Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's in a name?

Don Quixote by Pablo Picasso

I will freely admit that I am neither a writer nor a literary intellectual and came up with the name for this blog as a bit of a lark. Rocinante is of course the name of my Norton Model 7. It came about as a result of my wonderful wife describing the motorcycle as my "sculpture in the garage" in that at least until recently it was stationary, took up space, and was buffed admiringly. Like all art, it deserved a name and the rest is history. At this point a disclaimer should immediately follow in the event my wife should happen to read this. Kate completely supports my hobby and embodies the noblest of vintage motorcyclist attributes. For both Kate and I, the true artistry is seeing those old bikes run.

 Steinbeck, Charley, and Rocinante taking a breather

I make no pretense to originality in using Rocinante to name both my bike and this blog. There are numerous literary, cinematographic, and musical references to Rocinante, Don Quixote's resolute and faithful horse. The most notable of these references is by John Steinbeck in his travelogue Travels with Charley wriiten in 1960. Steinbeck, Charley his poodle, and Rocinante the pickup/camper combo traveled all over the United States in an epic journey meant to pay homage to the country he loved before he died.

Any allusion to Cervantes' Don Quixote is ambitious considering the complexity of the novel. At its most superficial level it appears that Rocinante comes from the fusion of rocin meaning "nag" and ante which is latin for "before". It describes the fantastic transformation of a humble workhorse to noble steed which makes for a striking parallel to the restoration of a vintage motorcycle.  I should say that my Rocinante still has a bit of transforming to go!

Monument to Cervantes in Madrid

Finally, the allusion to Don Quixote describes my relationship to vintage motorcycling namely in terms of  what scholars may describe as naive idealism. I don't think I am alone in saying that I am not only attracted to the hobby for the bikes but also the period of history in which they were built. In an age where technology invades nearly all aspects of life, it's refreshing to work on a purely mechanical contraption and the simpler life associated with the era in which it was produced. Clearly, that craving has spurred a renewed interest in the "good ol' days" characterized by the resurgence of the Ace Cafe, Bonneville, hot rods, as well as the numerous print and online publications supporting the vintage motor world.

Rockers at the Ace

In spite of the idealism, the reality is that vintage motorcycling has provided a multitude of oppotunities to learn new things and meet new people. It is definitely what makes the hobby special.

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