Sick racer treated to road trip |

Sick racer treated to road trip

Paul Orlandi’s buddies knew he was terminal due to throat cancer and decided it was time for a memorable road trip.

That’s why the contractors who raced against each other and toiled together in garages decided to hit two Southern California motorcycle museums and return in three days.

“We just wanted to make sure we could give Paul a good time,” said Ted Scruggs, who planned the recent trip. “Whenever he gets around motorcycles, it perks him up.”

Scruggs rented an RV, filled it with old motorcycle magazines from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s – some of which chronicled Paul’s prowess as a racer – and headed south. Others on the bus included Randy Young, Rich Marcucci and Frank Gowin of Nevada County, and Paul’s brother, Steven Orlandi, who lives near Auburn.

Julia Orlandi, Paul’s wife and a nurse who has the ability to change his dressings, also went along for the ride.

“It was enjoyable, but I had to listen to girl jokes from six guys,” Julia said. “The museums were both closed, but they opened up especially for us.”

“When I called the Chandler Museum, they said ‘bring him down by all means, you’ll have the whole place to yourselves,'” Scruggs said.

The Chandler Museum he referred to is the Chandler Vintage Museum, created by former Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler. It is filled with classic cars and motorcycles.

Chandler’s only mode of transportation during college at post-World War II Stanford was an old Harley-Davidson Knucklehead. His second wife, Bettina, met the motorcycle entourage upon their arrival at the museum in Oxnard.

“They spent a lot of time with us,” Scruggs said. “She is a very gracious woman.”

It was a candy store for Paul, a 1968 Nevada Union High School grad who ran professionally for years in road races, on dirt tracks and in motocrosses.

“I thought it was really great,” said Paul, 56. “Mrs. Chandler hung out with us for awhile. She was gracious to open the place up. The museum was definitely top of the line.”

Paul, who said he thinks he knows everything about motorcycles, was surprised to find a classic Moto Guzzi at the Solvang Motorcycle Museum in Solvang, near Santa Barbara.

“He had a couch to lay on while we were driving,” Julia said.

“To show him a good time meant a lot to everybody,” Scruggs said. “He’s always been a very talented motorcycle rider, definitely a true racer.”

The first time Marcucci saw Paul he was a spectator, watching him rip around the track at Auburn. Just watching got him hooked.

“I bought my first speedway bike from Paul, Marcucci said. “Anything he climbs on, he takes to it and drives it well.”

Marcucci drifted through turns with Paul at the track he and Scruggs developed at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. “We’re all in construction together too; that’s our other connection,” Marcucci said.

Pulling off the museum trip “was just something that we really felt,” Marcucci said. “We really care a lot for Paul, and we wanted some quality time and some good memories with him. He’s just a great guy.”

Paul is obviously the kind of guy who doesn’t want a big fuss made over him. Although things are about as tough as they can get, he’s still enjoys working on his 20 or so motorcycles in his garage, which is filled with old trophies, photos and memorabilia.

He rides an Indian for pleasure and has two Ducatis that can do 170 mph. Various other motorcycles line the walls, from vintage English models to an old Honda Dream 150, reminiscent of the days when Paul returned from Vietnam.

In February he ran a race in the new supermoto class, “which is mostly pavement with a little dirt and some jumps.”

These days the phone rings incessantly – calls from well-wishers and concerned people – but he isn’t looking for sympathy and wasn’t looking for it on the trip.

“It was about my friends,” he said.


To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail or call 477-4237.

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