If nests are where eggs incubate, The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is a time capsule destined to fly…
“Are you going to the “Quail” this weekend?” Paul d’Orleans asked whilst meticulously folding an omelette in his kitchen, a few days before one of California’s most prestigious motorcycle events. “My father is over from France, ‘might be a bit tricky” I replied. “Bring him along, he will love it!” affirmed Paul handing me a perfect, fluffy, golden buttery motorcycle seat made from California’s finest organic eggs.
Indeed, my father didn’t just love it, he was transported to a period of time in motorcycle history that he had long forgotten about. More of a car enthusiast than motorcyclist, he still earned his two wheeled stripes in the early 60’s on a Vespa, a Triumph and a Norton. Respect.
The Quail certainly delivered beyond our wildest expectations, as I drove down from SF, hoping Paul’s “quail eggs” would taste as good as his omelette.
Consider the classic definition of the California Quail: “a handsome, round soccer ball of a bird with a rich gray breast, intricately scaled underparts, and a curious, forward-drooping head plume. Often seen scratching at the ground in large groups or dashing forward on blurred legs, California Quails are common but unobtrusive. They flush to cover if scared, so approach them gently.” You’d be hard pressed to figure out wether it refers to the bird or a motorcycle. Rarely have I seen such a concentration of vintage motorcycles, classics from the 70’s and 80’s, customs, collections and more in one “park fermé” on a Saturday afternoon. Motorcycles that I had read about in books as a teenager, many I had fantasized about in auction catalogues over the years, featured in documentaries and private collections I thought were just too fantastic to exist… What a nest!
The Quail is an understatement in motorcycle fanaticism.
A walk through history, a time capsule of engineering, a bygone era as well as an outlook on the evolution of motorcycles, their design, their aesthetic and most of all, their presence in a world where technology and performance has often taken the spotlight. Turn of the century board track racers, some in their original, unmolested condition were really a sight to see.
As expected, there was an impressive British selection with Triumphs and Nortons, some too oil-free to be believed. A one-off 1950’s Harley caught my eye and the owner carefully talked me through it’s history. As a recent rider of the R60 and the like, the German air heads were also there in full flight, not forgetting Scottie Sharpe and his harem of R69s.There were a few custom bikes that hatched out of their shells in time, namely The twin turbo BMW Boxer Metal creation that looked even better in the flesh than on social media.
A reassuring exchange with Walt Siegl about Ducati 900ss flat slide carburetor setup was a great way to end my time in the egg basket. As much as these machines held court like sculptures in a museum, the real takeaway from this clutch of chics were the people. From all over the world and all walks of life, enthusiasts, builders, engineers, riders and collectors alike admired, studied carefully, took pictures, selfies, notes, conversed, debated, argued even on the spec, authenticity and value of these often immaculate if not perfect machines. Regulars and newcomers alike, Curt Relick has been a judge since the beginning; Paul d’Orleans was only MC’ing this year, but a fixture nonetheless in his Mrs’ Puch silk shirt; Keanu Reeves was quietly observing the hardware as he weighed in his Arch KR model 1 into the public eye.
As well as the pen, the surroundings were equally inspiring. I don’t play golf, but what a place of beauty. The whole landscape leading up to The Quail Lodge was very picturesque. The car park or bike park as it should be called reminded me of “The Goodwood Revival” in Kent back in England: there are as many beautiful things to see outside as there are inside the event itself.
Seeing riders parading these epic machines with sound, smoke and the occasional back fire was an unexpected bonus that kept adding to the time traveling sensation.
The cherry on the cake for the old boy was a tough one: amongst all this memorabilia, he was most impressed with a BSA Bantam from 1950’s, painted red in the original GPO colors, an homage to the British Postman delivery vehicle from a bygone era that my father remembers fondly. His girlfriend, a keen golfer was also impressed with the whole thing. When she sat down for “a proper lunch” with table cloths, napkins, fine crockery and silverware, The Quail was truly cooked to perfection.