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Sam's Pics of the Month 8,2021

Velocity Stacks and Palm Springs '74

By Bandit with photos from Sam Burns Collection

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My stroked '66 Shovelhead, circa 1971.
My stroked '66 Shovelhead, circa 1971.

I’ve never been a fan of velocity stacks. One, I was just a hardworking sort and couldn’t afford top end jobs every year. I tried to build shit that was fast but would hang together.

One time back in the ‘70s a brother called me and needed back up for a weed score in the hills. We rode out into an area in the hills above Hemet. It turned into a hub of meth labs, drug lords and weed farmers. We followed his directions to a wooded lane in the dark trying to find our way with Bates sealed beam headlights vibrating on an 8-over glide and a 12-over extended springer.
Bates were the only game in town at the time. One size fit everything.

The large, surrounding trees formed black claws and a tunnel into the unknown. Sure, we smoked a joint at the last gas stop and our heightened sensory awareness added to our spaced-out trip into drugville.

At the time I wore my greasy Levi’s every day, until they shinned. I couldn’t afford a motorcycle jacket, so I used an old parka and put a rough leather welding jacket over it. I dyed it black and sewed a set of Harley wings on the back. I wore gauntlet leather welding gloves, which I also died black. My hair was long sandy and wavy, and I had a full beard.

Brad the one-handed joint roller was about 5’8” and his hair was longer and straight, and he chose mutton-chop side burns only. He rode his raked Knucklehead I helped to build. It was featured in one of the first issues of Easyriders. He was a little guy who I knew from elementary school, through Jr. High and High School. Little guys were the popular ones, but he grew a couple of inches in high school, got skinny and lost his touch with high school, high society.

He never really became a biker, more a hippy and stoner and a high school teacher. Maybe that night took its toll. We found this guy’s log cabin off the road in the woods and was allowed entrance. We sat on his guy’s couch as instructed, but I shouldn’t have.

Five minutes later the guy returned carrying a rifle and a big bag of reds, the size of a pillow.

“We came for weed, goddammit,” I said. I didn’t like sitting there with this bastard of another 5’8” bearded shithead waving his rifle, obviously loaded on reds.

I started to get up and the red freak backed up some. I knew it could go from bad to worse. “Ya got any weed or not?”

These situations were nuts. No one knew anything about the other guys, his capabilities or mental state. It was just a drug induced roll of the dice. And of course, he thought we were cops…

“Yeah, yeah, I got some weed,” he said and stepped into another room. I didn’t like anything about this bastard. He could have been the best guy on the planet but add a handful of reds and he might become a pissed off Genghis Khan.

I got up and stepped toward the doorway, so I could get a jump on anything that might return loaded and mad. Brad froze his scrawny ass to the couch. The guy surfaced with an ounce of weed and I shoved a 20 into his hand. “Have a nice day.”

This cool art is available on a T-shirt at the Support Good Times web site.
This cool art is available on a T-shirt at the Support Good Times web site.

I picked up Brad by his vest and shoved him toward the door. At any time, our barbiturate buddy could down a shot of whiskey and become the monster from the blue lagoon.

“Let’s ride,” I said and kept an eye on the dealer, who watched us intently with his rifle. Fortunately, both bikes fired on the second kick, and we spit gravel up the dirt road to the two-laner.

That’s when we headed in the wrong direction into the winding hills and over the San Jacinto Pass heading north east to Beaumont, home of the Date Shake, but it was midnight as we hit the 10 interstate and unfortunately we headed east.

The wind kicked up like crazy and the sand blazed across the interstate like whirlwinds out to sand blast cactus all the way to the Mexican border. Visibility slipped as I looked over at Brad and he pointed at his Peanut gas tank.

Lights flickered in the notorious night, and I lead off the freeway and into a truck stop. We gassed up, and while paying another rider rolled into the station with his girl on the back of a worn and grubby Sportster. It rapidly turned into a night of bizarre images.

Brad checked out the girl and yanked out his new stash of weed. He would impress her with his single hand-rolling technique. We could hardly see across the road in the darkness through the blanket of whistling sand, like a dense fast-moving fog, except dry and hot.

We shared the joint with the scraggly rider and his stoned girlfriend, who didn’t seem to know where she was or with whom. “I know a party,” Iron butt man indicated the road into the hills. “Let’s go.”

We were stoned and had full tanks of gas. Brad got paranoid squeamish but didn’t want to back down, besides he was beginning to eye the girl. I watched the guy, his movements, his long bowie knife and his tattered attire. I heard of numerous stories of riders who rode into the hills never to return.

“Fuck it,” I thought, “Let’s party.” We all prepared to roll, but I could tell Brad had serious second thoughts. We started out of the station lot heading north and visibility disappeared. Remember, Brad’s Knucklehead had a Linkert with a velocity stack. The wind picked up and a whole dune of sand blanketed the road ahead. I looked at Brad who held his bars like vice grips and shook his head violently.

His Knuckle sported that flared velocity stack, and the bike felt the sandy acid pain. We pulled over and watched the two on the Sportster disappear into a dense cloud of sand and darkness.

Brad and I turned around. As soon as we reached the freeway heading west into the coastal wet air our bikes, my 80-inch stroker ’66 Shovelhead and his ’42 Knuck couldn’t be happier. He survived the sand and the wind with his Linkert velocity stack, but who knows how happy his piston rings were.

That was the last time I rode with Brad. The biker lifestyle wasn’t for him, but I wonder where his Knuckle is. It was a fine scooter, in the pure tradition of the long springer chop. I’ll try to find him and find out about the bike.
For years the illustration shown here was used on ER business cards. That's Brad in the front on his Knucklehead and me behind.
For years the illustration shown here was used on ER business cards. That's Brad in the front on his Knucklehead and me behind.

With Brad I was introduced to Lou Kimzey and Easyriders magazine. I helped him build his Knuckle and he did a helluva job. That’s when I spotted the first issue of Easyriders Magazine and wrote to the editor, Lou Kimzey about the cool Knuckle we built. By chance Lou’s office was only five miles from Brad’s folks’ home on Naples Island and he drove over to see it.
He fell in love with my rat Shovelhead and offered to feature both bikes. The rest is history. 


P.S. I ran into that rider a few years after that. Being associated with the mag made it easy for anyone to find me. Him and his lady rode a few more yards and made the same decision. They returned to the gas station to regroup before heading into the opposite direction toward the coast.
Quick, join up. Just click and go.
Quick, join up. Just click and go.


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Back to The Life and Times of Bandit

Reader Comments

A good read. Brings back memories of my years spent out in the California, desert of courtesy Uncle Sam. So much of that sand/dust shaken out/off of my hair, clothes and bike.

But good, memorable times spent between San Berdoo, Bakersfield and the Colorado River. Best decade of my life between riding out there and playing with Uncles newest airplanes.

Vern Moore
Kingsley, PA
Monday, August 2, 2021
Editor Response Thanks. Life in the hills of Wrightwood was also a trip.

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