Friday, March 1, 2013

The Most "Manly" Race of All......


As you might expect, I was not the only one to chronicle our various adventures. Below is a page from my beloved Archer's old, well travelled, leather journal. The cover itself brings tears to my eyes. Worn, touched by his hands, stained through the oil by his perspiration, it was an old and trusted friend who kept close company with the man I loved.......
Laralu, Siobahn and myself (right) 1935
I suppose most men have a “need for speed” of some sort. While Astoria never quite understood the quest for bigger, better, faster…she still enjoyed the wind whipping through her hair as the speedometer needle crept ever upward…to a point.
So it was not unusual that whenever we were in the wide open spaces of the great Southwestern United States or the winding, windswept, empty roads of the U.K. that we should seek out a motorcycle. My preferred motorbike was always a Norton, but we’d ride whatever we could find…sometimes an Indian, occasionally even one of those wonderful Italian Moto Guzzi’s.
It was no wonder then that we were drawn helplessly to the TT Race on the Isle of Man. It was the perfect combination of speed, fumes, adrenaline and oh yes, evening after evening of outrageous celebration and parties!
The “TT” stood for “Tourist Trophy” and it seems everyone who participated and filled the tiny island had to be a tourist, because no one in their right mind would ever live in such a remote place. Every year though since the race began in 1907, they’d close down the public roadways for a few days and watch the competition grow and grow.
In the 30’s when we rode those tiny, snarling, snake like roads I think the grand event was really coming into its own. Astoria would round up her girlfriends and gloriously ride the countryside and down along the shore, with scarves and hair flying behind them.  My chums and I were far more serious preparing our bikes for the sometimes lethal racing on the real course.
In the early days the racers were pleased with speeds approaching 40 miles an hour on their old single cylinder machines, but we could get up in the 70’s ever reaching for that elusive 80 mph mark through tiny villages with names like Castletown and Ballacraine. We would fly through the mountains on the Manx Course past the fans lining the tiny roads, in places like the deadly Birking’s Bend.  You’d often be close enough that you could touch the fans if you dared take your hand off the controls and some riders did!
 I always found a Norton to ride in those days. In ’35 they took the dreaded “hump-backed” bridge out at Ballig, and we hoped for good weather that would have us flying down the roads faster than ever. Some of the boys at that point were playing with super chargers on their engines, but I always felt the key to winning or at least surviving was in a machine between your legs that just handled better.
That year my old chum Stanley Woods surprised everyone and jumped over to Moto Guzzi. A tremendous racer, known for his daring, Stanley skipped his final pit stop for fuel and blasted right on through the grandstand area to capture the title over Jimmie Guthrie by all of four seconds! Poor Jimmie would die just two years later on one of our beloved Nortons, while racing in Germany, but God…35 was a great year to be alive!
 As for myself in ’35, I survived the race and the celebrations afterwards with dear Astoria thinking I’d all but lost my mind for the pleasure I found in embracing two wheeled speed, almost as great as the pleasure I found embracing her.....Archer
The TT race continues today. Some call it the "most dangerous race on earth", some say it's a "dangerous addiction". I think it looks like great up to 200 mph through idyllic's going on my bucket list....check it out...........