The rise of the Cachuma Lake Phoenix
Live Oak Campground, Cachuma Lake, CA
Memorial Day weekend 2015
Making the long trek from just south of Lake Tahoe to the Cachuma Lake Live Oak Campground, this journalist was pleased to finally arrive at the Vintage British Bike Rally at Lake Cachuma north of Santa Barbara. After an eight year hiatus, like a phoenix, so well coined by Cozmic Joe, the metal sculptor, the rally rose once again to be a weekend of greatness. With some one hundred and fifty participants aboard bikes of many ages old and new everyone had a wonderful time enjoying the weekend celebration.
In attendance, to open the event on Saturday morning with Eddie Mulder was long time event organizer Donna Mulrean who read the “In Flander’s Field” poem of deep appreciation for the veterans through the years that gave so much of themselves for all to enjoy the freedom of weekends and life like this in the United States and elsewhere. Kimberly Gould sang The Star Spangled Banner while Eddie Mulder raised the stars and stripes on the flag pole and everyone wore remembrance red poppies that were donated by the Veterans Association to commemorate the men and woman that lost their lives serving in the military inspired by the world war 1 poem read by Donna. The meaning of the red poppy is recognized in the U.S., parts of the former British Empire, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Also joining the day’s events were long time West Coast Dirt Track Series and now Cachuma Lake event sponsors, Mark and Susan Zimmerman, Randy and Lynne Zimmerman, John and Susan Healy of Coventry spares and original founder of the rally in 1989, and Digger Helm, Jason and Matt from British Customs, builders of the Eddie Mulder Pike’s Peak Triumph and Bob Raber of Raber’s Parts Mart. Raber and a group of about ten riders rode in from San Jose aboard their bikes. Ramspur Winery, Terry and Nancy Otton and Motion Pro other long time WCDTS supporters also offered sponsorship for the Lake Cachuma Rally and provided gifts that were handed out during the evening events. The BSA Nor Cal Club was represented at the rally by Don Danmeier.
The campground, dotted with beautiful oaks and usually a mecca of beautiful green grass, was lacking any grass due to the California water shortage. Bill and Marla Getty of JRC Engineering chalked the course and organized games on motorcycles called a field meet. One up or two up, the competition was fierce maneuvering weighted down cans for the slalom course, collecting the straws in the bottles, tossing bean bags into a tire, a spoon race carrying a waffle ball the entire length the course on a spoon without it falling off, and an exciting slow race with a two hundred dollar purse. The rules were only that the rider could not put a foot down on the ground during their challenge to avoid elimination. Points were gathered throughout the competition that would be tallied for the evening award program.
Beautiful motorcycles adorned many camp spots including many that dated back to the very early 1900’s and had been ridden from destinations far north and south to join the rally. Saturday afternoon many enjoyed riding their iron horses on one of the four self-guided rides with maps courtesy of Ride Central coordinator Cozmic Joe Filardi, tours mapped out to see the sights around the area. Saturday evening everyone joined together for a meal of BBQ tri tip, beans, salad, corn on the cob, cupcakes and all the other goodies of a great meal prepared and catered by the Los Padres Outfitters. The Outfitters prepared 3 delicious meals each day for the group. A wonderful award presentation took place following the meal. Eddie Mulder and John Healy of Coventry Spares and publisher of the “Vintage Bike” magazine who traveled with his wife Susan from Massachusetts to join the rally led the presentation. Many gifts donated by Raber’s Parts Mart, Coventry Spares, JRC Engineering, Triumph of No America, Barnett and Motion Pro were given to the rally participants. By Sunday evening most everyone had received a gift that included, parts, autographed event T shirts, other rT Shirts, Cups, water bottles, books and so much more. Winners of the morning field meets for both the adults and the children were recognized individually with medals and some ribbing from Eddie, John and the other participants. Being a family affair, the children ran the same course challenges on their bicycles as the adults did on motorcycles.
After a pancake breakfast Sunday morning the group of 97 bikes headed out on a ride into Solvang, a lovely small Danish town to visit the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum that houses some outstanding two wheeled motorcycles and a world of motorcycle history. Each bike is displayed with a placard of available information relative to that machine and its history. Included were several custom one of a kind, proto types, and first edition motorcycles from the United States, Europe, Japan and other countries. A building full of exceptional equipment built for transportation, competition, dirt tracks, ice racing, road racing and much more; eye candy to those that have a passion for motorcycles and their history.
Back at the campground John Healy was orchestrating the placement of bikes around and under the oak trees for the upcoming afternoon bike show. Judging would be done in several categories that included Competition, Unit Construction, Pre Unit Construction, Custom, Committees Choice, Best in Show and People’s Choice. Again after dinner another award presentation was held to honor the winners of the bike show. The People’s Choice award, chosen by all of the rally participants was awarded to Nathan Matteson for his 1950 Triumph 6T Thunderbird, Best of Show for a 1939 Ariel Square 4 was awarded to Ralph Nevarez. The Best of Show winning bike belonged to Ralph’s father for many years, was handed down to an uncle and many years later handed down to Ralph. Ralph was awarded with a custom made, hand sculpted, one of a kind work of art created by Cozmic Joe. Other class awards were: Unit Construction to Alexia Dunlavey for a 1967 Triumph TR6, Pre Unit Construction to Craig Fontaine for a 1956 BSA, Competition to Greg McBride for a 1949 Vincent Black Shadow, Custom to Bob Ferry for a 1960 BSA Gold Star and the Committee Choice winner was a 1963 Matchless G12 awarded to it’s owner Chris Smith.
Cozmic Joe also created a 3 foot sculpture with the initials JB and “Cubman” formed from motorcycle parts and chain to honor the efforts of Johnny Brown. Brown was a scrambles rider when he was young. As the result of an accident at the age of 18 he was paralyzed from the waist down however, that didn’t slow him down much. He owns 200 plus Triumph Cubs and was the initiator of the 2015 Vintage British Motorcycle Rally, obtaining the permit and gathering the help of Eddie, Jodi and others to make it happen. Brown has never missed a rally at Lake Cachuma.
At the end of the night on Sunday the group was asked if they would like to do it again in 2016. An unanimous “Yes” was echoed from the crowd and the call was made at the start of the day when business resumed on Tuesday to request a reservation for the 2016 Vintage British Bike Rally. As of this writing the request had not yet been answered.