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THE ART OF THE MOTORCYCLE - A REPORT



GREETINGS BREAKFAST CLUBBERS

    A visually stunning display, the Guggenheim - Las Vegas show of 120+
motorcycles from the past 120+ years is a must-see if you are within
hailing distance of Las Vegas.  Allow a good four hours if you really
want to see, read and listen to the whole show.

    Arranged in segments by time periods, there are several 19th Century
machines, including a wooden-framed bicycle built as a test chassis for
an engine, an early Gottlieb Daimler effort, which is credited with
getting the whole thing started in a big way, and some steam-powered
bicycles for good measure.  At the newer end of the spectrum, high tech
and high gloss creations from Italy, Germany, Japan and America,
including some custom builders, are represented with bikes into model
year 2000.  Along the way is a luscious sampling of real racers which
have actually competed in every gearhead's romantic dream venue in the
world.

    A representative sampling of everything you always coveted from the
age of eight can also probably be found, including motor scooters, mass
production street  and dirt bikes, fine selections from the golden age
of British iron, classic racers, cool choppers and exotics of many lands
and every era, going back to the brakeless barnstormers of yore,
complete with an in-town exhaust set-up, so as not to scare the horses.
Brakes on the early motorized bicycles seem to have been entirely
optional much before 1920.

    Every vehicle is attractively displayed with its year, engine
displacement, country of origin and current owner, along with a
paragraph or two discussing the noteworthy and/or historical features of
this particular motorcycle.  A self-guided audio tour is also available,
and worth the extra five bucks, if you want to get it all under your
belt.

    The two story display is strikingly enhanced by huge ribbons of
mirror-polished metal, upon which the bikes are subtly cable-mounted,
often at exotic angles, even going up the walls at times, as the broad
metal sheets climb towards the rafters, far above.  A somewhat
overly-loud and a bit monotonous (after a few hours) sound track throbs
throughout, lending some degree of vitality, I suppose, to what is
still, after all, mostly a static museum exhibit.

    A real bonus, however,  is the series of film clips showing in
continuous loops on one high wall, with many hilarious and memorable
scenes from every movie which ever featured  motorcycles in any
capacity.  The crashes of the Keystone Cops, the buffoonery of the Marx
brothers, the badass Brando scenes, along with his later imitators,
Steve McQueen being himself, various crashes, dashes, riding through
walls of flame, stoppies, burn-outs, camel drives, etc., - they're all
there, and its a good break to view and hear this feature.

    If you hoped to take your own photos, you'd better have a spy camera
and be pretty cool about it, as photography is not allowed.  I was even
warned, upon inquiring, that note-taking was not permitted, although a
Friday afternoon stroll of four+ hours, with a fairly light crowd,
demonstrated a reasonably unobtrusive presence of rent-a-gendarmes.
Visitors are cautioned, upon entering, not to touch, breathe heavily
upon, or otherwise molest the bikes.  This is not a touchie-feelie
exhibit.

    ACCOMODATIONS:  Don't stay at the Venetian Hotel and Casino, where
the show is held, unless you can help it.  At $250 +/- per night, this
all-suite facility is no bargain, with its $30 extra charge (daily) if
you want to use the exercise equipment, and, literally, automatic
charges to your room account if you so much as touch any item in your
servi-bar, even if you don't take it out and use it.  Isn't technology
wonderful?  This is quite apart from the $400+ in long distance phone
calls they tried to insist we pay for, although we made no such calls,
and had to waste an enormous amount of time hassling over.

     There are several decent-looking lodging alternatives quite nearby,
including the Tam O'Shanter next door, where Gigi would be happy if you
offered her a ride on your bike (she may have specified Harleys - I
wasn't able to accomodate her, in any case); $65.40 a night, call
1-800-727-DICE.  Gigi awaits your call.  Next door to that is the
Vagabond Inn, $64 to $84 per night, depending on how many beds you
crave, 1-800-522-1555, www.vagabondinns.com - this place might compare
with the Mountian View Motel in Bishop, and has a mini-mart and liquor
store out front.  Inquire further concerning other amenities - I just
stopped on the way out to the airport to gather this info.

    A final suggestion for Death Valley trekkers in April - it may make
sense to head for Vegas on Saturday, spend the night there and then
catch the exhibit when it opens at 9:30 on Sunday.  I suspect it will be
more crowded during the weekend, and a two-hour ride on either end of
this show stretches into a fairly long day, especially if you're heading
back towards the Bay Area on Sunday.  Also, BTW, who knows anything
about the Chandler Museum in Oxnard?  They happen to own an awful lot of
these show bikes, so their collection must be pretty impressive.  See
you at the show, as I think its worth a second visit.

Jerry Grainger