2011 Antique Motorcycle Club of America California Road Run

Clement Salvadori joins the Antique Motorcycle Club of America for a 500-mile California road run.

Flamingo Resort

Rally central was the Flamingo, an old-fashioned hotel on the outskirts of Santa Rosa. The parking lot of the Flamingo Resort & Spa in Santa Rosa, Calif., was full of vintage bikes on hand for the AMCA Northern California Road Run.

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Organizing a three-day, 500-mile road run for a hundred or so motorcycles is a lot of work — especially when the motorcycles date from 1927 to 1975. But that’s what the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) does best: put on road runs for its members, like this one organized by the club’s Yerba Buena chapter in Northern California.

The heart and soul of the AMCA are the men and women who love riding their bikes, regardless of age. They are the enthusiasts’ enthusiasts. If something breaks on a 1938 Harley Knucklehead or a 1951 Indian 80ci Chief, they’ll fix it. And if a few hundred back-road miles leave a layer of dirt and oil on their bikes, well, that’s what soap, water and elbow grease are for.

The 2011 run was the third the Yerba Buena folk, headed by a very competent Rick Najera, have put on in the last 10 years. Currently, the AMCA sponsors four nationals, but that number may rise to six to give more members the opportunity to participate. Antique Motorcycle Club of America president Richard Spagnolli tries to attend all the road runs, and flew out from Pennsylvania for the California event.

These aren’t slap-dash, last-minute affairs. A chapter first decides it wants to put on a road run, then proposes the notion to the club’s board of directors. If the idea is approved, work begins — two years before the run proper. It’s serious work locating a suitable hotel with parking for not only a hundred or more bikes but a lot of trailers, as well. Not to mention mapping out ride routes, finding a caterer to provide lunches, etc.

Rally central was the Flamingo, an old-fashioned hotel on the outskirts of Santa Rosa. Built in the Fifties, it’s designed rather like a wheel, with a garden and swimming pool as the hub and the rooms going off like spokes to the sides, with parking between the spokes.

The owners of these old bikes are skilled riders. Getting an Indian Sport Scout up the very steep Trinity Road that runs between Napa Valley and the Valley of the Moon is not for the faint of heart. Negotiating an uphill 180-degree turn with a hand shift and foot clutch requires an expertise that most modern bike riders completely lack. And the ride is what attracts these people. You can always put a Henderson Four on the mantelpiece, but it’s a lot more fun to fire it up and go for a ride.

The first day’s ride went west to the coast and up to the top of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County. It was one of those rare clear days, and the view of San Francisco was perfect. The second day was north to circle around Clear Lake, which entails a delightfully twisty bit of California state Route 29 that climbs through Jericho Canyon and over a 3,000-foot summit. The third day took riders east to Lake Berryessa, then back to Santa Rosa. These were not boring flatlander roads, but challenging routes that tested both rider and machine.

A banquet was held on the final evening, and Najera awarded rally prizes, including the usual for longest distance, oldest rider, and also the creatively named “Bonehead” trophy for the person who had done the dumbest thing on a ride. His name will not be revealed here! Check the Antique Motorcycle Club of America web site for 2012 National Road Run updates. MC