The dictionary says a relic is “an object surviving from an earlier time, especially one of historical or sentimental interest”. There are other definitions, but this is the one I do believe will be the common denominator for our connection and understanding within this short story, and the seed I intend to plant for your “food for thought”. So here goes …
My mother just had another “milestone” birthday .. even though she insists numbers mean nothing to her any longer. Yet, I can’t help but believe she has to be very proud of the fact that she has survived a massive amount of history .. wars, famine, depression, recession, inventions, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren .. I could spend the day quoting the old World Book Encyclopedia and she’s probably been through it. And to my amazement .. I personally think her greatest accomplishment was surviving her children .. well, surviving two of us anyway. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, right? Well, if heartache makes you stronger .. I sure as hell know from whom I gained my strength.
I had to laugh when she called herself a “relic” .. but at the same time, the analytical mind between my ears took off on another one of its “analogies”, as I used my own life- experiences to equate the many factions of a relic. And there I go, again …
When an infant is born .. and the very first time you look into his/her eyes .. you can’t help but realize how the wheels are spinning within that little brain as it absorbs each and every sight, sound, touch, taste and smell it possibly can. Absorbing every single one of them, in fact. Their brains are like little sponges, soaking up every experience humanly possible .. all the while, recording everything in a memory bank for future recall and/or use. The problem is .. there’s so much stuff going into that “memory bank”, it gets harder and harder to find something specific when you’re looking for it .. especially as the years compound and you feel like you’re on “information overload”. Just ask my mother.
When 2 billion 500 million heartbeats in a lifetime is now the “average” number we experience, that equates to a lot of time for us to “learn”. What we find, as children, are those “moments of wonder” .. those “Wow!” moments, as I referred to in “The Adventures of Indiana Joe – Issue 32, Ty Vole!” They are the ones most critical. Those very first moments of wonder and discovery are the ones that impact our lives the strongest. The ones we hold nearer and dearer to our hearts as “time” races bye. For it is those moments that made us who we truly are .. formed our character and molded our very being with all the ingredients that are uniquely ours. And unless you’re a clone .. it’s highly doubtful that there is another person exactly like you in this entire realm of existence. But what is it they say about a “parallel universe” .. do you ever wonder how the “other” you is doing? I sure as hell wish mine luck!
When I thought back to “Ty Vole!” and the pure adrenalin-induced excitement that I get whenever I travel .. and began thinking of “relics” .. a day came back to me that I spent with Radek Kadoun while riding around in the Heart of Bohemian Europe. We had stopped to spend the night with his Aunt, Uncle, Cousin (Daná, Lada & Rita) and their family near Cesky Krumlov. They lived in the most beautiful old farmhouse you could imagine. It too was a “relic” with the country charm of “home”, and his Aunt’s homemade supreme jellyrolls immediately made you feel you belonged. (Czech pastries are among the world’s finest, by the way.) The old country setting took you back in time .. and the farmhouse’s proximity to an old-time sawmill allowed you to “feel” what it was like to live in an older time, by actually “seeing” the sawmill in operation. I was in a perpetual state of awe over there.
The next day we rode into the little town of Mêstskÿ, and we met his uncle in the central block of “town square”. We parked our bikes nearby and walked with his uncle into the large crowd that had gathered in the square that day to view all the “relics” that were on display. It was one of the most unique auto/moto shows I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life. Naturally, because it was in the Czech Republic and everything was a “Ty Vole!” moment for me .. but also, because each and every machine there was actually driven to the park for display. They all were in perfect mechanical running order! I was so amazed at the number of different manufacturers .. most of which I’d never even heard of or seen before .. many of them no longer in existence. Just to see how the people appreciated and respected these marvels of mechanical achievement was thrilling.
As I studied all of the pictures I took that day, I listed many of the different “relics” I could identify. The first was a 1975 CZ 250, then as follows: a 1931 TWN; Ariel; Indian; Praga 350Bd; 1929 BSA; Zundapp (built between 1930-34); a vintage Harley Davidson; Jawa OHV 350; 1929 Jawa OHV 500; 1932 Jawa; FN 500; several Raleighs, military bikes, jeeps, trucks, old cars, MG’s, tractors, steam and gas engines; a Wikov Type 35 automobile; a 1780cc Praga car that boasted 35 hp with a maximum speed of 100-105 km/hr. (60-65mph); an early 1900’s Peugeot and an Aiglen; and lastly, a Jules motorized bicycle.
I heard many of these vehicles purr that afternoon .. and watched as many owners rode or drove off, some wearing “period” moto attire. It was exciting to just imagine the stories each of these vintage machines could tell. Upon doing some research of my own, I discovered that the 1947 Peugeot Confort, Model P55C is a rarity. The 1950’s Peugeot 125cc is the equivalent of the British BSA Bantam. They are still fairly common, being popular, reliable and practical machines that were market leaders in their day. However, like the first D1 Bantams, the Peugeot P55’s that came out in the first few years postwar are now very scarce and highly valued.
The 1933 Peugeot BMA Model P51 is a 2-speed pedal start. The French motorcycles of 100cc and under were known as “BMA’s”, for ‘bicyclette moteur auxiliaire’. In Britain, the equivalent was the ‘autocycle’ (usually 98cc Villiers powered), while in Germany similar lightweights used 98cc Fichtel & Sachs engines.
The 1939 Peugeot P53 was a 100cc with a 3-speed hand-change gearbox and a kick-start. In order to encourage people to buy motorcycles in the 1930’s, the French government allowed pedal-assisted motorcycles under 50cc to be exempt from registration and the need for having a driving license. This was intended to help their motorcycle industry after the difficult years following the great depression. Peugeot made this 100cc model with fixed foot-pegs that were meant to look like pedals, so that people could break the law and ride it without a license or registration. People will always be creative when it comes to skirting the law, huh? Especially when it comes to making a buck.
Over the three months I spent during two summers “exploring” Bohemia, I visited several other Moto Museums and admired some of the most precious “relics” of our past. The most famous and unique bike that tops the list is on display at the Jawa Motorcycle Museum in Netvorice, in the Czech Republic. It is the CZ Vatikan and comes with a very unusual story.
“A tiny few CZ500 have been specifically produced in white color and with guilding (14carat gold) instead of chrome plating. The order for this exclusive edition (2 bikes ordered) came on official Vatican letterhead, ostensibly signed by the captain of the Vatican’s guard. The CZ factory, very proud of the order, produced the motorcycles as demanded. Before dispatching the order to Rome by railway, it was displayed with huge success at the Prague exhibition in the spring of 1939. But as it turned out, the order was a fake and as a result, the motorcycles have never been paid for. Reportedly, for several years afterward, the swindler even made fun of the factory by sending them pictures showing the motorcycles in different European cities. He even asserted that the Pope took a brief ride on one of the bikes, highly complimenting it.
Though CZ had originally lost a lot of money, history proves that they were somewhat compensated for it as fifteen rich Czech and foreign customers ordered the same white/gold “Vatikan CZ”. This helped the trademark of CZ step tremendously into the moto market.”
You think of how difficult it must have been to even manufacture some of the components of those vintage bikes .. and yet you do understand just how well they must have performed when they became someone’s “Ty Vole!” moment. It’s just incredible to imagine it .. and then, you apply the “analogy” of comparing a vintage “relic” to an individual .. to a “life”. And now going back to the original definition and distinction of a relic being “historical or sentimental”, I find they are often times both.
In a way, it’s ironic .. how the two can actually be intertwined. I know bikers who still have their very first motorcycle .. and they still recall that very first emotion when it became “theirs”. Then they made “memories” together .. and the affair never ended. As the Iron Horse aged, it’s very existence became “historical” .. growing ever so much more valuable as the years rolled by, especially if it was mechanically well-maintained. At the very same time .. the love and appreciation of that Iron Horse became “personal” .. with each customization, and with every mile and memory it created. All of which to be stored in your “memory bank”, and thus becoming a “sentimental” recollection of every new trail you explored together.
If you think of your Iron Horse as part of your “family” .. you know exactly what I’m saying. You do whatever it takes to maintain its health and well-being .. and some go as far as maintaining the perfect “comfort level” for their steeds .. meaning controlled climate stalls. If only I could, I would. But I just try to do my best. Bosco just got his 19th new front shoe, and I keep him under his blanket while he rests. A “trickle-charger” for his brain keeps him alert whenever I ask him to perform for me .. yet, unfortunately here in Indiana, those days out in the warm sunshine are steadily diminishing in number. But he is always there for me .. whenever I decide it’s time to ride and to experience that thrill and excitement once again. It’s just like being that child all over again .. when everything is incredibly amazing.
So tell me .. did the seed I planted sprout any “food for thought”? Are there “relics” in your life that are sometimes under-appreciated, or do you do your very best to keep them well maintained and operational whenever they are called upon? Are they mechanical or flesh and blood .. and are there really six senses, when you actually “feel” something inside .. created by either sight or sound .. or nothing else at all? Just something to toss around the next time you get out there in the solitude of self .. and feel the wind in your face.
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …