Vintage motorcycles, historic homes evoke similar passions for residents

Vintage motorcycles, historic homes evoke similar passions for residents
Mark Grandin, right, with his 1972 Norton 750 Commando and friend Barry Parker at the 2017 Riding into History event.

Victor Ephrem’s interest in vintage motorcycles harkens back to his high school days when he learned about his uncle’s long-standing love for Harley Davidsons. Although he did a little bit of riding in high school, it wasn’t until 2003 that Ephrem bought an old bike – a 1940 Harley Davidson – and revived that piece of family history that held many fond memories for him.  

“My uncle, Freddie Ephrem, started working in a motorcycle shop when he was 13 years old. He raced in the 1930s-1950s, and he was one of the top referees for motorcycle racing in Daytona and across the country. He did motocross until the early ‘80s, and he also used to do Shriner’s trick riding training and ran the motor pool and did training for the Jacksonville police motorcycle unit,” said Ephrem, who lives in a Granada home built in 1951. 

Vic Ephrem on his 1940 Harley Davidson, “Knucklehead,” in 2018
Vic Ephrem on his 1940 Harley Davidson, “Knucklehead,” in 2018

Since buying his vintage motorcycle, Ephrem has participated in the annual Riding into History event on several occasions, and, last year, his 1940 Harley won the Best in Class Award for American Antique, pre-1946. 

This year, Riding into History, a Motorcycle Concours d’Elegance, will celebrate 20 years of displaying the world’s finest vintage motorcycles at World Golf Village in St. Augustine. Proceeds from the event will be donated to K9s for Warriors, an organization that provides service canines from rescue shelters to warriors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury as a result of injuries they received during wars and conflicts since 9/11. During the past two decades, Riding into History has raised over $500,000 for charitable organizations.

“Celebrating the Great American Motorcycle” will begin with the Grand Marshal’s Historic Ride on Friday, May 10, at the World Golf Village Hall of Fame. The Concours d’Elegance will begin Saturday, May 11, at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. The Grand Marshal for this year’s event is famed motorcyclist Gloria Struck, 94, who has been riding for 75 years.

Bill Robinson, founding chairman of Riding into History, rode his first motorcycle when he was 11 years old and has owned 56 motorcycles over the years. He and his wife, Valerie, have ridden in 58 countries around the world. 

Bill Robinson, founding chairman of Riding into History, said this year’s show would include motorcycles such as the Harley Davidson, front, and the Indian.
Bill Robinson, founding chairman of Riding into History, said this year’s show would include motorcycles such as the Harley Davidson, front, and the Indian.

“This year we are honoring American motorcycles – Harley Davidsons, Indians and the rest,” said Robinson, who lives in Epping Forest. “There were dozens and dozens of American-made motorcycles over the years, most of which are gone now.”

For Mark Grandin of Riverside, there are parallels between living in a historic home and riding a vintage motorcycle. Grandin lives in a home that was built in 1921 and until recently, he owned a 1972 Norton 750 Commando motorcycle, similar to the one he had in the past.

“I looked at a lot of other motorcycles. The only reason I really wanted another motorcycle is because I wanted another Norton – it brought back a lot of memories from high school,” Grandin said. “It’s kind of like an old house, it has a whole lot more character than a new one. For me it is nostalgic.”

Mark Grandin’s 1972 Norton 750 Commando
Mark Grandin’s 1972 Norton 750 Commando

A couple of years ago Grandin sold his vintage motorcycle, but he still enjoys going to the Riding into History event. 

“It’s like the Riverside-Avondale home tour. You get to see all these really cool vintage motorcycles that aren’t made any more,” he said. “They are very similar in a lot of ways.”  

Riding in the sidecar of his dad’s motorcycle is one of the highlights of Geoffrey Muller’s childhood. On Sunday mornings, he and his parents would ride together on the motorcycle to go out to breakfast. Last spring, Mueller’s father passed the 1981 BMW R65 down to him. 

Muller heard about the Riding into History event last year and decided to enter. He won a merit award in the European Classic, 1970-1990 category. These days, he and his wife Britney, who live in historic Avondale in a 1940s home, are making their own memories on the motorcycle. 

Britney and Geoffrey Muller on his 1981 BMW R65 motorcycle with sidecar.
Britney and Geoffrey Muller on his 1981 BMW R65 motorcycle with sidecar.

“Britney rides in the sidecar with our dog, Snoopy,” said Muller. “We don’t ride the motorcycle much further than the historic neighborhood. It’s not as scenic and it’s not as fun to ride in other areas of Jacksonville.”

It took David Gerhart 25 years to put together the 1965 Triumph that he got from one of the painters when he worked at an auto body shop. It was in pieces in his garage and needed a lot of work, but he never made the time to do it until his father passed away in 2013. 

“Mine is a custom bike and I did everything myself, from the welding to the painting, because I wanted it to represent me,” he said. “It’s not perfect, but I can say I did it all myself.”

Gerhart has an affinity for old things – his St. Nicholas home was built in 1939. When he and his family were looking for a home five years ago, they wanted to move into an older home in a centrally-located, historic neighborhood. 

“Older homes are kind of like older motorcycles. No two houses on my street are the same, and with vintage motorcycles, you can have two older motorcycles from two different brands for the same year and they could be totally different,” he said. 

 For more information about Riding into History, visit the website at Ridingintohistory.org. 

By Kandace Lankford
Resident Community News

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