Yesterday, I decided to stop and find out if a fellow Brit was the owner of the motorcycle. I took a couple of shots of said petrol tank and was a little disappointed to find that the motorbike was a Honda, the company that led to the eventual demise of the British motorcycle industry.
I then noticed a group of guys standing just inside the doorway of the building. One of them beckoned me over. I asked if he was British. He was not.
But Peter Hampton is a confirmed anglophile and owner of a new business — Ton Up Jacksonville — which caters to devotees of British and European motorcycles.
Ton Up Jacksonville sells motorcycle gear, offers space and tools for people to carry out repairs, and also aims to create the atmosphere of a motorcycle club where enthusiasts can chew the fat about their motorcycle passion.
Peter and I chatted about the great names of British motorcycles, which I remember from my youth — BSA, Matchless, AJS, Norton, Triumph, Vincent — and talked about their decline and eventual disappearance as motorcycle manufacturers.
But Peter’s love of Britain goes beyond motorcycles. He is also an avid fan of British TV sitcoms and rates The Young Ones as one of his all time favourites. He is also partial to deep-fried Mars Bars.
He seemed genuinely excited to meet someone who was an actual Brit just as I was to meet someone who shared an interest and understanding of what constitutes the bulk of my life.
He also gave me an interesting insight into Harley-Davidson motorcycles, particularly the people who own them. It seems the majority of them are much like most people who buy Leica M9 cameras. Both are status symbols and bought for the purpose of being seen and noticed. And in the case of the Harleys, so middle-aged men can relive prom night from 35 or 40 years ago.
One of the things that shocked me when I first moved to Texas was the way people were allowed to ride motorcycles without crash helmets. I used to wince when I would see young girls as pillion passengers dressed in tiny shorts and skimpy tank tops. I just could not understand why they were unable to comprehend that they would be cut to ribbons if they ever came off those bikes. And the same holds true in Florida.
Peter shared my views and pointed to the corner of the room and a set of leathers. “That’s what I wore to come to work on my bike today, along with a crash helmet,” he said.
I guess the bandana-clad Harley riders just have more money than sense or an unshakeable belief that nothing untoward can ever happen to them. And in Florida, as in Texas, there is also the political dimension of “Why should the government tell me what I should or should not do?” Because it just might save your life one day.
Peter and I talked for a good 30 minutes and I was able to give him some useful information, regarding the location of the Latin American Motorcycle Association in Jacksonville. It’s about three blocks away from his premises. I also said that if he ever needed someone to check British authenticity, I was his man.
Having found this little oasis steeped in all things British, I told Peter I would be back from time to time. And I will.