The Charlie Bravo Story

The Story of the Sidecar

Dad here; the dream of having a sidecar predates Charlie by a few years; it all started when we got involved with Special Olympics. Every May we join hundreds of other motorcyclists in a ride to Searcy, AR to celebrate the opning ceremonies of the Summer Games; everyone lines their bikes up in two long rows and the special athletes march the gauntlet of revving engines and cheering crowds en route to their seats in the stadium. The bikes then do laps on the track, the crowd going berserk as the torch is lit, bands playing, military flyovers, etc. There is literally nothing like it; if i had to choose between all the rides I do in a given year and this one ride, everyone who knows me knows exactly which I would choose, without a second’s hesitation. We have been told that we should charge admission to watch our shenanigans, as we hold absolutely nothing back; the energy is so intense that some participants can’t handle the raw emotion, and I’m talking about the cyclists, not the athletes. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I usually (actually always) make a complete and total jackass of myself; this whole spectacle is happening again on May 26th, and it will be a party of epic proportions.

It has always been a dream to have a sidecar set up to take these kids for rides, and Charlie’s story was the catalyst to get the project started, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into; there’s a reason why these things are generally piloted by quirky people, as they are a breed apart, all of the drawbacks of both a car and motorcycle with none of the attributes. They don’t lean, they’re almost impossible to find parts, they’re ridiculously expensive when you do, and they’re extremely tiring to pilot over long distances. So why would you want one, you ask? as everyone knows, the cool factor is off of the charts, so I had to give it a shot. I traded my 1989 Honda CB1 for a Moto Guzzi Jackal, and the headache began.

I finally finished it a couple of months ago and (stupidly) took it out for a test ride; with a side car rig, it’s all about ballast, how much weight is in the tub. I refused to listen to the wisdom of my elders(how hard can this be, right? I’m the MAN!) Left turns aren’t a problem, as the centrifugal force pushes the hack into the ground, but right turns are where it gets REAL interesting, as on right hand turns the same forces push the bike to the left causing the car to lift in a maneuver known as “flying the car”. The accuracy of this term was wasted on me until the instant I found myself looking into my empty tub, the only problem being it was at eye level; another interesting phenomena is that when the car lifts, it pushes the bike to the left, an area usually occupied by oncoming traffic. Somehow I managed to get the beast back on the ground, with the only damage to the bike being the chunk of foam I tore from the seat with my butt cheeks.

Suitably chastised, I limped humbly home. I added ballast in the form of two bags of sand and made more attempts, the results being slightly better, but it made me think: do I want to pilot this thing all over the southwest as was my original plan? Sure, I could get used to it, just as I’m sure that you could get used to a hot stove if you sat on it long enough, so when I found the ST1300 and began to see the possibilities of mounting Charlie’s crate, I had to make a choice. As I put the “D” in ADD, I doubted that I would ever invest the time to properly learn to pilot the rig safely, especially with precious cargo like Charlie or, more importantly, those special needs kids, so I offered the rig for sale on ADVrider.com and did some horse trading for the big Honda.

A fellow inmate saw the deal and jumped on it, sending me a check to secure the deal until he could ride his BMW down from Newyorkistan; the plan was to ride the Guzzi home, and have his Beemer shipped at a later date. Now, this guy is no greenhorn, tens of thousands of miles under his belt, ex military, 27 years combat experience, motorcycle safety instructor and possessor of one of the finest handlebar mustaches know to man; if anyone could handle a sidecar, this would be the guy. Even so, I STRONGLY encouraged him to at least disconnect the tub and have it shipped home along with his BMW if he just had to ride the Guzzi; but he was determined to at least make the attempt. He showed up at the Casa two days before Charlie and I were to head west towards Utah, an absolutely fantastic guy, and wanted to take the rig for a test ride. Knowing the issues concerning the ballast, I figured the least I could do was get in the car and contribute my (considerable) weight to the endeavor.

So picture this: two middle aged guys on a bike they have no clear idea how to pilot, the driver sporting a mustache worthy of a silent movie villain as we went careening through the countryside south of the Casa, and guess what? it was a BLAST! He began to find his mojo, and I began to find mine, both of us working together, leaning hard into and sling-shotting out of turns, other drivers gawking at the two goobers in the Guzzi. I began having serious doubts about my decision to sell the rig when I noticed the Snidely Whiplash was getting a little liberal with the throttle. About the time I started to say something, the front tire broke traction and we slid across oncoming traffic, bouncing through a ditch and crashing through the trees, eventually sliding to a stop when the bike high centered on a vacated gopher mound.

It was AWESOME!!!

No broken body parts, and very little damage to either the bike or the sidecar,just some twisted linkage, so all was well with the world, except we had an un-rideable rig, and I had left my phone at home. I had to use his to call mom to bring my tool box and maybe even the trailer; she saw the New York area code and assumed that it was a pesky telemarketer, so I had to end up calling Zach to bring his truck. The buyer was concerned that mom was going to be upset; I reminded him that this was the Casa del Whackos he was dealing with, and episodes such as this are simply a fact of life.

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He wisely decided to ride his BMW back home and departed the next morning after spending the night in the posh guest quarters of the Casa (Zach’s old bedroom, on a futon; hey, beggars can’t be choosers, right?). He arranged to have the bike picked up, and that’s where you would expect the story to end, but you would be wrong. The duo that arrived to transport the bike back north must have just arrived in the states from Mother Russia, as the driver couldn’t speak a word of English and his partner didn’t know a thing about driving a truck; Ivan was actually wearing a black and white striped shirt that you would expect to see on a Soviet submarine. They turned out too be a great couple of guys, and after a couple of hours of exaggerated hand gestures(why does everyone think that talking slowly and loudly makes them more understandable?), we got the bike loaded and on it’s way.

So there you have it; how I decided to awake from the sidecar dream and enlist the services of either Miss Ellie or the ST1300 on the next Chargasmic expedition.

or you never can tell what we might end up with; this IS the Casa del Whackos!

Join the discussion

  1. Jan Davis

    I can picture it all..dad your crazy, love it.

  2. Ruth Thornton-Thayer

    Great story, I don’t know why but my mind keeps flashing back to the part where you ripped the foam with your cheeks!! I must need alot of sleep!!

  3. Fran Scott

    CB, Dad and Mustache Guy could hire out as stunt drivers in the next Big Action Movie 🙂 Funniest story yet about Life at the Casa!

  4. Kristine Kiser

    I can’t stop the visuals…..!!!!

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