The 2019 Quail Motorcycle Gathering: 
Remembrance of Things Past

Sep 11, 2019 View Comments by

The 2019 Quail Motorcycle Gathering

Virtually anyone who rides motorcycles is prone to the tug of nostalgia. If you’re of a certain age, there is a residual emotion stemming from the passion for various machines that fueled our early two-wheel experiences. Though we may differ with regard to which motorcycles drove those early lusts, it’s safe to say we all exhibit uncanny romanticism when we come upon the bikes that shaped our pasts.

Entering the grounds of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, for the 11th running of the Quail Motorcycle Gathering was invitation to revisit those halcyon days of our youth. This year presented a more profound experience for me, perhaps a result of having entered my 60s, which gives new value to those cherished memories. Walking among the treasure trove of vintage motorcycles on display, it was reassuring to know that these machines were brought back from various states of decline by collectors motivated by similar nostalgia.

The stirring of emotion began upon sight of a pristine 1971 Honda Trail 70—my first motorcycle, earned at the princely sum of 50 cents per hour when I was 12. I loved that bike the way one loves a pet, or another human. Seeing that Trail 70 elicited vivid memories of trail riding in the Santa Monica Mountains in the early ’70s—when a kid could innocently do that and not suffer the wrath of angry homeowners or the harassment of law enforcement. It was pure, unmitigated joy.

The 2019 Quail Motorcycle Gathering

This year the Quail paid homage to Honda’s CB750, an instrumental machine that dramatically reshaped the evolution of motorcycling. Standing among a bevy of beautifully restored CB750s, I vividly recalled seeing one on the showroom of Kolbe Honda. Through the eyes of an awestruck 12-year-old, it seemed so enormous; I wondered how anyone would be able to ride it.

The next machine inducing recall was an immaculately restored Sachs 125cc. One of the older kids on the block had one of these. It was the first full-size motorcycle I ever rode, though I couldn’t quite reach the ground and had to canter my body to get a foot down. Learning to ride with a clutch was a chore aboard a machine notoriously known to have a neutral between each gear. Still, it was bliss.

Continuing the stroll down memory lane, I came upon two machines that represented my early two-wheel aspirations. To a diminutive 13-year-old, the Rickman Mattise and the Cheney Triumph Scrambler were imposing machines; I vowed to own them when I acquired the height and monetary wherewithal that would arrive with adulthood. The Rickman possessed superb craftsmanship of steel and fiberglass, while the Cheney kits were provocative garage projects, each machine constructed of exquisitely welded chrome frame tubes, which became the benchmark for my own abilities with an acetylene torch in metal shop. A CB350 took me back to acquiring my learner’s permit at 15, introducing me to the rush of priceless independence on the backroads of Malibu. A 1973 Elsinore 250 reminded me of my plans to become a motocross champion.

Walking among the field of motorcycles on display, I was keenly aware of the quiet contemplation on the faces of aging enthusiasts, all revisiting their own pasts, memories ushered along by a cherished Bultaco, a long gone Husqvarna, or an Ossa. Other visitors lingered among the BSAs and Triumphs, the Nortons and the Brough Superiors, each machine doubtless stirring fond memories of rides, road trips, youth, romances, and life. The Quail event wafted with the quiet, private remembrances of a thousand two-wheel experiences that richly shaped the lives of these individuals. This is what joins us all as motorcyclists of a certain age: possession of fond memories that speak to a life well-lived.

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