Antique Motorcycle’s Winter Road Run

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by Robert Smith
Indian Summer — in March! Three Indians from 1947 and 1951 bask in the California sunshine.

With over 11,000 members in more than 70 chapters across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, it must also be the biggest club of its kind. The Club organizes numerous National Meets and Road Runs each year, but individual chapters also put on regional events — like the Southern California chapter’s annual Winter Road Run.

Riding opportunities are a bit thin in early March in much of North America, but not so around the Anza-Borrego Desert in Southern California, where temperatures can climb into the 80s in early Spring. The Desert is close to the Salton Sea, one of the lowest points in the nation at -236 feet — and one of the hottest.

Getting going

On a sunny weekend in early March, I venture across the desert from my temporary digs in Palm Springs to check out the Winter Road Run. I find the parking lot of the Borrego Springs Resort full of vintage motorcycles, mostly American, but with a good selection of British machines as well as a few European and Japanese. True to the “antique” character of the club, many of the bikes are older than their owners, and a large number unrestored — both bikes and riders! And while most machines were no doubt trailered in, there are very few “trailer queens.”

The bikes get ridden, too. Planned for the day I was there — a 62-mile round trip ride from Borrego Springs to Julian, California. This includes the climb over Yaqui Pass, and the tortuous, winding ascent on Banner Grade, riding Highway 78 to the cliff-top town, an elevation gain of 4,000 feet. That wouldn’t faze a modern motorbike, of course, but with some of the machines taking part pushing a century in age, it could be more of a challenge. With overheating always a risk, a mid-ride stop at Banner Recreation Ranch allows ancient engines the chance to cool down and catch their breath.

And for the riders, there is also a reward at the destination: Julian is famous for its fruit pies. A la mode, anyone? MC

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