13 Crimes (A Memory)

The holidays, and a co-worker gave my wife a bottle of 13 Crimes wine.  Something about 13 types of crime that the English courts punished the guilty  by banishment to Australia.  I guess that could be historical fact, but a strange name for wine.

So I opened the wine, labelled 2016 Red Wine, and poured out a glass to have with some frozen pizza.  It’s the holiday season.  Frozen pizza is an acceptable expedient.  And, quite frankly, better every year.  By by the end of dinner, and well into the bottle,  I began to remember some red wine I’d had in quite a different setting, many years ago.

There was a race in Dudley, Massachusetts.  It would require considerable research on my part to come up with an exact year, but it must have been some time in the the ’80s.  It was a winter event, a motorcycle ice race.  We raced under American Motorcycling Association rules- tires studded with hex head sheet metal screws, not the dramatic sharpened spikes of European FIM rules.  Then again, it might have been somewhere in New York state.

It was a cold winter, and a cold spell within that winter. We arrived on Friday night, and on Saturday morning, when we untied the bikes, the oil in the front suspension was too frozen to rebound, and the oil in our transmissions  was too cold to find neutral.  We leaned the bikes under a tarp near the truck’s tailpipe and ran the engine for an hour to thaw them out.  The resulting condensation caused the clutch and throttle cables to immediately freeze solid, so we removed them and laid them across the truck’s defroster vents to dry them back out.  Any maintenance performed outside was an exercise in brutality.

The practice laps went well; I had reason to be optimistic for Sunday’s race,  Near the end of the day, though,  a rider went down in front of me in the first turn.  I was poised to spear him in the spine with my right-hand foot peg, this being a counter-clockwise oval track.  I put out my right leg in an effort to cushion the blow, and re-injured my recent injury.  I wouldn’t have minded, I think, but I spoke to the fallen rider shortly after practice concluded,  He was so drunk, he could barely speak.  He shouldn’t have been on the track, and probably wouldn’t have cared if I’d knocked him clear across the lake.  He may have been feeling no pain, but at that point. I certainly was.

The sponsors of the event had included dinner and accommodations as part of the entry fee.  Dinner was at a lakeside Italian restaurant,  Very pleasant, I’m sure, in the summer months, and very welcome, indeed, in the dead of the winter in which we found ourselves.  The meal consisted of hearty spaghetti and meatballs, with wonderfully garlicky bread.  And red wine.

Sunday started well.  I did well in the qualifying heat, but when the flag dropped at the start of the race, my poor old Triumph lurched and heaved and balked, and I pulled off the track.  Later, I dicovered that I had broken the transmission layshaft neatly in two.

It’s funny how a taste or an odor can bring memories flooding back.

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