Iron Horses and Steel Birds Advance Along the California Front
Words by Dana Franklin Welch
Photos courtesy of Lyon Air Museum
240619AUG19, Orange County, California: Daybreak on the flight line next to the Lyon Air Museum at John Wayne Airport (SNA). A glint of sun dances off the highly polished aluminum of the museum’s North American T-6 Texan, a WWII-era single-engined advanced trainer aircraft used extensively by the USAAF, USAAC, and USAF up until the Vietnam War. It was also used by a laundry list of sovereign states across the globe, including by the Syrians, Israelis, Greeks, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Argentinians and Pakistanis.
At 1200 hours, operations will be complete and the winner of the people’s choice bike show will be strapped into the rear seat of the plane. The engine will start and the prop will spin, racing down the tarmac until it lifts and the bird soars to the blue skies, giving the winner a ride of a lifetime.
0700 hours: The morning is beginning to warm. Several hundred riders from Southern California have returned from their nighttime incursions. They are drinking coffee and having chow in the mess hall.
0715 hours: The riders have rolled out their rides into the sun and are taking off their rucksacks and organizing the things they carry. Polish, cleaner, clothes and all the essentials to keep their machines clean, operational and ready for action.
By 0730 hours, the cavalry has arrived without incident. Squadrons from Orange County Harley-Davidson, Ducati of Newport Beach, OC Motorcycle, Triumph Classic Motorcycles, Irv Seaver BMW, Kawasaki Motor Corps USA and specialists from The Warrior Foundation of San Diego, arrive with tents and banners.
As the cavalry digs in at 0735 hours, battalions of Eagle Riders move into position. The Eagle Riders are an elite group of motorcyclists from the Fraternal Order of Eagles. Ranks are filled with men and women who promote the Order’s causes. They are involved in aerie and auxiliary functions, fundraisers and local, state and national charities supported by the Fraternity.
At 0800 hours, Ducati of Newport Beach serves coffee and donuts to the Eagle Riders, instantaneously boosting moral. Newport’s offering has been a steadfast tradition since bikes and bombers first allied.
Lyon Air has several docents when the museum is open during special events like this one, and they were busy directing convoys into the parking area. Lyon Admirals Marcus, Corrin and Jade were at the ready and advanced planning made them well-equipped to handle any obstacles.
By 0900 hours, private citizens and personnel fraternized with each other, taking part in the free outside activities. Those interested in entering the museum had to levy a small military tax. Inside, patrons were treated to a world-class showcase of historic aircraft and vintage automobiles. A delegation of dignitaries put on a special “Celebrazione Ferrari” exhibit, displaying twelve iconic examples of the legendary Italian automobile manufacturer, recognized around the globe for its strength, speed and stealth ability.
World War II re-enactors were standing guard around the premises, wearing vintage regalia and displaying weapons and gear from both the Allied and German forces.
At 1000 hours, President Mark Foster of Lyon Air and rear admiral, led a detailed inspection with United Nations attendees, flagging the top bikes for the people’s choice show. It was a triumphant thing to see, like when in 1944 MacArthur waded ashore onto the Philippine island of Leyte, declaring, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!” after the Japanese occupation ended.
Under President Foster’s command, the UN delegates shortlisted 24 bikes ranging from vintage motorcycles like a 1916 Excelsior with sidecar, to later model customs, choppers and even fold up scooters.
By 1100 hours, the voting commenced. During which President Foster called on the representatives of the cavalry to explain their accolades to the crowd. Private Mike of Ducati of Newport Beach from the southern command post, invited attendees to see the latest spoils secured from the Italian motorcycle icon. Special envoy Jim from OC Motorcycle called attention to the latest Triumph creations built by our steadfast British allies. This included the Thruxton Café, as well as Piaggio and Vespa scooters, MV Augustas and Moto Guzzi.
Lieutenant Stephanie of Orange County Harley-Davidson, the core intel and command hub on the Western seaboard, handed out Livewire posters and gift cards. With Harley’s first all-electric motorcycle in its growing arsenal of tech, viewers were in awe of American dominance.
BMW showed off its sleek German wares and the ninjas from Kawasaki USA presented a vintage 1966 W1 Vertical Twin, which sat alongside the new W800 Café.
Voting closed. Winners were announced at 1130 sharp. Ken Morris with his 1968 BMW R60/2 took third; Don Nichols’ 1916 Excelsior with sidecar took second; and Rich Lewis’ 1965 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide took first. The rest of the candidates were dismissed. The votes were counted in an undisclosed top-secret location. Initial intel shows only minor Russian interference, which security officials deemed a low-level threat.
At 1200 hours, museum veterans Marcus and Cameron assisted Pilot and President Mark Foster in prepping the plane, setting Rich in the rear seat of the T-6 Texan and giving him a rundown of safety protocols and defensive aerial maneuvers. At 1202, President Foster fired up the massive radial engine and taxied away. At 1203, the aircraft roared down the runway and lifted off at take-off power and rolled out to the right, allowing the top of the aircraft to be seen big and bright in the sun. When the plane returned, Rich, victorious, continued to enjoy his spoils.
Bikes and Bombers VIII is now in the logbook, recording the most successful event to date with nearly 500 civilians cheering on the efforts with great pride and patriotism. For Bikes and Bombers IX, scheduled for August 2020, sign up for Mission Briefings at www.lyonairmuseum.org. Blue Skies!