Quail Motorcycle Tour & Gathering | Rolling Concours

“Motorcycle” as Verb at the Quail Tour & Gathering

By John L. Stein, Photography by John L. Stein

Several cycles into this little game, the pack turned into the driveway of the Hahn Winery for refreshment (but no wine) and a chance to stretch our legs. With no stand available, the Norton got leaned against a fencepost in the little parking lot. Craig Vetter’s rough-hewn, aerodynamic 1994 Honda Helix scooter was parked nearby, a work in progress. The noted designer lives in the Monterey area, and uses Salinas Valley’s afternoon headwinds to help him test variations of his plastic bodywork, netting an average of 88 mpg on this day.

Rest time ended soon enough, only to give way to a wee bit of drama. The small parking area made it imperative to get a good run-and-bump to start the Norton, but there were too many bikes in the way at first. So I waited while the others hit their starter buttons and motored up the drive. Last up was Lawson Little, president of the Quail Lodge Resort, aboard a borrowed Ducati Multistrada 1200. A great sport, Little: Without so much as riding a single mile in 36 years, he had hopped aboard this powerful Ducati, fell in with a pack of much more experienced riders, and then… fell to earth with a thud as the tall V-twin proved too much to balance on the sloping lot. He emerged chagrined and with a grin, and despite finishing the ride on a duct-taped Duck, rejoiced in the adventure later that night.

The pack had long since disappeared by the time I got the Norton lit and rolling, and I soon found myself hustling to catch up. That is, until the makeshift taillight bracket, fastened to a shock mount, cracked through. Off flew the taillight, bouncing along the road like a lopsided apple until stopping against a fence. Returning to nab the errant lamp cost still more time, and when the Manx finally arrived at the desolate intersection of Foothill and River Roads, there wasn’t another bike for miles ahead, and nothing but the Land Rover chase vehicle behind. What would you do?

Somewhere around 7000 rpm in third gear, chin on the tank, the DOHC motor fully in its powerband and that sweet Featherbed frame telegraphing every single pavement datum into the bars, seat and pegs, it occurred to me: Sometimes you just get lucky. With a shift into top gear, what little of the V8 Rover could be seen in the dancing mirror quickly faded and we were well and truly alone.

At easily double the rate of the Tour field, it was only a matter of minutes before the Norton and I caught up, and one by one made our way past, arriving with the lead group at Laguna Seca’s front gate. If the mix of bikes on the Tour seemed odd, it was even more bizarre on our three laps around the racetrack. But any possibility of spirited lapping was thwarted when a Skip Barber School instructor wheeled to the head of the line, and we were summarily ordered not to pass him. So the Manx slotted in behind, hoping that a friendly numberplate in the leader’s mirrors would remind him to gas it up. Didn’t happen, and the Norton slunk around one of the world’s finest tracks barely, it seemed, above idle.

It’s no wonder why, though, as the mix of bikes and rider capabilities were completely unknown to track management, just as they were to Sergeant Faulk earlier. In fact, Faulk leads about 10 car and bike tours a year in the Monterey area. “The most challenging thing is people who don’t drive everyday and who don’t know how the old cars work,” he admits. “But motorcycle guys are more in tune and aware of things.”

By John L. Stein
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