Pilgrim at Gus Miller's 22nd Annual Meet at Pontiac, Illinois
Just two weeks after the overwhelming Davenport AMCA Meet, it was great to get things back into perspective with a relaxing afternoon under a canopy of great oaks in the company of machines less affected by the rising tide of popularity.
Pontiac is a healthy town on the Illinois prairie just forty miles from my shop by back roads. Leaving my river valley hometown on a perfectly cloudless morn (most unusual for Illinois!), I rolled south through the rolling hollows and bluffs a dozen miles and cut through sleepy little Washburn, the only town I would enter on the way. A sidestreet off of the highway takes me to a smooth blacktop that heads due east for a third of the way across the flatlands: Miles of corn and beans broken only by an occasional farmhouse, often abandoned, or gravel lane. Hardly monotonous, however, as redtailed hawks were territorily spaced along the telephone wires waiting for prey to be flushed by combines in the fields. Blackbirds were just beginning to assemble into long strings that undulated through the blue like dragons, and the bright sunlight showed the earliest turning of the leaves. My motor seemed a little more responsive than usual, and found out why as I took a southward jog. Corn husks and leaves scat across the pavement infront of me like scared squirrels, as there was a steady wind from the west that wouldn't leave my hat in place. So the last eastward leg of twenty miles of two-lane were indeed, a breeze!
It was good as always to greet Gus at the park gate; The saddlebags on my rat were obtained from him at his first meet (held then in Farmer City, Ill.), now twenty-two years past. His Meets prospered for many years, and usually I never got a chance to chat, as he was usually cooking chops or something. But over the last several years interest has dwindled, and vendors have evaporated into a few novelty and food booths. So now it is an event to ride to, rather than to wheel and deal; About two hundred machines were parked about as I arrived, mostly late models from places like Peoria and Chicago.
The baseball diamond was the showgrounds, and about three dozen machines were displayed, ranging from modern cruisers to a Marsh-Metz. The judging is quite informal, as there are alway more than enough trophies to go around! Gus always pulls out many of his collection for fun at this event, and emptied a good can of ether firing many of them up. (You could tell which bikes were his because all of the aircleaners were off; Two years ago I had to put out a VL carb blaze with a precious bock!)
Most impressive on the field was Steve Vanmeter's 348 sidecar rig, (complete with the original prototype Cycle Electric 12v converson on it, which I need back soon for my 334 project.)
Gus's own hack was apparently most comfortable, as his Native American passenger never budged. And he likes his Chiefs well dressed, except for windshields (and maybe aircleaners). See pictures below
His 641 has some modern aspects that surely help it get with the program, like the quickthrottle, alloy rims, and a seat that won't let you slip off the shiny Brit fender.
But beyond all doubt, the show stopper was his "Eagle Scout", with it's radical frame and unique milwaukie oiltank adaptation. Note the seamless flexible exhaust carefully wrapped under the Indian kicker hardware. Obviously this is a competion machine, as the headlamp has been removed.
The wind had subsided, and there still
wasn't a cloud in the sky, just as if it really wasn't Illinois. Not one
piece of Springfield hardware was to be photographed in the swap area,
so after one of Rosebud and Cheech's fabulous Chimmichangas with the extra
hot salsa, I strapped my Rat Class trophy behind my windshield and set
my hatbrim low against the sun for my westerly return home across the Illinois
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