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One Good Run

Entry 276, on 2006-01-30 at 15:19:33 (Rating 1, Comments)

He was a joke, and that should have been the end of it. But it wasn't. Somehow he had permission to run his motorcycle in front of a carload of officials - who would presumably putter along behind until they'd seen enough to order him off the salt.

There was something spooky about the way he stood beside his red goldfish-shaped machine, one hand resting on its dull flank as if it were alive and in need of reassurance.

And then he was climbing into it, or onto it, with his back sticking out of the top like the goldfish's fin breaking the surface. A team of like-minded misfits was preparing to give him a push start while he yelled instructions at them in some incomprehensible patois. They should have known better than to encourage such stupidity. It was bound to end badly, and when it did they would be at least partially responsible.

And then he was off, his helpers pushing like maniacs until the thing suddenly caught with an unholy racket and leaped away like the demented fish it so resembled, leaving one of the pushers sprawled on his face in the Bonneville salt. The car full of officials was off after it, accelerating hard to catch up with the red machine until both car and bike settled at about ninety miles per hour, running smoothly across the shimmering salt.

The machine was obviously a bit faster than might have been gathered by looking at it at repose. The officials nodded their Stetsons at each other and agreed that, surprisingly enough, everything seemed under control... when suddenly the red oval in front lurched while its rider groped about in its innards for something - a gear lever as it turned out - and changed up a cog.

The machine slewed slightly as the rear tyre spat a shower of salt back at the following car, giving them a brief view through to the nose before it straightened up and hurled a further shovel load all over the car's windscreen. The salt landed with a solid thump that made the car's occupants duck, and the suddenly bellowing machine in front lit out for the horizon like a stone out of a slingshot. It simply disappeared.

There was no catching him, and that was the end of the story until they found him at the other end of the run, standing beside his streamliner, which once again had its little landing wheels extended.

Earl Flanders, the American Motorcycle Association steward for Utah's legendary Speed Week, got out of the car and strolled over. The old guy was looking a bit flustered, but considering he must have been doing over 140 miles per hour, by Flanders' educated reckoning, that was hardly surprising. Flanders nodded at him with a puzzled smile that belied a certain new-found respect and which made him look a lot friendlier than he had when he first spied the ancient combination an hour or so earlier. He said something like, "The old girl seems to run pretty good."

"You think so Earl?" replied the old guy. He seemed as surprised as everybody else.

Earl Flanders nodded again. "She really took off when you changed into top!"

Once more the old guy looked puzzled. "Top", he repeated, shouting like the old deaf coot he was. "I never got her out of second".

The above quote is from "One Good Run: The Legend of Burt Munro" by Tim Hanna, a book I recently completed. I blogged recently about the movie "The World's Fastest Indian" and how much I enjoyed the movie version of Munro's life. Obviously, when I got the opportunity to read the book about him, I took it. This is a very enjoyable book. Its easy to read, apart from a few technical descriptions of motorbike engines, and I just couldn't stop reading it.

After completing the book, I realise Munro really was a crazy genius, as well as a stubborn fool occasionally. If you are interested in the history of speed records, or just want a really entertaining biography to read, I highly recommend this (see the movie as well).

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Comment 1 (179) by Paul Flanders on 2006-02-28 at 06:09:15:

Thanks for your comments and quotes. Earl Flanders was my father.

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Comment 2 (180) by OJB on 2006-02-28 at 10:50:43:

Cool! If the movie and book are accurate the authorities deserve a lot of credit. I don't think Burt would have been allowed to run at all with the inflexible rules and regulations likely to be in effect today.

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Comment 3 (181) by Lucile Flanders on 2006-03-02 at 06:01:51:

I Realy enjoyed your info on the book and movie on Bert. He was a real friend, spent much time at our factory in Pasadena and was a very interesting man. Thank you

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