Welcome to RIH - Photo by Bob LeClair

2023 Riding into History in the Rear View

Riding Into HistoryNewsletter

Words by Holly Will Bond
Featured photo (above) by Bob LeClair

Competition motorcycles in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel, photo by Cindy McLean

More than a month has passed since the 23rd Annual Riding Into History™ Motorcycle Concours d’Elegance was held at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida on April 14th and 15th. It was a splendid weekend of events, and the weather could not have been more perfect for the outdoor activities. In addition to long-time supporters, it’s exciting to see RIH drawing new entrants and new spectators every year. This year RIH celebrated on and off-road racing with a theme of ‘Get Your Heart Racing: Competition Motorcycles.’ Grand Marshals were AMA Hall of Famer, Brian Slark of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum and Motogiro d’Italia Hall of Famer, Vicki Smith of Ducati, NA. In addition, AMA Hall of Famer and Off-Road Motorcycle Hall of Famer, Mary McGee, retired pioneering woman racer, was named Honorary Grand Marshal.

The weekend’s festivities kicked off on Friday morning with the Grand Marshal Tour, a ride to visit the K9’s for Warriors campus. This special visit allows the Grand Marshals and the entrants to see firsthand the organization that RIH supports with its event. Learn more about the amazing life-changing work they do training service dogs for veterans at www.k9sforwarrior.org. From there, the group of 47 vintage motorcycles and scooters proceeded to the Atlantic coast and enjoyed a delicious seaside lunch at The Reef restaurant. The Grand Marshal Tour follows as many secondary roads as possible as maximum speeds can only reach about 60 MPH. What a sight that must have been for the lucky passers-by who happened upon them!

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Part of the Grand Marshal Tour en route, photo by Jim Dohms

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Grand Marshal Tour visits K9s for Warriors, photo by Jim Dohms

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Part of the Grand Marshal Tour preparing to depart, photo by Cindy McLean

Friday evening was the Grand Marshal Dinner and silent auction. It’s a wonderful time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. The new, somewhat smaller, venue created a more intimate atmosphere and offered better space for the silent auction to be set up and viewed. Table decorations created a definite wow factor when you entered the room, complete with checkered flags tying into our theme, Get Your Heart Racing: Competition Motorcycles. Grand Marshals Brian Slark and Vicki Smith spoke at the same time. Friends for many years, they did not mind sharing the stage with each other. Theirs was a humorous exchange of memories and anecdotes from two real life legends in the world of motorcycling, encompassing decades of competing, restoring, curating, showing, and judging among other things. Read more about their amazing careers at www.ridingintohistory.org. The silent auction is always a crowd pleaser, inducing some lighthearted competition among bidders, especially near close of bidding. Every year the auction includes an eclectic mix of artworks, collectibles, leathers, books, clothing, helmets, gift certificates and even included two motorcycles for auction this year.

Saturday morning comes early and begins before dawn for many. As the mist rises over the lake, there is a bustle of activity as the sun begins to creep up into the sky. Entrants are rolling in unloading their precious cargos from trailers. A handful of brave and able entrants will periodically ride their bikes in, to the delight of those at registration. Volunteers are checking in and getting to their designated duties. Vendors, organizations, and clubs are setting up their tents and displays. There is palpable excitement in the air, everyone anticipating what the day will bring.

When the Concours opened, a total of 297 vintage motorcycles and scooters were displayed around the beautiful tree-lined lake that is the centerpiece of the WGV. Grand Marshal, Vicki Smith had this to say about the venue, “The shaded walkway and lake make it about as great a venue as I have ever seen.” Of the 297 bikes, 252 were judged and the remainder were special displays. Bikes from 12 different states, including as far away as Michigan and California, were brought by 180 entrants. Bikes were judged in 11 different classes, one of which was a new class for RIH this year, Under 35 is Alive! In an attempt to draw in younger entrants, Under 35 is Alive! was created to allow bikes that were not yet thirty five years old to be entered for judging. To qualify, the bike’s entrant would have to be as old as the bike they entered. A 20-year-old person could enter a 20-year-old bike, for example. Unfortunately, that class did not have a successful first year. Fifty judges, almost half of them first time judges at RIH, worked diligently to judge the entries, complete their tallies, and name the winners of the approximately 45 awards. Grand Marshal, Brian Slark wrote in an email, “RIH, still the best organized show, period. If I had to go to one show I would choose RIH.” An impressive compliment from a man who has judged at such prestigious venues as The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California among others.

Special displays give another dimension to RIH and are an integral part of the Concours d’Elegance. Long time RIH supporter, Adamec Harley Davidson brings a nice display of vintage Harleys every year. This year their display included vintage Harley racers with some street bikes mixed in. The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum has supported RIH for many years by sending special display bikes. This year’s display included a 1982 Hesketh V1000 and a 1979 Silk 700S Mk 2 Sabre. Jim and Sharon Dillard of Dillard Family Racing brought their special display of significant racing bikes. Myrtle Hollingsworth and four generations of the Racing Hollingsworths brought the Hollingsworth Harley Davidson Racing Team Collection. Myrtle, who is in her 90’s, the matriarch of the Hollingsworth family, still enjoys being at shows and talking motorcycles and Jesus with anyone stopping by to chat. She is a treasure. Perhaps the most poignant of the special displays this year were the race bikes of long time RIH supporter and racer James Rutherford. James’s family brought the bikes in honor of his lifelong love of motorcycles, racing, and his dedication to RIH. James passed away in November of 2022, but his memory remains in his legacy and his bikes. All these special display collections added such richness and depth of experience to the event this year, as they do each and every year.

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Myrtle Hollingsworth, matriarch of the Hollingsworth HD Racing Family, photo by Holly Will Bond

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BSA Flat Tracker, photo by Bob LeClair

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NSU Welt Meister gas cap, photo by Bob LeClair

Some of our top award winners took time out of their schedules to speak about their experiences at RIH this year. Mark Sawicki, long time supporter of RIH took Best in Show for his Silver 1929 Douglas B29. When we spoke, Mark said that winning Best in Show was a shock and he had still not recovered from the thrill of it. Mark acquired the Douglas in 2018 and was told it had not run since the early 80’s. It required a total restoration which took about a year to complete. He and his wife Sharon have only missed two or three RIH events over the years. Sharon is currently urging Mark to build another garage so they can add to their collection. Mark served as a judge at RIH this year for the first time. He said it was a way for him ‘to give back to the event that has given him so much.’

Larry McArthur took the 2024 Featured Motorcycle Award for his 1972 Red Yamaha XS650. This award ensures that Larry’s Yamaha will be the featured bike on the poster and other promotional pieces for the 24th Annual Riding Into History™. Quite an honor indeed. Larry and his wife Pamela are relative newcomers to RIH, only showing bikes for the last three or four years. When Peter Slatcoff, Events Coordinator for the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club (VJMC) told Larry his bike had been selected for the award, Larry’s shocked response was, “You’re kidding!” Larry acquired the XS650 in 2020 and it had been previously restored. Larry began showing bikes in 2008 when he acquired a Honda CL350, reminiscent of the favorite motorcycle of his youth. Larry prefers to acquire bikes that have been well kept or previously restored as his passion lies in the showing of his bikes and attending the events with Pamela. When we spoke, Larry and Pamela were looking forward to attending the VJMC National Rally as their next vintage motorcycle adventure.

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Offroad competition bikes, photo by Bob LeClair

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Ready for anything, photo by Bob LeClair

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Side-hack, photo by Bob LeClair

Luis Etchenique took the Grand Marshal Award for his 1979 Red Honda CB 750F Super Sport. Luis, who has been showing bikes at RIH since 2015, acquired the Honda in 2020 after sitting outside for several years. He meticulously began the restoration and refurbishment of all components and systems of the bike, including custom fabricating some parts and systems. He claims the bike, which he named “Montjuic Special,” was not ready until April 14th for the Concours on April 15th because of the ever-present last-minute details to attend to. Luis’ wife, Gabrielle, an artist, is often his sounding board on elements of design and color combinations on his builds. “Montjuic Special” is a nod to the Honda RCB endurance racer Luis saw race at the grueling “24 Horas de Montjuic” endurance race in Barcelona in 1976. Luis said about his award, ‘it was an honor and when someone the caliber of Brian (Slark) and Vicki (Smith) notice your bike, it brings a whole new level of satisfaction.”

Grand Marshals Vicki Smith & Brian Slark viewing the Concours, photo by Jim Dohms

Grand Marshal Vicki Smith stated in an email, “I really enjoyed working with Brian Slark, and picking the Grand Marshal Award bike together was fun. He and I share similar ideas about what we prefer in motorcycles, and it was nice discussing this choice with someone as knowledgeable as Brian.” Vicki curates and judges at some of the most prestigious motorcycle shows in the world such as The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California, the Dania Beach Vintage Motorcycle Show in Dania Beach, Florida, the Big Kahuna AMA Weekend in Road Atlanta in Georgia and Ducati World Week in Misano, Italy. In answer to the question of what makes RIH stand out, Vicki replied, “I think it’s the people that put it on. Your staff is made up of so many smart and dedicated people, everyone working towards a good result for a great cause. Former chairman’s working with the current one, it’s very cool to see.”

Grand Marshal Brian Slark stated in an email. “I have supported it over the years as I like the fact that you support the veterans, a very worthy cause. To sum up, a very enjoyable experience, great people and hospitality.”

Last but certainly not least, let’s recognize the army of volunteers who work tirelessly all year long to put on a world-class event. There are dozens of individuals, groups, clubs and organizations who all work together to make Riding Into History™ the success that it is. Thank you to all that contribute their time and energy to ensuring that RIH is a great event for all involved and congratulations on a superbly done event in 2023!

About Riding Into History™
Riding Into History™ is the premier all motorcycle Concours d’Elegance in the United States. Riding Into History™ is a non-profit 501 (c)3 organization with its primary charity, K9s for Warriors which provides service dogs for disabled veterans. Riding Into History™ has donated over $600,000 to local charities since its founding in 1999.