The Date Bike

Slowly but surely my vintage hobby is becoming my family’s hobby. The Honda CB550 is a perfect example.

As with all my vintage barn finds I added this bike to my collection through a relationship. Back in 2013 a friend of a friend had a bunch of bikes in a barn, so we went to check them out. We discovered a few complete bikes, a bunch of tanks and a bunch of parts, but mostly his collection specialized in little Honda QA50s from '70s. 

The Alaska Vintage Motorcycle Show

Relationships are key when it comes to finding, preserving and restoring vintage pieces of the past.  To uncover anything cool and worth preserving in Alaska, you had to have engaging relationships with all sorts of individuals. Unlike some vintage finds in the Lower 48, it’s unlikely you’ll just drive by some random place and see an old motorcycle or something else sitting outside. If it’s worth saving, it will be tucked away in an old shed, barn or other structure, protected from Alaska’s elements. So the only way to find that cool old stuff is to know people, and know them well. And that takes time.

The Wrecking Ball

My passion for finding, preserving and telling the stories of the vintage pieces of our past was growing. The first three bike builds made me realize how much I enjoyed having my kids involved and out in the garage with me. The café racers displayed in my office became functional conversation pieces that helped build even more relationships that led to even more barn finds. I had to find a way for my family life, work life and personal hobby to overlap.

And that’s how the first annual vintage motorcycle show for the state of Alaska was born.

A Family Affair

As you know by now, my desk job tends to be the source for many new relationships leading to my vintage barn finds in Alaska. Part of that desk job involves going out to take pictures of clients’ houses to qualify them for home insurance. So one drizzly, overcast Friday afternoon I was out in a well-known area of Alaska. And I was in no hurry to get back to the office. I was more interested in drinking a cup of coffee and driving around.

The Relationship

You may recall from the Catalyst: The first bike blog post that, with the exception of our first bike, the vintage motorcycles I’ve acquired over the years didn’t come from Craigslist or any other online listing. 

This is especially true of the 1984 BMW R80G/S Paris-Dakar that I am so lucky to have in my collection.

This bike belonged to Kurt Schreiber, the father of the gentleman I purchased the BMW R90 from the previous year. Kurt was a very traditional German immigrant with a thick accent. The Schreiber family patriarch emigrated from Germany to the US in 1966, and opened a VW dealership in Southern California. Eventually he made his way to Alaska and opened K&M Imports in Wasilla, Alaska.

A Welcome Interruption

My day job puts me in contact with all different types of people. And even though we're talking about insurance or financial services, you can bet the conversation eventually turns to something totally unrelated. Like old stuff.

Every time a client or prospect even hints at an appreciation of old stuff, I ask, "Hey, you don't have any old motorcycles lying around, do you?" That was the question I asked Hal on the phone one day at my desk.

And that’s how I discovered the 1971 Norton Commando 750.