Posted by: caryandjohn | May 16, 2011

Indian vs. Harley-Davidson

Kalle and Cary outside the Mercury Cafe

Kalle and Cary outside the Mercury Cafe

Kalle has been working hard on his 1937 Indian Chief, and wanted to go to the The Great Indian v. Harley Race that Gary Stark was putting on in Oakhurst, California, just outside of Yosemite National Park. Gary owns Starklight Indian Motorcycles, and is an active member of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA). The run, scheduled for May 12 – 14, 2011, is patterned after a similar run in Austrialia that has been running for eighteen years. I decided to tag along, because I’d met a lot of the people who were going to be there at the AMCA Death Valley event, plus I wanted a reason to head out to Yosemite Valley on my Triumph. And it’s always fun to ride with Kalle, even when we aren’t riding in circles.

The 1948 Indian Cheif and 1973 Triumph Tiger

The 1948 Indian Cheif and 1973 Triumph Tiger

So we dropped our camping gear off with Dennis Magri who, along with his son Dominic, were also going. Cary met us at the Mercury Cafe to see us off …  The weather was nice, and the plan was to cross the Bay Bridge and head up to Grizzly Peak and Redwood Road in the East Bay in order to stay off the freeways …

Old Toll Road near Mariposa

Old Toll Road near Mariposa

We had a nice ride, and were on corse to arrive at the campground in Oakhurst in good time, when the rear of my Triumph began to shimmy … oh shucks, a flat rear tire.

Flat rear tire! Where's my spare tube?

`Flat rear tire! Where is my spare tube?

I got to work with the tools we had, found my spare tube in the saddle bags, and took the rear wheel off the bike. Kalle called the cavalry at base camp, and by the time I was struggling to get the spare tube back on the wheel, Dennis, Dominic and Mike arrived in Mike’s pick up truck … we all got the wheel on the bike so it would roll, and got it loaded up so we could finish the last 14 miles to the campground …

An ignominious arrival in Oakhurst

An ignominious arrival in Oakhurst

My new friend Mike made sure to parade me and the Triumph through the parking lot at the hotel so all the motorcycle guys could get a good look … ha.

Kalle, Mike, Dennis and Dominic ...

Kalle, Mike, Dennis and Dominic

Our nice campsite next to a roaring creek

Our nice campsite next to a roaring creek

We had a good evening getting to know one another better, and checking out the bikes, of course.

Dominic built this BSA engine from parts and rode it to Alaska!

Dominic built this BSA engine from parts and rode it to Alaska!

Dennis's nice Indian Four, from the 1930s

Dennis nice Indian Four, from the 1930s

Mikes Harley-Davidson Panhead ... its faster than an Indian

Mikes Harley-Davidson Panhead ... its faster than an Indian

We got up early the next day, and the guys went to the rider’s meeting … the “Great Race” was to be a series of rides with checkpoints that would award points to Indian riders or to Harley riders, with the points tallied at the end to determine which bike was best …

The Tiger near Mile High Curve, overlooking Mono Pools

The Tiger near Mile High Curve, overlooking Mono Pools

I had gone on ahead in the morning, because I didn’t have a 1965 or earlier Harley or Indian … I just purchased the Friday dinner and train ride on the Sugarpine Express … Kalle caught up to me here, and we took off to go up the rest of the way … but I soon caught up with Kalle, who had started his bike first …

Turned out he blew up his newly restored engine, spreading motor parts over a few hundred yards of rough mountain road. He pushed the bke into the shade (it was a beautifully sunny spring day), took off his motorcycle gear, started taking apart his motor, and sent me to search along the road for his engine parts …

Kalle the farmer, rebuilding his motor on the side of the road

Kalle the farmer, rebuilding his motor on the side of the road

The distributor, which flew out of the engine and hit Kalle's leg

The distributor, which flew out of the engine and hit Kalles leg

I managed to find the distributor rotor in the pine needles on the side of the road, while Kalle picked up some of the parts that had hit him in the leg when the Indian exploded, alerting him to trouble in paradise …

But after an hour or so re-setting the engine timeing, Kalle kicked the bike a few times and got it started! Wow. I was impressed … turns out it was a good thing, too, because Gary Stark just rode by us while we were working on the bike, instead of stopping to see if we were OK, or needed the sweep truck, and the sweep truck had gotten lost and didn’t wind up sweeping the road we were on! What do you expect for $200, anyway? Certainly not a sweep truck … ha.

Red Fred on the valley floor on Friday ... another beautiful day

Red Fred on the valley floor on Friday ... another beautiful day

On Friday morning we headed off toward Yosemite Valley on Rt 140 … I took off before the rider’s meeting again, intending to meet Kalle at the Tunnel View of the valley, made famous by Ansel Adem’s iconic photograph … but first I took a loop through the Mariposa Grove of sequoia trees …

The Tiger in the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias

The Tiger in the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias

The Tunnel View from the south parking lot ...

The Tunnel View from the south parking lot ...

Kalle with his 1948 Chief, Yosemite Falls and the Mariposa River

Kalle with his 1948 Chief, Yosemite Falls and the Mariposa River

The Tiger on Sentinel Beach

The Tiger on Sentinel Beach

SFMC member Red Fred on his Chief in front of Yosemite Falls

SFMC member Red Fred on his Chief in front of Yosemite Falls

Lunch in the cool shade of the Sentiniel Beach picknic area

Lunch in the cool shade of the Sentiniel Beach picknic area

We headed out of Yosemite Valley after touring the rest of the valley floor … In El Portal it was 90 degrees in the shade! We turned off at Triangle Road and all of us stopped at the Triangle Tavern and Store …

At the turn off a nice blue Harley-Davidson KH Sportster caught on fire when the gas soaked air filter was set ablaze when the engine backfired … Red Fred leaped into action using his jacket to smother the fire … however, when he removed the jacket the bike burst into flames once more, singeing his beard to an extent that required a vigerous clipping that evening to make his goatee even again …

Ms. Fred Lange rode this sweet blue KH Sportster, which was saved from burning by Red Fred and others

Ms. Fred Lange rode this sweet blue KH Sportster, which was saved from burning by Red Fred and others

Kalle at the Triangle Tavern

Kalle at the Triangle Tavern

That evening we had a super nice dinner at the Sugar Pine Express and also enjoyed some wonderful live music … after dinner we had more live music, after a fun six mile train ride into the Sierra forest …

The Sugar Pine Railroad 1924 oil-fired steam locomotive

The Sugar Pine Railroad 1924 oil-fired steam locomotive

 

Dinner is almost ready!

Dinner is almost ready!

Dinner the AMCA way ...

Dinner the AMCA way ...

 

Singing around the campfire

Singing around the campfire

The steam locomotive at night ...

The steam locomotive at night ...

It was a wonderful couple of days, with lots (around a hundred) of old flathead motorcycles to check out and nice people to tolk to …

On Saturday morning Kalle and I took off to meet the Passadina Motorcycle Club, who were having their anual Green Horn Rally … we were going to try to meet them in Priest Valley …

Here are some pics of the bikes (I hear that Harley-Davidson was declared the winner of the Great Race … ha!):

Prospero owns this beautiful yellow Sportster, that won the 3rd place trophy for H-D

Prospero owns this beautiful yellow Sportster, that won the 3rd place trophy for H-D

A 101 Scout ... there were at least two on this rally

A 101 Scout ... there were at least two on this rally

A sweet puppie and a gnarly dual-Indian Bonneville racer ...

A cute puppy and a gnarly dual-Indian Bonneville racer ...

This Chief was built by the Bonneville racer

This Chief was built by the Bonneville racer

Overlooking Mono Pools near Mile High Curve

Overlooking Mono Pools near Mile High Curve

A couple of knuckleheads ...

A couple of knuckleheads ...

Harley-Davidson flatheads

Harley-Davidson flatheads

An Indian Chief ...

An Indian Chief ...

Another 40s Chief ...

Another 40s Cheif ...

Lots of fun! Who knows, maybe there is a pre-1966 flathead in my future …?


Responses

  1. Hi Caryandjohn,

    I rode the bright yellow KH model. It wasn’t the one that caught fire though. That distinction goes to the pretty blue K model ridden by Fred Lange’s wife who’s name I have shamefully forgotten. My KH won the third place trophy for the Harley team. I got to meet Dennis and Dominic. They are both great guys. I like to see fathers and sons riding together.

    Regards, Prospero

  2. Hi Prospero,

    Beautiful yellow KH you have; glad to hear it got to take a trophy home! I’ll correct the post to reflect that it was the blue KH that Red Fred stomped out …

    — John

  3. Excellent job putting your photos and story together! I wish my photos turned out so well & I REALLY wish I would’ve pushed my bike down by the water for Yosemite photos. I didn’t realize what a great backdrop you were getting. My friends & I had the best time EVER! What a great group of people to spend a few days with.
    I rode the slow, but faithful red & black 45 (with the right hand tank shift) in your photos. -Charlie


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