Exhaust Note: Werner Wachter (1943-2021)
It’s early in the 1980s. Rider magazine is beginning to show promise as a motorcycle monthly devoted to the touring market. I’m working a motorcycle show in Cincinnati. Here comes this ebullient Austrian guy with an infectious smile who says, “Hi, I’m Werner Wachter, Edelweiss Bike Travel, and I’d like to invite you to go on a riding adventure with us for a story in your magazine.” My mama didn’t raise any dummies. So shortly thereafter I’m with Werner and an impassioned platoon of Moto Guzzi riders from the States touring the Alps in Italy and France during one of the coldest, snowiest, wettest springs on record and loving every second of it. The record of my initial joyous Edelweiss scoot was published in the September 1983 issue of Rider under the headline “Der Flug der Ganse,” subtitled in English, “The Flight of the Geese,” together with photos of wintry riding conditions that still give me, uh, goosebumps under my thermals.
There was a tie that bound Werner and me from the start. We both shared the background of beginning our professional careers working for our fathers, mine in RV magazine publishing, and his in medical electronics. There couldn’t be two more disparate fields of endeavor, but boyhood cases of motorcycle fever are usually incurable and so we both took the old advice on the T-shirt: Ride to Live, Live to Ride. The frames of wonderful memories that ensued two-wheeling around the world with the inimitably fun-loving Werner through many years are definitive, including that warm evening in Novgorod, Russia, when we danced with a couple of local girls to Johnny Mathis crooning “Chances Are” on the player, and when we strolled outside, chances went south when a horde of mosquitoes had us slap dancing and laughing uproariously in our shorts. And that shoreside dinner on the Sea of Galilee in Israel, when I ordered catsup to douse on my St. Peter’s Fish, Werner with mock horror grabbed the bottle and threw it thirty yards into the storied lake. And poignant times, too, like when we were hosted for lunch in China by a local motorcycle club, guys with small machines and big hearts, and we realized for the umpteenth time during our international forays that, borders and politics aside, people are people, and that all riders seem to be in the best sense a brotherhood.