Blind Lizard

Weather: Ahhh… Summer in Minnesota

Blind Lizard and Frogwing
Frogwing bonds with Blind Lizard, aka Tom the Tailor. One of his own kind?

Of course, everybody knows that last Sunday was Father’s Day. Here in Minnesota, we were blessed with sunshine and warmth all day long, and it was a gorgeous day to ride.

That was a good thing, but it almost made me late for Blind Lizard!

Now, The Blind Lizard Motorcycle Club has asked me not to publicize the location of their annual gathering, because the place will not support the kind of huge crowds that show up for First Thursday, and to do so would only ruin it for all of those who have been coming here faithfully, lo these many years. `Nuff said about that.

What I can tell you is that this is a long tradition amongst our motorcycle hippies in and around the Twin Cities, going back to the Seventies. These are not your typical “bikers”, in that they tend to prefer the more exotic sporting machinery from Europe and Japan.

Brit-Bike Class
Some of the finest vintage machinery in the area shows up here.

Popular culture knows them as Cafe Racers, and I once rode proudly amongst their ranks. This is the kind of thing that lives in the blood like a virus, and I’m sure it will flare up in me again one day. I can only hope that my family obligations have been satisfied by then, because this madness comes on strong!

I first caught the Cafe Racer virus in Southern California, in 1988. That was when I first saw a Ducati, just like the one in the photo below, at European Cycle Specialties in Garden Grove.

I photographed it, and kept that picture in my wallet until I could afford my own Ducati 900 SS some years later.

Italian Sass
The original Mike Hailwood Replica… if there can be such a thing.

Take the paint job of the bike above, and apply it to the bike below, and you have a good approximation of Gogo, my 900SS from “Diary of a Cafe Racer”.

Just plain badass...
A modern Cafe Racer; Gogo in a little black dress perhaps?

But the Cafe Racer virus caused me to do Bad Things on public roads. Eventually, that always leads to trouble with The Law. Hello, my name is Gary, and I am an adrenaline junkie.

After that, I bought a KLR and tried to rehabilitate myself. With the help of my little family, I’ve been mostly successful. But oh, these damned things still sing that siren’s song of speed to me, every time I gaze upon them. Some day, I know, I will NEED one again…

Whew! Well, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s talk about how the day unfolded.

Early Sunday morning, I found myself wandering around the house in the dark. I was restless, and my mind just wouldn’t stop chattering about all manner of things that I can’t do anything about right now.

So, I did what I always do when I feel like that; I rode.

Frogwing and I found ourselves in Wisconsin as the sun came up. Nobody else was out yet, and we had the roads to ourselves. County Road This led to Rustic Road That, pavement to dirt to gravel and back.

We put in many miles before looping around to Hudson for refreshments.

At a place called Pudge’s, I met a fellow named Russ, and his friend John Weaver. John is a radio newscaster for Minnesota Public Radio. Russ wasn’t riding on Sunday, but John most definitely was. He had a second-hand Honda CBR 600, and he looked like he knew what to do with it.

We left Pudge’s together, and rode over to his house to ask his wife’s permission (ack!) for him to accompany me to Blind Lizard. When that was granted, we joined the high-speed traffic stream heading for… oh yeah, never mind. I can’t tell you…

By the time we arrived at Blind Lizard, all the T-shirts were sold out, and there was no more anything to eat or drink. It seems that the crowd is already getting too big for them to handle.

At least most of the really cool bikes were still there.

Take the Rickman Metisse in the photo below, for example. I can’t tell you much about it, because the owner was just leaving. I didn’t even get his name. But the fellow on the left is the aforementioned John Weaver, and the fellow on the right, so stylishly attired in his formal gowns of office, is the Dictator for Life of the Twin Cities Norton Owners Club, otherwise known as Greg Meyer. This is a Fairly Dangerous Man with a wrench, and best not left alone with your daughter.

Rickman Metisse
Rickman Metisse Cafe Racer… Wow!

My friend, known around here as “Buster Brown” showed up, as expected.

However, this time it was extraordinary because he had crashed his dirtbike on Saturday, which knocked him out cold for about five minutes and resulted in many contusions, abrasions, and a lacerated kidney.

Apparently, they kept him in hospital all night Saturday, and he showed up at Blind Lizard on Sunday wearing a morphine halo, accompanied by his long-suffering lady, Shelly.

Tres formidable, my friend.

The sounds of exotic engines firing up signalled the end of Blind Lizard for another year. Saying goodbye to all my friends, old and new, I mounted Frogwing and we thumped on out of there.

When traffic backed up at the entrance to… the main road out, Frogwing and I did our signature Off-Road On-Ramp maneuver, and left them all behind with a roostertail of municipal dirt and grass.

Consider it our salute to the Blind Lizard, and all his desciples. See you again next year.

21 Responses to “Blind Lizard”

  1. irondad Says:

    Meeting of Cafe Racers Anonymous:

    Hi, my name’s Gary and I’m an adrenaline junkie.

    Why is it that they call it ——- Anonymous when the first thing they make you do is tell everyone your name?

    I agree, it’s a virus-like affliction that never leaves. I sure don’t want to be cured!

  2. Bill Sommers Says:

    That is Joe Rocket gear you are sporting isn’t it? And a Troy Lee Designs full face helmet? Good stuff my friend. I’ve been thinking of switching from Cordura to reptile skin anyway. I’m sold!
    That looks like the type of run that I’d really enjoy. Good times.

  3. Eric Says:

    Hey Gary, loved the pictures of the old (and new) cafe bikes. Gypsy has been serving me faithfully this year, and I just recently completed a 400 mile loop up the north shore and then up to Ely and back in a day. That was quite a ride, and I even got up close and personal with a moose out in the middle of who-knows where.

    But back to the Cafe racer thing, ever since you got rid of quasimoto I’ve had the itch to do something like that. Just waiting for the right old honda to come along and then I know I’ll be hooked for life.

    But I digress… Great entry again as usual. I sure wish there were events like that up here!

  4. Mad Says:

    I get a Ducati urge now and again too. So far I haven’t given in (I have to remind myself that my little Gilera was just about to give up the ghost after a british winter) but I did find a 748 going really cheap yesterday, it took me hours to talk myself out of it…

  5. Gary Charpentier Says:

    irondad: Maybe they mean “unanimous”?

    Bill: What the heck are you babbling about? (insert smiley face here)
    Is it the guy on the Rickman, or the Blind Lizard? It sure isn’t me… I’m the one behind the camera.

    Eric: Does this mean you are going to finally update your blog? That last entry was so old it was starting to smell bad. As for your Cafe Racer idea, if you are serious, I’m sure I can help you find a project bike. I still have connections in the murky underworld of the perpetually hunched and terminally fast.

    Mad: For guys our age, the 748 riding position means Pain. I know what you mean, however. That’s why so many blokes buy them just to look at.

    Ride well,

  6. Mark Says:


    I’m the guy with the 1971 Rickman. Sorry I had to rush off, but it was getting hot and the Rickman wanted to play some more. It’s powered by a Royal Enfield Series II engine and is one of 130 Rickman Interceptors made. It’s great fun, but the riding position for anyone over 6 feet in height is a bit awkward. Rearsets would be in order, but the bike is all original with only 2400 miles, so I resist the urge to improve the ergonomics.

    I’ve been reading your blog(s) since you launched the Baron in Winter, so it was nice to finally meet you.

    Perhaps we’ll meet on the commute some day.



  7. Tinker Says:

    I’m in love with a Triumph Speed Triple. Not exactly a cafe racer, but an invitation to two wheeled hooliganism. Pictures make it look like 90% engine, 10% chassis. Other than sheer horsepower/torgue, I’m not sure WHAT is so attractive about these things. I guess Sheer Horsepower is enough, right? 5 lbs/horse!

  8. Eric Says:

    Yeah, I updated it a few days ago. Got a ride this Friday and Saturday with an old friend from college so I’ll have some material to put something together next week too.

    And yeah, that entry was so old it was definitely starting to stink up the place!

    As for the cafe racer idea? Yeah, I’m really interested. I’ve kinda been looking for about a year now. Ebay is so evil too… who wants to go 1000 miles to get the perfect fixer upper for $400, but spend another 400 in gas just to do it? :> Anyway, gotta run for now.

    Talk to ya later

  9. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Mark: Thanks for writing in. I met so many new folks on Sunday that it was really hard to remember all the names. That’s why I collect business cards whenever possible. You have a brilliant motorcycle there, and I am definitely jealous. What do you ride on your commute?

    Tinker: I like the Speed Triple too, but I would definitely get in trouble on one of those. Besides that, you just can’t leave a bike like that stock, and farkles cost big-$$$.

    My next cafe racer is going to have to be a classic rocker-bike. Something like Mark’s Rickman, or maybe I’ll build myself a Triton someday. Sure… well, a man’s gotta have his dreams, right?

    Eric: Yes, eBay is evil in so many ways; not the least of which is how it ratcheted up the prices on all the old bikes and parts that we used to have to go looking for. Once we found them, they could usually be had for a bargain. That doesn’t happen much anymore.

    I’ll have to check out your new entry tonight. Oh, and watch your email. I’ve got a ride coming up in your neck of the woods…

    Ride well,

  10. Mark Says:


    My daily ride is an 01 BMW GS. It’s my only modern bike. If you like vintage machines, check out the AMCA event in Farmington this weekend.

    Also, I gave you my card at the Lizard just before leaving. It’s the one from MOTOS D’hier. Rapeller?


  11. Jim C. Says:

    Gary I loved the picture of the Rickman. I had an identical bike, in orange, in 1973. I bought it new in London at Elite Motors, then the largest cycle dealership in the world, and brought it back with me. It was powered by a Royal Enfield 750 engine, and the bike weighed only 365 lbs. Wisconsin would not allow me to have a license for it, so I rode it for 4 years with British plates and title, and avoided the police.
    Rickman also made the same bike as a (highly modified) Triumph eight-valve 683, and sold frames for Honda 750 and Kaw 900 engines.
    I finally traded mine for a Ducati desmo.
    I still have all my Snap-On British standard sockets and wrenches.

    Thanks for bringing back old memories.

    Jim C.
    ‘99 KLR
    ‘01 LC1500

  12. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Mark: Ahhh… oui. Of course. I was wondering where that French card came from. You don’t speak with an accent, you know. Usually I also make some kind of note on the cards I collect. But in this case, I think I was captivated by your bike.

    I will be at the show in Farmington on Friday night, with my camera, and taking notes. You will see that here.

    Jim: Thanks for writing in. The light weight of those bikes, combined with the incredible chassis, must make for one sweet ride.

    You know, there was one other bike there that really impressed me. But I am going to get together with the owner someday soon, and do an entire blog entry on it. Here’s a hint: bodywork by Evan Wilcox.

    This is turning into a wonderful Summer.

    Ride well,

  13. Dave Eakin Says:

    “My next cafe racer is going to have to be a classic rocker-bike. Something like Mark’s Rickman, or maybe I’ll build myself a Triton someday. Sure… well, a man’s gotta have his dreams, right?”

    Gary – keep on the lookout for an early 83-84 (up to 89 in Canada) Suzuki Tempter (GR650X) for a good starting point. Air-cooled, vertical twin, DOHC, 650cc, mono-shock in the rear, spoke wheels. Only bad thing about it was the marginal front disk brake (and drum rear); but maybe a front-end swap?

  14. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Dave: That’s one I had never even considered. I think it flew under my radar because of the silly name, and the fact that I was looking at more exotic machinery at the time. A project like that might actually fit my budget someday. I’ll look into it. Thank you.

    Ride well,

  15. seagullplayer Says:

    Cool bikes.
    Still reading, just not talking much.
    Keep up the good work.
    Will need to see pics of the new scoot.

    Rubber Down

  16. Steve Williams Says:

    Where are the pictures of the vintage Vespa’s and Lambretta’s?

    Our local Vespa/Ducati dealer recently had a track day. I was in the shop when a young guy drove up on a new Ducati. I’m standing there in my riding gear and the guy asks the owner how track day went.

    The owner groans and points to me and says “Well, it would have been better if that son of a B didn’t run so fast and embarass everyone.” I’m game for the story and just stand there deadpan until the guy asks what I rode. I told him I run a modified Vespa, not as fast as the Ducati’s and other sportbikes on the straight aways but I was able to out distance everyone on the turns.

    This guy’s jaw drops and he just stares and I walk out the door. As far as I know that poor boy thinks a Vespa outdid his own poor kind…..

    Nice photos of the bikes. You guys have a lot more bike action up your way than we do here. Or maybe they don’t tell me about it…


  17. Gary Charpentier Says:

    SGP: Pics will be forthcoming, as soon as I actually take delivery of “my” new scoot. Right now, as in today, I’m riding another development mule. It’s yellow. No photos. The horror, the horror…

    Steve: There were a couple vintage scoots around, but they weren’t in the best shape. Since my space for photos is limited, I had to pick and choose. I’m afraid it’s going to be the same with my next post.

    The problem stems from my run-in and subsequent banishment from any activity involving the local “scooterati” and their vintage, traditional scooters. They have no use for me, I have no use for them. That has a nice balance to it. Besides, you are representing the Vespa brand just fine. You sure don’t need my help.

    Great films on your site, BTW. I’ve just been too busy to comment.

    Ride well,

  18. Jim C. Says:

    Gary Charpentier Says:
    You know, there was one other bike there that really impressed me. But I am going to get together with the owner someday soon, and do an entire blog entry on it. Here’s a hint: bodywork by Evan Wilcox

    You didn’t mention the bike, but if it’s by Evan Wilcox, then it’s most definitely aluminum, and most likely British.

  19. Rob Irvin Says:

    I saw my first ducati at the garden grove shop,I believe it was an 851,sporting the colors,the most beautifull bike I believe I ever saw.Am now building my 900 SS to replicate it.

  20. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Rob: An 851 Tricolore? Nice. Are you having your SS painted too?

    That is what I did, back in 1997 or so, to my own 900SS. After I crashed it in turn one at Brainerd (The fastest turn on any road course in North America) I put on the Powerbronze dual-headlight fairing on it, with Sharkskinz tail piece and side panels, and had it painted in the Tricolore scheme. I didn’t have a digital camera back then, so I only have a couple of dusty old prints of it. I will have to get one of them scanned someday. It truly was a gorgeous motorcycle.

    Why, oh why do we ever sell these things?

    Ride well,

  21. Chris Says:

    Great looking cafes! I especially like the vintage ones, sounds like a pretty great event.