New Year’s Day Ride by Brian Davis and Bill Huth

Breakfast by Brian Davis

Saturday morning, New Year’s Day, didn’t look promising, weather-wise.  I kept checking Weather.com, and the forecast sounded iffy each time - OK ‘till about 2:00, then rain.  But every time I stuck my head out the door, I could feel drizzle and it was COLD.  In the end I decided no one would decide to ride today, so I headed off to Hobees in the Pod.  I had just gotten out of my car in the Hobees lot and was heading inside to see who else was there when I heard the unmistakable sound of an Indian Chief.  I turned around and Clay Hudson was just pulling into the lot, giving me the thumbs-up (see photos).  Within minutes, Jeff Beam appeared on his ‘39 Four, with Curt Hansen following in his truck.  I was beginning to feel like a wuss.  We all headed inside for breakfast, and pretty soon Rick Najera and Bill Huth arrived, both having ridden their vintage machines.  After breakfast we all adjourned to the parking lot to see these brave souls off.  I wasn’t sure whether to be jealous or feel sorry for them.  Read Bill Huth’s ride report below and make up your own mind.

The Ride by Bill Huth

New Years Day 2011 was forecast to be rainy, and mother nature decided to deliver on the weather man's promise.  I was feeling lucky though.  There was some heavy stuff overnight, but seemed like just light drizzles around the time to depart from my house.  I rode to Hobees in Los Gatos, about 30 miles from my house.  It was cool, with some very light drizzle, but nothing to speak of.  I've lived in California my entire life, and I've never invested in real foul weather riding gear.  I wore my industrial boots, thermal underwear, jeans, and a raincoat over my sweatshirt.  So what if I got wet?  9 guys were assembled at Hobees, and four of us, Rick, Clay, Jeff Beam, and me, were planning on doing the ride to San Juan Bautista.  Curt had his big diesel pickup and bike trailer attached, driving chase.  We departed Hobees at about 10:30, after everyone finished breakfast.  It was still drizzling, so we opted to go the "old" route.  This was a good idea.  The roads were slippery, and the twisty, mountainous route we took in October, while beautiful, would have been a lot more to handle in the rain.  So we went Blossom Hill/Camden/Almaden/McKean-Uvas/152 to Gilroy.  We didn't have a lot of bikes, but I got to thinking we had a good mix of year and engine types.  The 1930's, and IOE (inlet over exhaust) valve configuration were represented by Jeff's Indian Four.  The 1940's and flathead design were apparent in my 1948 Chief.  The 1950's were represented by Clay's 1953 Chief (ex-police bike too).  And the 1970's were represented by Rick's original paint, "Lee Roy"  OHV Electra Glide.  We started into some steady rain about halfway down McKean Road.  It looked like Rick and I were the only ones running our lights.  This always seems like a weakness of these old bikes, the ability to run lights for an extended period of time.  We cruised at about 50 mph maximum for the most part.  The way I've geared my Chief, it doesn't like to go into 3rd gear till about 55, so I felt like I was lugging the bike a bit in 3rd, but when I dropped down to 2nd, I was close to the shift point.  Jeff and Rick were the only riders with real foul weather gear.  They had full jackets, pants, and boot covers.  Clay was somewhat better equipped than me, with leather chaps, but not by much.  By Uvas road, the steady rain had soaked me through, and my boots started filling up with water.  Drat.  Oh well.  We dropped down to about 45 mph at this point, so 2nd gear riding was called for on my bike.  We were 1 block from Monterey Road in Gilroy and my bike stalled at a light.  I figured operator error.  I kicked it over and it started up again.  I opened the reserve gas valve, just in case I had run the main tank dry.  At the next block, the corner of 152 and Monterey Road, my bike stalled again.  Now it wouldn't start.  I wheeled it into the parking lot of Jack In the Box, and kept kicking it over.  We suspected water in the distributor, and upon inspection, there was water in there.  Clay tried leaning over my bike to provide a rain break with his body while we dried out the distributor.  After about 5 minutes, we looked at our watches.  It was 12:20.  Why don't we throw the bike on the trailer, look for some hot coffee, and try to get this bike going under cover, instead of out here in the rain?  So we loaded it up, and hit a cafe about a quarter mile down on Monterey Road.  We ended up in the cafe for about an hour.  Gilroy would be our turn around spot instead of San Juan.   Rick needed to gas up, so we would head back Monterey Road for some gas.  Clay was so generous.  He offered to ride in the nice warm, dry, chase truck, and I could ride his Chief.    I declined, not wanting to cheat Clay out of any part of the ride (uh, yeah, that was my reasoning).  Since Curt was pulling a trailer, we were a block off the main drag, and would meet the guys at the gas station and try to re-start my bike with some protection from the rain.  We pulled on to Monterey Road and parked, thinking they would be a couple minutes getting their gear on and pulling out.  After about 5 minutes, we decided they must have gotten going fast, and already went by us.  We went down Monterey Road North toward San Jose.  Man, there are NO gas stations on Monterey Road.  Curt's phone rings.  The bikes had pulled off Monterey Road, onto 152.  They found gas, and were ready to pull out and decided to go 101.  We had passed the 152 turn, so we kept going and caught the next freeway access.  We weren't sure if the bikes were going to be in front or behind us, so we pulled over on the 101 on ramp to see if the bikes would go by.  We never saw them, so we figured they beat us again.  We took off, and decided we'd try to re-start the bike in San Jose.  We never saw the other guys, but Clay called the truck when he got home.  They were probably 10 minutes ahead of us on the road.  We pulled over in San Jose, and got my Chief to start.  It was hard starting, but did start.  It required constant blipping of the throttle to keep it running though.  It was now 2:35.  Curt was really generous, and offered me a ride home on the trailer.  I know how these roadside repairs go, and was worried that we'd easily eat up an hour going over everything.  We'd tried drying out the distributor in the rain, but hadn't gone back in.  We were thinking a pinhole in my brass float could be another reason for these symptoms.  But both Curt and I had dinner plans with family, so I didn't want to fool around with the bike for too long.  I took the conservative choice and left the bike on the trailer.  We pulled up to my house at 3:07, so we had made good time.  I was a little bummed.  I've owned the bike for 16 years, and it has never NOT made it home under it's own power.  I've made it home with dead batteries, leaking heads, and even limped home with with a seized/galled front piston.  At home, I re-attacked the distributor.  I took it apart and cleaned and dried everything.  I noticed this particular cap has a small, 1/8" hole on the side.  I think the rain made it in through this hole and took out my ignition.  I put it back together, and it started right up and ran fine.  I'll put a little silicone in there and fix the problem.  So even though I was trailered home, I was lucky.  Chase truck in the rain, door to door service?  What more could I ask for while having trouble with an antique bike on a rainy New Years Day?

Picture Gallery

New Year's Day Run 2011