The former punk rock girl who smoked and danced and got straight A’s until I came into her life in 1986 was perfectly happy sharing rides on the back of our 2003 BMW R1150RT. The Bavarian machine has crossed the country, attended a couple Quail Motorcycle Gatherings, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and led countless Sunday Moto Club rides with her as my co-pilot.

On December 19, 2018, Jean Boulanger received this custom 2007 Triumph Thruxton scrambler from its original owner, Arroyo Grande, California-based custom builder Bryan Thompson. [Gary Boulanger]
But that changed in early May 2018 when young Gregory at our local CVS offered her the keys to his 250cc Honda. All Jean intended to do that day was buy me a birthday card, but seven months later she was in Arroyo Grande, California at the home workshop of custom builder Bryan Thompson, signing the title to take ownership of his 2007 Triumph Thruxton scrambler, a bike he bought new from Wilson’s in Fresno with two miles on the odometer.

The road from CVS to the central California coast was serendipitous at best. Jean had just met Alp Sungurtekin and his wife Jalika at The Quail, when talk of racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats was fresh on their minds. I first met Alp and Jalika at the Petersen Museum for the Custom Revolution exhibit a few weeks prior, and planned on interviewing him for Cycle World. Land speed racing was new for me, and as I learned after visiting Alp and Jalika at their home workshop in Shadow Hills near Burbank, California, Bonneville is its own world full of characters and mad scientists.

During dinner at a Los Angeles restaurant with Jenna Stellar in mid June, the Hollywood costumer asked Jean if she had considered getting her motorcycle endorsement. “Well,” Jean said with a smirk and a sideways glance at me, “our son Henri has offered to give me some coaching on his SYM Wolf Classic, a single-cylinder 150cc bike he bought in 2016.”

Jean learns from Henri, just as he did in 2012. [Gary Boulanger]
And coach her he did. Henri took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course twice (once as a 17-year-old, and a second time as a refresher course with me). He has an encyclopedic memory for details, and is an excellent teacher. After a couple hours in the church parking lot near our house, Jean was rolling along in third gear, the biggest smile on her face.

In early August Henri and I rode Harley-Davidsons from the H-D headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, back home to California. Along the way we visited family, then hung out for half a day at Sturgis, kibitzing with Roland Sands, Indian Motorcycle designer Ola Stenegärd and Stellar before watching American Flat Track racing at the Buffalo Chip fairgrounds. The following weekend Henri and I rolled into Wendover, Utah for Bonneville Speed Week where Alp was preparing his machine with the aim of 200 mph in 100-plus degree heat. Stacie B. London, Shinya Kimura and several tuners-racers attempted to tame the salt that weekend, with varying degrees of success and challenge.

As we watched Alp prepare his pit, Bryan and Christine Thompson drove up in a rented RV, wearing white boiler suits and Vans. I recognized Bryan from Instagram, and they kindly invited us inside the RV to duck out out the scorching sun. We quickly bonded, and two weeks later met again at the Roland Sands Design Moto Bay Classic in San Francisco, where Bryan was displaying his ‘Red Arrow’ Triumph custom.

Thompson (wearing Mooneyes hat) lends a hand to Sungurtekin (burgundy bandana) while other details are attended to by Christine Thompson (far left) and Jalika Gaskin (center). [Henri Boulanger]
When Henri and I were drinking water with the Thompsons on the salt and talking about vintage motorcycles and speed, Jean was taking her safety course at Mission College under the shadow of Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. She passed with flying colors, and several weeks later, received her M-1 class endorsement. She continued to take short rides on the SYM to keep her skills sharp, then has minor surgery in early October.

She’s also a co-founder of the Sunday Moto Club—where all bikes are welcome and kindness is encouraged—and has asked several members which bike they’d recommend. She researched and read about several lightweight adventure and touring bikes, in no rush to decide. She’s attended the One Moto Show, the Handbuilt Show and toured both the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee and Robb Talbott’s museum in Carmel Village, California, so she’s laid eyes on some of the finest bikes in the world. The riding season in northern California never ends, so there’s certainly less pressure.

Then on December 12 Thompson posts his Thruxton scrambler for sale on Instagram. He bought it from the famous Wilson’s dealership in Fresno with two miles on the odometer on a day when he was merely tagging along with a friend on the hunt for a Bonneville. The stock pipes, seat, handlebars, tires and several other parts were replaced by the former speedway racer, including the tank, which he painted and had pinstriped by a signmaking friend.

I sent him an email, and 45 minutes later the phone rings.

“Jean keeps coming back to Triumphs, Bryan, and I think yours is the one,” I told him. I showed Jean the video and photos posted by Bryan, and told her I’d drive her down to the town of 17,716 near Pismo Beach if she wanted to check out the bike and ride it.

A week later, the Thruxton scrambler is sitting in our garage, making friends with its Italian and German stablemates. We’re adding offset bar risers and replacing the tires, and while Christmas came a week early for the former punk rocker from Milwaukee, Jean knows how things tend to work out if one is willing to live dangerously and make friends.