A Long Road
by Tim Lovell
The story of a promise, good friends, and a way to keep them in your heart even when they leave you.
Editors note… Anne and I met Tim on a trip over to Vancouver Island. This was one of those
rare summer trips on the ferry where we were in the car because we had our big 120 pound dog
with us. However, there are always interesting bikes and riders on the ferry so we decided to
walk the car deck and see what was travelling that day. This is when we met the author
of this article, Tim Lovell. His 1979 Ducati looked better than new, and Tim’s enthusiasm for
classic bikes and rebuilds was inspiring. I am really glad that Tim sent us this article on his
rebuild and the interesting people behind it. I encourage you to check out his links following as
the man is a real artist/restoration specialist whose work will both fascinate you and get you
dreaming of your own projects to start….Mark DT moderator of Farkle My Ride
When I was about twenty one, I was living in Calgary enjoying my misspent youth riding motorcycles at unlawful speeds, drinking away a weekend or two and just indulging in a life of few responsibilities and a lot of spare time. One of those vacant weekends was populated with a brilliant idea. A few of my buddies and I had decided that we would spend a Saturday riding our bikes down to Montana to pick up a six pack of Coors each.
The plan was for all of us to meet at eight a.m. sharp, at a local shopping mall parking lot before we headed south on our adventure. Of course, punctual and twenty one is an inherent contradiction in terms, and so when my friend and I arrived at the mall, there was no sign of the rest of our contingent. So we laid around in the parking lot warming ourselves on that crisp spring morning as our black leathers absorbed the suns heat like a sponge.
A few minutes later something was to enter into my life that was to change its very direction and in time introduce me to some of the people, that to this day, I call my friends. I heard it before I saw it, the sound of a big air cooled twin breathing out through a set of Conti pipes. The once still air vibrating with that sound. One, that to this day, turns my head just so I can hear it better. The bike charged across the empty parking lot straight towards us. Its owner oblivious to the markings on the road or for that matter the rules. It then hauled itself to a magnificent stop only a few feet in front of me. It was a beautiful black and gold Ducati 900SD Dharma. As it sat there idling I could feel each pulse of that big twin cylinder engine in my chest. It was as alive, just as much as you or me. The gold rims and chrome pipes gleamed in the morning sun. It was like seeing the first girl that you fell in love with. I could only stand there and stare, I was unable to utter a single word, I was in love! At that moment I heard a voice inside my head say, ” One day I was going to own a Ducati just like that”.
Many years had passed between the day I made that promise to myself, and the next part of this story. I had spent seven years travelling from one side of the continent to the other as a mechanic on a motorcycle road race team. All the while holding down a full time job. I was now married, I had bought a house and was the father of two girls. I had sold the last bastion of my single life, a Yamaha RZ500 to a friend named Reggie, just so I could buy some carpet for
the house. How times had changed. I made Reggie promise me that if he ever wanted to sell the bike that I would have first crack at buying it back. I realize now, that I was trying to hang on to a way of life that held a few less responsibilities, and that the Yamaha was my last physical connection to it.
About two years after the sale of the bike I got a call from Reggie. He asked me if I would like to buy back what was left of the Yamaha. It seems that he had been lane splitting and someone had cleaned him off the bike when they changed lanes without the benefit of a shoulder check. Reggie was banged up a little, but the bike has suffered a much worse fate. After giving me a full report on the condition of my old bike I declined to take it back. I think Reggie felt a little guilty about the fact that my old ride was no longer what I remembered. Then he piped up that he had a 1977 Ducati 900 GTS for sale. The motor was ruined but the bike was all there, but in a decidedly unloved condition. At that very moment I remembered the promise I had made myself in that parking lot all those years ago. Somehow I knew that this was going to be my opportunity to fulfill it. I asked him a few more questions about his bike and to send me a few photos, but nothing could truly describe the sad state of affairs of what I was about to pay $1500.00 dollars for. As a friend of mine said after seeing the bike, ‘ I wouldn’t give you five bucks to drag that thing off my front lawn!”
Several years later and I was now divorced, living in a condo with absolutely nowhere to even contemplate the rebuild of the bike. It would languish in the carport for years while I got on with the pressing responsibilities of the day. Then, while sitting in the dentist chair of my good friend John, he mentioned to me that he had another patient who was an avid motorcycle enthusiast. He told me he was a Lutheran minister who built choppers as a hobby. John was sure that he and I would have something in common and that we should meet. At that moment I could not
imagine having anything in common with a man of the cloth, let alone one who likes his bikes stretched out. But John is the type of friend who seems to know what is best for you even when you don’t. And at his insistence, he arranged for the exchange of our phone numbers and addresses.
Matt was nothing that I had expected, but more than I could ever hope for in a friend. He was living in the basement suite of a little house in east Vancouver while going to university. The house was owned by an Italian lady named Angelina who at the age of 83 had spent over forty years in Canada and knew about as many words in English. Little did I know that both of these people where about to change my life again and help me keep the promise I had made so many years ago.
It was only after a few weeks of my first meeting Matt, that he made me an incredibly generous offer. He had use of the little garage in the back of Angelina’s house and he asked if I would like to split the space between the two of us. I knew that this was a great opportunity. The garage was small and there was no electricity save and except the extension cord that you had to plug into the house and run out to the garage, but it was a chance to start the restoration. I agreed right away, but this was Angelina’s house, and it was her garage. I also needed to make a deal
with her. We agreed that I would pay her a couple hundred dollars a year and cut her grass all year long and dig up her vegetable garden every spring in exchange for the use garage.
Over the next three years, the restoration process very slowly and meticulously proceeded. I still had the responsibilities of being a father and that always came first. Money was tight and I had to save for parts out of the family budget. I spent many late nights, sometimes until three in the morning and occasionally until sunrise putting the wrenches to the old girl. Once or twice the Vancouver Police Department made an appearance just to see what fool was pulling an all night session in the garage and made polite inquiries as to when work was going to cease for the sake of peace in the neighborhood.
In those years Angelina managed to teach me a few words of Italian, introduced me to her friends as well as feeding me during my many late nights in her garage. After three years, and on what was a beautiful sunny day in April, I finally pushed the bike out of the garage and into the world. At that moment a man came running out of his house and yelled at me ‘”Is it done?” I had no idea who he was, I found out later that he had been watching me for those three years dragging in parts and working late into the night on my creation. I realized then, that I had become a sort of fixture on Penticton Street. To me that was as much of an accomplishment as building the bike.
Everyone on that street knew Angelina and everyone looked out for her. And somewhere in those three years I decided that my bike would be named after her. It is my humble tribute to her, and I now proudly carry her name on my Ducati.
A WAY TO KEEP THEM IN YOUR HEART EVEN WHEN THEY LEAVE YOU
Angelina passed away last year in what was her ninetieth year. My good friend Matt and I built our bikes with our own hands in her little garage, and both of us where fortunate enough to have her in our lives. Matt has planned a tribute to her on her birthday. We will ride up to the cemetery on the bikes that we built and pay our respects. Then we will stretch the legs on those two beautiful yellow bikes and head down to Commercial Drive for a drink in her memory. Even today, if I am in passing by her old neighborhood, I will drive down Penticton Street and slow down as I go by her house and remember how special all those years where.
The night Mark and Anne, the editors of this site and I met, I was on the ferry going to the island to visit my father. He is in his seventy fifth year and he has cancer, this will be his forth bout with the disease and his last. I have decided to name my next build, a 1975 860 GT, built as a street fighter with a Bonneville Salt Flats racer look after my dad, it will be called ‘POPS’. I find myself in what some might see as dark and sad situation, and sometimes it is. But in the
end I am going to have some of my bikes named after people in my life who have either left or who are leaving me. And I cannot think of a greater way to keep them in my heart or to show my appreciation than to build something with my own hands and name it after them.
To the people on Penticton Street, to John, Matt and Angelina, and to everyone who played a part in my little adventure. I thank you all for making it as memorable and as special as it is.
Thank you Tim for sharing your amazing story with us. If you would like to see more of Tim Lovell’s work, please visit his website: