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Thursday Edition

A Brother Steps Up

A 1984 Tribute to the new Evolution Platform

By Bandit and Zeke

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Zeke, the constantly moving outlaw rode a rigid framed Shovelhead for years starting in 1979, when he slipped out of prison for the first time. He sold his chopped ’74 Superglide in ’75 to help support his family, while he was shipped off to prison.

In ’79 the man cut him out of some dank, concrete penitentiary on a windy spring morning and his first thoughts included sex and building a chopper quick.

Lakeshore H-D is still in Libertyville, Illinois, south of Waukegan and north of Chicago. They advertised crate Shovelhead engines for sale at a ripe price in Easyriders magazine.

That magazine made the trip home with him and his ol’ ladies income tax check opened the door to jam to Lakeshore to pick up a new crate Shovelhead. “Keep the doors open, I’m coming,” Zeke hollered in the phone and dashed out the door with a wad of cash. His brothers from all over the state delivered busted, stolen and replaced parts. One brother installed disc brakes on his bike and delivered he rear juice drum brake to Zeke.

Another brother showed up with a damaged- neck, stock Harley rigid frame. Zeke found another newer swingarm frame and mated the two. Zeke added a 5-spoke aluminum wheel, a dual disc wide glide to help with braking, a 21-inch spoked front wheel, low drag bars and fatbob tanks.

A club businessman he rode from Toledo to Detroit and Chicago constantly taking care of strip clubs and assorted club business. He never stayed long anywhere, while dodging potholes in the two states competing for the most potholes in the country, Ohio and Michigan.

He ultimately installed big-bore cylinders and a cam to kick it up to 88-inches. As the club expanded, he found himself cutting a dusty trail for Florida with his bedroll strapped to his tall sissybar. “I always ran a two-up seat, so I could pick up chicks,” Zeke said. “I had one in every club town. Hell, I needed a place to stay.”

About 1984 when the Evolution engine was introduced, Zeke made the run from South Florida to Sturgis for the rally. More and more Evos were seen slicing across the country toward the Badlands, and he thought it was time to upgrade.

A candy crimson, limited edition Softail caught his eye, “I had to get one,” Zeke said. At the time, there was a shortage of new models available and his black-cherry looking Softail was hard to find. Prospective buyers were put on lists at their local dealers, while they waited. He had the cash, but none were available in South Florida. He put the word out to all his chapters spread out all over the country east of the Mississippi.

Through his vast network of brothers, he shortly received a call from Chicago. A gravelly voice over the phone told him of a no-miles candy crimson Softail due to arrive at the loading dock of Chicago Harley-Davidson in a week.

The prospective buyer on the list had dropped out or was pushed out. “If I wanted it, I could step in,” said Zeke. “Put a couple of grand down at the dealer and lock it down for me,” He told the brother.

He made a plan to fly into Chicago with the cash, buy the bike and ride back to Florida. “No problem,” the brother said and took care of it, plus he’d pick Zeke up at the airport.

Zeke always prepared for a road trip. He threw his stout, leather jacket, gauntlet gloves and helmet in a duffle bag. As this was happening in the fall near the great lakes, he would run into cooler weather rolling out of Chicago. “I rode all over the United States on Harleys and never owned a foul-weather riding suit,” Zeke said. It was against his outlaw style, besides his patch was always destined to be in the wind.

At one time he rode for four days straight in the pouring rain because he had to be at a particular location right on time. “I’d stop for the night,” Zeke added, “but my leather boots and jacket never had a chance to dry out.” He didn’t enjoy that ride.

His notion of foul weather preparation included a good pair of thick leather black boots, a heavy insulated leather jacket, tough leather black chaps and a pair of gauntlet style thick leather gloves that extended over the openings of his leather jacket sleeves to prevent the cold air from chilling his torso. A bandana across his face cut the icy wind and slowed the rain.

There was an inclement weather code for outlaw bikers. “You needed a flexible open schedule with no firm deadlines,” Zeke said, “so you could leave early and get to your destination whenever.” He laid up a brother’s pads, motels, strip clubs, bars or club houses to let the bad weather pass was the best solution. “My boots spent a lot of time stuffed with newspapers to soak up the rain while resting under a stripper’s bed or next to the heater.”

Trying to warm up after an icy cold ride was a drag with only a restroom, hand blower in a truck stop. “They suck,” Zeke said.

When the call came in from Chicago, Zeke grabbed a flight to Chi Town, immediately. On a brother’s advice he flew into Midway instead of O’Hare. As promised a brother waited at the gate. He grabbed his duffle full of riding gear and his brother assured him that he knew the Midway layout like the back of his hand. “He led me on his ‘short cut’ to his car,” said Zeke.

He strolled through the airport carrying his duffle over his shoulder, while $20,000 in hundred-dollar bills filled his boots and as always, he carried a couple of strong joints in his tool bag. “I questioned one of our turns,” Zeke said, “but he reassured me that he had this, when we stepped down a ramp of stairs into the airport Chicago Police Department substation.”

His brother said, “Oops, wrong door.” They made a quick reversal and Zeke pointed out the exit signs. “Whew! Close one,” Zeke said as they stepped alongside the brother’s beater, rusted out, Pinto in the concrete parking structure. “Welcome to Chi-Town,” Zeke said.

They blasted directly to the Harley Dealer where the owner welcomed Zeke. “The bike is being prepped with your add-ons,” he said. Zeke added a rear fender rack and switched out the restrictive exhaust and air filter system. “Let this new Evo breathe,” the owner said. “It will just take a couple of hours,” He was slightly taken-back by this high-ranking club officer from another state. He took Zeke to his office to take care of the paperwork.

His thin, well-dressed, brunette, professional sales lady sat next to Zeke as he pulled off his boots and poured stacks of hundreds on the owner’s desk. “The extra is for my road-trip home to Florida,” Zeke said while counting out the balance.

Time to kill, the owner told Zeke to go next door to the bar he owned. “Lunch is on me,” the owner said. Zeke moved into the clean, neighborhood bar and sat at the counter. He ordered lunch and started to chat up the knockout, petite waitress/bartender.

It was rapidly turning into a good day as he sat at the bar with a pocket full of cash and a new Harley being prepped for him, while a pretty lady served him food and drinks.

The bar phone rang, and she picked it up near Zeke, and her conversation turned unpleasant. He couldn’t help but to over-hear the dialog go south, with her so-called boyfriend. “You motherfucker,” she said loudly. “You wait until I’m at work on my birthday, to tell me we’re breaking up!”

Zeke moved away from her station to give her some space during her troubled call. When she finished Zeke sat back down and listened as she poured her story all over him. “Happy Birthday,” Zeke said and they both had a shot of Jack Daniels. Her mood lightened as they talked, and he waited on his bike.

As luck would have it, she got off as his bike was completed and they planned to ride out together. She was the perfect sized, female package for the back of his new Evo. The bar/dealership owner shook his hand as he readied to leave. “We’re a full-service dealer,” he said as they peeled out.

Zeke spent several days and nights with the lady riding along Lake Michigan’s Lake Shore Drive or LSD, exploring Chicago. His brothers weren’t surprised as this was Zeke’s M.O., when it came to the ladies and new towns. They caught his act before.

This new Evo Softail ran great and he said his goodbyes and hit the road east to Toledo, Ohio, on the turnpike, to visit another charter. Some 250 miles later he pulled up to some friends’ home. Bikes were parked everywhere. “The party is on,” a brother said, and they moved to the clubhouse bar and started to bring each other up to speed on life’s adventures.

Zeke heard another bike pull into the yard. A brother strolled in, gloves in hand and said, “What’s new with you?” Excited about his new Evo, Zeke walk his brother outside and said, “This is what’s new,” pointing to this new candy crimson Softail right in front of the door. Zeke took a second look and realized his gear wasn’t strapped to this Softail. The other rider had just pulled up on a twin to Zeke’s scooter. They all laughed, and the party continued.

After a couple of days, he hit the road out of Toledo, southbound on the I-75, an easy interstate, solo roll as he was breaking in his new machine. It ran flawlessly and he blasted through another 140 miles to Dayton, Ohio and another clubhouse, another group of brothers and another party. Rolling south, the I-75 took him over the Ohio River in Cincinnati and into Kentucky, where it meandered through the rolling hills into Tennessee.

At every stop, the brothers took him to their favorite spots, bike shops, restaurants and bars. Each clubhouse was a home on the road. From one destination to another the climate changed from full blown cold weather gear, on a slow strip tease heading south.

An early start and another 140 miles landed him in Knoxville, TN. Coming off years of riding a rigid frame Shovelhead, which was a great bike, but it wasn’t an Evo with an 80-inch fire breathing engine, over 40 mpg and a 5-speed transmission made it awesome. A whole new mode of travel for a wandering outlaw.

Another 150 miles slipped by without as much as a nod. He wasn’t even beginning to test the bike. “What was the hurry,” Zeke said. “I enjoyed every mile.” Another 100 miles further south on I-75 as he wound along Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga, the site of many Civil War battle stations. Another house fulla of brothers and cold beer. An evening at the local biker bar, the home of the “Rooster Dome” with a backdoor courtyard where two men entered and only one left. The bar owners had a rule: All fights had to be taken outside.

A quick 100 miles and he hit the clubhouse in Hotlanta, Georgia, a wild party city, based around Steward Avenue, devoted to whores, bars, strip clubs and blues joints. He made this run many times and had keys to the gates and houses as he often arrived unannounced with a large group of riders. Those rides involved herding the pack, dodging police stops, dealing with breakdowns, and multiple hangovers were great, but this leisurely solo roll on a new bike was incredible!

Zeke pulled into the Atlanta clubhouse yard, which was typical, with tall stockade fence, security lights, choppers, pickup trucks and badass dogs on chains. This yard contained a particularly mean pit bull on a chain. As he parked his bike, a brother came out of the clubhouse and welcomed him. “I’m on my way to the store to stock-up the bar,” he said. “Wanna come along?”

Zeke jumped in the truck and off they went to buy plenty of beer and booze. All loaded up they returned to the clubhouse. As they entered the yard the brother said startled, “Oh shit, that fucking dog is off his chain.

Zeke laughed and said, “Look, that bitch is tearing something up.” Foam and cloth were scattered across the yard. They jumped out of the truck and wrangled the dog back onto its chain. His laughing abruptly stopped when he discovered the massive brindle Pitbull tore the hell out of his gauntlet gloves and helmet.

“You’re lucky,” the brother said. “Usually he goes for bike seats, tears them to shreds.” Lucky huh? The next stop was a Harley shop for another helmet and pair of leather gauntlet gloves. He took advantage of the dealership and had his oil changed in the new Evo.

His brother covered the damages and took some ribbing along Stewart Avenue at the strip joints. “Here comes that dog,” Zeke would say just as his brother began to relax and enjoy the girls.

The next day, as Zeke prepared to cut a dusty trail, that same brother approached. “I’ve got something for you,” he said. He took Zeke to his place and introduced him to his dog, a beautiful female Rottweiler, who just had pups. He gave Zeke a pretty little female pup. Zeke strapped his new helmet box to his luggage rack, after poking it with holes. He added a few shop rags for comfort and popped the pup inside. Off down the road they went.

Next stop was Jacksonville, FL on JAX, about 350 miles and Zeke began to roll on the new Evo, up and down from 70 mph in 10 mile an hour increments to 90 and back down. “Fuck it,” Zeke said. “She was happy at 80 mph.” The large 5-gallon gas tank allowed him to cover 120 miles before even getting close to reserve.

He slipped off the highway into a travel stop to top off and let the pup drink some water, and empty out in the grass, no mess in the box. Soon it had the routine down. It would empty out and trot back to the bike and lay down under the frame. Occasionally, he hit a fast food joint where he would get her a burger and fries, no problem.

Hitting JAX he stopped at a brother’s house and spent the night. The bros young son loved the pup. The numerous dogs at that house were chain, gang guard dogs, very unapproachable to most. The next morning, Zeke’s strip tease continued, working down to Levis, a t-shirt and his vest.

The new Softail ran great and Zeke was off to Orland and another clubhouse. Pup rode like a champ in the helmet box. One night with the bros in Orlando and it was home stretch time. He hit a rest area south of Orlando, let the pup out for water and emptying and Zeke also hit the restroom.

By this time the pup found the grass herself and returned to the bike without coaching. Zeke came out of the restroom and spotted a second bike next to his. He recognized the rider standing next to it, as a friend from a West Palm Beach club.

“Beautiful bike,” the rider said, “and your guard dog is taking care of business growling at me.” Sure enough, the pup lying under the bike growled at the stranger on another motorcycle. They had a good laugh, Zeke loaded up the pup and they took off together southbound. His partner leaned off the interstate in West Palm Beach and Zeke kept rolling south. “After a long solo ride,” Zeke said, “it felt good to have a friend motoring along next to me.”

Zeke finished his ride in Ft. Lauderdale, wearing light, fingerless leather gloves. “Great to be at home base,” Zeke said. As he pulled up to the clubhouse, so did the brother from Jacksonville, with his young son in their pickup. This kid was so excited to see the pup again, Zeke turned it over to him. “This kid loved it,” Zeke said.

His new Evo was a hit with the brothers, and it gave him years of hassle-free service.

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Back to Just The Facts, Ma'am: The non-fiction department., Two Wheeled Tales

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