It was a great day last Saturday as I joined some buddies on a trip to Birmingham, Alabama. Essentially, we were there to go to the International House of Pancakes for breakfast, but we also took in a side stop at The Briary and I went on to the Barber Motorcycle Museum.
The Briary was hosting their annual event day with handmade pipes, assorted tobaccos, fine cigars and all the smoking accessories you could ever possibly want. There was a lively crowd there, about as lively as pipe smokers can get, and they had food and drinks, a pipe smoking contest and a man carving pipes on the front porch. I bought some pipe tobacco and hunkered down in one of the rocking chairs on the porch.
Afterwards I went over to the Barber Motorcycle Museum, purportedly the largest motorcycle museum in the world. They have over 1200 vintage and modern motorcycles there; bikes from the 1890’s up to today’s time. Amazing. I was captivated by the look of the old World War 2 Harleys and BMW’s. Still, my favorite was the legendary Vincent Black Shadow. It was the second Vincent motorcycle I’d seen close up. The first one, strangely enough, was a Vincent Black Lightening that I saw parked at a McDonalds in Newry, Northern Ireland when I was stopping with a van load of young baseball players coming back from a match in Dublin. The Lightening became famous for the Rollie Free photo
as well as from the song by Richard Thompson 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
In the motorcycle photo above, in 1948 to set the American speed record of 150.313 mph (241.905 km/h) Free was wearing only a Speedo bathing suit, a shower cap and some sneakers.
The Black Shadow was also famous for its speed. In 1952 one of them set a six hour world speed record at traveling over 100 miles per hour. That bike recently sold at auction in 2013 for a measly £113,500 (roughly $175,000).
The late journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote: “If you rode the Black Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost certainly die.”