Every year towards the end of summer, the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts of Seattle, Washington, put on the Northwest's greatest old-bike event, and one of the greatest in the country; The Isle of Vashon TT. This classic motorcycle event, which is a combination of bike-show, rally, tour, competition, and party, is also a tribute to the world's oldest motorcycle road-race, the Isle of Man TT. This is NOT a race.
The Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts, also known as VME, is the Northwest's premiere vintage motorcycle collector and enthusiast's club. The club is dedicated towards the promotion of motorcycle safety and awareness, as well as the preservation, restoration, and enjoyment of classic motorcycles from the past and present. The VME founded their club in Seattle in 1982, a year before Triumph rolled their last Bonneville off the assembly line in Meriden, England, and Honda unveiled their first V45 Interceptor 750. Ron Haslam, father of current World Superbike Racer Leon Haslam, scored his first Isle of Man TT victory in the 1982 Formula One race, and Joey Dunlop placed second. Eddie Lawson won consecutive AMA Superbike Championships in '81 and '82 on the Muzzy Kawasaki Z1R. In 1982, Fast Freddie Spencer, King Kenny Roberts, Barry Sheene MBE, Randy Mamola, and Marco Lucchinelli all raced 500cc two strokes in Gran Prix Motorcycle competition, but couldn't keep up with Franco Uncini, the 1982 Gran Prix Champion.
Anyone who has ever ridden a motorcycle across Europe or England to get to the Isle of Man for the Tourist Trophy event knows that the party starts at the beginning of journey. Motorcyclists who share the enthusiasm for vintage bikes will travel from all of the western states and provinces to get to one of the three ferry-docks which will deliver them to The Isle of Vashon. My friends and I have managed to stretch the 200 mile distance from Portland into a 300 mile scenic tour. Upon arrival, you'll find dozens of motorcycles parked in que waiting to board the ferry. Excitement, laughter and comradery start to kick in as we ride our motorcycles down the ramp and on to the ferry deck. If there is any space left on the boat, autos and lorries may come aboard after all of the bikes are in place.
When the ferry lands, all of the motorcycles are granted to disembark first. We storm the beach, and race up the ramp in a pack to head for the main street in downtown Vashon. We find downtown with hundreds of classic and vintage motorcycles lined up and parked along both sides of Main Street. All nations are represented and you'll be sure to see the most well-known brands from England, Europe, Japan, and America, as well as from India, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Russia, Spain, and France. You'll see several bikes that are a full century old, and older. You'll see brand names you've never heard of before, as well as names that our legendary in some of our minds, which we finally get to see in real life for the very first time! None of these collectibles are trailer queens or for display purposes only. They were all ridden from their homes, to the ferries, and to the Isle.
As riders register and sign up for the poker run, we buy t-shirts and souvenirs, and throw darts to mark our first card in the poker game. This is NOT a race. The poker run takes us on a 37 mile Tour of the Isle, the same length as the Isle Of Man TT course. The Tour takes us through forests and orchards, along the beach and the bay, up the mountain, down to the marina, and finally to The Sportsman's Club. This is NOT a race. There are five stops along the way, giving us the opportunity to draw five cards for a poker hand. Each stop offers the chance to catch up with friends, enjoy a cold refreshment, look at collectible motorcycles, and take lots of photos.
At The Sportsman's Club, we can see the beautiful and rare bikes which the Tourists rode in on, and the classic bikes entered in the show, and vote for our favorites. We have lunch of grilled hamburgers, sausages, and corn on the cob. Next, to the competition and silly motorcycle games! There's the slow race, kick-start race, Australian Pursuit, and others. Any enthusiast who showed up on a vintage bike may enter and battle to win a prize.
Finally, we gather to split the winnings. There are prizes for the best poker-hand, as well as the worst, and many in-between. There are drawings and raffles, and trophies for the champion competitors.
The more local Tourists from the Seattle and Tacoma areas will head for home at the end of the day, standing in que with hundreds of other enthusiasts and their vintage motorcycles, waiting for the ferry to the mainland. We riders who traveled some distance would stay the night on the Isle and take a long, scenic tour back home the next day.
The Isle of Vashon TT is restricted to members of the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts and their invited guests. The exact date is published in their members' newsletter. Ownership of a vintage motorcycle is not required for membership, but "enthusiasm for vintage motorcycles" is required. You can get more info about joining the VME
Ride long and prosper.
Paul Andor Nagy