previously at rest on a wooden plinth, growls into life as if started by a ghost rider and everyone, with even a slight interest in motorcycles, turns their head. "Amazing, what is it?" an elegant woman dressed in her own 1940s creation asks. "Don't know" her friend says, but adds "I like it".
This is the atmosphere of theDouble RL / Men's File event at the Ralph Lauren, St Germain store last Thursday (Oct 21) and it seemed to get better throughout the entire evening. Double RL is the company's vintage and replica range selling high quality (and high priced) one-off vintage items and replica or 'inspired' stuff highly influenced by America's golden era - and we all like that.
It's not up to us to say if this stuff is any good (you can go and find out for yourself) but we overheard a well known British Rocker (of the purist variety and known as The Rocketeer) express great thanks to one of the Men's File crew for introducing him to such "quality and detail" and then London based architect and tango dancer Alan Mitchell seemed a little depressed that he had never investigated Double RL and had somehow "missed out" on something interesting. These are two purists so Men's File seemed to judge their guests well.
There was a small exhibition of the photography of Matt Hindand Nick Clements on the top floor but the real action was in the courtyard where one of the world's leading Norton experts, George Cohen (Dr Norton) could be seen talking one of the coolest and most well known revival bikers in Paris, Mr Fred Norton. The writer of our favorite blog (REALLY!) the VINTAGENT, Paul d'Orleans was there as was Derek Harris from Lewis Leather and the crew from Rubyhelmets - good guys too. Pierre and Philippe from the Rocker's Speed Shop arrived on a neatly trimmed Vincent and a Guzzi T3 with sidecar combination - closely followed by talented fashion photographer Patrick on an AJS single. If there was a highlight of this special evening it was from Mark Upham who bought four incredible Broughs all the way from Austria and we all wondered how Men's File managed that one (?). This is just the mood and a few names.
Yes, yes, there's a lot of names in this post but this was about names because names are people and this was a great gathering of people. All different, with different ideas and tastes but with something in common – a love of classic style (albeit motorcycles, clothing, design or whatever) and above all sharing that love in an elegant and sympathetic way. In the world of the old bike we don't all love each other. We disagree on style, purism and a load of other stuff but last Thursday we forgot all that and had a good time.
I met Denis Boussard thanks to Marco Raymondin. Both of them are partners and have shared the same passion for vintage machines for several decades. Denis is also and above all a professionnal fashion photographer in Paris, which forces him to use digital technique.
For his personnal work, he has chosen to stay traditionnal and shoots only Analogic films, with his favourite camera: 6X6 square size Rolleiflex . This commitment impose, on one hand to permanently chose the good picture (frame and construction) cause the film holds only 12 frames, and on the other hand to get close to the subject cause the lens can't zoom. This minimalism keeps therefore intact the passion for picture and the waiting of its results. Which is the essence of photography....
Denis is native to Le Mans and naturally has always attended to the mythic race "les 24 heures du MANS" He took his first images in 1977, those great days of Jacky Ickx and Henry Pescarolo, and since, every year, he is back to complete this work which recently became a book named "Passion Le Mans".
In this square black and white pictures book you find side by side great moments of 1977 Le Mans, but present Le Mans and classical Le Mans as well. It's beautiful and a good piece of writing in French and English by Christophe Wilmart. And the foreword is from Jacky Ickx himself.
Jacky Ickx gave us our dreams, and we still admire his achievements. That race of 11-12 June 1977 is engraved forever in our memories. That year, that weekend, Denis Boussard immortalized the victory of Jacky Ickx, Jürgen Barth and Hurley Haywood. Meanwhile I followed the exploits of my heroes on the radio, thrilling to the commentary. We could not have known then that thirty years later we would meet at the Le Mans 24 Hour race. He had his Rolleiflex, I had my notebook and pencil. A friendship grew up. Three years later, we spent an hour talking with Jacky Ickx about that 1977 victory. Not only did he agree to write a preface for us, but he also allowed us to share our passion for the 24 Hour race with him. Merci, ‘Monsieur Le Mans’.
That could be a good sum up of the course that Pete Young and other participants of the Cannonball Run have just been in.
Nowadays, ultra sophisticated technical and security means, involved in most of the human experiences get the concept of unforeseen or withdraw for wound or mechanical problems almost inexistant and nearly impossible.
The Participants of the Cannonball, all of them involved in modern life, dared defy time crossing the USA at an average speed of 40mph on machines nearly a hundred years old, usually exposed in museums.
Their driving, very technical, cannot be improvised and you have to know how to save them and listen to them if you wish to reach the end.
Despite that, at the very fist leg, various failures but especially engines ones have been massive. Some, like Pete, could repair during sleepless nights in improbables workshops with tools of ancient times, while others were forced to give up.... just like years ago!
It means that each participant has a perfect knowledge of his machine and that mutual aid has a huge role to play between them.
I'm sure that those difficults moments have created real friendship.
Thanks to Kevin Bean're for the photos
There is also a real concept of travel and discovery, a trail of 3500 miles at slow motion, on straight roads of several dozen of miles leaves alone with your reflections...
For all those reasons, I would qualify the first (but not last, I hope) edition of the "Motorcycle Cannonball Run" a BIG human adventure
A few miles from Mexican border, Bisbee is, today, a quiet little town in the south of Arizona.
The copper mining company, the"Copper Queen Mine", made it wealthy at the beginning of the last century, especially during world war one, and like many others american South West boom towns, its mining industry closed its doors in the 50's, leaving this town, estimated born in 1880, in a lethargic state.
Until the 60's, because of the drop down of real estate prices, the town got gradually repopulated by drop outs looking for quietness away from big cities.
I recommend you to visit the town.... of course , but especially what attracted my attention: The Shady Dell Trailer Park.
This place is a real decor whorthy of the 50's. At the entrance, the "Dot's" diner (1957) is as beautiful as the first day.... and the trailers... (a dozen) among them: an "Airfloat" Spartan, (1957) particularly impressed me by its size and inside decoration, but as well by its genuine gold anodized body work. Airstreams , of course , AND.... as well,.... a 38' Christ-Craft and a 1947 Airporter bus are available for rent.
"Built in the 1950s by the pride of Wichita Kansas, The Valentine Manufacturing Company, this authentic diner was originally purchased by John Hart in 1957 and delivered to the corner of Ventura and Topanga Canyon Blvd in Los Angeles. The diner was transported by flatbed truck to the Shady Dell in November, 1996".