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Rubberside Down: Sidecar salute

By Ken Weingart

I recently heard a joke that recalled to mind a true-life experience—A ditzy blonde parks her car to go shopping, leaving her dog inside the vehicle. The pooch tries to follow her and she responds by yelling, “Stay!” A nearby drunk sees the blonde and the car but not the dog inside and, upon hearing her yell, asks, “Can’t you just put it in park?”

 

My wife Renee and I were looking at a motorcycle sidecar once that had a dog as a passenger. Renee was greatly surprised when she noticed that the pup had no feet! When the owner approached, my curious bride inquired as to the dog’s name.

 

“He has no name,” the owner replied.

 

“No name? Why not?” asked Renee.

 

“Would he come if I called?” responded the owner.

 

The very week we saw that rig with the dog, we purchased a sidecar from Pfaff Harley-Davidson in Long Island. We had it painted Bronco Bronze to match the color of our 74-cubic-inch Panhead and used it as daily transport for the next 50 years.

 

Sidecar owners are an unusual and proud lot. We know our mode of transport is atypical, even to those loyal devotees of the two-wheeled conveyance. Even those astride the more conventional trike models shake their heads. But I would ride that scoot to work daily, despite the finicky New Yawk weather with ice and snow and slush making for dicey travel amidst reckless NYC cabbies. I’d carry a change of clothes and briefcase in the sidecar and in just a few minutes, be presentable for any business meeting or formal occasion.

 

But I never carried a dog.

 

But the most fun in a sidecar had to be entering in a motorcycle competition. The Crotona Midnight Run was one of my favorites. Always held in coldest of January or February, the first rider would leave at the bewitching hour of midnight with the prevailing weather having no bearing on the starter’s flag. The early rides averaged around 150 miles and were run in three legs. And of course during those times there were no such luxuries as cell phones or GPS. ’Bout all we had was a route map taped to our gas tanks and a cheap dime store pocket watch hung around a neck well muffled in riding scarves. I still have that old $1 watch hidden away in some drawer somewhere and it was still working last time I ran across it. I never placed in the top tier of winners but receiving the small finisher’s award was winning to me.

 

My sidecar biking history is full of long rides with no real purpose, following the sun and those squiggly blue lines on a tattered map. Some were rides with just a few companions; others, large groups. Memories include going to weddings and funerals, camping alongside the bike, smelling wildflowers and hot oil and getting frowned on at fancy hotels. Being ignored by a stuffy hostess in nice eateries because of our leathers only meant life was good, regardless.

 

Yes, I carried a lot of things in that sidecar but never a dog. But we did put each of the kids in before any were a year old. They grew up on cycles and in sidecars, each going through their dirt bike phase before shifting to street-legal machines. And now… now my granddaughter Stephanie just passed her Rider’s Edge motorcycle course.

 

The cycle continues, so it seems…

 

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