Many would say that Ducstock was about the machines; a dizzying array of exotica dominated by the outstanding showing of Ducati TTs and F1s. Although, I doubt that I spent more than an hour in total communing with the bikes.
Not by choice, but by circumstance – this event was about people. People I’d read about in books and magazines, people that I’ve had email and board/list relationships with for over a decade but never met, and people who took the time to come into our lives as strangers and leave as newfound friends.
Ducstock was very cool.
We got a different perspective on Ducstock.. We didn’t move through it; browsing the machinery and exhibits – the event flowed through us. Emilia and I would show up at the loudbike tent at 8:30AM and before we knew it, closing time would be upon us. We were swamped with t-shirt sales and a seemingly endless stream of printing requests, visits and odd jobs. Fortunately, the loudbike tent became the place where the Ducati Legends, Forum members and friends (old and new) dropped their packs and stuff for safekeeping, picked-up a bottle of cold water and pulled up a chair in the shade.. That was fine with us ‘cause we were so buried with work that we wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity for long chats with those who dropped by.
Ducstock was chock-full of pleasant suprises...
Like Italian TT expert and racer Carlo Leoncini and I babbling away in languages foreign but understanding each other anyway.
Or Gabriel Richard from California; who bought my Hypermotard custom earlier this year and seemed to know everyone (and I mean everyone) on a first name basis. He jumped on a plane and arrived without a plan – and probably had more fun than anyone else there.
And Ed Milich - who carries on Todd Henning’s tradition of riding junk-yard-dogs to Championships, writes great prose, plays in a death-metal band and makes excellent parts for our Ducatis and Guzzis. I’ve had an email relationship with Ed for almost 10 years and finally met him when he came up to our tent with his wife and baby between races to visit and read from his books (while Emilia held the bull-horn).
After killing us with some really bad hip-hop moves at dinner, Ralf Stechow confided that he was the guy in the Return of the Jedi movie poster (standing-in for an injured Mark Hamill). Luke Skywalker – Jedi by day; Ducati fanatic by night..
As I was making up bike placards, I noticed that Gary Patton and Rich Paxton were essentially doing the same thing on the same bikes with similar results – and had never had the opportunity to meet and share the experience (they were both regional champions on F1 racers on opposite sides of the country). I broke the news to them Saturday night in the hotel parking lot and left them there to trade lies for the next few hours.
Gary’s another one of those guys who I knew by email, but never met in person. He loaded the original (restored) machine into a van with another F1 racer he’d revived and made the long trip solo. Emilia and I had dinner with Gary - listening to what it was really like behind the pit wall back in the day.
Rich Paxon came to Ducstock chasing a dream; to ride his old F1 racer at Barber. That dream, and the work of restoring the old girl got him through a tough fight with a serious illness and to watch him ride was to watch a man reborn. Mike Weber came to Ducstock with a mission as well; and that was to get Rich to Ducstock. In the process, he restored his old Harris TT and took to the track as well for the first time in a good while.
Scott Kearne came to Ducstock with with a heart full of optimism and an unfinished TT2 replica. We parked it in the TT and F1 Forum tent and by Sunday over a dozen people (including Pat Slinn and Roy Thersby) had had their hands on the machine. Scott had never ridden a TT and on the Monday track sessions, the bike and rider bonded. The smile never left his face.
It was also about a quiet and insightful meeting with Paul Ritter, a bevel-racing legend – and with Phil Schilling; Cycle Magazine’s legendary editor. Or the two hours swapping lies with Cook Neilson at the St. Vincent’s hospital with Lou, Ralf and (there he is again!) Gabriel.
Pat Slinn and Roy Thersby made the trip over from England together and were right in there with us on Wednesday and Thursday as we set up the TT and F1 Forum tent and started unloading the bikes. The loudbike tent became their base during the event – which gave us plenty of opportunity to get to know them and to listen to the endless stories about racing the TTs back in the day
The legends become human and with that humanity, even more legendary.
I’ve been corresponding with Mike Vogt since I started this blog and when I began listing the TT exotica on eBay, he bought the stuff like there was no tomorrow.. He’ll retire soon, and has enough parts stashed away to build killer TTs for many years. He decided pretty late in the game to build a replica of the TT forerunner that helped Pat Slinn and Tony Rutter convince Ducati to give them a real factory machine. He threw himself into the project with a passion that I found almost scary and in the process, taught himself to weld and paint. The bike was barely completed in time to load it into the van for the long ride from Oregon and the project worth every bit of effort if only for the tear that it brought to Pat Slinn’s eye.
I came back to the hotel on the Thursday night to find the lobby tables pulled together and a TT/F1 assembly almost beyond belief: Lou Saif, Mike Weber, Gary Patton, Rich Paxton, Ralf Stechow, VJ, Steve D’Angelo, Carlo Leoncini, Reno Leoni and.. I lost track. Nothing do do but pull up a chair and soak it all in.
I’ve known the digital Rene and Sue Waters for a dog’s age, but Canada’s a big country and our paths never crossed. But when I walked over to introduce myself to them in the pub parking lot, we greeted each other like old friends. And so it went for 6 days; with the Northeast group, my old friends from the Mid-Atlantic, the Bevelheads, loudbike blog readers, and folks who like me; couldn’t recall how we knew each other. We just did.
We escaped the confines of our tent for the sound contest we sponsored – and it was (to a guy like me) a symphony beyond belief. That event spawned the impromptu line-up of factory TTs that will go down in history as the largest gathering ever of those fine machines. Afterwards, Jeff Nash and Pat Slinn coaxed to life for the first time a factory TT2 that he had bought from Frank Romanelli many years ago. With its serious cams, stupid compression and absolutely no flywheel, it didn’t sound like any Ducati I’d ever heard.. Jeff Nash – another guy I’ve known by email since long before eBay.. When I built the Original loudbike, I sold off the 900SS bodywork to partially fund the project; to Jeff – and he’s still got it.
Reno Leoni spent most of Sunday morning at our tent and during that time I learned the history of the Mille that we had brought to the party as well as the evolution of the large-diameter, thin-wall Daspa TT1 frame that Lou had given me for my TT1 project. That frame had been the basis of the Adamo/Leoni TT1 that Jeff had recently picked up and naturally, he was very interested in keeping it with the bike. This posed a dilemma for me ‘cause I’ve learned that not all TT1s handle with 17” wheels and slicks. That frame (confirmed by Reno) was built off a jig made from the original Verlicchis that work so brilliantly - and with contacts that Reno provided, Jeff can get me a copy and in trade and have the Adamo Daspa. Another happy ending.
Reno is one very charming and helpful guy..
I missed the action in the pits, though – and all but one of the races. Gary Palmer had an epic battle with Robbie Nigl and Paul Robbins rode my old bike beautifully. I ached to get on the course, and did so on Monday – although what should have been a high point was a less than stellar experience. I bonded well with the circuit – which came as no surprise. Barber is after all, an Alan Wilson-designed circuit with lots of elevation changes and blind combinations – just like Calabogie and Mt. Tremblant. I had the rhythm quickly and my knee on the pavement in a surprisingly short time. But, the folks at the Penguin School never really had control of the riders and I parked the bike at lunch. Unfortunatly, I was spot-on with my premonition as the afternoon was filled with red flags. I’ve seen this enough times to know when the crowd just doesn’t have a good warm and fuzzy groove going and I’ve learned to get the hell out of the way when it happens.
Paul Robbins came up to me Sunday afternoon after his race to tell me that Reno had dropped by the pit he was sharing with Gary ‘cause he saw the loudbike stickers on the F1s. And that Reno had talked him into the Moto Giro next year. Could I put together two 175s over the winter?
“Two?” I asked. “Yeah – you’re coming. …I’ve got plenty of points.”
I lent my support to Vicki Smith ‘cause I thought that a grass-roots event in the spirit of Woodstock had the potential to bring out the best of all of us.
She was right on the money.
Hi-rez images are HERE
Vicki's Photo Galley is HERE