Interview with Melissa Holbrook Pierson

Buena Vista, Virginia

Melissa Holbrook PiersonWhen I learned Melissa Holbrook Pierson was attending the Moto Guzzi National Rally, I set out to see if I could arrange an interview.

Pierson is the author of The Perfect Vehicle, and her most recent book, The Man Who would Stop at Nothing. She has also written two non-motorcycling books. The Perfect Vehicle is about her start into motorcycling, finding and buying a Moto Guzzi. The latest book, The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing, is about her mentor, a long distance rider. The Perfect Vehicle is one of the first motorcycling books I purchased. It’s a good read, and I am re-reading it … again!

In the morning, we found a quiet place to talk about her books and travels.

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For more information, and/or to purchase her books, visit Melissa’s web site.

Coming up next: A ride to Washington D.C. and mission to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.

Brent

Finding characters at the Guzzi rally

Buena Vista, Virginia

Frank rolled in a little late Thursday evening, and started to set up his tent in our “neighborhood.” I could tell right away, Frank was someone I wanted to talk with.

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At age 75, Frank rode from his home in the other Buena Vista—Buena Vista, Colorado—to the rally, riding through Kansas with the  temperature at 107 degrees. Even the youngest of riders hesitate in those kind of temperatures. But, here was Frank, safely arrived, telling stories and setting up his tent in the twilight of evening.

The next morning, I grabbed Frank’s attention and invited him to our table. The others didn’t seem interested in our conversation, preferring chats about horsepower and legendary rides, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Frank’s legendary stories.

He bought his first Moto Guzzi in 1967. “That’s when they came out with this new V-twin engine sitting sideways. I thought it interesting and took a chance on it. I’ve been riding Guzzis ever since.” An engineer, he decided that first Guzzi needed better carburetors and fitted a pair of carbs off a Honda 450. After years of working at various institutions, including M.I.T., he retired from Boeing, and eventually settled in Buena Vista, Colorado—a place I have been to many times, including four rafting trips down the Arkansas River.

Frank said he rides about 20,000 miles a year and attends several rallies. But, he never wins the “oldest rider” award. He says there’s always someone local who rolls their Motto Guzzi out of the moth balls to ride to the rally, a couple of miles away, and win the oldest rider award. “We ought to have some kind of formula taking age and miles into consideration.” Sooner or later, I think Frank is going to win.

Out of 316 attendees at the Guzzi rally, why did I choose to write about Frank? Well, he was interesting. And, maybe it’s my own age that notices younger men and women tend not to pay attention to seniors—in Frank’s case, dismissing him as an old man on a motorcycle. But, under that façade is a lifetime of experience. Having conducted dozens of interviews with seniors—many of them WWII Veterans—I have found some fascinating stories. Frank was a joy to meet and talk with, and I hope to meet up with him again. Maybe at another Guzzi rally? Maybe in Colorado.

Coming up next: an interview with Melissa Holbrook Pierson, author of The Perfect Vehicle and the Man Who Would Stop at Nothing.

Brent

2012 Moto Guzzi National Rally

Buena Vista, Virginia

There are several reasons for attending the 2012 Moto Guzzi National Owners Club Rally, even though I do not own a coveted Italian-made Moto Guzzi. I was looking for a place to travel to, to visit with and make new friends, and to check out Moto Guzzis. Mostly, I was looking for a few stories to tell, and I found a few in my travels.

Typically, I choose a route that is non-Interstate, but admit that some slabbing is often required, as was this adventure. I won’t go into all the turn-by-turn route details, but will comment on one section.

West Virginia is a motorcycling paradise, and my planned route included US 60 from Charleston, WV, to the east side of the state where the highway connects with I-64 into Virginia. When I was calculating my time and speed, I thought I might be able to average 45 on that curvy, mountainous section of US 60. Wrong. 30-35 mph is probably more like it. By the time I exited the mountains into flatter countryside, my shoulders were aching from the back and forth motion of riding the twisties. It was like a roller coaster.

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The rally site was a city park which allows camping. Lots of space for tents and a few RVs. Rally organizers say 316 people attended the event. After checking in, I picked a spot along the creek and set up the tent. Afterwards, I went looking for some of the guys from the SW Ohio Club. Later, I learned they would not be there until the next day.

It was hot. Temperatures were in the 90s and only a forecast of cooler nights made it bearable.

Motorcycle rallies are great for making new friends and finding old ones. As I was looking for my Ohio friends, I met a man from Peoria, Illinois. His name was Paul. I am from from across the river in Pekin, Illinois, we had some common ground. Turns out his riding buddy, also in attendance was one of my classmates, graduating in the Class of 1968, Pekin Community High School. I barely remember Steve Bruce because he only attended PCHS his senior year, but 44 years after graduating, we’re both at the same rally. Want more coincidence? He now lives in Cincinnati. What a small world!

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The food was catered, and it was pretty good. I didn’t see or hear anyone complaining about lack of food. That’s always a good thing for a bunch of hungry motorcyclists.

Of course, there were plenty of Moto Guzzi motorcycles. It seemed that just about every model was represented—new and old and a few with character.

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The first night actually turned out to be a pleasant experience for tenting. It cooled off sufficiently. The next day, Friday, started out as a furnace. When a park maintenance worker told me that it was already in the 90s, at 10 a.m., and headed to over 100. I decided to move on. I just can’t take the heat. I’d rather be creating my own breeze. I packed the tent. Loaded the bike, and departed Buena Vista on the Blue Ridge parkway, headed for Washington D.C.

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There are two more stories to tell from Buena Vista. Stay tuned.

Brent