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A Ton Up Christmas Morning

  • Joe Michaud


Frost was on the truck this morning at 7:30 when I rolled the '68 TR6 outta the garage. Some folks say that Southern California doesn't get cold...well, it doesn't get Canadian cold, I'll grant ya that. But we have our chilly stuff, too. I snapped the liner into my Fieldsheer jacket and zipped the bulky jacket to the pants. I added an Aerostitch neck scarf that gets worn only a few times a year and the lined Thurlow
deerskin gloves. The Arai helmet fits snug over the cotton balaclava...check the helmet vents and the jacket breathers to make sure all of them are closed.
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The bike starts on the first "key-on" kick and the lumpy idle wakens the neighbors dog. Good, the damn dog craps on my driveway. I hope he's barking REAL close to the owners head. I rev it a few time to both clear the motors' throat and to irk the dog. Hehehehe. Mean stuff on Christmas, this is Grinchey stuff! It might make up for the mega-woofers in the dog owners' boom-car that thumps out that White-Boy Rap late at night.

One click down into first and the bike burbles down the hill towards the stop sign. No traffic today. One kid on a new bicycle and his rapt, attentive parent who breaths clouds of warm coffee-breath into the bright sun, watch as I idle by. Left up the hill towards Aero Drive and freedom from the neighborhood cars.

The road that I ride The Ton on is relatively unused except by commuters heading for the Marine Corps Air Station and they are not using it today. Visibility is great up here on the mesa plus the view of the San Diego plateau is spectacular in this crisp, clear, winter air. The only real threat here (besides a speeding ticket) might be a deer encounter. I've seen deer here and they can be dangerous since the road is bounded on both sides by chain link fence and a frightened uncertain deer will bound from side to side like a crazed 250 pound cruise missile.

Doing the Ton is "no great shakes" for modern machines. Most new bikes will pull 100mph and still willingly power wheelie in third, with two or three gears to go, so Doing The Ton is a bit anachronistic, I guess. But, I'm a bit anachronistic, too. Who else would have the money/time/energy tied up in these old motorsickles? Just us weirdos who do it for the love of the old beasts. I could buy a new machine that would take SWMBO and I anywhere, yet, whenever I have a few bucks put aside, another "orphan" bike joins the stable. Who can judge the reasons why we do what we do, if we can’t understand it ourselves?

I wonder how many new riders of modern plastic-shrouded sport-bikes will understand the joy of finding the correct "bit" or sourcing the odd part when they try to relive their own mis-spent youth? Hopefully, some cottage industry will rise up to provide the plasticware. Save your bits now, boys...shelve that original fairing, windshield and lowers...buy cheap-ass replacement parts and use them on your day-to-day rider because that New Old Stock is gonna be rarer than a "not guilty" Republican vote someday.

I roll past Mr G's...no BMW riders are here this AM. It's onna those good days...the sensors in the road read the bikes' metallic mass and all the traffic lights are green. I roll past the CHP office on a trailing throttle...no folks are around here, either. I get a green light at the last intersection before The Road and hit the Ess-turn in third gear, fat on the little bikes torque-curve at 4000RPM. The Triumph pipes begin to play that '60's music and the bike thrums under me like a REAL machine. No gentle, modern, 4-holer business on this bike. You know you're riding a machine here. Both pistons rising and falling together make no gentle buzz. Vibration Lives Here.

Hard on the gas through the gears...6000 in each of the first three gears. I make a pass down the 3 mile road at 80 per looking for the new speedbumps that I fear have been added to restrict the "drag racers" that frequent this road late at night. Hmmmmm, there are none.

I U-turn through the median Armco and head back into the rising sun. Hard through the first three gears and let 4th pull strong for a minute or so....90 plus mph. I prefer to have the sun behind me for the Ton.

Another U-turn and back up the road. 6000 through the gears, stooped low into the cold air, we--the bike and I--feel the coldness and I bring the carb onto the stop. My chin is quite close to the frictional fork damper and I can see the cheap digital watch siliconed to the instrument binnacle click off the “full throttle” seconds. The speedo wavers between 90-95MPH while the tach needle is "all over the gauge" with vibration. Damn. I can't quite get her over 100. The chattery pavement confuses the old tech suspension and, in the sharp shadow of the sun, I can clearly see both wheels leave the ground. I'm grinning like a fool and, if stopped now for a speeding violation, I'm not sure that cops would judge this smiling face quite sane.

I ride to the end, turn and head back with a vengeance. There is a slight downhill section with a good quarter mile of downgrade. I pull the twistgrip to the stop and mark the seconds. An older Camaro and its pony-tailed driver occupies the fast lane and I pass him on the right at 95...he's loafing that big Detroit V8 at close to 80 and he fails to take the bait offered by a middle-aged man on a middle-aged bike pretending that he's a Giacomo or a Freddy.

The little Triumph, its Amal carb WFO for 62 seconds pulls the needle to 100 MPH. The wind is sharp like glass finding every seam and zipper in my old leathers. The Arai is pushed back until the rubber breath-guard touches my nose and the wind buffets my head side-to-side. This is waaay cool.

I make 4 runs each way but never really see the needle cross the Ton mark but it's still a good ride. I gotta count this years ride as a ".98 Ton-up Ride!"

I'm home in time for waffles and sausage.

Cheers to you all. It's been a good year with lotsa great riding. I wish every one a safe new year. Ride well. Live well. Wrench well.

Ride safe, Joe

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