Last weekend there was a memorial for a friend, Doug Bingham. It was a low-key event, which reminded us that he was a great guy, an original, that he always went the extra mile to help anyone and that he can’t be replaced. Amongst his interests were motorcycles of all varieties, especially those with sidecars. He raced them, built them, sold them and about 45 years ago he started a Sidecar Rally in Griffith Park, Los Angeles County. It was a great day in the park, a picnic and if you had any interest in motorcycles with a hack attached you showed up, talked to your friends and listened to friendly arguments about how frames and sub-frames should be attached, about track width, toe-in and lean out. Sidecar people are the most independent thinkers I know. They don’t care how anyone does anything; each owner is going to do it their own unique way. I like that.
After the memorial several of us found ourselves in a Mexican restaurant with tequila, beer and tacos on the table. We told stories about Doug the teetotaler, and sidecars and racing and riding motorcycles across country and which of our friends was still alive and who was dead and eventually the conversation got around to the Sidecar Rally which now after 44 years had grown from 10 or 15 rigs to well over 200.
“So, does anyone know if the guys at Doug’s shop are planning on keeping the Sidecar Rally alive?”
The rest of the conversation is not attributed to any one person. It is just the informal ramblings of a bunch of guys who have known each other forever.
“I don’t think so. Maybe their wives and girlfriends might be interested.” “Be a shame to let it go. It was always such a fun event.” “Yep, just a day in the park with a sandwich and a motorcycle.” “I guess we can say sayonara to that one.” “Really, sayonara, why?” “Well, Doug had a thing going on with the Park Commission. No one could get it done today. There are meetings to go to, and approvals to get. The whole world has to OK anything that goes on in the park. They would never let us put on another one.” “Why?” “Because they hate motorcycles and would never allow us. Plus you have to get insurance and print flyers and advertise and I think they charge a fee.” “Doug did it; why can’t someone else?” “Who?” “I don’t know, someone?” “Why do we have to organize anything? Why can’t we just show up on the same weekend in October just like always?” “The Park Commission would never allow it. They would have security on us in a hot second.” “Why? We wouldn’t schedule anything. No flyers, no insurance, no one is in charge. By accident, it would just be a coincidence that we all happen to ride our sidecars to Griffith Park on the same day.” “That would never work. They would kick us out.” “Why? We would be licensed and insured, street legal, park legal, eat our sandwiches, keep all the crumbs on a blanket and haul out our garbage. What’s the problem? The park is there for anyone to show up and have a picnic. We are no different than anyone else.” “If we did that, how would anyone know when to show up?” “Word of mouth. Ten of us tell 10 and they tell another 10. That’s what social media is for.” “Yeah, that is why Egypt and China cut off Facebook when there was a rebellion brewing.” “We are not a rebellion; we are just some guys who want to bring our women and our motorcycles to the park for a picnic.” “You’ll never get it to be as big as it was last year. Last year there were over 200 rigs.” “And coffee trucks and vendors and a mess of walk-ins and tourists.” “I don’t care about that. I liked it better when there were 30 of us and we all knew each other. What do I care about vendors or a roach coach? I don’t want to buy anything and I can bring my own sandwich.” “Yeah, me too. So 20 bikes show up, so? Maybe next year 30. So what. At least we can ride in the park and see each other at a run instead of meeting at funerals.” “It will never work. They will get wind of it and throw us out.” “Get wind of what?” “I say if I want to ride my sidecar rig to Griffith Park on the second Sunday of October and have a picnic I will. If anyone else wants to… great. I might even bring an extra apple to trade for a Coke.” “They’d still kick us out.” “No they won’t; we’re legal. I can remember in the 60’s, everyone used to just show up in the park and listen to the conga drums and guitars. A hundred people sat around and laughed and met each other, danced and enjoyed the jam session. No one scheduled it with the Park Commission, there were no flyers and no one got event insurance. It was just a day in the park.” “Well these aren’t the 60’s. This is today and everything is different today. We think differently today.” “And that is the problem. We’ve got to stop thinking like today’s thinking, being pessimistic and negative, talking about liability insurance, flyers and vendors. That kind of thinking has screwed up half the bike runs in the country, turned gypsy riding rallies into parking lot shopping malls. Wouldn’t you rather think like we used to 50 years ago when everything was legal and we had some courage? Hell, if Doug had thought like this there would never have been the first Sidecar Picnic.”
The conversation continued for another hour. Nothing was resolved.
Come this October there may or may not be another official Sidecar Picnic in Griffith Park; who knows? But, odds are that there will be at least a couple of sidecar people there to enjoy a sandwich, a cup of coffee and have a nap on the lawn.
If Doug had listened to our conversation, I wonder what he would have thought.