BRATTLEBORO, VT – In Vermont, it is less and less of a rarity to run into a celebrity. The first time I ever recall actually recognizing a celebrity in the flesh was a chance face-to-face encounter with filmmaker Ken Burns. I was trying to squeeze into the door of a crowded restaurant in West Brattleboro (an eatery that sadly no longer exists) while he was attempting to squeeze out of the door. I’m not a gushing fan kind of guy, so Mr. Burns and I just exchanged a smile. Mine said, “I recognize you” and his said, “I understand that you recognize me and I am thankful that you aren’t going to try to detain me.” Fair enough.
Andy Warhol’s prediction that everyone will get fifteen minutes of fame is being realized thanks to social media. I met my first social media celebrity at a public event back in the spring. I was at a table, looked up and immediately recognized the tall, thin frame, and black watch cap that has become his signature look. It was Chris John of Vintage Steele in Brattleboro.
Motorcycle guys from far and near know all about the shop, co-owned by Josh Steele and Chris John on Canal Street. Vintage Steele does a number of things, and one of them is to modify older motorcycles to give them new life and purpose. Their work has garnered them a solid reputation in motorcycling circles. This is not an easy thing to accomplish because turning out a contemporized vintage motorcycle requires a number of skills, and if you want results, all of those skills must complement each other. Unlike my Ken Burns encounter, I did detain Chris John and he is a likable, friendly guy with a passion for what he does.
Brattleboro has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to motorcycle culture because there is the legendary Lynde Motorsports on Flat Street.
Stanley Lynde has been practicing his art for decades and has a reputation that has been long established. Part of the allure is the personality of Stanley himself. He’s a super knowledgeable professional who traces his motorcycling origins to the 1960’s and 70’s when we were deep into chopper culture. Very few individuals have as finely a honed sense of motorcycling history and leading edge awareness than Stanley, plus he’s a wicked nice guy. This puts Lynde Motorsports in that rarefied atmosphere of a motorcycle shop that is as much a cultural center as it is a repair facility.
When you visit either Lynde Motorsports or Vintage Steele, you are guaranteed to see some cool machinery and meet like minded people. I know that if I had the time, I would be frequenting both shops on a weekly basis just to inhale the atmosphere. These motorcycling institutions reflect that cultural cool that is Brattleboro. Great restaurants, great shopping, wonderful galleries, and hip motorcycle shops. To the riding community, Brattleboro is a destination, a must-see attraction that fulfills the visual and gustatory senses.
I can only imagine what a juggling act it is to be a popular destination that is socially vibrant, all the while tuning and repairing motorcycles as well as creating great bikes, too. However, Lynde and Steele manage it quite nicely. Why is that? It’s because they are all doing what they love. What could be better than going to work every day to practice all of the skills that you have worked so hard to sharpen, and then share conversation with like-minded individuals? Any realistic person knows that it can’t be all octane and interaction, but I suppose when these folks have a good day, it is a very good one.
If you are a motorcyclist and you have some free time on your hands, grab a couple of riding buddies and make an event out of a ride to Brattleboro. The simple things like good food, great bikes, artistic surroundings and good friends can make for an enjoyable and highly memorable experience.