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The Great Verhalen Vintage Bike Run (ride report with pics)

TWTim

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Feb 19, 2007
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I got a call from Carl at the beginning of the week, asking if I'd like to take a ride to -- of all places -- Verhalen, Texas today.

"Verhalen? Why Verhalen?" I asked in a what-are-you-trying-to-get-me-into-this-time sort of tone.

For those of you who don't know, Verhalen is a little ghost town just north of Balmorhea at the northern edge of the Davis Mountain Range. About five people live there -- literally.

But I've gotta hand it to Carl. When it comes to finding vintage bikes stashed in out-of-the-way places, the guy is like a supernatural moto-medium. And when he explained that we were going to see his friend Jim Franklin's vintage bike collection, I was immediately onboard. So this morning around 11:30, Britt and I made the ride to the Odessa Starbucks, where everyone was meeting to make the trip.

Marie, Carl, and Britt tanking up on snacks and caffeine before the ride:

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Our first stop was in Monahans, where we grabbed a late lunch:

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I thought I had some good shots of our awesome Mexican cuisine, but I was unfortunately using the wrong macro and none of them turned out. I did manage to get a pretty good shot of the tablecloth, however:

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Our next stop was in Pecos, where we refueled and met another group of riders for the final 20-mile (or so) leg into Verhalen. The Flying J is your friend in the remote badlands of West Texas:

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Not long thereafter we had arrived at Mr. Franklin's place, The Goat & Guinea Cafe:

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The place is not an active restaurant as far as I can tell. In fact, it's a place right out of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and is guarded 24/7 by a rather unfriendly looking fellow next door who has a penchant for glaring at you silently while shouldering a double-barrel shotgun. You don't want to be around this place without permission, make no mistake.

We, on the other hand, were invited guests -- and I couldn't have been happier about it once we got inside. The first thing that caught my eye was this beauty:

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Yes, it's the real deal. A non-military variant Famous James, complete with original open speedo gear assembly:

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In a side room, there is another Famous James awaiting resurrection:

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Hiding in the dark between a couple of old pinball machines, I found this:

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Jim is apparently a Hee-Haw fan:

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Vintage MZ, anyone?

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But the highlight of the visit was when Mr. Franklin said, "Let me get these old BMWs warmed up so you all can ride them."

'Did I hear that correctly?' I thought.

Apparently so, because before I knew it, Jim's 1973 R75 and 1980 R65 were purring like kittens and being wheeled out the front door.

Carl was the first to take the R65 for a spin:

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The R65 is a former road-race bike that has been put back into street trim. Turn up your volume and bass all the way, and listen to Carl make a pass on a vintage example of German greatness:



I rode the R65 shortly thereafter, and by that time, Marie and Britt had both ridden the R75, which was equally awesome in its own way:

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Back inside, we explored the old building:

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Britt tickles the ivories on a piano that hasn't been tuned since 1935. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. Stick to playing drums, old buddy:

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You are in:

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Well, needless to say at this point in the story, we ended up screwing around a lot longer than we planned and the sun was starting to get low in the sky. It was cooling down and we had a long ride back. But as we were getting ready to go, one of the Odessa guys, Jeff, noticed that he had a leak in his rear tire. So it was off to Jim's house between Verhalen and Balmorhea to plug the tire.

By the time we were done, it was sunset. The time change, combined with poor time management throughout the day, was going to now result in a cold, dark, 125-mile ride home. I looked to the south just before we left, the Davis Mountains looming in the distance as a stark reminder of just how far from Midland we were. Suddenly, I had that strange, urgent, out-of-place feeling you experience sometimes in dreams. It was time to go:

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Feeling no need to take it easy on his fresh plug and running in excess of 100 miles per hour on several occasions, Jeff's tire was unsurprisingly flat again as we entered Pecos. This held us up even longer, as we waited for him to get a bicycle plugging kit from the local Wal-Mart and re-repair the repair. Thirty minutes later, he was plugged again and it was getting cold and dark. We finally made it onto the interstate at dusk.

I arrived home under a full moon and starry sky. I was cold, tired, hungry, and ready to get off the Z-Rex. All-in-all a wonderful day, but I was never so happy to be home. I arrived just in time for dinner and a back rub from my lovely wife, so things are definitely looking much better now in retrospect.

Total mileage for the day was 255 and the weather was thankfully perfect for November. Despite the problems and late return, all made it home safe and sound. It was a fantastic experience.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 4, 2008
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1,640
Location
Houston, Republic of Texas
A buddy of mine is in Pecos workin right now...maybe get the urge to ride off out there one weekend...hmmm...it looks interesting and great pics of the toasters...love those old BMWs
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2005
Messages
2,249
Man! There is no freakin way that you will ever know how awesome that ride was I promise as slow as it looked and as good as it sounded in te video it was one of the events I will cherish forever pegged out at 85MPH flat out behind the Fairing I'll never forget that ride! It was over way to soon! I'll download that clip and play it every rainy day from now on!:rider:
SRAD
PS I have picks and video to tomorrow
PSS Marie wasn't that impressed with her ride.hahahahah
 

TWTim

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A day to remember, indeed. And yes, those old boxing toasters are awesome. :rider:
 
Joined
Oct 14, 2008
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odessa
Thanks for inviting me. I am so sorry I missed you guys. I slept till 1 pm. Anyway, it looks like yall had a good time without me :(
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2008
Messages
539
Location
elgin,tx
I've been riding over 30 years now, and have seen many a bike, but I don't recall any 'Famous James'. :scratch: Cool looking piece of history, what year and what CC, any idea?

Edit: did a little googling, rare indeed, still curious about the year & CC. Comet,Cadet...?
 

TWTim

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Joined
Feb 19, 2007
Messages
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Location
Midland
I've been riding over 30 years now, and have seen many a bike, but I don't recall any 'Famous James'. :scratch: Cool looking piece of history, what year and what CC, any idea?
James motorcycles were made in England in the early through mid 20th century. Many of them were military issue, and they were sometimes dropped from airplanes with the British paratroopers. The one in the pics is probably a late 1940s model and is equipped with a 125cc Villiers engine.
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2008
Messages
539
Location
elgin,tx
James motorcycles were made in England in the early through mid 20th century. Many of them were military issue, and they were sometimes dropped from airplanes with the British paratroopers. The one in the pics is probably a late 1940s model and is equipped with a 125cc Villiers engine.

Yep, cool stuff. I like the BR549 also. :lol2:
 

TWTim

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Feb 19, 2007
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As an interesting side note, I recognized one of those old pinball machines from my childhood. It was called Gorgar, and was themed in such a way that an 8 year-old kid doesn't forget:

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After doing some Internet research, it turns out that Gorgar is significant as a collector's piece, because it was the first ever talking pinball machine, released by Williams Electronics in 1979.

There was a Gorgar in every bowling alley in West Texas during the early 1980s. I vividly remember playing it.

Check out this guy, who restored a Gorgar:

 

TWTim

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Joined
Feb 19, 2007
Messages
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Midland
I went through Verhalen last month and noticed that the Goat & Guinea is now a church. I have no idea where the bikes and other cool items might be. I also hope Jim Franklin is doing well. Time goes by so quickly.
 
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