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Tuesday Edition


New Approach, New Players and a Wild Adventure

By Bandit with photos by Franky and Marilyn Stemp.

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Sturgis is a major endeavor each year. It’s the epicenter of the custom motorcycle industry. Hell, the Chip held five custom bike shows, five concerts, two wet t-shirt contests, an industry party, and Michael Lichter’s stellar art exhibit and bike show, plus a helluva lot more. That’s just scratching the surface. New camp facilities pop up every year and this was no different with the latest Elk Ridge facility and a very together travel center.

Year before last, on the 75th, I had the pleasure to meet the Smoke Out crew for a pre-rally run through the Badlands. We arrived two weeks early and I met Rich Worley of American Biker in Charleston, SC where I bought my 2014 Indian Chief Classic. Polaris only built 10,000 of this first-year Indian. Rich customized it slightly with his patina paintwork, lowered it, made new bars (’46 Indian style) and we modified a few other pieces. I can’t leave anything alone.

Then, since he has never been to Sturgis, he rode it out. We arrived, Rich picked up an Indian loaner and I straddled my ’14 Chief for a great time in the Badlands with the bros. We stayed in a vacation cabin up a gravel road in Spearfish. I rode the cross-country Chief home to Wilmington in Los Angeles. Terrific ride. We covered the whole tamale on Bikernet.

The next year, I rode the Chief again out to Sturgis and back with fellow Hamster Mike Stevenson, about 3,000 miles. This year we pondered our options. At one point, four of us were going to truck vintage choppers to Sturgis for the rally, but as these difficult planning operations go, the program constantly changed, flexed and blew to dust.

I was in the process of searching for a new vehicle, with four comfortable seats and a box capable of carrying two bikes. Then we could trailer two more and be golden. I never found such a vehicle, so my plans started to alter like a snake in tall grass looking for a way out or the next rat to swallow.

She decided not to go with us...
She decided not to go with us...

As August neared, I had my 2004 Chevy Express tuned and new Firestone tires installed. I was beginning to lose confidence in this puppy. But it had performed admirably for several years, thanks to Richard Kranzler, our deceased Bikernet Baggers editor. The maroon van made two trips to the salt flats a delight. That puppy was the shit and a Kendon trailer completed the team.

I also had the trailer serviced. Willie, the master mechanic, borrowed it often and I called him to get it dialed in for the run.
“Bring it over,” Willie said, “and I’ll be glad to check it out.

“It’s not at your pad?” I panicked.

“Nope,” Willie said. “Some guy picked it up. I don’t remember his name, but you said it was okay.”

“What did his truck look like?” I stammered.

“Damn, I don’t remember,” Willie said and hung up.

Fuck, what the hell? It took some memory searching and trying to stay calm phone calls. For years, I’ve been trying to install a clipboard in the shop to list when someone hauls off something or borrows a tool. Just recently, we put it together, but Jeremiah writes down what he takes then scratches it out and writes, “Fuck you.” Then he storms out of the shop. He never returns anything…

The trailer never made it to the list, but within 48 hours I happened to call Brad Olsen, and while talking about his Panhead, I asked him about the trailer. “Yeah, I’ve got it.”

He greased the wheels and while checking tire pressures discovered a highly damaged spare bolted to the underside of the frame. I noticed how low the trailer rode several times. We reached out to Pep Boys and ordered a new tire. “Just throw the spare in the back of the van,” Brad said, and I cut off the bent posts that held the spare under the trailer.

The narrow, flimsy, tongue on the Kendon bike ramp was always a problem and I welded a slice of tubing to the end of the ramp for a more secure ramp. It worked like a champ. Our Sturgis vehicle team came together as we tinkered with the bikes.

Both of these scooters were built around ‘20s flat side tank vintage style and both seemed to have issues. The 1984 Shovelhead, which I called the 1928 Shovelhead, with 21-inch tires front and rear, was finally dialed in when Kyle wrecked it. I patched it back together and made more improvements, but didn’t ride it much. The tanks were European re-pop JD tanks from the ‘20s with the oil tank incorporated into the left side.

We messed with it and replaced the bars with Paughco Hollywood flat track bars and their new solid brass dogbone risers, and Franky started riding it every weekend. I also waited for years to re-register it in California. I bought it originally from Arlen Ness. It was a Mexican Police bike. JIMS rebuilt the engine and trans, and I shipped the components to Rick Fairless in Dallas with additional parts to build this little puppy.

It took about a year and the bike was titled in Texas. I kept the Texas registration going for a few years. So, when I kicked it around the California DMV this time, they didn’t like it. Of course, they don’t like anything. Anyway, we got it handled, titled, registered and insured so Franky could ride it.

The 5-Ball factory racer was constructed about 2009 with mostly Paughco components, frame, front end and a Chica rear fender. It was one of my favorite builds, but it didn’t run right. It had a new 100-inch Crazy Horse engine, but it sputtered badly. I tried everything. I switched out the carb, the pipes, the ignition, you name it. But recently I tinkered with it and it came to life and hauled ass. I tuned it some, rode it some and thought, what the hell. It would be a terrific bike to ride around Sturgis. It fit the atmosphere.

We loaded and planned, planned and loaded. We took tools, oil, funnels, rags, you name it, even the paperwork and insurance cards, but we forgot the ignition keys. Some 25 miles out of town it dawned on me. We had carefully made sure to have all the proper documentation, but forgot the goddamn keys. I immediately called the Redhead of Redheads on Thursday night while rolling toward Vegas. Could she overnight the keys to Deadwood on a Friday.

She didn’t bat an eye, but was on the case after wandering through the dark shop looking for two sets of keys. How the hell does Jay Leno deal with all his vehicles? I know, he has a crew, but still it can be daunting to keep up with all the projects, pieces, paperwork and keys. I would rather put a toggle switch on each bike and beat anyone who touches it.

We left Thursday night, and I’m glad we did. That cut 300 miles to North Las Vegas off the 1,339 miles to Deadwood. We stayed at the Cannery Casino on the north side of town to avoid morning traffic. Some terrific art in this casino, old bomber girl murals and art from ‘40s agricultural wooden box paintings.

In the heated morning desert we peeled north on the 15 toward Salt Lake City, then east on the 80, following our Mapquest directions until they faltered. Then we backed up our navigation system with phone GPS and maps. For some reason, I’ve always liked to see the big picture with a paper map.

I’m not a fan of Utah, although one of the best biker bars in the country is located on the main drag in Salt Lake City, The Barbary Coast, run by a longtime biker and Easyriders supporter…But as soon as you shift east on the 80 and head toward the Continental Divide and Flaming Gorge, it’s a beautiful run.

We stayed on the 80 to Rawlings and spent the night. The hotel was rough and run by a pleasant Indian woman from India. We couldn’t find a place to eat anywhere, including the truck stop Denny’s (the damn thing was closed). I try to avoid franchise food joints. I could go to Denny’s down the street in LA, why the hell would I go to a Denny’s in Wild West Wyoming. We ended up eating salads and snacks from the truck stop. I asked for whiskey and the large truck stop owner shook his head but offered the keys to his motorhome out back. He was kind enough to offer me a slug from his private stash, no charge.

We ran into the master of vintage Indians, Kiwi Mike and Ben Kudon who is trying to revive Rivera Primo. We immediately recognized one of Mike's classics and waved them down.
We ran into the master of vintage Indians, Kiwi Mike and Ben Kudon who is trying to revive Rivera Primo. We immediately recognized one of Mike's classics and waved them down.

The next morning, we rolled toward a major junction of the 80, 30, 287, and 789, while looking for a local place for breakfast. We discovered a Veterans Pancake Breakfast and I knew it would be a score. We found a place to park and for five bucks we received slabs of ham and two massive pancakes to share with the locals in a Lions Club solid brick hall, a fundraiser for local veterans. The food was terrific and the people very cool but constantly complaining about getting old.

Franky, at 23 and covered with tattoos, began to feel out of place, but no one whispered a word. Everyone was friendly. The town prepped for a rodeo parade and we made a quick U-turn back into town to catch the 789 north but were headed off by a local obese cop blocking the street.

The cop wouldn't give us an inch of helpful information, just barked orders in the hot sun and Franky, with tattoos around his neck, kept fucking with him. I’ve been working on his cop behavior. The cop had more guns and backup than we stored in the back of the van. Besides, we didn’t want him coming near the van or we might spend the rest of our lives in the Rawlings prison just up the street.

We got the hell out of the cop's way, but at every corner spotted another cruiser. Maybe big boy dropped a dime on us. We crept through the backstreets of town until we found a connection to Wyoming 789, turned right and passed the prison on Highway 287 North without incident.

Then we turned east on the 220 toward Riverton, but that’s where our directions got hazy. Just on the edge of Casper, Wyoming, we shifted north on the 25 and the Express Van check engine light started to flash. We kept going. What else could we do? I started to check fluid levels at gas stops.

We ran across a sign touting Edgerton 387 and rolled past it, but turned around and headed back. Our Map Quest direction seemed to push us back towards Casper. Something didn’t jive and we decided to over-ride the computer and reach for the GPS on the phone.

As soon as we turned northeast toward Edgerton and Wright, we seemed to be back on track. “It depends on if you indicated for the shortest possible route or the quickest route,” Dr. Hamster said, trying to explain the error of our ways. But Casper was back the other direction. With no time to lose, we kept moving.

We needed to be firmly entrenched in Deadwood by Saturday evening. We had shit to do on Sunday. There was the Flying Piston Builders Breakfast, the FXR Show, the Chip industry party and Michael Lichter’s Chip art, photography and bike exhibit. Mike does a masterful job of assembling a classic custom exhibit with a theme each year.

This event should be branded with Easyriders. I gave him his first Sturgis assignment in ’79 and he has rolled to the Badlands every year since for the ER mag group. Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect with the company.

About Wyoming from Wikipedia: Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the western United States. The state is the tenth largest by area, the least populous and the second least densely populated state in the country. Wyoming is bordered on the north by Montana, on the east by South Dakota and Nebraska, on the south by Colorado, on the southwest by Utah, and on the west by Idaho. The state population was estimated at 586,107 in 2015, which is less than 31 of the largest U.S. cities. Cheyenne is the capital and the most populous city, with population estimated at 63,335 in 2015.


I believe we headed north on highway 59 into Gillette where we caught the 90 toward Sturgis. It’s like old home week as soon as you roll onto Interstate 90. There’s Sundance and the Dime Horse Shoe bar and two of the cutest sisters in Wyoming. Sundance has turned into its own event. There’s the small town of Beulah and street drags until someone said quit. Then we hit the South Dakota border and we were home.

We ran into some Hamsters somewhere. They rode from the east coast to the west coast to hook up with the Western contingent and then rode back. Serious riders. The number of riders riding in the opposite direction has always blown me away. Either they are headed home after rolling through the badlands before the rally, or as one rider said, “I’m not a crowd person.”

Then we slipped through the Hamster home of Spearfish and up the short highway to Deadwood and Adrian’s castles. He owns a small Victorian house on the south or east side of town and another historic mansion on the upper west or north side of town overlooking Deadwood.

Adrian's Softail. Of course we messed with it.
Adrian's Softail. Of course we messed with it.

Adrian was a Hamster and built the Cottonwood Lodge in Spearfish. He’s a perfectionist, an artist, and a master construction guy and wood worker. He’s been carefully and continuously restoring and renovating the Rose house for over a decade. Every room is carefully brought to life with ornate details and a masterful selection of hand picked historic artifacts and antiques. He slows down from time to time when funds run short or he drinks too much.

If he would sell me the smaller house, I would move to South Dakota and hide out for the rest of my life. We arrived in the afternoon and met up with Mike and Dr. Hamster. They jammed over to the Hamster kick-off party while we unloaded bikes and slipped into Deadwood for a quiet dinner at the number 10 Saloon.

I sent Adrian one of these chargers from Biker's Choice. It keeps his Softail alive.
I sent Adrian one of these chargers from Biker's Choice. It keeps his Softail alive.

The next morning, the Flying Piston Builders Breakfast called to us. “Get your ass over here,” Sugar Bear said on the phone.

“The Flying Piston Builders Breakfast which raised $8000 for Tech Education Scholarships, supported Krystal Hess’s Motorcycle Missions - which reaches out to veterans suffering from PTSD to help them gain skills through motorcycling such as metal fab and mechanics,” said Marilyn Stemp, the queen of the Flying Pistons. “Local high school graduate Ryan Jones also received a scholarship toward his choice of educational opportunities in the industrial arts.”

Mike Stevenson ran a small shop for years and still tunes bikes and rebuild motors once in a while. He's very sharp behind a wrench, knows his shit.
Mike Stevenson ran a small shop for years and still tunes bikes and rebuild motors once in a while. He's very sharp behind a wrench, knows his shit.

We unloaded the bikes the night before, and in the morning attempted to fire the Shovelhead. It wouldn’t budge. I was sure it was electrical, but Mike immediately pulled a plug and the spark was fine. Maybe it was the fuel?

There was talk of removing lines and dumping fuel, but I knew the tank was full of fresh fuel.

Franky and I devised a strange funnel and removed the brass cap on the S&S E float bowel. Mike also tinkered with Adrian’s CV carb Softail.

I hope nobody drinks this shit...
I hope nobody drinks this shit...

We drained the Shovelhead float into a makeshift plastic container. The milky substance was piss-yellow with scattered sediment and bubbles of what looked like water. It was a mess. We dumped it into a green tea container and filled the bowl a couple more times and let it flush—clear as a bell. The bike fired right up.

We were missing the FXR Show. “We had 79 FXRs and 39 Dynas roll in and raised $8700 for LifeScape,” said Marilyn, the Princess of the FXR Show. “Thanks to an anonymous donor who doubled the funds. Big Joe came into town for the show after all, making the day perfect! Huge thanks to the Buffalo Chip for hosting, Lisa Showers for organizing, and the many sponsors who pitched in.”

A shot of Eric's bike before is was finished.
A shot of Eric's bike before is was finished.

Eric Bennett, from Bennett’s Performance won the FXR show. We covered the build of his bike on Bikernet, helluva machine.

Donna and Arlin in front of 2Wheelers, Sturgis.
Donna and Arlin in front of 2Wheelers, Sturgis.

Thunderclouds over the Badlands threatened so we rolled into Sturgis immediately and checked in at Arlin Fatland’s 2Wheelers on main. His shop is amazing. He hauls an inventory from 2Wheelers Denver and sets up for the week. I find it interesting to watch the inventory change over the years.

Donna does an amazing job with custom apparel and leatherwork, and for years the shop was an old building fulla needed parts and supplies. In fact, 2Wheelers saved my ass a couple of times over the years, once in Denver and once in the Badlands.

Downtown Sturgis is old school.
Downtown Sturgis is old school.

Over the years, bikes changed and so did Arlin’s inventory until it was mostly fun stuff with dicey valve caps, mudflap girl accessories, tin signs and slinky clothes. But with the upsurge of bobbers and choppers parts are returning for early makes and custom bikes. We’ll see what happens next.

As we wandered the slightly less populated streets, I took inventory of the shops and stuff to do. I’ve never been a shopper, and it started to look like the options were limited to shopping for junk, except 2Wheelers, bars, food, patches, leather and tattoo parlors. Something hit me. This can’t represent the Sturgis rally.

Chris Callen's train program logo.
Chris Callen's train program logo.

Chris Callen set up at the massively cool educational display at the Iron Horse Saloon on Lazelle and kicked off something Billy Lane started years ago. The saloon was once branded the Easyriders Saloon but unfortunately it didn’t stick. Chris created a vibrant educational stage to show guys how to bend sheet metal, weld, fabricate, and even pinstripe and engrave. Franky and I are itching to try our hands at engraving.

Billy's latest endeavor to bring back vintage flat track racing, with the Sons of Speed.
Billy's latest endeavor to bring back vintage flat track racing, with the Sons of Speed.

I liked the notion of artisans lining the streets entertaining, selling their arts and training onlookers. David Uhl had a similar gig in Deadwood, where he works on one of his masterful originals in the Gold Dust Casino while discussing anything to do with art with folks from the streets.

Next door, Scott Jacobs performed similar duties with his whole damn family in their completely renovated art gallery in downtown Deadwood. Most of his family are now artists and willing to discuss anything with anyone. His gallery also includes his ‘30s cannonball racers and other antique bikes. Amazing.

Makes sense if we are no longer getting drunk and chasing whores, we might as well learn something. Seems my mom, who passed away last year, said something of this nature over and over to a younger me as I was caught fucking up. Maybe not exactly those words…

We slipped out to the chip and found the Michael Lichter Art exhibit containing art and bikes built by builders who were under 35 years of age. Rod Woodruff, who owns the Chip, built a building exclusively for Mike and his art exhibits. Michael does a masterful job of recruiting builders and artisans every year for his themed exhibits and he now has a home as he roams toward his 20th year and possibly retirement.

Builders from Motorcycles As Art: Old Iron Young Blood were the featured guests and it was heartening to see this group of 35-and-unders connecting with guys like John Reed and Rick Fairless, while also meeting each other and laying the foundation of their own networks. Emcee Bob Kay interviewed Rod Woodruff, Michael Lichter, Cris Summer Simmons among others.

 Frank and I attended Woody’s industry party and Bikernet was recognized.

Real briefly, those who’ve demonstrated the backbone, skills, determination and cojones to start a business, grow it and prosper amidst difficult economic challenges in an intensely competitive marketplace have earned respect and recognition.

The Buffalo Chip would like to give some love to those in the motorcycle industry who’ve achieved milestones. The Motorcycle Industry Reception held on the first Sunday of the Chip’s annual Industry party.

--Rod Woodruff
CEO Buffalo Chip

We were having a blast riding two jockey shift scooters around the Badlands. Rain looked foreboding as we departed the Chip and headed back through town and into the Jack Pine strewn hills to Deadwood and a barbecue at the Rose lodge.
I fortunately hooked up with Bikernet Betsy in the rugged, grass strewn, Chip parking lot and Franky met her tattooed friend. A connection was made and the next day, he spent the day scooting the suicide clutch Shovelhead through the hilly streets of Deadwood chasing the brunette.

Maybe she was a redhead...
Maybe she was a redhead...

David Uhl offered to allow Franky to come to one of his artists’ sessions in Denver and she offered him a pad to hang in. Couldn’t be better.

Franky had a blast jamming up and down the streets of Deadwood, but we forgot to consider something. Both bikes were sorta old in ways but new builds. We should have followed the Eddie Trotta break-in code more closely.

Rick's bike outside the Hamster hotel for the Banquet in Spearfish.
Rick's bike outside the Hamster hotel for the Banquet in Spearfish.

They needed to be checked thoroughly for loose shit, shifted shit, or bad shit. We tinkered and tuned Monday and our missions included the mandatory Hamster Charity Banquet in Spearfish. Each year, the rodents collect over $200,000 for the Rapid City Children’s Hospital.

For years, half of the proceeds went to the Sturgis motorcycle museum until some politics crept into the mix. That cut any contribution to the motorcycle industry from this motorcycle group. Now, with more Hamsters and motorcycle folks on the Sturgis Museum board, some of us hope the Hamsters will contribute to the new museum.

Tuesday, we met with a leather manufacturer, Aaron from 1st Manufacturing and a longtime Bikernet contributor, David Campbell, who rode out from Ohio to crash at the Glencoe Campgrounds and enjoy the wild campgrounds action. That’s where the shit is really happening.

The weather was more than perfect and we dodged thunderstorms on our way in to the rally. I have a strange sense when is comes to weather. If you pay attention to the sunny heavens, they will guide you to safety. Don’t focus on the clouds, but on the clear skies around them. If no clearings exist, hide out.
We had one more mission, to attend the Sturgis Museum Hall of Fame breakfast. It was massive and kept selling out, even though there was an element of controversy, growing pains and major plans for the future.

We now have our two record-setting Panheads in the Museum.
We now have our two record-setting Panheads in the Museum.

I have taken my grandson to two Trailblazers banquets, which are absolutely inspirational and professionally produced. The Sturgis Museum faced issues in the past, but with some new motorcycle industry board members, hopefully they will find the right path moving forward.

Here’s the recent release regarding the Hall of Fame Breakfast, which Bikernet sponsored:
Sturgis, South Dakota, August 21, 2017 - Between the standing room only Class of 2017 Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the Pappy Hoel Speed Classic races and the brand new block party with bands going live at five on the Glencoe Stage every day, the 77th Sturgis Rally was rocking for the entire rally week! Better weather and a full schedule of events helped bump up attendance to more than 376,000 people this year.

"Come for the races, stay for the entertainment," said Myrick Robbins, Executive Director for the Sturgis Museum & Hall Of Fame. Appropriately, things kicked off at the very same historic dirt track where it all began back in 1938. Backed by Coca Cola and area grocery stores, the Pappy Hoel Speed Classic roared into the Meade County Fairgrounds in downtown Sturgis on August 3-5.

"We were twisting the throttle to the stops with the Speed Classic, the inaugural Block Party co-hosted by our friends from Monster Energy and the annual Hall Of Fame ceremonies," said Robbins. "But that is what the Sturgis Rally is all about. Founder J.C. 'Pappy' Hoel started with a race, and a week-long spectacle just sort of evolved from there."

Also evolving was the Sturgis Block Party. For the first time this year, merchants on the newly revitalized Main Street teamed up with the Museum and Monster Energy to host a week-long event right in the heart of downtown. "Motorcycles, music and more... it was rocking," said Robbins.

However, the Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony presented by Strider Sports was definitely the highlight of the week. John Paul DeJoria, philanthropist co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patrón Spirits (as well as a Hall of Famer himself) emceed the class of 2017 induction ceremony in his own inimitable style... he even passed along some business advice to everyone in the room.

"I'd like to give you a little secret to building something," said the man who went from being homeless to becoming a billionaire. "However you participate, whether it is as a rider, builder, or any way you participate in this industry, make sure the quality of what you personally do or the quality of the product you produce or the quality of the words you say are the finest quality in the world."

When DeJoria started Patrón in 1989, it was the quality that made the difference. "Quality reaps longevity. Quality continuously keeps something going... and it is the quality of these people that will keep the industry and the Museum going."

"The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame recognizes individuals or groups who have made a long-term, positive impact on the motorcycle community," added Robbins. "We honor our Hall of Fame members by telling their stories and history, showcasing their contributions and accomplishments. In doing this, we hope to inspire our visitors and the riding community."

The class of 2017 may have been the most influential and inspirational yet. From Lifetime Achievement honoree William G. Davidson to the Pappy Hoel Award winner Rod Woodruff, founder of The Buffalo Chip, the Lodge at Deadwood in Deadwood, South Dakota, was packed with the best and brightest in the motorcycle industry. Colleen Barnett-Taylor and Mike Taylor, Cory Ness, Mark Shadley, Jim Thiessen and Terry Vance comprised this year's inductees.

"I get excited every year at Sturgis... I jump up and down a lot and I yell and scream and I blew out my voice, "said Lifetime Achievement honoree Willie G. after being introduced by his son and current director of the Harley Davidson Museum, Bill Davidson. "I would like to thank the Sturgis Hall of Fame for honoring me and I will always remember a day like today."

Blown out voice or not, Willie rallied to conclude the ceremony, shouting a message near and dear to all the honorees, past and present: "Ride free! Sturgis forever!"

To keep the quality up as suggested by John Paul DeJoria and to keep Sturgis forever as Willie G. called for, any and all donations are welcome.
Donate through http://www.sturgismuseum.com/Contribute

We started loading bikes and gear Tuesday. We had a mission to return for a special party celebrating Franky’s sister heading off to college on Saturday. Franky was under pressure, so instead of riding to the breakfast, we loaded and prepped to peel out as soon as the breakfast was over.

Adrian came with us to hang out and visited with the bros. Traveling bros recommended several scenic routes, including through Escalante, Bryce, Hatch, Zion and St. George, but we faced family pressures. I wanted to show Franky more of the Badlands, but we couldn’t take the time. We hit Interstate 90 west to Buffalo, then off at the 16 to Woreland, where I hit a deer in 2001 and ended in the Casper Hospital.

Mike tinkered with Adrian's CV while I removed the buckled baffle in the straight pipe. It's loud now but breathes better.
Mike tinkered with Adrian's CV while I removed the buckled baffle in the straight pipe. It's loud now but breathes better.

Adrian working on his carb adjustment.
Adrian working on his carb adjustment.

We spent the night in Thermopolis where I tried to reach my Wyoming love, Deborah Wood, another redhead who owned several hair salons. She was returning from Salt Lake and radiation treatments for cancer. She grew up on crop-dusted farms dusting the pesticides off her shoulders as she worked in the fields. Over 14 members of her family faced the onslaught of various cancers; half of them have died so far.

She showed up at our motel room door near the Thermopolis hot steam baths, bald, but with a gleaming smile. We shared a few moments and she moved on toward home. The cancer death and money machine was taking its toll on her, but we will keep the faith.

We moved on the next morning through one of the best mountain pass rides in Wyoming heading toward the Boysen reservoir. It winds comfortably along the Big Horn River against jagged stone walls and through cool mountain tunnels. Often, a massive thundering freight train pulling 50 cars will pace us on the other side of the canyon.

We kept chugging along through Riverton and Lander on Highway 28 heading to Farson and beyond toward Kemmerer while looking for a place to eat. We found it, while searching the triple-town dinky area of Frontier, Kemmerer and Diamondville. None of these small, scattered burgs exceeded the 2,000 population mark.

A tiny roadside stucco restaurant called the Caribou Café jumped at us from the road’s edge, and her delightful smile kept saying, “Come back sometime.”
Raquel couldn’t speak much English but her dark thick wavy ponytail, broad smile and bright brown eyes held great enthusiasm for the menu and I couldn’t resist an Avocado omelet and pumpkin pancakes. Franky and I shared the sizzling pancakes, and when I asked for a card her eyes lit up one final time as we departed. Damn.

We drove around the block and back onto highway 189, heading for the 80 in Evanston and the 6,780-foot pass into Salt Lake. It was our mission to skirt the city, avoid the 15 and stay on the 80 due west across the flat salty brine for 100 miles into Bonneville for a brief glimpse and then into Wendover, Nevada.

The trip was winding down as soon as we turned left or south on the 93 in Wells and began slicing through Nevada. That’s when our issues started with the trailer. We hit a bad patch of construction on the two-laner as soon as we entered highway 93. I attempted a nap when Frankie announced, “We need to pull over!”

The narrow highway wasn’t designed with an emergency lane, but a small gravel strip a couple of feet wide. We pulled over and discovered a broken strap, but we tide it securely and the extra strap material held it solidly in place. We discussed nefarious intent at our last stop by a slippery young character, who quizzed us about the bikes.

Then I looked down at the trailer fender and discovered an annihilated taillight. The case was destroyed, the red lense gone and the wires disconnected. Again, we discussed the bad guy until I looked at the tire. The tread delaminated, separated from casing flew over the fender and shattered the taillight. Unfortunately, wiring ran under the fender, so it was gone with the power to the other taillight.

No, it's not a rattlesnake but just as dangerous. Mike Lichter recommends two straps on each side. He's experienced.
No, it's not a rattlesnake but just as dangerous. Mike Lichter recommends two straps on each side. He's experienced.

We went into action changing the tire and fixing the strap. The van’s jack worked like a champ to lift the trailer and we were on the road in a matter of 30 minutes. We had 140 miles to reach Ely where we might crash for the night.

This is where I made my first mistake, but the time issue pressed my mind. Later, I spoke to Steve Massicotte, from Paughco. “Anytime I lose a trailer tire, I have the damaged one fixed at the next Walmart.”

I dislike what Walmart has done to small business in our country. I won’t go there, but Pep Boys, or maybe any tire shop could possibly have done the trick. We blazed into Ely in the late afternoon through broad spans of desert and low hills.

Ely in 1906.
Ely in 1906.

Ely (EE-lee) is the largest city and county seat of White Pine County, Nevada, United States. Ely was founded as a stagecoach station along the Pony Express and Central Overland Route. In 1906, copper was discovered and Ely's mining boom came later than the other towns along US 50. The railroads connecting the First Transcontinental Railroad to the mines in Austin, Nevada and Eureka, Nevada have long been removed, but the railroad to Ely is preserved as a heritage railway by the Nevada Northern Railway and known as the Ghost Train of Old Ely. As of the 2010 census, the population was 4,255.


We cruised through town discussing the road ahead, the desire to roll on into Vegas another 150 miles or finding a place. We stopped and topped off. I asked Franky to ask the frumpy girls in the station for motel recommendations. They didn’t have much and described a historic hotel with a Denny’s restaurant on the Southern edge of town. There had to be something better or more unique.

The Prospector's dining room.
The Prospector's dining room.

They didn’t mention the Prospector Casino just three blocks behind us, so of course we went there. It looked serious with the lot full of rigs and vehicles. Upon entering the lobby we immediately noticed Harleys on display, antiques and bronze sculptures of massive Dobermans. Western art by Tim Cox adorned the walls and the clerk at the counter was more than upbeat and helpful.

I’m mentioning these items, because we ran into less than stellar facilities in some towns. I could stay in a shed if the smiling girl at the counter offered assistance and a reasonable price. Too often, since we didn’t negotiate with a myriad of facilities before entering town, they would hit us with restrictions and a heavy price.

This woman made sure we had a room overlooking our rig and proper parking for our trailer. The in-house Mexican restaurant was locally operated and the staff bent over backwards to make weary traveling bikers comfortable. This could possibly be our last stop on the road. This place was very well thought out, from the amenities to the room design.

We got up the next morning, grabbed coffee, toast and hit the road. This was the juncture of our excitement meter. We thought we were cool rolling south on Highway 6, the shortcut off Highway 93. It merges onto the 319 for 94 miles to Hiko. We were cool and comfortable, trying to get the hang of playing the harmonica, when I noticed the trailer fender on my side bouncing. I should have pulled over immediately but noo, and then the tire exploded about 30 miles from Hiko.

There’s no help in Hiko. The tire delaminated, 86’d the fender taillight and we discussed plan A to panic in the desert, eat peyote buttons from the cactus and trip out. Or plan B, take a bike off the trailer, the Shovelhead, which Franky would ride to lighten the load on the damaged tire we could not swap out, the spare already in use.

We removed the Shovel and Franky fired it up. It ran for a minute then started to squeal like a baby without a drop of milk. It had oil and the oil gauge indicated pressure. We shifted to Plan C; pull the factory racer off the trailer and loaded the Shovelhead.

We did, he fired the racer and I drove slowly, hoping the trailer tire would hold for 30 miles to reach Alamo and help. It made it five miles then exploded. We pulled off the highway again in the hot desert. I heard rattlesnakes communicating in the tumbleweeds. We were surrounded. Buzzards circled overhead in the blistering sun.

This time the tire tread not only shredded the taillight but also mangled the fender. We stood looking at the wreckage. Frankie took a screen shot of the trailer to capture the location of the carnage. Bits of tire carcass peppered the highway.

I started to talk about plan A. We were still at least 30 to 50 miles to any service area. We could leave the trailer and go in search of another tire and lose a couple of hours if we were successful. The trailer was so damaged we could not drive at night. Replacing the taillights would take additional retail resources and a couple more hours. Even with a new tire and new taillights, the left fender would need to be removed and beat back into some kind of useable shape, before we could install a new taillight.

Plan B called for measuring the Shovelhead to see if it would fit in the back of the van. I keep a wheel chock between the two passenger captains seats in the van at all times. You never know. We measured the Shovelhead from the new Paughco higher handlebars to the ground and from tire to tire. A miracle, it would fit. We unhooked the dying trailer and shoved it aside. We grappled with the steep ramp and Franky crawled into the back of the high-top van and pulled on the front wheel.

The front 21-inch tire started to slip into the chock, but the front end ran into the arms on the leather chairs.

“Gramps,” Franky said, “not sure the front end will fit between the chairs.”

“Fuck it,” I said. “We’re burning daylight. Give it hell.” I knew it would work—sorta. Or we could release one of the chairs for additional room. We shoved, the chock held the wheel straight and the thick arms held the springer front end absolutely tight. It worked once before with a smaller bike; why not? We didn’t need any straps. The Shovelhead locked into place. It didn’t budge.

We reloaded the van and paused again to look at the mangled trailer and then we shoved it off the emergency lane into the creosote brush and I turned it so the plate wasn’t immediately visible from the road. Later, I knew I should have removed the plate, but we were moving fast.

Franky climbed aboard the Factory Racer after we topped off the tanks and headed toward Alamo. No service existed between us and the small town of 1080 folks along highway 93. Some 90 miles separated Alamo from Vegas. My fingers were crossed. Part of Plan B was a longtime friend of mine in Vegas, Joe Zanelli, who owns Rocky’s 24-hour sports bar on Maryland Parkway.

If we could make it to his location in 107 degree heat through Vegas traffic, I could leave the bike with Joe and get Franky back to LA in time for his sisters going-to-college party, which we thought was a dinner gathering on Saturday. We thought we were golden to stop, have dinner with Joe and crash for the night, or…?

Waiting for us in Alamo.
Waiting for us in Alamo.

Franky rode the Racer into Alamo about 55 miles from where we left the trailer in the weeds. We grabbed a bite to eat, cooled off some and he straddled the racer and kept going into the desert. Five miles out of town he rolled off the highway. My heart raced.
The highway held another two-foot gravel space then a sharp decline into a drainage ditch. I couldn’t pull over. More and more trucks and massive construction equipment thundered toward Interstate 15. I searched the road for a wide spot and found something 100 yards ahead. I walked back. Out of gas, I trudged back to the van for our 5-gallon tank.

I had explained the reserve tank to Franky, but he didn’t react quickly enough. We refilled all the tanks and he kept rolling, but only for a mile or two then pulled off again. Again, I couldn’t stop, but found a spot ahead. My nerves were on edge. My brain constantly recalibrated distances to the Loves Truck Stop at the interchange and the additional 50 miles into Vegas.

The racer reacted to the empty tank and caught an air bubble in the lines. We cleared the issue and he moved along again. Once more it blubbered. I was out of plans if the racer didn’t make it to Vegas. I scoured thoughts of strapping the racer to the back of the Van knowing full well is wasn’t in the cards. This vintage looking scooter with dinky tanks had to make the grade.

This hot rod was headed to Bonneville for Speed Week.
This hot rod was headed to Bonneville for Speed Week.

We rolled into Loves and topped off again. This time he drove the van, which now felt light and agile without the trailer. I straddled the Crazy Horse 100-inch V-Twin and shifted the tank shifter into gear. It desperately needed a tune-up, chain adjustment, you name it. I rolled onto the freeway surrounded by semis, construction equipment and luxury cars, all in a hurry.

I nailed it and it sputtered like before when I fought tuning issues. I backed off and turned the throttle gingerly to prevent the sputtering, in hopes to make the final 45 miles into town. Just barely on the outskirts of glitter-town traffic backed up. Hot as hell, I tried to keep moving, although lane splitting is not allowed. I still found constant openings and darted from lane to lane in the bumper-to-bumper traffic. Just once I was forced to put a boot on the pavement.

Franky knew what off-ramp to take. He couldn’t keep up with me. I pulled off the wide sizzling concrete freeway at the South Point Casino, made a left and looked for a place to pull over and wait for Franky and the van.

I immediately turned off the ignition switch. Way too fucking hot to let it idle, my legs sizzled from the oil tank heat and the engine. I spread my legs and placed my leather boots on the pavement. In less than five minutes I spotted the Bikernet high-top van at the intersection and fired up the Racer.

Just five miles to go to find a friendly smile, a safe storage spot, a very cool drink and terrific food at Rocky’s. Walking inside from the extreme dry heat was like a reprieve from hell’s holding cell. We stowed the bike, washed our hands and faces and hit the bar.

During dinner at about 7:00 pm Franky said. “I’ll drive.”

I took him up on it. The van held enough gas to take us from the outskirts of Vegas to the Bikernet Headquarters about 275 miles without a stop. We blazed and made it in exactly four hours.

As we rolled along, Franky said, “Are you bummed about the trailer?

“Fuck no,” I said, “Our mission is complete. Besides our next mission is Bonneville 2018 and we will need a new trailer for the Salt Torpedo.”

Fortunately I had a the Redhead of Redheads at home, waiting for me.
Fortunately I had a the Redhead of Redheads at home, waiting for me.

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Reader Comments

Fine vicarious living while reading that story. What a great trip ! See you somewhere on the road. BTW, that Deer you hit, was it at night maybe on a Buell ? I remember reading a story about that years back and thought it was on bikernet but who knows, ? The steel trap is getting some rust on it and the details are leaking out. Take care and keep the stories coming.

Patrick Conti
Fort Collins/San Diego, Co /CA
Friday, September 15, 2017
Editor Response Your memory is finely tuned with accurate responses. Yes, on all accounts. I hit the deer outside Thermopolis at night and it was covered on Bikernet.

I saw the girl who helped me in 2001 this year on my way back. She has cancer. She also sent me the deer hyde six months after the accident. I still have it.


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