By Bruce Mike
Something I have always counted on to get me through a long Minnesota winter is Motorcycle Swap Meets. Unfortunately, thanks to Craig’s List and ebay, they seem to be happening less and less. This makes me sad because I like everything about a good Swap Meet. The atmosphere, the camaraderie, the bad food, the negotiating, and the piles and piles of stuff.
Over the years I have bought way more stuff than I ever sold and many of my purchases were of things I didn’t need or didn’t work for the application I had intended. It didn’t matter. At the time I was making the purchase I was convinced it was a great idea. I had visions of, and great ideas for, some amazing projects. I have also bought a lot of tools and parts that were put to good use. I have no Swap Meet regrets.
I recently attended a Swap Meet in Humboldt Iowa. It was the 26th Annual Iowa Classic Motorcycle and Scooter Swap Meet. I was excited because I figured if it has been around for 26 years it has to be a good one. The goal was mini bikes and mini bike parts. There is a group of us who go to Vintage Torque Fest the first weekend in May and the best way to get around the Dubuque County Fairgrounds is on a mini bike.
We left St. Paul for Humboldt at noon on a Friday. The Swap Meet started at noon and we figured with the three hour drive we would get there right after all the vendors set up. You don’t want to show up at the end of a Swap Meet because then you miss out on all the best deals. The plan was to get there and poke around for a couple of hours and head back home. We got there at about 3:30 and had seen everything by 4:00. It was by far the saddest Swap Meet I had ever attended.
There were a couple of Cushmans, a couple of Honda Trail 70s, a couple of Honda Z50s, a couple of Whizzers, a couple of Doodle Bugs and a few other small displacement motorcycles. There were a few assorted parts, some miscellaneous flea market kind of stuff and a guy selling used, very bald, motorcycle tires for $8 a piece. The one thing that caught my eye was a Yamaha BW80 with a brand new Lifan motor in it. Perfect Torque Fest transportation.
The little bike was sitting in the middle of the floor with no price on it. I patiently tracked the guy down who was selling it and got a price. I tried offering him less but he was firm. It was a good price so I didn’t push it. As soon as I agreed to buy it, I started getting the stories attached to it. Thankfully, my friend Rick was there who will chat and listen to anyone, about anything, for however long is necessary. While they were yacking, I took it outside, got it running and rode it around the fairgrounds. I love little motorcycles.
We hung around till around 6:00 and no new vendors showed up. From talking to one of the organizers and some of the vendors that were there, they were surprised by the low turnout. They said it was usually packed with stuff from wall-to-wall. I’d hate to see Swap Meets fade away. They are a much more interesting way to buy things than shopping on the internet. The characters you meet are worth the price of admission.