Bought it, sold it, bought it back

My cell phone rings and it’s central station from my alarm company informing me someone pushed the medical emergency button back at my house. I was leaving my father’s house anyway at the moment as I climbed onto my 1990 Yamaha Venture Royale in a panic to cover the 2 miles back to my house as fast as I could. The call was a false alarm, no one in the family had pressed the button, but I was not happy any longer pushing this giant bike through the back roads, especially when in a hurry. The bug for a second smaller bike was born and it just so happened a co-worker was selling his 1996 Triumph Thunderbird. I didn’t even know Triumph came back to make a 2nd generation Thunderbird. When someone first told me it was for sale I dismissed the idea of buying it but then I asked for pictures and my mind began to change.

The Thunderbird was introduced in 1950 and it was Triumph’s largest vertical twin at 650cc, it remained in production until 1963. In 1995, Triumph re-introduced the Thunderbird 900, an 885cc three cylinder engine made to look air cooled but with an obvious radiator up front. The T-Bird is a not too big not too small machine with just enough get up and go to make it fun. It doesn’t specialize in any kind of riding style, its most outstanding feature is there are no outstanding features. It’s simply a great balanced bike of size and power that does just about everything fine in a well rounded manner. Some have written the bike was overbuilt as Triumph was trying to shake the reputation of their bikes being unreliable. I would have to concur with that thought as the bike looks and feels as solid a bike as I have ever been on.

The bike came into my possession in May of 2007, by late summer of that same year I became fixated on photos of a T-Bird sporting Champion Side car side bags. The folks at Champion didn’t make mounts to fit their bags on Triumphs so I had wondered how this was done. A little digging revealed that the bike’s owner knew the owner of Champion and had mounts custom made for his bike. Oh to have those bags! Well, some times wishes come true. One day while browsing the triumphrat.net web site, I came across a member up in Canada wanting to sell the hard bags from a Triumph he just bought. This gentleman had actually bought the bike I saw out on the web and was trying to get rid of the bags that came with it! After price negotiations and dealing with customs, those very hard bags were in my garage all the way from west Canada and ready to be custom painted to match my bike. To this day I think I have the only T-Bird outfitted with Champion Sidecar bags.

T-Bird

By 2010 I had entered the beginnings of a divorce. How ever hard someone may tell you a divorce is, just multiply it by 10 if you want some sense of the stress and financial dilemmas you may go through. Those years brought me to the point of selling the Bird by 2012 and the hopes of owning a classic some day evaporated. Cutting back down to one bike at that time was the right thing to do as much as it pained me to see it go. I left one final thought with the new owner which was that if he ever decided to sell it, I’d most likely be the buyer he needed.

By the fall of 2015 I would become that buyer as the owner only had the opportunity to put 65 miles on it over three plus years! It was returned to me not running but a disassembly of the carbs revealed that they were put back together incorrectly. It was an easy fix to get her going again. Some labor in shining it up, particularly the aluminum engine cases, has really brought its looks out in full force. The three cylinder engine is a unique blend of low end grunt with a smooth top end. The story makes me think of the lyrics in Alan Jackson’s song, “I never should have sold her, I’ll always love her she was mine. I’ll never sell her she’s mine forever I love her so…”

Booze and Choppers

Growing bored of the potholed roads of North East Pennsylvania, we decided to sample some of the pavement of North NJ into NY State. While we were at it, why not stop at a NY distillery to sample some spirits you don’t normally see in the local liquor stores?

This is a summer of seemingly relentless humidity and heat. So much so you would almost think of not taking a ride and hunker down in the central air with a movie. But we donned our meshed gear and helmets outfitted with our SMH10 headsets and were on our way.

A quick hop over the border and we were heading north on Rt.94 in New Jersey. A quiet and well maintained road, it was the perfect setting for getting in the zone for the day. Rt.94 turns into Rt.206 in Newton which then turns into Ross Corner Sussex Rd. at the intersection of 206 and 15. I took a glance to my left to catch a glimpse of Yetter’s Diner, a meeting place back when I owned by first motorcycle. As far as I know, I’m the last one still riding from that group. Eventually we went through the town of Sussex where our northern path turned to Unionville Ave or Rt.284. We branched off onto Bassetts Bridge Rd which changed names a few times until we were on Little York Rd. to the parking lot of the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery.

My vision of a small tucked away distillery vaporized the moment I saw the multitude of cars filling the lower gravel parking lot to capacity. Maneuvering an 860+ pound bike with two people on it over gravel proved to be pretty exhausting. We had to make our way more towards the top of the lot and by the time I pushed the bike into the grassy parking slot I felt myself blacking out. Not feeling right in the morning, combined with the heat and ever increasing candles on the cake, led to a moment to remind me I’m not at my peak anymore as I sat there for a moment on the bike just collecting myself. Denise and I joked how they’d just have to leave me there in the pile of steel and flesh had I fallen. ┬áThe combined weight of the bike and myself makes for 1150 lbs which may have become a permanent fixture in their parking lot!

Blankets and lawn chairs began peppering the lawn while live music played to entertain those having a bite to eat from the outdoor food stand. I learned that the Black Dirt spirits are part of the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery. They constructed a 4,000 square foot distillery with a 60 foot distillation column to produce 60 barrels of whiskey every week. Denise treated me to their 350 ml bottle of Single Barrel whiskey without any taste test as the crowd at the taste bar was too thick at the moment. No taste test was necessary however as this bourbon is outstanding. I’m not sure if it’s the corn that’s grown in the black soil (yes, it’s really black) but this is a bourbon with layers for flavor that won’t disappoint. A nice treat once we got home. While sitting in the shade regrouping with a little lunch, I realized on my iPhone map we weren’t all that far from Orange County Choppers in Newburgh. We quickly altered our return trip to include the extra miles to stop by.

Single Barrel

Route 17A to 17 and finally 84 would have us there in just 32 miles, but the trip came along with the horrifying view of a motorcyclist lying unconscious on a stretcher along the east bound side of 84 while the EMT crew attended to him. I never found anything on the web about this incident, it was a stinging reminder though that motorcycling demands your utmost attention.

Wikipedia describes OCC as a motorcycle manufacturer and lifestyle brand company. It only takes a moment after entering the revolving doors where you’re smacked in the head with the “lifestyle brand” part. Only the collection of motorcycles along the perimeter of the large room keep you from thinking you may have accidentally walked into the clothing department of Macy’s. Jackets, shirts, hats, gloves, Paul Sr. brand jeans (really Paul?) and more filled the place with prices only a die hard OCC could stomach. The $3 glass of seltzer water in the cafe should give you a clue. A few bowling alleys and a stage for that night’s band performance were seen while making our way to the cafe for a break from the road. These guys sure do make beautiful bikes and it was great seeing some of their work up close. I tried reading up on the property auction, law suits, and how Sr. doesn’t get along with Jr., etc. and I just got bored with it all. I’m not sure how a bunch of guys who make bikes could come up with so much drama but it seems they found a way. Overall it was a place worth seeing once unless you’re into over priced clothes that’ll advertise the business. It was one of those “yeah, we were there.” things and that’s about it.

Somehow we managed to coordinate our departure from OCC with the arrival of rain clouds from hell. We pulled away just as the first drops fell and I made the mistake of following the GPS commands in my headset which kept us in the rain longer than we should have been. Going with my gut and heading directly south into clear skies would have been a better bet. You can always figure another way home in the sunshine later.

As we wait for the several years to count down towards retirement and free us to ride for weeks at a time, it seems NY State and it’s Winery/Distillery routes are going to pass underneath our wheels quite a bit over the next couple of summers at least.