GRANITE FALLS — The rocket-shaped motorcycle sidecar has a comfy leather seat and is covered in stickers honoring military veterans.
You might see Walt Jackson riding around Granite Falls with his wife, Phyllis Jackson, in the sidecar, a one-wheeled device attached to the side of his motorcycle.
The three-wheeled rig tends to turn heads.
“Always plan on more time for traveling,” Walt Jackson said. “People will want to stop and talk.”
Once common in the early 20th century, motorcycle sidecars are increasingly rare. For 69-year-old Walt Jackson, it’s about more than just nostalgia. The sidecar allows his wife to go for a ride with him.
Walt Jackson said Phyllis Jackson used to ride on the back of his motorcycle until she suffered a stroke in 2017.
“That’s not going to stop us from doing the things we enjoy doing,” he said. “I came up with the idea: She can’t ride on the motorcycle anymore but a sidecar is doable.”
Instead of sitting behind him, Phyllis rides next to Walt. They both agree it’s a smooth ride.
“You’ve got really good back support,” he said. “You can sip your coffee and enjoy your ride.”
Walt Jackson has been a motorcycle enthusiast since he was a teenager. He served in the Air Force for 20 years, first in aviation electronics and then in vehicle maintenance.
He bought the sidecar from a Texas company for $3,600 last fall and fastened it to his motorcycle, a 1986 Honda VT500C Shadow.
He manufactured his own mounts to ensure the sidecar was level. A machinist friend then attached the contraption to the motorcycle’s frame. Between the sidecar and equipment, the project cost him about $7,000, he said.
As a final touch, he decorated the rig with Air Force stickers.
“I made the sidecar a rolling tribute to America’s military veterans,” Walt Jackson said.
Time to hit the road? Not so fast.
He first had to obtain a three-wheeled motorcycle endorsement on his driver’s license. He took a class in Everett and passed a skills test.
The couple got out on the road this summer. Their first major trip took them to Port Townsend aboard a state ferry. The sidecar was a hit with other passengers.
“Other motorcyclists came to look at it,” Walt Jackson said. “A lot of times it’s the first time they’ve seen a sidecar. You don’t see too many of them.”
Sidecars go back to 1893 in France, after they were invented in a contest to find the best way to “comfortably and elegantly” transport a bicycle passenger, according to an article in Rider Magazine. The rigs were used in the military in World War I and II.
For many years, sidecars were an affordable way to get around until cars became cheaper.
“There is a small, passionate number of sidecarists who love their three-wheeled machines, sometimes referred to as hacks or chairs,” the article states.
Jackson said there used to be a Pacific Northwest chapter of the United Sidecar Association, though the group has been less active during the pandemic.
For now, he’s found plenty of fans. Another driver caught up with the couple at a gas station last month. Jackson recalled what he said: “You guys look like you’re having entirely too much fun.”