My Lucky Sign

Story By Joe Dille
USCA # 2O54
Illustration By
Dave (Duke) Duquette

The 1982 United Sidecar association national rally in Mercer Pennsylvania was a great experience for me. It was the maiden voyage for me and my new rig. The bike was a 1971 R75/5 with a California Friendship sidecar. I had just completed a frame up rebuild of the bike and put the hack on. The trip out to Mercer went well, I was gradually gaining confidence around right handers, the bike was running well, and Bulk my Labrador Retriever was enjoying his ride in the sun.

Since this rally was my first ever, it was my first chance to see other sidecars and talk with other sidecarists. I had a chance to speak with many people about the proper alignment for my rig and attended the sidecar mounting and alignment clinic. The general opinion of everyone I spoke with was that I did not have nearly enough lean-out. A fact that my sore chest muscles confirmed. I decided to make a little alignment adjustment at the rally so I would have an easier ride home.

Being the maiden voyage I expected the worst so, had two full tool boxes (these also made wonderful ballast). I had all the tools I needed but I did not have a level surface to make any measurements on so I proceeded cautiously. I moved the rig under a nice shade tree, tied Bulk to the same tree and went to work. I loosened all of the mounting bolts and lengthened the two upper support rods by a few turns. I put everything back together and things looked good.

The handling during the ride back was greatly improved . I still had to work some, but at least I was not in pain as on the trip out. Around the time I hit Black Log mountain outside of Harrisburg I noticed the bike seemed to be pulling to the right more than before. The pull was strong sometimes, but then seemed to disappear for no apparent reason. As I went up and down the mountains I tried to think of all the reasons that would cause this pulling: was it Bulk moving around in the sidecar, a loose wheel bearing, could the alignment be changing, or was it just my mind playing games in the heat of the afternoon.

Just about the time I decided that I should check the alignment at the next gas stop I realized that my right boot would now fit between the sidecar and the valve cover. I stood up, looked over the handle bars, and saw that the lower front sidecar mount had separated!

I carefully eased the rig over onto the shoulder. I hoped off and gave the bike a quick look over. The 5/16" fine thread bolt that tightens the ball mount collet was gone, but there was no other damage. Figuring that I would be there for a while I took Bulk and his water dish out of the sidecar and looked for a comfortable spot for him to rest. There was no shade anywhere so I tied him to speed limit sign about 50 yards back from where I stopped the bike. I walked back to the bike and started thinking about what to do.

It was about 4:00 Sunday afternoon, I was on a fairly secluded section of interstate 81, miles from help, and my spare parts inventory consisted of a few ty-wraps and some wire. I had heard of some pretty inventive uses of vise-grips, but this situation did not lend it self to a vice-grip fix. I started to look over the bike and side car for any non-essential fasteners that could be used. None of the bolts were inch size thread. Even the little adjusting bolt in the vise-grips was the wrong size for the collet.

I was still in somewhat of a quandary, wondering what to do, when the dog started to bark. Bulk was hot and feeling dejected. I guess he could not understand why he had to stay so far away from me, and he wanted some attention. As I walked back to comfort him I noticed that the speed limit sign was fastened to the metal post with a 5/16 fine thread bolt!

I thanked Bulk for his keen observation and ran back to the bike to get some wrenches. I had to wheel the crippled rig over to the sign so I could stand on it to reach the bolt, but I got it off. I examined my prize, it was rusty and little too long, but esthetics did not count at this point and I could use the nut to make it shorter. The highway department was even kind enough to provide me with a lock washer.

After tightening everything down and loading the dog back in the side car I was off. The rest of the trip went with out a hitch. Once I returned home I considered replacing the bolt with a shinny plated one that was exactly the right length, but I decided to keep the rusty one there as a kind of a lucky charm. I had the rig for 5 years after that and I never had a problem with the mounts. To this day, where ever I go I take notice of the road signs, and how they are mounted. I suggest to my friends that they take notice to the road signs as they travel. Not only for their information, but for their mounting. You never know when one may be your lucky sign.


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