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CHOPPER CHRONICLES Episode 2

Missing Flat Track Racer

By K. Randall Ball with images from Sam Burns
11/15/2022


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Wyoming winter was tough on two young girls running a bar in a podunk town of Sundance, Wyoming. Inflation and soaring gas prices didn’t help. Jennifer itched to use her investigative talents with her Chopper Chronicles web site designed to help riders retrieve their stolen motorcycles, but she felt trapped. The old jute box in the corner blared out, “Just ask the Lonely,” by the Four Tops. She was not only lonely but depressed while staring at her computer screen.

If a brother or a sister reported a motorcycle stolen, Jennifer worked hard spreading the news, and she had a modicum of success. She posted vehicles on her site and did a bang-up job spreading the word on social media and to local authorities. Just sharing the news drew attention to stolen rides. From time to time someone reported seeing a bike and the location. A police sergeant from New Orleans called her, “Your site helped. Someone spotted that bike and called it in. We got it and the thief.”

As a blizzard struck, the snow piled up against the Dime Horseshoe Saloon front door and the -5 degrees wind whistled down the street, Randi, the hot younger sister, polished the barroom glasses once more and repaired sketchy wooden chairs with new epoxy glue and brass screws.

Jennifer stared at the dark wooden interior walls and her computer. She hosted over 500 stolen motorcycle listings and just seven were found. She turned to a rickety drawer full of lost-and-found keys and sunglasses. Digging around for her aspirin jar, she found it and took two. She had a headache and was depressed.

“Are we going to make it,” Randi said wiping the single small rectangular window and peering out at the wind-swept street and waves of snow piled against frosty vehicles and buildings.

“Sure,” Jennifer said. “We always do. Better clear the sidewalk. It’s almost noon. Can you make it to the gym, you’ll feel better?”

“Like we’re going to get a bunch of lunch customers,” Randi said sarcastically and grabbed the container of homemade chili out of their short barroom fridge. She pulled a fresh loaf of local bakery-made sourdough bread onto the counter. “Have you been in touch with our guys?”

“Don’t go there,” Jennifer spat. “You know that’s extremely unlikely, especially now.” She wanted love bad. She felt a connection to one of the brothers who helped last year prior to the rally. If only he was closer…

“I’m not sure how much longer I can take this,” Randi said heading to the back for a snow shovel. The two sisters interrupted their lives to help their sickly mom with the bar, back when they could have traveled, expanded their lives, you name it. Almost 7 years behind the bar locked-down their abilities to seek adventure.

Jennifer heard her computer talking behind the bar, a new email arrived. The first one in a couple of weeks aside from spam and news reports. She looked at her athletic sister and thought she should be in Sedona, Arizona running a spa or jogging along the coast of France. Her scrambled thoughts made her even more desperate.



A flat track racer image came into view. The 450cc Honda sparkled with life and speed housed in a polished chrome-moly frame with red, white, and blue pearl painted graphics on the tank and fender. The owner explained that the bike and his pickup truck were stolen a year ago at an event. The owner, an older veteran loved to race. He raced since he was old enough to ride. He stopped when he joined the service in 2000 and was wounded in Afghanistan. As soon as he was back on his feet and stateside, he raced again. At over 50 he was heartbroken at the loss. Jennifer was doubtful she could help. The theft was too old.

Jennifer responded to him anyway and immediately started her social media campaign. The owner Dick Jones lived in Cave Creek, Arizona and Bryan wasn’t far away. “Randi,” Jennifer said, “Bryan could help with this one. Would you like to reach out to him?”

“Hell yes,” she agreed and snatched her cell phone out of her dark apron pocket and dialed.

“Yeah,” Bryan snapped into the phone. “I’m working out.”

“Too bad,” Randi returned. “I’m shoveling snow.”

“You got me,” Bryan’s tone softened. “How’re you?”

“We are good,” Randi said, “but we have a case in your area, Cave Creek.”

“What can I do?” Bryan said setting a 50-pound dumbbell on the steel rack in the gym with a loud clank, while Marty Robbin’s classic El Paso played in the background.

“I will text you the info and maybe you can talk to the owner.”

“Why don’t you fly down here, we’ll go see him together, and I can take you to a spa and dinner and…”

“Knock it off,” Randi said. “I wish.”

“Okay,” Bryan said. “I’ll report back.”

A couple of days passed until Bryan was able to reach the disabled veteran on a dusty desert road in Cave Creek, not far from where Sonny Barger had a ranch. Dick lived in his 1500 square foot metal shop complete with an office, shitter and shower. He’d created a bench with an electric cook-top next to a moderate refrigerator and a cupboard with cooking supplies. He made mostly noodle bowls with vegetables, shrimp or chicken. At 54, the Afghan Vet raced since he was 16. He started working in a bike shop at the age of 13, fixing bicycles and motorbikes. He never stopped tinkering with motorcycles and racing, even in the service.



His truck, a ’72 Ford F-150 with an automatic transmission, power steering and original paint, faded white with a taste of rusting metal seams, had showed up but the motorcycle was gone. Bryan looked around the sheet metal shop at the trophies, old race posters, motorcycle parts and racing supplies. The guy was despondent. His whole reason for living was gone.


“Can’t you buy or build another bike?” Bryan asked.

“I have a crappy disability payment and social security,” Dick said. “I’m looking, but my bike was special, and I poured a ton of money into the suspension and handling. That’s why I won.”

“Any clues, enemies, competitors, drug dealers?” Bryan pressed.

“Could be one or all of the above,” Dick said. “Every spare dime went into that bike.” It was an XR450 Honda single dirt bike from 1980 converted to a flat track racer and now raced in the seniors vintage class.

“When’s the next race,” Bryan asked.

“Not until March,” Dick said. “In Florida.”

“Will you go to that race?” Bryan asked.

“I usually do,” Dick said while sitting on a Snap-On rolling shop stool. He stared at the dusty concrete floor and kicked a nut and bolt under his motorcycle lift. “But no reason to go without my bike. Without the bike I can’t get a sponsor to cover travel expenses. I’m up shit creek.”



“Gimme some photos of the bike,” Bryan said. “I’ll see if I can have someone check out that race.”

Enjoying the warm weather, just north of Phoenix, compared to plunging temps in eastern Wyoming, Bryan slid into his jet-black two-door Bentley. He backed out of the dusty sand coated driveway and hit the winding road back into Scottsdale. He made a call to the Colonel, an old biker in the Black Hills. “You know plenty of folks in Florida, right?”

“Of course, god-damn-it,” the former Colonel replied. “Toby’s planning to attend the races in Volusia County during bike week anyway. Send me the photos.”

March rolled around and the jammed bike week gave Toby plenty of spots to visit during the Rally in Daytona Beach. A longtime freelance photographer, he fought traffic on his black bagger to the Volusia county raceway, then hustled to get his pit pass.

Toby made his way to the top of the bleachers. The smell of fuel and roar of open-pipe race bikes vibrated the stands. He pulled a set of binoculars out of his back pack. In the perfect position to study the vehicles leaving the raceway, he finally spotted a couple of young characters loading the red, white, and blue Honda racer into a grungy black van.

He pushed and shoved his way down the bleacher steps to the bottom of the stands, through the crowd meandering in and out of the pits to the heads, food vendors and race track. As he flashed his pit pass and ran into the center of the pits, he spotted the van rumbling out of the gate.

He immediately yanked his phone out of his vest and called the Colonel. “Just missed them,” Toby said, “but they were here.”



The Colonel called Bryan and he called Randi to report in. “Yep, the bike was spotted at the Bike Week races,” he said. “Need to check the next race. I will let Dick know we spotted it.”

Excitedly, Randi reported to Jennifer, who dashed to her computer. Although she didn’t hold any hopes for hooking up with Dr. Karl, she loved connecting with him. He exuded an air of calm and thoughtfulness she rarely encountered in local Sundance cowboys.

The good doctor didn’t get back to Jennifer, whose anxiety level peaked. She had less than three weeks until the next race in Texas. Always busy, Dr. Karl made personal calls while driving from one Santa Monica chiropractic practice to his desert office two hours from the coast.

“Good to hear from you Jenn,” he said in his calming voice. “You’ll have to excuse me, I’m driving.”

The driving notion told Jennifer, no pleasantries, cut to the chase. “We have another stolen motorcycle case,” Jennifer started. “A wounded Afghan vet’s flat track race bike was stolen. It’s all he had, and it was spotted in Daytona, probably headed to a race in Texas. Can you help?”

“Can you text me the specifics,” the doctor said. “I will be driving a ’52 Lincoln through Texas on the way to Mexico for a vintage road race.

“Of course,” Jennifer said. He seemed to want to be chatty about his car and the La Carrera Vintage Road Race, but she needed answers. It bugged her that he was driving. She wanted him to stay focused on busy SoCal freeways. She was getting busy as the sun and the warming weather drove lunch customers inside for chili and beers. She hung up, but her anxiety wasn’t allayed.

 
She called Markus. “I need help?”

“What’s the deal?” Markus asked always direct with a taste of sarcasm. He was in his shop below his mountain house, tuning and prepping a bow for an archery competition.

Jennifer blurted out her issue with the stolen flat track bike and the Afghan vet owner. She mentioned the race outside Fort Worth, Texas, the doctor’s vintage road race in Mexico and the delicate timing issue.

Markus could be as cool as an assassin sizing up an Al Qaeda leader in the Afghan mountains. He’d spent 10 years in Afghanistan immediately after 9/11, working with and against various warlords and terrorists.

“The timing for Christian, and the La Carrera is from the 14-20 of October,” Markus said. The Texas half-mile is coming right up, so the good doctor can’t help.”

Jennifer liked the analytic nature of Markus’s response. “Well?” she asked.

“Send me what you have. I’ll call you back in an hour,” Markus responded and hung up. He flipped open a laptop on his bench to look up the half-mile race event near Fort Worth, Texas. It was titled the Mission Texas Half-Mile Flat Track Race.

Jennifer scrambled to text Markus photos and info about the bike and the wounded vet. Markus called an old rider who lived in Deadwood, S.D. He was still in the motorcycle industry, after 50 years, and knew everyone.

He dialed the Colonel. All three of the brothers knew the Colonel and had ridden to the Badlands with him more than once. Within an hour Markus spoke to Rick Fairless, the famous builder and Strokers Dallas owner. He spoke to tattoo artists in Houston, who planned to attend the race. He dialed Kent, a Houston bike builder, who never missed a race. He spoke to a girl, who always planned to marry the Colonel since she was a kid, but her dad and the Colonel’s evil ways prevented it. She lived near the race track and all her pals would attend. That’s where a problem surfaced. One of Shelly’s pals posted something on her modeling Facebook page.

Everyone who attended the race that day checked in with Markus as they arrived. The sun was a glistening ball of fire but the March winds kept Texas temps at bay. Dirt flew into the stands from the riders spinning knobby tires. Each rider dreaming about riding the perfect lap around the half-mile track.

The 25-lap races flew by. The initial launch always seemed to seal the outcome of the race, but spectators held their breaths hoping for miracle moves propelling their racer to the front of the pack. It was like pulling the arm on a massive, half-mile slot machine hoping for an unexpected move to 4-aces and checkered flag jackpot results.

The father-son tattoo artists had pals who raced and bought pit passes to visit and inspect the asphalt pits, but they found nothing except friends with their motorcycles caked in sandy dirt sporting glistening smiles after a successful race.

The thieves spotted the Facebook post and dodged the Texas half-mile.

It had been over a year since Dick’s rig was stolen and the frustration grew. He’d survived two heart attacks, a stroke and cancer, but wasn't giving up. Bryan called to check in, “I’m sorry I don’t have better news.”

“I’m in pain most of the time,” Dick said. “But when I’m on dirt tracks, I don’t feel a thing. Everything goes away.”

“We’re on it,” Bryan said noting Dick’s obvious depression and checked the flat-track web site for the next race.

 
Everyone was keyed up for the next race and just maybe luck would be on their side. The next race was scheduled for 23 April – the 1-70 Half-Mile presented by Indian Motorcycle of Kansas City, in Odessa, Missouri. Jennifer checked out the race program and reported to Bryan. Dick wanted to go. Markus was training for a traditional bow national competition and couldn’t help.

Randi called Bryan, “Have you ever been to Odessa?”

“No,” Bryan said. “As much as I would like to hang out with you, I can’t make this one.”

“We’re going,” Jennifer snapped from across the room. “It’s only 11.5 hours from here. We’ve got a month to plan.”

The Wyoming and South Dakota weather brightened and the two sisters were anxious to hit the road. Markus spoke to them weekly about weapons, security and law enforcement data. He called the Odessa police and found the detective responsible for vehicle theft. They spoke at length about the crime and options.

Randi relayed any info to Bryan who kept Dick in the loop. She also started to pack their Ford Ranger pickup for the trip. Her optimism drove her to buy some tie-down straps and she crawled under the truck bed so she could tighten down a bike chalk? after Jennifer drilled the holes in the bed and fed her the bolts.

Markus turned over the Odessa police contact to Jennifer.

“This is a big deal for the local riders,” Lt. Randall said. “I have a cousin who will be racing. I’m going to be one of his pit team along with another officer. You and Randi can have pit passes. We need spotters if we hope to nail these guys.”

Jennifer bit her nails waiting for the day they would jump into the Dime Horseshoe Saloon pickup and haul ass to Missouri for the races. The girls argued whether to peel out in the middle of the night and shoot for a one-day blast or to leave a day early.

They needed to arrive by noon on Saturday when the pits opened for the riders and their teams to set up. They decided to cut a frosty trail at 6:00 in the morning on Friday and get as close as possible that evening. They could crash for the night and hit the road in plenty of time to make it to the track by noon.

In the early morning light, they loaded final backpacks of clothing and hit the road. Driving in silence they steered out of Wyoming and through a good chunk of South Dakota. Once through Rapid City the State flattened out and Randi’s cell phone rang. “Hello,” Randi said.

“How’re you doing?” Markus asked directly as if she was a soldier on a mission.

“We’re anxious,” Randi said.

“Do you have weapons?” Markus inquired.

“Yes, sorta,” Randi said.

“They aren’t for the jackasses with the bike. They are for your self-protection,” Markus said. “You should know this. You are two hotties running a bar.”

“We have a shotgun and a baseball bat behind the bar,” Randi started to get feisty. “We’ve delt with more than our share of drunks and jealous cowboys.”

“Never mind,” Markus said sarcastically. “I’ll kick your ass later.” He hung up.

“Was he really pissed off,” Jennifer said as she drove at just over 75 mph on the wide, clean interstate 90 heading due east.

“Don’t think so,” Randi said, “just concerned.” She opened her leather purse and made sure she had her folding knife, another knife in the glove box and a small baseball bat behind her seat, just as Markus had suggested. She made sure each item was accessible.

 
They rumbled through the flatlands and made it to Sioux Falls by noon, where they searched for I-29 heading south along the Nebraska border into Iowa and Missouri. “Let’s eat,” Randi said.

They rolled off the interstate near the airport and found Josiah’s Coffee House. As they pulled into the asphalt parking area, they noticed a black van that looked like shit with rusted wheel wells and bumpers. It was parked diagonally across two spots.

“Can’t park or keep their van from crumbling,” Jennifer commented slipping out her door and locking the pickup.

As they approached the door to Josiah’s, two young guys burst out of the wide glass coffee shop doors with their take-outs. Both were blonde, one with long hair and taller than the other. “Suppose you want us to hold the door for you,” he said and spat on the sidewalk pushing the girls back as they burst into the parking lot.

“Bet that’s their piece of shit,” Jennifer said loud enough for them to hear. Randi noticed, the smaller of the two wore leather racing boots. He looked back at her, but his big partner grabbed his shoulder and pulled him toward the van.

“What do you think?” Randi said after they’d ordered and sat at a table looking out the window as the Van pulled out of the parking lot.

“I got the license plate number,” Jennifer said. They enjoyed cheesy spinach omelets, hot coffee lattes and hit the road onto the I-29 south toward Sioux City, Iowa.

Jennifer planned to drive as far as a small interstate intersection outside Lincoln, Nebraska and spend the night. The next day they could easily roll into Odessa, which was slightly east of Kansas City, Missouri. The total route would take 11.5 hours, and she hoped to cut it to 3 hours for the second leg.

Randi took the wheel after their coffee break and they refueled, then continued down highway 29 passed Sioux City.

 
The two punks in the van also refueled. The driver, the longhaired hippy looking douche, scratched his 4-day beard after refueling and hitting the road. “Those girls wouldn’t be the ones from that Chopper Chronicles web site, would they?” He lit another cigarette. His center console was a mess of empties, trash and cigarette butts.

“You’re paranoid,” his brother said wiping down his leather racing suit with some leather treatment to remove the mud from the last race.

“Maybe we should dodge this race,” Joey said and puffed on his cigarette.

 
“We can’t,” Ricky said. “I’ll lose my points standing. We missed the Texas race and I’ve got to score big at this one to stay in the running.”

Joey was a loser and his younger brother even worse. Their folks were drug addicts who decided to ditch them and move to San Francisco for the free drugs. They knew the city would give them food, shelter and drugs. What could be better. The kids would just hang them up.

Joey dealt weed since it was still illegal in Wyoming. He stole cars, pickups and even the van they were driving. His folks peeled out before he graduated from High School and he never had the opportunity to learn a trade. He needed to make enough to feed the two, and Ricky, at the time, couldn’t fathom what was happening. Joey seemed to make ends meet and Ricky could tinker with motorcycles and race. Life couldn’t be better, no school and motorcycles 24/7.

The I-70 Motorsports Park outside Odessa, a town of just over 5,000, had a short Saturday schedule with the pits opening at noon and fans were allowed in at 3:00 p.m. Opening ceremonies didn’t start until after all the classes took trial test runs on the watered-down dirt track surface. After the venue staff prepped the track, opening ceremonies kicked-off at 5:00 pm.



Some 14 contestants were sponsored for this event which was also sponsored by Indian of Kansas City.

The event would move along quickly with the pits being in constant motion. Everyone needed to be on their toes. The tarmac was a wide stretch of blacktop and dirt surrounding the race track with parting of the pits at the center of the oval to allow the spectators entrance into the race track. There were two entrances into and out of the pits, one on the east and one on the west.

The cops set up near the east entrance with their family and friends. News came in from dispatch with the license plate number from the stolen van. Detective Randall wandered around the pit lanes, a little over a half-mile hike checking teams and looking for the battered black van.

 
He returned unsuccessful to his designated area with their tent, gear and pickup. The girls parked in the spectator parking area and wandered to the line of wooden ticket booths and inquired about the pit passes at the will-call booth. There was a note with the passes indicating the location of the family of racers including two cops. They were granted access and passes. They made their way into a tunnel leading to the center of the track where the half-time band set up. A guarded gate in the tunnel under the stands provided spectator access into the pit area.

Jennifer and Randi showed their passes and were allowed access into the pit area. They hustled to the east entrance and introduced themselves to Detective Randall who was busy cleaning up their SuperTwin which had just completed their practice passes. Big Officer Randall was on his knees in the dirt cleaning, adjusting and oiling the drive chain.

“Officer Randall,” Jennifer said. “I’m Jennifer and this is Randi.”

Randall scrambled to his tall feet and attempted to offer his hand but thought better and pulled it back. His hands were covered in sticky chain fluid and dirt. “Good to meet you,” Randall said. He was big, burly and sported a massive bushy mustache. “I’ve been around the track once, but as you can see, I’m sorta busy. The pit area is jammed and there are a herd of competitors, all with rigs and crews.



“That van?” Jennifer asked. She was tall, and her natural beauty glistened when the sun warmed her features. Even without much makeup and just a touch of lipstick she glowed and Randall noticed.

“You’re right,” Detective Randall shook his head. “Could be our guys. The van was stolen about six months ago.”

The detective noticed their cooler with light jackets draped over it barely covering the aluminum alloy baseball bat.

“What’s with the bat?” Randall asked.

“We were coached on personal safety,” Randi said and puffed herself up. She wasn’t going to be ignored.

“I’d rather you called me, if you spot something,” the detective said. “I hope you’re not packing guns – are you?”

“No,” Randi said, “but we signed up for concealed carry training.”

“I don’t need a shootout here,” Randall added. “Too many innocent bystanders.



The Parts Unlimited AFT singles were making their way to the track for practice. Jennifer, nervous as hell, meandered around the dirt pit lane in the center being used for traffic. As they wandered, looking surreptitiously at all the trucks and folks, Randi’s frustration surfaced, “I can’t stand this. We can’t see the exit and Randall’s guys are too preoccupied to watch the gate all the time.”

Suddenly a thunderous roar of a big twin filled the air and the sisters turned as Markus slid sideways to a stop in front of them spraying them with dirt. “Had to be here for this and a fellow veteran,” Markus chuckled. He’d ridden round the clock from the coast.
“What the hell?” Jennifer spat, swatting the mud from the front of her denims.

“They haven’t shown?” Markus asked, still covered in road grime. He moved his bike out of the dirt road and kicked the FXR kickstand down.

“No, we can’t find them,” Randi said, tickled to see Markus.

“I need to get to the announcers booth,” Markus said. “Quick. If they are signed up, the track announcer will know. Singles are practicing. They need to be here.”

“Randi, can you watch the west gate?” Markus said. “I need Jennifer’s pass to get near the announcers.”

“You got it,” Randi said, took the baseball bat and jogged in the direction of the gate.

Jennifer straddled Markus’ chopped FXR as he fired it to life and peeled in the dirt to the center of the track and into the tunnel under the bleachers. They parked and ran up the internal wooden-slat stairs to the announcer’s booth above the stands and knocked on the door.



A staff member opened the door. A young man with a brisk demeanor. “No one is allowed in here until after…”

“Just need to know if all the singles racers have checked in,” Markus asked.

 
And older gentlemen wearing official attire and an announcers pumpkin-colored sport coat turned in their direction. “There’s always a no-show,” he said. “What’s up?”

“A van is due to arrive with a stolen race bike,” Markus explained. “If everyone checked in, he’s here.”

A hot looking blonde made up like a trophy girl, complete with a Miss Odessa sash and a glittery white bathing suit, turned from her portion of the counter scattered with class listing sheets. ?“The last singles competitor just checked in,” she said with big concerned blue eyes.

Markus pushed his way into the booth and turned toward the exterior windows looking out over the pits. The sun was beginning to drift into the West and shown directly into his eyes. He used his right hand to block the brilliance until he could focus but couldn’t see much except a hot looking brunette jumping up and down in the center of the pit road waving her hands at the announcer’s booth.

“They’re here,” Markus turned to Jennifer. “let’s go.”

They jammed down the shaky wooden stairs to the dirt path leading into the pit row, but Randi wasn’t in sight. The sun was playing games with their vision, darting between the rigs and flashy motorcycles. Markus suspected the worst as they jumped on his stretched FXR. They jammed away from where the cops stood guard toward the east entrance, then spun in the dirt heading behind the track to the north side.

The tall blonde thug had Randi by the arm and pulled her toward their van. He had the baseball bat and was threatening Randi with it. “Just one last race for my brother,” Joey said puffing on a cigarette.

Randi tried to pull away as Markus slid to a stop. Jennifer jumped off his bike. “You take the back; I’ll get in front.” He nailed the throttle and peeled in the direction of the van and slid to a stop between the vehicle and Joey holding tight to Randi and the aluminum bat. As he stopped the hippy let go of Randi’s arm and prepared to take a swing with the light but dangerous metallic bat.

 
“Hey,” Jennifer hollered and Joey turned distracted. He starred directly into the slivers of sunlight and couldn’t see. She grabbed Randi and threw a fist full of sand into his face, blinding him. When he turned back, Markus blocked the bat easily and struck the tall, disheveled man in the throat with a short, sharp strike. Joey grabbed his neck, grunted and dropped to his knees gasping for air in the dirt.

Markus pulled the right rear van door open wider as Ricky charged with a ballpeen hammer. Markus nailed him with the van door and he dropped stunned to the ground. “You’re racing days are over pal,” Markus said as the officers arrived, cuffed the bad guys and helped to remove the Honda racer from the van.



Markus helped the girls load the racer into their Ford Ranger. “You’re learning close quarters combat,” Markus said to both of them. “Use whatever you have at your disposal, but don’t ever let the enemy get ahold of your weapon. Now you owe me a steak.”

She makes Hal's Bandana look fantastic. Click for action.
She makes Hal's Bandana look fantastic. Click for action.









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