Incomplete Serendipity, or: I Think I Missed a Good Story

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The BMW R75/5.

We saw this BMW R75/5 being towed by a pickup truck on I-81 on the way back from Starbase Nashville a couple of weeks ago; at first glance I thought it was an old Honda CB750 because of the color and chrome fenders, then we got closer and I saw it was a BMW.

We stopped at a hotel in Wytheville, Virginia, for the night and I was pleasantly surprised to see the BMW owner had picked the same hotel. I didn’t get a chance to speak with him, but I was able to eyeball the bike early the next day, while taking the dogs out for their morning constitution.

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Probably 128,344 miles.

What a beautiful bike. Closer inspection made me think it was carefully restored or extremely well preserved and maintained, but it was near-perfect either way. There were 28,344 miles on the clock (maybe it was actually 128,344 since it was a five-digit odometer) and the state safety inspection sticker was current, as was the New York state plate.

I’ve always liked the classic BMWs. The Slash/5 models were produced from 1969-73, according to bmbike.co.uk. This one has about 50 hp and a top speed of 108 mph.

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Drum brakes, front and rear.

With Skipper, our hyperactive Treeing Walker Coonhound1 tugging on her leash, I photographed the bike from all sides.

And here’s where it gets slightly weird. It wasn’t until later, looking over the photos, that I learned the significance of the sticker on the right side below the saddle: Philip Funnell, a legendary BMW rider, dealer and builder from Canada. He’s taken bikes around the world at least twice and was inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2010.

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The manual petcock controls fuel to the engine.

One of his bikes, his handcrafted R75/6 Podcycle, is on display at Bob’s BMW in Jessup, Maryland, a dealer whose service department has taken care of Endurance in the past. Linda and I were there five days ago, looking at touring bikes. I must have walked right by the Podcycle.

I don’t want to say I feel cheated, but I would have loved to learn where that New York BMW had been and whether its owner knew Mr. Funnell. We’ll call it a near-brush with history and leave it at that.


1 – Skipper is the dog we found abandoned and starving on the side of I-95 southbound while driving to Myrtle Beach more than two years ago. She’s doing fine now and can pull that leash like a sled dog.

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