Category Archives: Quirks

A Wilder Business

11/15/2013 Update! Recently expanded Moto Shop featured on NatGeo program “Let It Ride”!

National Geographic Channel has a new entry in the parade of custom motorcycle building shows, “Let It Ride.” It is focused around Zach Ness, the grandson of custom motorcycle king, Oakland-raised Arlen Ness. This young grandson along with his experienced crew builds custom bikes from scratch or with the seed of an old motorcycle. Time will tell how Zach treads in the trendsetting designer boots of his granddad.

In the 6th episode, “I Know What Girls Like”, Zach and crew attempt their first sport bike build (with a beat-up Yamaha base) “on behalf “ of the now 6000-ft Moto Shop, which has elbowed some more space from the building. See Zach banter with Wilder-of-few-words-and-many-wise-looks and the gracious and mirthful Aleks. Some great shots of Moto Shop were squeezed in there and the segment ends with a satisfying cruise at Thunder Hill. Find the episode info here: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/let-it-ride/episodes/i-know-what-girls-like/. Be warned; it also features a segment on creating very…um…feminine makeover on a Harley Dyna.

Arlen Ness is one of the best-known builders in the world of custom motorcycles, and one might argue the king of quirky designs, including his famous painting style. Above is the “Mach Ness”. Photo by Michael Lichter

Arlen Ness is one of the best-known builders in the world of custom motorcycles, and one might argue the king of quirky designs, including his famous painting style. Above is the “Mach Ness”. Photo by Michael Lichter

1/9/2013:

Quirkutopia has spawned many an unusual business idea; brilliance born from the hearts and minds of true Quirks.

Meet Wilder and Alexandra Grippo, both raised in the hills and niches of Sonoma County and having been bitten by the moto bug. They both ride and even race a bit.

Meet Wilder and Aleksandra Grippo, both raised in the hills and niches of Sonoma County and having been bitten by the moto bug. They both ride and even race a bit. Photo courtesy of Moto Shop

Wilder and Aleks have started a business that doesn’t aim to sell you anything, nor do anything much for you. Hey, that’s not good capitalism, you say! Oh, but wait. This hard working and fun-seeking pair instead offer you the chance to learn – to fix your own motorcycle! We recently visited the Moto Shop location in South San Francisco.

The Moto Shop in it's sweet warehouse in South San Francisco.

The Moto Shop in it’s sweet warehouse home in South San Francisco.                           Photo by Heather Granahan

This is a different kind of motorcycle shop – it’s a 4,000 sq.ft. do-it-yourself shop where you can work on your own motorcycle(street, dirt, or scooter), or take a class and learn how to do it yourself. They provide really organized fully equipped workstations with all the tools and resources to help you fix and maintain your moto.

Lots of lifts, light and ventilation make it downright pleasant to work on your moto.        Photo by Heather Granahan

Lots of lifts, light and ventilation make it downright pleasant to work on your moto. No more hard-assing it on the cold ground.                                                                             Photo by Heather Granahan

The space is a lofty old warehouse with industrial trusses and one giant wall covered in street art. They invited a team of local street painters in and the result has authenticity and punch.

Here are a few clients bikes stored against the wall of art – a privilege available with a monthly repair station reservation.

Here are a few clients bikes stored against the wall of art at Moto Shop– a privilege available with a monthly repair station reservation.                                                                                  Photo by Heather Granahan

Alex’s professional graphic arts business adds a visual sensibility to everything Moto Shop.  Photo by Heather Granahan

Aleks’ professional graphic arts business adds a visual sensibility to           everything  Moto Shop.               Photo by Heather Granahan

You reserve the stations by the hour or day for a very reasonable cost. At your fingertips the possibilities are endless: oil change, carb rebuild, exhaust install, tire change, heated grips install, engine swap, chain replacement – you name it, you can do it. 

If you don’t know where to begin, take a hands-on clinic and learn how. There are instructors (both genders, by the way) who can be tapped for one-on-one individual coaching, too.

Getting some one-on-one coaching at Moto Shop.

Getting some one-on-one coaching at Moto ShopPhoto courtesy of Moto Shop

Soon, Wilder and Aleks hope to expand Moto Shops in new locations as the clamor is building from other burgs in ‘topia. South San Fran is actually a cooler neighborhood than some people might think…but we want a Moto Shop in Sonoma County, too!

Wilder’s late dad Bill Grippo was a master saddlemaker and leatherworker and the sign for his old business “Horesepower” hangs in the Moto Shop, seemingly foretelling his son’s interest. His European-born mother is an active artist living in Mexico.

Perhaps growing up under a “Horsepower” sign rubbed off on Wilder in some way…

Perhaps growing up under a “Horsepower” sign rubbed off on Wilder in some way… Photo by Heather Granahan

Just past the Horsepower sign is the Moto Shop lounge area where moto heads kick it with some grub and sometimes  have movie nights – moto-themed, of course. Connect with  Moto Shop on FaceBook ( http://www.facebook.com/BayAreaMotoShop?ref=ts&fref=ts ),  or the web (www.bayareamotoshop.com )  to get in the loop. Or moto your hiney down there, better yet.

How about movie night in the Moto Shop lounge? Or just grab a bite and hang out; it’s riding-boot friendly

How about movie night in the Moto Shop lounge? Or just grab a bite and hang out; it’s riding-boot and dog friendly .        Photo by Heather Granahan

South San Francisco has a cool old downtown neighborhood, a hidden corner of the Bay Area.

South San Francisco has a cool old downtown neighborhood, a hidden corner of the Bay AreaPhoto by Heather Granahan

Take a break from monkey-wrenching and grab a bite at Ed’s Diner in South San Fran.

Take a break from monkey-wrenching and grab a bite at the timeless Ed’s Diner in South San Fran. Photo origins lost in time

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Captain Mom

Aye Aye, Ma’am! Captain Maggie and her crew received the 2012 American Red Cross Life Saving Organization Award for successfully saving lives on two different occasions on San Francisco Bay.

Some people think of Maggie McDonogh as a quirk in a male-dominated job. Some of us just plain admire her. Her nickname is Captain Mom because she is the fourth generation in her family to earn a living on the waters of San Francisco Bay. Captain Mom owns and runs a fleet of ferries out of Tiburon. She does the scheduled runs to Angel Island, and offers an evening picnic sail around the bay. She also runs a moonlight champagne cruise on the three full moons of summer. She offers whale watching trips and great white shark adventures with cages off the Farallone Islands. “Sharks don’t have can openers,” the strawberry blonde, divorced mother of two quips.

Life too ho-hum? Do what some quirks do and be the creature in a cage for a change. Captain Mom can take you to the Farallone Islands to try (to not lose your) hand at this

Great Grandpa left railroading to haul water freight and run a chowder house. Grandpa Sam rented out his fishing skiff for 25 cents a day back in the days when Tiburon was on the wrong side of the tracks. “He didn’t know how to swim and he once fell in with his pockets full of quarters. No way was he going to let that cash go, it was the Depression. Lucky for him, someone hauled him back in,” Maggie laughs.

Maggie’s Dad Milton hauled munitions at night in blackout conditions through World War II and he started the ferry business.

Mom at work.Tough but tender-hearted, she also provides a home for many unwanted roosters. She wakes up early enough the crowing doesn’t bother her.

Maggie now runs three boats: the Angel Island, the Tamalpais and the Bonita. She has been greening the business, systematically replacing the engines with low emission ones. It’s a costly process, but she is dedicated.

Capt. Mom can haul you and yours for some unspoiled camping smack in the middle of the SF Bay at Angel Island, with views of the city and Marin County

She manages her 10 employees while also caring for her kids, Becky and Sam, and her aging father. She feels her crew is her extended family. She also provides a home for many unwanted roosters.

She was raised on boats, and she is raising her children the same way. “Becky is natural mermaid, sings and dances. Sam is more analytical and he’s a dedicated fisherman,” she explained.

Her job is not always a picnic on the bay. In 1995 she had just had a C-section and the coast was slammed by a hurricane strength storm. “That storm was chewing up the dock and my boat would be smashed on the rocks if I didn’t do something. The Coast Guard didn’t have anything big enough to help us. We were on our own I shoved the baby into my neighbor’s arms. Me and Dad, and some deckhands launched a skiff.”

She boarded the vessel and eventually brought it into the protected harbor on Angel Island despite her stiches tearing. The storm left every boat in Tiburon damaged, but she managed to save their biggest boat and the business continued.

May 27th 2012: Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge with Captain Mom’s Fireworks Cruise Cruise on the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry. http://www.captainmom.com for more info.

You have to take life as it comes,” she said. “My Dad taught me to know what I could fix and not worry about what I can’t. You have to accept you can’t win everything. But hey look,” she gestured at the view from the bridge of the Tamalpais. “I’ve got no complaints. The good Lord changes the art work in this office every day. How good can life get?”

Quirky phoenix paints a book!

Painting "Book Man" by Gretchen Butler

A few years ago a pair of phoenixes landed in Quirkutopia’s coastal hills. They had flown here after an arsonist torched the box canyon that held their nest in South California, along with 59,448 acres in the 2003 Grand Prix fire.  Along with the nest went years of paintings and sculptures crafted by Gretchen Butler and her husband.  All but 20 of Gretchen’s paintings and one small carving were lost.

Bearing only smudged scraps, they rose from the ashes and flew to North California. Eventually landing in a sunny treesey place, they followed a time-honored tradition of many a Qurikuptopian rural-ite: they camped until they created a yurt that was in turn their home for a long long time until they built a House.

The new nest - yurt raising; photo by Jerry Taylor

Gretchen has created a painting of words and art in a lively book called Wild Plum Café that ladles the stories and images of these years into one’s bowl in a delicious stew. Living virtually outdoors, dealing with the endless roto-tilling wild boars that plow our hills, the rattlesnakes that guard it and the beatific strangers that sometimes roam it – meet Bracken the Buddist! – she keeps a real sense of humor and casts a quirky eye to the journey. She steels herself to review the day of the fire and the things left and missed and not missed. Her intrepid husband also keeps a sense of humor, even as he puts creative effort to building the new nest and delivers her a truckload of compost as a romantic Valentine’s Day gift.

Elegance and irreverence, a classic Quirkutopian combination! Gretchen gets the sink she's been pining for. Photo, Gretchen Butler

This is a completely off-the-grid nest , as are so many of our beloved Quirks. Their hillside neighbors join them in a loosely-crocheted community of off-gridders, many of them in the second half of life and most are fit and vigorous from country life. Meet them, too, at the Wild Plum Café  in a work hung with art and laced with inspiration. Read your way into this painted story of two soon-to-be –geezers as they fly from fire to challenge, from loss to a life in nature.  Get a copy before it hits the bookstores by emailing the author at : canyonstudio@gretchenbutler.com  See her paintings swirl off your screen at:  http://www.gretchenbutler.com/  .

The color purple

If you see a lady dressed in purple and wearing bright scarves and belts out in a field painting and sipping wine, it is most likely Annie Murphy Springer. Annie Murphy Springer is currently known as a very talented watercolorist, and entertaining teacher. But she has a habit of reinventing herself. She used to be the fire chief of Bodega when there were only three women fire chiefs in the entire country. She not only was chief, she wrote the state manual on running small volunteer departments.

 In another of her lifetimes she organized Oakland motorcycle gangs to do community improvement work, and taught them literacy. She is still an honorary Oakland Ramp Rat.

Quirkutopia is proud of its blonde bundle of energy always in purple and wearing braids.

The local public television station features her in mini two-minute watercolor lessons called The Wonders of Watercolor. She may be expanding it into a 13 week, half hour series in the near future.

Her work is always recognizable ­ as there’s bound to be a lot of purple. She does plein air painting in the wonderful landscapes of Quirkutopia and mindscapes of her own. You can check out some of her lessons at her website www.anniemurphyspringer.com