The headline for a story on an online news site belonging to RevZilla, a motorcycle parts and accessories purveyor, reads, “Vintage Motorcycle Available, Needs Restoration.” Further down, the writer of the piece opines, “Looks like it needs a new front wheel and the paint’s a little faded, but all the parts are there for a full restoration.” Well, that might be a bit of an overstatement based on photos of the bike.
On July 20, 1977, the western Pennsylvania city of Johnstown experienced a major flood which decimated the area, destroying dams, houses and belongings and taking 41 lives. Johnstown resident John Vitalie lost several motorcycles from a shed that washed away from the floodwaters.
This past July, 39 years after the flood, maintenance workers in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, were working on a river culvert project when they unearthed the Yamaha 200 about five feet below the surface. Amazingly, the construction crew had some idea of who the bike belonged to. The local PennDOT field office is right across the street from Vitalie’s home, just a few blocks from the construction site, and Vitale had previously told the workmen that he’d lost motorcycles in the flood nearly four decades ago.
The PennDOT inspector on the project ran over to Vitalie, who just happened to be walking his dog near the construction site, and brought him to look at the excavation. Sure enough, it was Vitalie’s bike. It appears, though, that Vitalie does not want the bike back. He commented, “I took pictures of it; that’s enough.”