The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 23, 2012

A sunk ride rises: Motorcycle lost to lake in 1956 resurfaces

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

— Sure, it’s rusted, the seat’s a goner and the gas tank bears gaping holes.

But to Ron Miller, it’s a beauty. Never mind that it’s been sitting on a lake bottom the past 56 years. This motorcycle has a tale it wants told.

“I have a feeling the bike is talking to me, and it’s telling me to go out and tell the story,” Miller said.

The 1938 German motorcycle was exhumed from its watery grave Nov. 29 when a commercial fisherman hauled in his net and there it was.

The fisherman, Jeff Riedemann, said he’s netted a lot of debris in his time — boats, motors, antlers, a buffalo skull — but this catch of the day trumped all else.

“There it was. We couldn’t believe it.”

Moreover, for being on a lake bottom more than half a century it was still in relatively good condition. The cylinder was dry and there was air in the tires.

It was dredged from Big Swan Lake in Dassel, where 15-year-old Dean Allie dunked it while joyriding on frail ice on a December day in 1956.

His father had just bought it for him, and the shame of drowning his ride was tempered by the fact that he didn’t perish also.

The leather jacket he was wearing, cinched snugly at the waist, had filled with air, serving as a life preserver until he was aided by nearby anglers.

Allie, now 71, still lives in the Dassel area, and when the bike was brought to him his eyes welled with tears, Riedemann said.

The incident made for big local news in ’56, and efforts the next summer to drag the lake for the bike failed. Even scuba divers couldn’t find it.

Allie was going to keep the bike for posterity until Riedemann and business partner Ken Seemann introduced him to Miller.

Riedemann and Seemann sell carp to Miller, who makes a living trucking the live fish from Minnesota to Asian markets in New York City.

Miller is also a motorcycle buff — he owns eight — and coveted Allie’s bike not only for its vintage German pedigree but for the “found treasure” aspect of its story narrative.

Allie gave the motorcycle to Miller, who plans to clean it up and have a large placard made that chronicles its saga.

“I want to get the story out. It’ll go on display,” said Miller, who envisions exhibiting it at motorcycle dealerships, civic celebrations and elsewhere.

He said restoring it to running condition is out of the question, if not impossible. His mission is to clean it up as much as he can, then send Allie a photo of it, per the agreement the two men made.

Miller got a good start on that a few days ago. He took it to a do-it-yourself car wash and spent two hours pressure-washing it.