Fresh out of college and my older brother buys a motorcycle in Reno, NV and sends me up there to pick it up for him. It’s a simple, 10 hour plus ride back to Newport Beach, CA, with the only issue being that I had never ridden a street bike, let alone used a hand clutch, and that the last time I rode anything with two wheels and a motor was a mini-bike back in grade school.
After a few hours of learning how to ride on the dusty streets of Reno, I called older brother and told him I’m taking a slight detour, to Indiana, for look-see on my former Purdue teammates and the football season opener. It was the beginning of my lifelong MC VAG, that of being a motorcycle vagabond, upon the thrill and glory of motorcycles.
Sometime that same year, living at the beach and bouncing at Malarky’s, the local dive bar, quite reluctant to start my grown up, college educated career, same brother shows up with a friend’s brand new 1982 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide (the original factory chopper) and lets me take a spin. The MC VAG was instantly and forever changed to a Harley VAG.
I pretty much love all bikes, but I’m a Big-Twin Harley guy.
I purchase my first Harley from Dudley Perkins H-D of San Francisco, CA. You cannot pry me off my 1985 FXST as I ride to Mexico, Canada, Sturgis and pretty much any and all roads West of the Mississippi river.
Disillusioned with the corporate world I educated myself for, engaged to a lovely lady I wasn’t ready for and tied to a home and a mortgage that made me feel old and normal, the Berlin Wall comes down on TV and with it any pretext left in the go-to-college, get-a-good-job and get-ahead-you-damn-fool identity I had forced upon myself. I had to go.
Within a month I quit my job, broke off my engagement, rented my house, purchased and shipped my own 1982 Wide Glide and moved to Europe with a carry on, a helmet and a leather jacket. It was the freest moment of my life.
Back from my Harley VAG in Europe, looking to express my natural state as an entrepreneur, and I cut a deal wt my friends at Dud Perkins Harley and open the first tourist Harley store in the mainland US – the only other in the world at the time in Honolulu, HI. That business blew the doors off, smoked the wheels off and changed the game for Harley tourist shops that are now world wide.
It also opened the door for me being chosen as the new authorized H-D dealer across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.
Golden Gate Harley-Davidson opens in San Rafael, CA, the first new from-scratch Harley dealership in some 20 years. We, my employees and I, build a very successful business on the strength of the brand. I was severely underfunded and without ANY dealership experience when the doors opened, and I wouldn’t have survived without the talents of my staff and the brand loyalties of my customers.
Golden Gate became a well run business by the time I sell it in 2003. I so wanted to own a Harley dealership, and I put the gantlet down to secure the deal from Harley, but that old adage about “watching out for what you wish for as you might get it” rang very true. It a was calling, but it turned out to not be my passion.
During my ownership of Golden Gate I met Dave Barr and he blew up any ideas I had of being a motorcyclist. Dave road a Shovelhead Harley around the world, a bike similar to what I beat around the cobbled streets of Europe upon. The big difference, however, is that Dave lost both his lower legs and was riding with prosthesis, and did THE WORLD on a Shovel. Getting to know Dave, reading his book and then researching others who had ridden around the world inflamed that old VAG and, again, I had to go.
Owning a Harley dealership and riding a motorcycle around the world doesn’t add up very well. My plan was to take off for three months, leave the bike and go home to run the business for three months, back to the bike and on and on. Foreign governments aren’t very well tempered for such shenanigans, as I found out the first time I left the bike in Costa Rica. With outdated papers and a Latin American culture that embraces bending the rules if you have cash, I picked up the bike I had left in CR, ran for the border and bribed my way into Panama. It was all good, but it was obvious it wasn’t going to work this way, and before heading back to my bike in South America I began the long process of selling my dealership.
Overall I spent a year of my life on the road in Latin America, riding from San Francisco, CA to Tierra del Fuego and the tip of South America, and then back, 30,000 miles of bumpy roads on a Harley Police Dyna with off-road racing wheels, skid plates and a spare gas tank. She was probably the ugliest Harley ever put together, and at about 1000 lbs with gear and fuel, the heaviest dirt bike ever built. But she made the journey in grand fashion, and the only parts that failed where the non-Harley parts I conceived and executed for my Frankenstein dual-sport.
The genesis of my desire to own a winery started during that wonderful year living in Borso del Grappa, Italy with my relatives and vaggin’ about Europe on the Wide Glide. In the little village pretty much every house has a small vineyard and the communal wine is a daily staple. It may not win any awards, but I love it and I fell in love with the simple concept of sustainability
That seed of desire was cultivated further while living in San Francisco for over 20 years and ridding through Wine Country on many occasions. I had fallen in love with the vineyard aesthetic and motorcycling had once again served me well and brought me to the realization of my true calling and passion.
I purchased my farm, now Annadel Estate Winery, in July of 2007. I’ve now owned it for five years and feel as if we have finally crested the giant hill of financial sustainability.
It’s no easy task in the wine business, and this economy certainly hasn’t helped, but we’re there and we’re there for good.
I’ve also met my woman here in Sonoma, Abigail, and my children Jake and Anni have been born, a total and complete life change and all of it for the better. I’ve never been happier. Now and then, however, the VAG pulls. With this family and this life that I love I know I can’t return to Africa and continue my World VAG, but the Cannonball fixes that jones and provides enough challenge to stoke the internal flame. The VAG is now the Cannonball VAG.
I met Scott Jacobs (scottjacobsstudio.com) during the opening of my tourist Harley store at Fisherman’s Wharf. What a great guy and now a great friend. When he posted on his FaceBook account that he was doing the Cannonball and needed a mechanic, and that the ride was going to terminate in San Francisco, riding across the Golden Gate Bridge on her 75th Anniversary year, once again, I had to go.
The first person I called was Marty Schilber, my former service manager at Golden Gate. Marty is a true master mechanic and is a wizard with vintage Harleys, and all he had to do was get a hall pass from his lovely wife Deb and we were in.
To find a bike in short order I next called Glen Bator, one of the world’s foremost motorcycle curators. Our friendship had been cultivated over many years, and now that his wife is a big fan of my wine the friendship has grown to family friendship. Glen finds a very original, older restoration 1923 Harley-Davidson J and the ball is rolling.
It is five weeks or so till New York. The bike is still down to the frame in my barn, however, after a frantic nationwide search we have accumulated everything we need and we should be on the road with two weeks to break in and trouble shoot. Another former employee at Golden Gate has joined the team, Chrys Miranda is flying in from Brazil to help Marty and run Scott and my electronic postings on Facebook etc.
ChrysWe’re down to the wire and damn excited about it. Team Vino will be ready to roll hard across this great nation. Now if only I can sleep.