Mike Crane's incredible 1924 Sunbeam Model 5
 won the well-deserved "Best of Show"
and "Fan Appreciation" awards.

In years past we have attended Rockerbox riding the 60 miles North from our shop to Milwaukee's eclectic Riverwest neighborhood.  Last year we detoured, riding our Guzzi's Little Red and Cherry O Baby to Reina International Auto, Milwaukee's premier Vespa and Moto Guzzi dealership.  Reina is the official Rockerbox pre-event where Ferrari's, Maserati's, and Lambo's mix it up with new Vespa and Moto Guzzi models.  Coffee and a wonderful display of Italian baked goods are provided to help prepare the faithful for the organized ride to the event.

Reina International is owned by Sicilian brothers Joe, Lorenzo, and Ignacio Reina, our gracious hosts.  We decided to experience this years Rockerbox sans cycles as fledgling reporters for our friend Richard Backus who was unable to join us.  While making our preparations, we found ourselves pondering the essence, meaning, and responsibilities of maintaining the highest of literary standards and traditions.

In an introspective moment, my thoughts turned to acknowledge perhaps the most famous of all editorial reporters, Clark Kent.  But as I considered Clark's literary credentials, I began to realize that, unlike the rest of us, writers and reporters, fledgling and otherwise, that live in the "real" world heat and pressures of crafting interesting, informative fare, Superman, well…  He's Superman, so what does he really care about writing a good story, and Lois, well she's Superman's girlfriend.  I mean, the pressure's off.  So who was the one digging deep, taking chances and doing the real grunt and legwork?  Who then best epitomizes the ultimate "reporter"?  Well, Jimmy Olsen, of course!  Red headed Jimmy, camera and note pad at the ready with a No. 2 pencil neatly tucked behind his right ear.  Hungry for his own by- line, he was the one able to deliver the story before another one of Perry White's imperious deadlines had expired.  So inspired, Tina, Tony and I approached our assignment, three Jimmy Olsens, wide eyed, unabashed, and determined to get "the story"!

The ominous and foreboding weather forecast proved to be an understatement with my navigator requesting that we pull off the road on more than one occasion during our drive up.  Undaunted, I thought, "What would Jimmy do?"  Get the story of course, so we soldiered on.  As we rolled into Reina, the early morning nine o'clock skies looked more like deep dark midnight.  Where hundreds of bikes had streamed into the Reina parking lots the year before, there was only one lonely royal blue Ural side car rig parked out front.  On the plus side, given the lack of attendance, we were able to visit extensively with Joe Reina, who shared his family's story; immigration to the US, and subsequent  founding of the Reina brothers namesake, Reina International Auto, now celebrating their twenty fifth year.  He presented us warm and happy memories of his experiences at Lamborghini while living and working in Italy.  He even gave us a tour of some of his private collector cars housed in Reina's other two on campus buildings.  He enthusiastically shared with us his rare Lancia mid-engine Monte Carlo rally car, his wife's beautiful Alfa, Ignacio's timeless white Jaguar XK150 roadster, and his diminutive red Gilera 50cc motorbike.

Joe also talked about the early problematic import days for Ferrari, Fiat, Alfa, Maserati, Lancia, etc., the lack of dealerships, service and long delays experienced in the time it took to get replacement parts.  That was then, now is now.  Joe expressed his confidence and enthusiasm in relating Piaggio‘s commitment to their Aprilia, Moto Guzzi and Vespa products, dealers, and their promise to provide reliable, uninterrupted parts supplies.  Joe feels that Guzzi's overall quality of workmanship and variety of models are on par with or better than their main Teutonic rival and offer more value and options for the money.  Joe's personal ride is a new Moto Guzzi V7 Classic.  He has clocked a little less than 3K miles on the odometer since spring, riding mainly to and from the dealership.  He loves the V7‘s size, sound, and handling and finds it perfectly well suited for the urban riding environment.

The transition in weather between 10AM and 11AM was nothing short of miraculous.  In one hours time, things went from very dark and wet to completely dry with bright overcast skies aided in large part by strong gusting, westerly winds.  Mercifully the skies remained overcast with the high winds keeping the oppressive humidity at bay. 

The Rockerbox Show is a unique experience, a neighborhood block party that attracts every type of vintage scooter, motorcycle and rider from all over the Midwest.  It is very well attended as evidenced by the 17 judged "show" categories and is noted for its fantastic handmade trophies for the lucky winners.  And best of all, this is definitely a "family" event.  Children are everywhere, laughing and critiquing the bikes as thoughtfully as the adults.  Most notably, there wasn't one voice raised in anger or a single altercation, and there wasn't one uniform in sight.  The Riverwest neighborhood's culture is laid back, giving you a "Welcome Home USA" feel of the past with both "Peace and Love" abounding.  The atom heart mother beating at the neighborhood's center is Scott and Leslie Montemurro's creation, Fuel Café.  One step inside Fuel and as fast as you can say "Jeepers Superman" it all comes together.  Creative concoctions with names to match are listed on black boards hung high overhead the retro style counter and brightly lit display cases.  The walls are covered with framed photos of Scott‘s motorcycle racing memorabilia.  Fuel is the real deal and fits the character of the neighborhood to a tee.

After meeting Scott, it's easy to see where Rockerbox got its roots, flavor and feel.  He's accessible, friendly, and completely unassuming.  And someone else deserving major credit for Rockerbox 2009's smooth and seamless seventh year, is Scott's Rockerbox partner, Shannon Palmer.  Shannon wears many hats and all of them well, even registering the bike show contestants herself, "up close and personal", just like the rest of the event.

Topping the list of this years Vintage iron, was Mike Crane's incredible 1924 Sunbeam Model 5.  Mike won the well-deserved "Best of Show" and "Fan Appreciation" awards.  I was lucky enough to be standing curbside when Mike parked his machine only a few feet away.  Mike's Sunbeam immediately attracted a crowd, and Mike graciously let the Sunbeam shine with the valve train occasionally puffing whiffs of oil smoke, running for a full five minutes before shutting the motor down.

Among the other notable machines that we spotted was a super clean ‘57 Triumph Cub owned by George Pilacek, Royal Hansen's '71 BSA cafe, and Dan Lichon's '73 T-140 Trackmaster.  There was Dave Denemak's 2007 T-100 with the tank proudly displaying a brightly colored Union Jack.  NSU enthusiasts were well represented by an immaculate gray 1954 Max TT.  Tony spotted an incredible Honda 6 turbo, and Tina recorded an awesome green Beemer /2 with a rare Hennigan fairing and an incredible Whizzer special called "Roter Stern".  Interestingly enough, the bikes receiving the most attention overall seemed to be the innovative Roter Stern (Tyler's bike) and Mike Crane's running '24 Sunbeam.

Rockerbox embodies all of the elements and feel of what a real motorcycle show should be about.  It's free, a neighborhood block party and motorcycle show all rolled into one with great shops, food and multi cultural brews.  It is Milwaukee after all, and it's "FUN" spelled capitol F U N !  We highly recommend adding Rockerbox to your motorcycle events calendar next year.  There's really something for everyone, even Jimmy O.








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Rockerbox 2009