Sarah’s Travels

California: Where it all started: Bartels' Harley Davidson in Marina Del Rey, California
Date: 25 November 2010

Bartels' Harley Davidson ("We race what we sell") in Marina Del Rey is my idea of heaven on earth. It's also one of the most dangerous places for me on earth because I would buy everything in the store. So, I have to approach it with one credit card only, and with discipline. Can't go there on an impulse.

A huge part of my "Renaissance" happened at Bartels where I went on May 28 2010, 3 months after I started my new life, with the firm intent of buying a bike on that day. Gene (photo below) remembered me from my previous exploratory visit and told me: "Here is the bike you need". He was pointing at a 500cc Buell Blast, my future big love that I was to call Baby Buell. I kept looking at other Harleys in the store, mostly the Sportsters, but he put his foot down: "No! That's the bike you need." OK, OK... but before we talk any further, here is my credit card: See if it would accept the bike. He returned 30 seconds later with a minuscule slip of paper that said "Approved!". My life changed at that very moment. I was now the owner of a Harley Davidson! The feeling was incredible. At 60. After more than 40 years of not riding a bike. I felt like screaming this HUGE emotion: I was re-born. A new person. I was young, pretty, resourceful and indestructible again. "I was back on my feet again". It was an extraordinary moment. Worth living a lifetime for. Many such moments were to follow during that summer, that I spent riding Pacific Coast Highway and its canyons, stopping every day for a bite either at the Rock Store and at Neptune's Net.

Below: The legendary Bill Bartels, founder of Bartels' Harley Davidson - "Bill Bartels - According to the motorcycle industry's own thesaurus, is a synonym for: honesty, good nature, modesty, camaraderie, an open-mind, commitment and hard work; all adjectives very well suited to the man!"

Gene with Baby Buell (he looks annoyed because I was totally
out of control with excitement when I bought that bike):

Just after I bought Baby Buell, the wonderful PJ (photo below) helped me chose the necessary riding accessories. For those of you who don't ride, I have to explain that the right accessories make all the difference between a comfortable ride and an unpleasant, even unsafe, one. She chose all the right things with the right size: Harley boots, helmet, jacket, etc. Six months of riding later, they are still perfect. My absolute favorite is a bungee net that PJ insisted I needed to put on the back of my saddle in order to carry stuff; I use it every day without exception and it became the measurement of my gypsy world: If something does not fit there, I don't need it.

PJ (on the left) and me - See the bungee
net holding the box on the saddle?

Serge (photo below) at the Parts Department is an outstanding person: Honest, reliable, knowledgeable and quick to find exactly what you need in the database, at the best price. I would trust Serge with my life. It's also because of Serge that I ended up in Ensenada: Mid August, I asked him what I should bring for the bike in Tijuana where I was planning to move (there is no Harley store in northern Baja California). He told me that, No, I was going to Ensenada, instead. He knew someone who knew someone who had a house for rent on the ocean with a safe place where to park Baby Buell (that was my concern in Tijuana, I had not found a safe place where to park her). Thanks, Serge: Ensenada was just what I needed.

Serge at the counter of the Parts Dept:

The day Baby Buell had to be towed back to Bartels, I met another outstanding Bartels person: Tyrone, a Vietnam vet (infantry) who is 63 but looks 35. I was truly feeling like a "damzel in distress" because my newly found fountain of youth, my ride into the California sunset, was not responding any more: No electicity, the engine would not start (was in fact just a loose battery ground wire). I was standing in the backyard beside her life-less frame, feeling no different than any of the white fence pickets around me. Gone were the rides along the Pacific Ocean, the unique feeling of kicking down the first gear and getting outa there. I felt despondent. But Tyron came to the rescue. He was able to run Baby Buell up a ramp from the parking lot to the back of his pickup without the engine on. Like nothing. He says he does the same with his 700 pound Harley! Tyrone is THE MOST calm person I ever met in my whole life. I had to ask him how he can look so young and be so calm. He says that after his 2 tours in Vietnam (leaches, snakes, C portions, and the worst of the worst: dead friends), he does not let anything bother him any more. He made such a strong impression on me that I now have a real-life model imprinted in my brain cells, that I can follow any time I decide to become a calm person (but to be calm is not in my foreseable future). Thank you for that, Tyrone. All the best to you.

Tyrone, Service Dept:

There are many outstanding people at Bartels including this other guy I would trust with my life: Ron Bartels, in charge of Service. But I will finish with Mitsu, the outstanding Buell technician who takes care of Baby Buell's scheduled maintenance. Mitsu knows his Buells. When I leave with Baby Buell after his 2 hours of maintenance and road test, I know that I am riding a reliable bike that I can bet my life on. That feeling is what I call "security". The rest depends on my judgement, my reflexes and my desire to live to ride and to ride to live. Thanks, Mitsu.

Mitsu, Service Dept:

Below: My first photo of Baby Buell, still in the
show room but ready to be taken for her first ride:

Below: My Harley Davidson jacket, a marvel of engineering that allows a controlled flow of air inside but blocks the air from coming in directly; it's armored at the shoulders and elbows; the rain-proof lining can be worn over or under the jacket; the pockets are heavenly...