Calgary Herald, National Female Ride Day May 4, by Greg Williams

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photo courtesy Vicki Gray

 

Women on motorcycles will put rubber to Calgary roads — and across Canada — May 4 as part of the first National Female Ride Day.

The brainchild of motorcycle racer, instructor and coach Vicki Gray, National Female Ride Day celebrates women who choose to ride.

“The focus here is to shine a spotlight on women who ride, and enhance awareness of female riders,” Gray says from her home in Toronto. “I just want women to ride on that day.”

Gray, 48, has been riding a motorcycle since 1983. She got involved with bikes just after she’d been transferred to Nova Scotia while working for Revlon International as national training manager.
Click here to read the rest of the column in the Calgary Herald…

Calgary Herald, SAIT custom motorcycle mirrors the trades, by Greg Williams

 

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photo courtesy Richard Burgess

There’s no television crew, and there’s no $100,000-plus budget. But sparks are flying and gears are turning in the corner of a SAIT shop as work continues on a custom motorcycle. When completed, the machine will highlight the majority of the trades in the Manufacturing and Automation department at SAIT.

“Our dean (Brad Donaldson) basically challenged us to try and come up with something that would promote the department and what we do,” says SAIT millwright instructor Richard Burgess. “I thought about it for a day, and then blurted out the idea to build a custom bike.”

According to Burgess — who says that judging by the amount of Orange County Choppers and West Coast Choppers hats and T-shirts he sees on campus — many students and instructors are interested in custom bike building.

Read the rest of the column in the Calgary Herald, click here…

Mark Gardiner ‘Riding Man’ and One Man’s Island, by Greg Williams, Calgary

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It’s finally here. Mark Gardiner’s book, Riding Man, is available. Riding Man details Gardiner’s personal odyssey as he dreams of — and ultimately races in — the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. The book is available at Gardiner’s website, www.bikewriter.com, and the film, One Man’s Island, is available at www.onemansisland.com.
This is a piece I wrote for the Calgary Herald Driving section, and was originally published Sept. 26, 2003. Black and white photos courtesy Peter Riddihough.

The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy is the most historic and the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world. One Man’s Island is a documentary feature film about one man’s dream–to race in this prestigious event.
But One Man’s Island is not just about one man’s dream to ride a motorcycle in a race. As the film succinctly points out, everyone has a

‘TT race’ of their own.
Canadian and ex-Calgarian Mark Gardiner sold everything he had in late 2001. He moved in January of 2002 to the Isle of Man and began training for the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Races–held annually in June.
But he wasn’t alone. In the late 1990s Gardiner was the creative director of an advertising agency. He met Peter Riddihough, who was just starting out producing television commercials in Toronto. During a lull in filming a TV commercial together, Riddihough listened as Gardiner told him about the TT race.
“I told him about motorcycle racing, and talked about wanting to ride in the Isle of Man TT,” Gardiner recalls during a phone interview from his home in Paris, France. “I told him what I planned to do–I was thinking of selling everything and moving over to the Isle of Man and pursuing this goal.”
On the very day Gardiner decided he would quit his job, sell, give away or abandon his belongings and move to the Isle of Man, Riddihough sent him an email.
“He wanted a real story to tell,” Gardiner says.
In 1907 the first Tourist Trophy was held on the Isle of Man, a tiny island in the middle of the Irish Sea. Racing on mainland Britain was not allowed, as public roads could not be closed and there was a blanket speed limit. The Isle of Man perhaps saw a tourist opportunity, and invited motorcycle manufacturers and racers to run an event on their public roads, closed specifically for such races.
Referred to as the ‘mountain course’, the track consists of 38 miles of twisting and undulating road that runs through villages and countryside and then into the mountains of Man. Rather than truly racing against an opponent, the TT is run against the clock–riders are sent out 10 seconds apart.

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Gardiner was born in Vancouver, lived in Switzerland, and arrived in Calgary at the age of 16 for his high school years. He bought a small Kawasaki KZ100 motorcycle while attending Queen Elizabeth High School. In an effort to emulate the exploits of American dirt track oval racers–photos of which he had seen in copies of Cycle Magazine–Gardiner set out to practice on a track near the current Blackfoot Motorsport Park.
“It was a disaster, I crashed that Kawasaki until my body was one giant bruise,” Gardiner recalls. “I didn’t have what it takes.”
He stopped riding, but several years later Gardiner realized he had never actually learned how to race his motorcycle.
“It started to come back to me when I was well into my 30s that I had always wanted to be a motorcycle racer,” he says.
With his career in advertising firmly established, Gardiner had a little time and a little money to invest in becoming a motorcycle racer. He attended beginner and intermediate race schools at Shannonville, Ontario and found out he was quite comfortable at speed on a road race course.
Going even further, he bought a 1988 Yamaha RZ350 which he campaigned at Calgary’s Race City Motorsport Park. By the time Gardiner was 40 years old, he and the bike were developed enough that they won the Veteran’s class, and finished third in the Lightweight Sportsman class.
“I was having a terrific time, but I kept thinking if I could just win a real race I’d stop,” Gardiner says. It was about this time that he started work for an ad agency in the Maritimes, where he joined the Loudon Road Racing Society.
He began regularly racing at Loudon events on an MZ Skorpion, a single cylinder motorcycle. Although he was listed as an amateur, it wasn’t long before he was bumped up to a junior ranking. This meant he raced with a pro competition licence. It also meant he could compete in Expert events in American AMA National races.
“Riding the Skorpion in the AMA Pro-Thunder races was a hopeless challenge, it was an utter dogfight and I was constantly riding to the absolute limit not to finish last,” Gardiner says.
But in the back of his mind, Gardiner knew he now had the licences required to compete at the Isle of Man TT–all he needed was FIM recognition–which he received.
Gardiner initially wanted to campaign his Skorpion single, but in 2002 the TT scrapped their single cylinder class and instead instituted a 600 c.c. production class. It was now or never for Gardiner–and Riddihough was ready to film the entire process including Gardiner’s preparations to race in the TT.
“I sold everything, and arrived on the Isle of Man with what I could carry–some clothing and a bicycle.
“My life on the Isle of Man was that of a monk,” Gardiner adds. “My meditation was the island, and I pedaled my bicycle around the course every day–I spent every day looking at it, smelling it and feeling it.”
Using his credit card, Gardiner leased a 2002 Honda CBR600FI from Padgett’s, an Isle of Man motorcycle retailer. He began slowly breaking the machine in by riding the entire TT course. He was racing the course in slow motion, and would imagine himself weighting the footpegs, or applying pressure with a knee on the fuel tank.
Riddihough was there for every step.

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“When Mark first started talking to me about what he wanted to do, I told him I’d quit what I was doing and go with him,” Riddihough says. “I’m not a motorcyclist, I can’t even ride. But this story fundamentally had an appeal as a human interest story–giving up everything to pursue a dream. Beyond the context of the motorcycle race, the story is universal.”
The 36 year old Riddihough wasn’t interested in just the race, his desire was to capture the entire process–in essence he felt it would be more meaningful if the film took the audience on the entire journey. He filmed by himself using digital cameras, and built and installed a camera on Gardiner’s motorcycle for some dramatic on-board footage.
For the race Gardiner had help from a number of Calgarians willing to make the trek to the Isle of Man. Paul Smith is the service manager at GW Cycle, and he arrived to tune and take care of the Honda motorcycle. Alberta College of Art and Design instructor and motorcycle enthusiast Bill Rodgers helped work the pit stops, as did SAIT mechanical engineer and Mark’s nephew Kris Gardiner.
After it was all over, Riddihough came back to Toronto and edited over 140 hours of film. To his credit, One Man’s Island was an official selection at the World Film Festival in Montreal, and is an official selection at the Calgary International Film Festival 2003.
The film comes close to being a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for motorcycle racers, but the story is about so much more than just the TT race. It is a story of the universal human condition and the importance of never giving up on a dream. As for the 2002 TT and Gardiner’s results, take in the film. One Man’s Island screens at the Uptown 2 on Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 6:45 p.m.
–That was the last line in 2003. As stated at the beginning, buy your own copy of One Man’s Island, and Gardiner’s book, Riding Man.

Excerpt from Riding Man, by Mark Gardiner
Copyright 2006, Mark Gardiner

Once again, we stage on dry pavement, but by the time I launch, it’s streaming rain. My practice partner passes me on the brakes at Quarterbridge. This is getting old. I concentrate on hitting the apex, and get a reasonable drive off the corner, the rear spins up in the wet, but the Honda holds it’s line, and I have a good run to Braddan church.

At the church, I notice something: the wake of the bike ahead of me is still visible in the standing water on the road. He can’t be far ahead. Maybe I have an epiphany, aiming for a late apex, winding the throttle on, and letting the spinning rear tire slide around until I’m pointing down the road. Over the next few miles, riding the CBR as though it was a little dirt bike, I catch and pass several guys. No one passes me.

I close on my next victim at the top of Barregarrow. He’s in black leathers, and another Newcomer–I see by the orange vest. Even in this weather, the run down to the bottom of Barregarrow is top gear. There’s a hump where the road crosses a stream, and it kinks left around a building. It’s the hump, not the corner, that limits your speed. The apex marker is a cast-iron drainpipe. The first time I came through here, I found it damned intimidating–and that was on a bicycle.

I know that I’m going to carry a lot more speed through here than this guy. I plan to pass him on the bumpy straight just beyond. But as I adjust my speed and commit, Mr. Orange Vest panics and brakes extra hard. Leaned over, in the rain, with the bike unsettled by the bridge, there’s no way I’m stroking the brake. I literally squeeze through the gap, brushing the drainpipe with my left shoulder, ‘brushing’ him a little harder with the CBR’s muffler. When I look back, I’m relieved to see that he’s still on his wheels.

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Calgary Herald, Toyota Corolla People’s Test Drive, by Greg Williams

 

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2007 Toyota Corolla Sport; photos courtesy Toyota Canada

No-nonsense Toyota Corolla is a functional four-door that holds its value

 

Greg Williams, The Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, April 06, 2007

It’s fitting that Kyle Jones was selected to test drive the 2007 Toyota Corolla CE. You see, the Calgarian remembers cruising around gravel back roads with his dad as he learned to drive in his grandma’s 1985 Toyota Corolla station wagon.

Then, as a teenager in Airdrie, Jones and his brother shared a boxy Toyota van in which they cruised up and down Deerfoot Trail visiting friends in south Calgary.

Jones, a 28-year old mechanical engineering technologist, is familiar with Toyota’s products, and, to him, the 2007 Corolla represents good value for the money.

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Calgary Herald…

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Calgary Herald, GPS Snitch keeps tabs on your vehicle, by Greg Williams

Published: Friday, April 06, 2007

“No one really cares about your vehicle — except for yourself,” says Jim Gunderson.

To defend this point, Gunderson adds that vehicle alarm systems are fine, except that when they go off, no one responds. “Everybody looks the other way.”

Gunderson, 34, is the operations manager of Calgary firm Blackline GPS. He works with Patrick Rousseau, an industrial designer and Brendon Cook, a geomatics engineer. Together, Rousseau and Cook have created the GPS Snitch, a small, self-contained device that can be placed just about anywhere in or on a vehicle, motorcycle, ATV or boat.

The name is a dead give away to what the device can do, but it has a number of applications.

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Patrick Rousseau and the GPS Snitch; photo courtesy Blackline GPS

Click here to read the rest of the column in the Calgary Herald…

Calgary Herald, Boutique dealer targets reluctant shoppers, by Greg Williams

 

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photo courtesy auto/One

Greg Williams, For The Calgary Herald

Published:Friday, March 30, 2007

Vancouver auto retailer Mike Wood has shifted into gear and let out the clutch.

With his new boutique-style dealership — Clutch — Wood hopes to attract car buyers who hate buying cars.

He also hopes the concept will be of particular appeal to women.

“A lot of people love getting a new car, love owning a new car; but they don’t like the process leading up to having that new car in the driveway.”

Wood speaks from experience, having worked in the auto industry since 1989.

Click here to read the rest of the column…?

Calgary Herald, Cool Cars Cruising For Cancer, by Greg Williams

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photo courtesy Steve Maguire

Cool cars needed for cancer fundraiser

Greg Williams, Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, March 23, 2007

Steve Maguire is looking for some cool cars.

The 45-year old Calgarian wants 2,500 of them, in fact.

And if he can assemble them all on Aug. 26 at McMahon Stadium, his Cool Cars Cruising For Cancer campaign might just be the largest single-day auto event of its kind in the world.

“There are two- and three-day events with thousands of cars, such as Corvettes at Carlisle (in Pennsylvania) and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (in California), but they’re not fundraisers,” Maguire says. He’s hoping to raise $1 million for cancer research.

In 2002, Maguire’s sister, who lives in the U.K., was diagnosed with breast cancer. Frustrated by not being able to do much to help, Maguire and a group of his Calgary Corvettes Unlimited club friends started talking about putting on a car cruise for cancer.

“We thought we’d just get a bunch of Corvette people together and do a short cruise and see if we couldn’t raise a couple thousand bucks. It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Maguire says. “But it’s taken on a life of its own.”

The initial concept grew to include all makes and models of vehicles, from tuner cars to pioneer autos.

“We expect tuned Acuras, Ford Model Ts and As, lowrider trucks, military vehicles, Mustangs — just about everything,” Maguire says.

A website, coolcarscruising4cancer.ca, and several thousand flyers distributed at Alberta car shows and through car clubs have helped drum up interest in the event. But Maguire says a couple of people in the province have had a hand in spreading the word.

“Mike Nikolai, a gentleman I’ve never met before, has really helped expose the event in Edmonton,” Maguire says.

Expose it he has. From Edmonton alone, there are currently 26 car clubs and organizations planning on participating.

That makes the 12 Calgary car clubs registered pale by comparison.

“Cancer is a disease that doesn’t care about how old you are, whether you’re a blond or brunette, white or black,” Maguire says, and adds: “But someone will unlock the door to the cure, and I’m hoping it’s our million bucks that could help be the key.”

Vehicle registration is $30 (or more, if owners wish to donate), while a spectator entrance fee is $5. Maguire is still looking for donations and sponsors, but 100 per cent of all money raised is going directly to the Canadian Cancer Society.

“Nobody is making a profit here,” Maguire says. “The Canadian Cancer Society is looking after all of the registrations.”

As an incentive to encourage early registration by May 1, tire shops Blaskin and Lane of Calgary and Tire Warehouse of Edmonton are each donating $1,000 worth of rubber. The draw will be made May 3.

See www.coolcarscruising4cancer.ca, for more information.

As seen in the Calgary Herald’s Driving section…

Calgary Herald, Hyundai Santa Fe, by Greg Williams

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photo courtesy Hyundai Auto Canada

Hyundai SUV bigger, bolder

Greg Williams, For the Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, March 23, 2007

Calgary accountant Bart Vultaggio describes himself as cheap when he says he has just over 270,000 kilometres on his 1993 Chrysler Voyager van, which he calls his “old warhorse.”

What’s more, he probably won’t replace it until the odometer reads 300,000.

But after driving the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV for a week, he concludes the vehicle represents “really good value for the money.”

“I wish I could take it to Montreal on a long drive, and it would be easy to continue parking the Santa Fe in my driveway. I’m sure my neighbours would say: ‘He finally broke down and bought himself something new.’ “

Inside Motorcycles, Western Perspectives, Ian Loughran Revoluzione Cycle Imports Jan/Feb 2007 by Greg Williams

Ian Loughran is a cancer survivor, and his story is inspirational. Since this Western Perspectives column in Inside Motorcycles he has been told he is 100 per cent cancer free. I met Loughran in Sept., 2002, before his Calgary motorcycle company, Revoluzione Cycle Imports, had officially opened its doors. I’ve followed along and reported as the company has grown — and what a success story that is. See their website at www.revoluzione.com. If you want to learn more about Loughran and his battle with cancer, check out his site at www.medistinalwhat.com

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Click the image to enlarge…

As seen in Inside Motorcycles, click here to see more of this Canadian magazine…

Calgary Herald, Customized van takes couple ’round world, by Greg Williams

This story was first written for the Calgary Herald’s Driving section, and was published on March 9, 2007. There’s a postscript at the bottom from 2017.

From 1970 to 1986 Calgarians Trevor and Wendy McGrath traveled the world.

And the only home they had during those 17 years was a 1970 Volkswagen Kombi van.

The McGraths, originally from Australia, were full of wanderlust in the late 1960s. They set off in a British-built Commer camper van and toured Europe and a bit of North America, including Canada. The pair even lived in Edmonton for a year in late 1968 and early 1969 where Wendy worked as a teacher.

They were moving again in 1970 when they traveled to Los Angeles. Here, they sold the Commer and returned to Australia.

“We had a nice home in Australia, which we had rented out,” Wendy says. She adds that when they returned to Australia they didn’t plan to spend the next 17 years traveling.

Their initial plan was to purchase a new vehicle for ‘overland’ travel, and circumnavigate Australia. An overland vehicle is something that will comfortably travel over all types of roads and through all types of conditions.

The pair bought the 1970 VW Kombi van brand new for $2,800, and Trevor worked to outfit the bus as an overland vehicle. He started by cutting out the van’s metal roof and installed a taller, fibreglass roof. A living area was created that included a gas stove, refrigerator, stainless steel sink, cupboard and wardrobe storage, bed and toilet.

“It’s amazing what you can get into it (a VW van) with a bit of ingenuity,” Trevor says. “We chose the VW over, say, a Land Rover, because the VW Kombi vans were so universally distributed, they were everywhere. New or used parts could be had worldwide.”

He performed many modifications, including sheeting the underside of the VW with aluminum panels, and fitting a plastic screen to cover, and help preserve, the glass of the windshield.

Around the time Trevor was finishing up outfitting the van the pair decided to sell up everything in Australia and truly tour the world.

“All of our friends were tied down with children and mortgages,” Wendy says. “And one day when Trevor was mowing the lawn I took him out a drink. We sat in the shade, looked at each other and said: ‘What are we doing here?’

“Once you’ve traveled around the world a bit, the freedom of that is something you can’t shake, and it’s very hard to turn your back on.”

After selling their property in Goulburn, a town about 192.5 km inland from Sydney, the McGraths invested every penny at close to 18 per cent. “We said we’d keep going until we reached equilibrium, and stop before we would eat into our capital.”

Ultimately, the McGraths toured the world. The van was shipped more than 68 times, and they toured at least 200 countries, including England, Iceland, Afghanistan, India, Morocco, Malaysia, South Africa and Chile.

Trevor had painted a map on the side of the VW that indicated their travels, with overland routes marked in red, air routes in black and sea routes in blue. They say that $100 a week was enough money to cover all of their expenses, including fuel and food. The McGraths never stayed in campgrounds, instead finding sites where the van could be easily concealed.

“We were hassled on numerous occasions, you can’t travel around the world for 17 years without problems,” Trevor says. “Very often we were camped in areas where only idiots would camp, and we had strategic plans on how to get out of tight situations.”

Trevor replaced the engine at 50,000 to 60,000 mile intervals. “We were on the fifth engine (when they were done traveling), and engines were always replaced from a preventative point of view. The van was our lifeline, and we didn’t want to be forced away from it,” he says.

By 1986 the McGraths knew they had to stop. They ruled out going back to Australia, and said they’d liked Alberta when they were here in 1969. And, they realized Calgary was close to the mountains – a key influence as the pair have skied just about every major ski resort in the world – and they wanted to be close to Lake Louise and Sunshine. They purchased a condo in Calgary and kept the VW in storage and used it for annual holidays. By 2006 Trevor says the van had to be sold as storage and insurance fees were becoming prohibitive, and the van itself was beginning to deteriorate. He listed it on eBay and created a website to help inform potential bidders. (The site has been updated, and can be seen here.) The van eventually sold, and is reported to have stayed in Calgary.

“That was the saddest day of my life, to walk away from that van,” Trevor says. “It was like the child we never had, and it truly was just the three of us.”

Here’s a postscript to that story. In early January, 2017, I caught up with Wade Idt of Calgary. He’s the fellow who purchased the McGrath’s van. He tells me he’s done nothing to alter the vehicle except restore some of the lettering on the side of the van, and that he and his family of four routinely use the bus and do go camping in it. Well done!

 

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Photo courtesy Trevor and Wendy McGrath