Saturday, January 23, 2016

Brian J. Wallace

Brian Wallace changed my life for the better innumerable times; he was my uncle, that was his job.  He let me drive his 2.8 CS,  injecting a life long appreciation of fine German automobiles.  The time spent in his Morgan confirmed to never ever own anything with Lucas Electronics.  And  if you've ever wondered why the British drink warm beer it's because they all own Lucas refrigerators. 

He introduced me to BMW motorcycles.  

It was sometime in the seventies and we were driving down the Island  to Victoria. Pulling up to the stop light in Duncan Brian drifted into the right hand lane, stopping beside two idling motorcycles; rolled down his window and turned the ignition key to off.  As the light turned green he turned to me with the universal shush symbol and a devilish grin; the motorcycles rev-ed up in unison and ran off down the highway.  “Those were BMW’s” he said restarting the car and getting it into gear; “I think I want one of those”.

Fast forward to a time just over ten years ago and I was at my parents place awaiting Brian’s arrival for dinner.   Marilyn was on the phone as he rode up on a motorcycle.  Informed of his arrival and mode of transportation she strangely asked what color the motorcycle was.  “Shit” was not the expected answer when being told that it was silver.  Brian had just bought his first BMW motorcycle.

And here he changed my life yet again as I now had to fulfill my part of a bargain we had recently ginned up (although for sure there was more scotch than gin involved).  Over the next few years we embarked on our annual Odyssey; visiting Frank Lloyd Wright sites and taking in Major League Baseball games across North America, all done of course on BMW motorcycles.

Along with architecture and baseball there was one other constant with these trips which I have been forbade to tell of, until now.  Brian dropped his bike.   A lot.  It usually happened when he was stopped in a parking lot, at a gas station, on the side of the road getting a picture or just taking in the view.  Once the bike was back up with the rubber side down he invariably would turn and say “You are not to blog this”.  I unquestionably agreed, but was never sure who he thought he was fooling, it certainly was not Marilyn.  I can’t think of a time when he didn’t return home bruised, scarred, limping or wearing a cast.  And I doubt there was ever a trip that wasn’t completed without a repair bill to put all the broken motorcycle bits back together.

Eventually North America wasn't big enough and plans were made for something a little more adventurous.  Along with Brian’s friend Jim Mattison, we had  signed up for a 2-month long motorcycle ride from Istanbul Turkey to Xi’an China along the fabled Silk Road.  As this ride of a lifetime wasn't scheduled until the following year it was decided that we needed some preparation.  

First off was a Spring ride through the Chilcotin mud to Barkerville.  Early on the second day I found myself waiting for the other two an inordinately long time at a cross road.  Just as I was getting on my bike to head back, over the hill rode Brian and it was obvious what had happened.  As they pulled up Jim immediately voiced his concern about the hard fall Brian had taken.  He was also amazed at just how fast Brian had gotten his bike back up on its wheels.  “He’s had a lot of practice” I said.  And he got a lot more practice that weekend; returning home yet again from a trip bruised, scarred and limping with all sorts of broken bits hanging off his motorcycle.

Last Fall we set out once again, this time the objective being simply riding across Canada to Newfoundland and back.  Other than battling miserable weather all the way East and a few mechanical issues the 6-week trip unfolded rather smoothly.  And for the first time Brian did not once drop his bike.  A short time after getting home he received the diagnosis of a brain tumor.

In addition to preparing our bikes and ourselves for the Silk Road, Brian had been busy at work exercising his new found love of pottery;  firing off a series of medallions that he planned to give away to people he met on his journey.  We met up the day before I left for Europe where he entrusted me with the bag of medallions and his mission, as he himself was now unable.  With the great and appreciative help of the other riders on the trip his task was enthusiastically completed.  Each of us dutifully reported directly back to Brian the experience of the day and of the recipient of his gift.

The medallions provided all of us an amazing conduit to get that much closer to the people of the lands we travelled through as well as allowing Brian to vicariously ride along with us all the way to China.   Sharing the medallion experience across Central Asia was  only the most recent way Brian Wallace changed my life for the better.   I do not expect it will be the last.