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San Francisco Bay-Area Man Ready to Fish in His 'Boatercycle'

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HAYWARD, California -- In about two weeks, Don Johnson will literally drive his homemade "boatercycle" into Lake Del Valle in Livermore, drop his fishing line into the water and wait for the trout to bite.

Johnson, a 72-year-old retired millwright and machinist, has for the past few months been refurbishing his boatercycle — an amphibious contraption he originally built in the late 1990s.

While the vehicle has proven to be roadworthy, Johnson has yet to test it in water.

So, Johnson soon will motor his way to Livermore and drive the boatercycle into the lake for what will constitute its first dry run — er, wet run, if you will.

"I know it'll float," Johnson said while sitting in the kitchen of his Hayward home. "I'm not worried about it sinking."

Pausing a few minutes, Johnson added with a chuckle: "I hope it floats. It'll either float or sink."

Johnson believes he is the only person in the Bay Area — and as far as he knows, one of the few men in the country — to own a self-constructed boatercycle.

The 13-foot vehicle, which is resting on a trailer in front of his Hayward home while he rebuilds it, is one in a long line of items Johnson has crafted through the years.

Past items that Johnson has built in his garage — where two lathes, a mill, a surface grinder and a Heliarc welder are stored — include three-wheeled motorcycles, minibikes, Go Karts and a cabin cruiser.

He said he even has fashioned a hot rod out of a 1934 Ford pickup.

But the boatercycle?

Well, that is Johnson's most prized — and unusual — possession, one that even impresses friends.

"He's a pretty handy guy," gushed friend Paul Gauthiei, 81. "I'm amazed at him. He's something else, and he doesn't even brag about it."

Johnson said he got the idea to build his boatercycle years ago, when his daughter, Lindsay, now 11, was 3 years old. The construction of the fiberglass-encased boatercycle was completed in 1998.

The two-seat, three-wheel vehicle, which was built from a wooden mold and features a Volkswagen engine, has two fixed trolling motors and two fishing pole holders. It also is equipped with a fish-finder, a citizen's band radio, a weather station and a stereo system.

While the boatercycle has not been water-tested, Johnson said he has driven it on the roadways and has reached speeds of 70 mph.

"I didn't want to push it beyond that, though," he said.

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