A Truly World Wide Web

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The Virago Star Owners Club (A Truly World Wide Web)

By Bev Henderson, Secretary/Treasurer Centre 5

Someone once said that it’s a small world… well how come it still takes seven hours to fly from Manchester, England to Chicago, USA? This was the start of the first leg of a truly amazing biking holiday that had been completely organised using the Internet and made possible by the universal companionship that bikers display toward each other. Bob Haigh Centre Rep for Centre 5 and I had taken the last nine months arranging to meet up with our counterparts in the States – Bob & Rain Nietzold in Chicago and Joe Beautz in California. First contact was done via the Internet by explaining that we were planning to visit their respective areas and would look forward to try and meet up with the Virago Owners Club members there. Not only were we able to arrange this but also had the very kind invitation to stay with each party. So, here we both were, on a plane to O’Hare airport, Chicago with only an inkling of generous hospitality and adventure that lay ahead. This was immediately evidenced by the stretch limousine that met us outside the Arrivals terminal, compliments of the Chicago Cruisers, the area’s representation of the V.O.C. This took us to The Boulevard, a bar and grill-house that the Centre uses as their regular watering hole, where the members had just arrived after a long (and rather damp) return from their Rally weekend. Smiles and beer greeted us, we knew straight away this was going to be like a home from home.

We spent three days with Bob and Rain, which included a taste of biking Illinois style, where the roads are long, straight and empty, made possible by one of the members, Michaela, lending us her XV1100 for the day. The contrast to the riding back in the UK was vast in this “no helmet” state, where there are no exhaust noise restrictions, no visor laws and definitely no number plate size laws. Basically, the police haven’t got a thing to pick on you for, although sticking to the 55mph speed limit takes a tad of restraint. Talking to all of the club members on our last night at The Boulevard, we swapped tales of riding in the two countries, but at the end of the day everyone was still the basic biker who enjoyed nothing more than to ride, wherever it was. 

Ride out to Rockford, Illinois
Farewell drinks at the Boulevard

Having to say farewell to so many new friends came all too quickly, although there were many exchanges of invitations for reunions Hopefully, the Cruisers will be hosting the USA V.O.C. Reunion in 2002… so you never know!

Our journey then took us south and to the mega-world of Los Angeles, California, home of Hollywood, the Pacific Coast and some of the best biking countryside on this planet. We were hosted by Joe who has all the time in the world to enjoy his biking now that he is retired. We were in total disbelief of the generosity shown by the local bike shop that the Virago Star Cruisers use when the owner, Dwayne, lent us a Triumph 900 (well it had to be because it’s British) for three days without charge. Dwayne was only too happy in enabling us to join the club on their weekly Sunday ride-out and for us to enjoy some of the most picturesque countryside you could imagine.

Drinks stop at the Rock store
0830 start at McDonalds

At 9.30am Sunday morning we met at McDonalds (sound familiar!) and set off taking the extremely twisty mountainside road to the famous Rock Store and Angela’s Crest. At this point I must add that the weather was fantastic, 95 ° F in the shade and not a cloud in the sky… the memory of my heated grips on my XV535 at home was fading fast. The route took us down to the Pacific Coast, Santa Barbara and back to Simi Valley where Joe lives. The word that springs to mind is breathtaking.

The following Tuesday Joe took us on a ride with a group of biker friends comically known as the Seasoned Citizens And Motorbike Riders Old Farts (SCAMROF) Club. This ride was awesome, through mountain passes, across the desert and back along the foothills. Again it was extremely hot, so much so that Joe’s Venture Star started to sink into the tarmac of a garage forecourt that we had stopped at! This ride was yet another tale of how well our hosts looked after us, trying to include as much as was possible in the limited timescale that we had. Our return to Joe’s home involved a quick hose down and polish for the trusty Triumph before its return to the shop. Grins were aplenty.

The old farts bikes at Mt Wilson
The Triumph in pride of place

Again, the time to leave was upon us before we knew it and were back with American Airlines for the eleven-hour flight home. And what greeted us when we arrived?… pouring rain and the sodding petrol crisis. Welcome home… NOT! I would just like to thank all of the people who made this trip possible (in true Oscar ceremony style!) and to everyone who made us so welcome. It demonstrates that the V.O.C. itself has a global presence, with its members being part of a biking community that offers a great deal of friendship, wherever you are.

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