My Pilgrimage to (Bultaco) Mecca
My Pilgrimage to Mecca – John Somerville
In August – September 2008 I decided to spend some of my hard-earned retirement funds and fulfil a lifetime ambition to make a pilgrimage to Mecca: Hugh’s Bultaco in the USA, the largest Bultaco dealer in the World. Ever since I started mucking around with Bultacos in 1969 and learned about Hugh and his vast assortment of all things Bultaco I had thought about going over there “to check it out”.
After meeting Hugh and his Wife Barb at the first Club Bultaco Australia rally at Coffs Harbour in 1999 I was looking forward to seeing them again and to meet the rest of the Weaver clan who I have done business with for many years. To get there I had to combine it with a couple of month’s sightseeing around the USA and Canada with my wife and young son Jeffrey, a great trip in itself but I finished it off with almost 3 days at Hugh’s (by myself – my Wife and son stayed in Toronto with friends). I flew into New York on Saturday and hopped on a train at Penn St. Station to the town of Hudson in upstate New York, about a 2 hour trip alongside the picturesque Hudson River. Then I caught a local taxi (big mistake!) to take me out to Hugh’s – about a 15 minute ride.
An hour later I finally got there, late in the afternoon via most of New York State; the driver had no idea where Hugh was! Finally arriving there I found no-one was home so I ended up going back to Hudson where I spent the night in a Motel. Sunday morning I managed to ‘phone Barb who drove into Hudson to pick me up.
No motorcycle work is done on the weekends at Hugh’s so I spent the afternoon with Hugh on his horse & cart giving rides to kids at the local fair which was raising funds for the fire brigade. Latter Hugh had to feed his assortment of animals – horses, pigs, bison etc. so I helped throw a few bales of hay around. Hugh graciously let me stay in his “pond house”, a 2-story house built next to a 30 metre artificial pond formed by damning the little creek that flowed through the property. Other Club Bultaco Australia members have also stayed here over the years, including our very own El Pres. The ground floor is a kitchen and lounge room with a bathroom attached, a spiral staircase leads upstairs to a large open double bedroom. And everywhere you look are firearms for Hugh and Barb’s other hobby, hunting.
Everything from muzzle loading pistols to the latest high tech sniper rifles –a great collection. Hugh and Barb go hunting as often as they can, when not doing things Bultaco. They even hunt on their own property, just over the hill the other side of the pond Hugh has built a 2-storey hide with 360 degrees view all around the local fields which back onto natural forest, full of deer. We went there for a look and counted 16+ deer grazing in the fields around the hide. There is another hide on top of the barn the other side of the pond, and Barb has her own hide the other side of the barn.
Monday morning the shop opens early so I was up and ready to go at sparrows. The shop is only 100 metres from the pond house so I didn’t have far to go. Hugh & Barb’s house is right next door to the shop so even less for them. At the front of the shop is the customer counter, from where you look into an Aladdin’s Cave of rows and rows of shelves full of Bultaco spare parts – everywhere you look is something Bultaco.
Hugh’s son Tim and a soon-to-be relation Geoff work there filling and posting all the orders for parts, this keeps them busy all day. The other side of the spare parts area there are a couple of steps down to the workshop, where all the rebuilds are done by Hugh and his mechanic Lonnie. Everything from a simple engine rebuild or painting a tank to a total restoration of any model Bultaco you can name. And everywhere are bits and pieces of Bultacos, all over the floor, in shelves on the walls and hanging from the ceiling. I set aside a cardboard box in a corner that I proceeded to fill with any treasures that caught my eye – I had brought a “parts wanted” list with me! The shop / workshop is only a part of the Weaver Bultaco Emporium – the rest is made up of several old barns, sheds, garages etc full of Bultacos – Hugh reckons somewhere around 500 but it would be an almost impossible task to accurately count them – and anyway, why?
The barns are scattered all over the countryside and date back to when the Weaver family owned all the local land. The bikes ranged from basket cases to almost as new bikes, complete, incomplete and all available for sale; just pick the one you want, pay Hugh and ship it home. The bikes are loosely stored by models – the Alpinas and Sherpa’s together in one barn, Pursangs and Astros in another, Matadors in a garage (that was being undermined by gophers, I earned my keep by helping to dig it out), Metrallas and other road bikes elsewhere etc. In the labyrinth of passages and multiple floors within each barn were stored all the forks / wheels / rims / hubs / frames / engines / tanks / seats / shocks / exhausts / pistons / heads / barrels / carbs / anything you could possibly want, stored on shelves or hanging from the ceiling or walls or on the floor in as yet unopened boxes.
Only Hugh and Tim seem to know roughly where any specific part might be, Hugh would take me for a drive to one of the barns at a time to find something he was after to fill an order or to rebuild another bike. While there I would try to take everything in and see what parts I could find to take home – a difficult task due to poor lighting and almost total lack of an organised storage system. I now know how Aladdin must have felt when he opened the cave and found a mass of wonderful treasures therein. I could have spent many happy days (weeks) there searching through all the bits and pieces but if I had I would need a shipping container (and a very understanding wife) to get it all home! I still have wet dreams about it!
The crowning glory of Hugh’s empire would have to be the museum, full of all good things Bultaco including several TSS’s and pristine examples of just about all the most desirable Bultacos you could wish for. Even a visitor’s book signed by Don “Paco” Bulto and many other Bultaco notables. I made quite a few trips to all the various barns etc. with Hugh over the next two days, finding a few parts which went into my “treasure chest” which I topped up with parts / books etc. from the shop. I was getting a bit worried, my haul weighed about 15Kg and I had visions of big excess baggage costs.
Sunday and Tuesday nights there were spent dining on great home grown and cooked tucker (washed down with Captain Morgan’s spiced rum & beer) at the pond house with Hugh & Barb, with movies of hunting and tall tales and true of Bultacos and everything else in the World. Monday night we went to a local eatery where we dined on chicken wings, pizza & beer watching the gridiron game on the big screen TV. On Wednesday morning my trip to paradise came to an end and Barb drove me to Hudson to catch the train back to New York, where I was to meet up with my long lost wife and son. During my time at Hugh’s I was made to feel very welcome and wished I could have stayed longer – next time maybe! I would like to thank Hugh, Barb and Tim for their wonderful hospitality and putting up with me – let’s face it, they are trying to run a motorcycle business, not guided tours for visiting Bultaco enthusiasts. Barb in particular, who even did my washing, ironed and folded it for me! They are a great family, really friendly, I feel privileged to know them.
We arrived home a week later via Hawaii, where we spent a few enjoyable days. No problems with the airlines about excess baggage; I distributed my Bultaco parts in all our bags so each was only ~5Kg over the (Australian) weight limit, which is 5kg less than the USA limit. One bag was opened by the Customs Department in the USA, I think all the metal parts triggered an alarm and they opened it to see what it was, and they are paranoid over there about bombs on airlines. I guess they reckoned a few old motorcycle parts were not a threat. Just in case I carried an invoice from Hugh listing all the parts I bought and declared them on arrival back in Oz but the Customs here were not interested. The only thing they confiscated was my son’s string of beads that he was given by a grass skirted hula dancer at at a luau in Hawaii, he was most upset.
I will long remember my visit to Hugh’s and would thoroughly recommend that anyone who is afflicted with the Bultaco sickness make the pilgrimage there if you get the chance, it will be a trip you will never forget. Send Tim your “parts wanted” list well before you go to give them plenty of time to find the parts before you arrive. Make your visit on weekdays, not the weekend and give Hugh plenty of notice that you would like to come so you can arrange mutually acceptable dates – Hugh is not always there. Don’t go during the winter though; they are up to their armpits in snow!