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Sam's Picks for the Week of March 11th, 2021

Packing to Move to the Badlands

By Bandit with photos selected by Sam Burns

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I’m in the process of moving to Sturgis, South Dakota from a 9,000 square foot building including a shop, 17 motorcycles and 17 years of history. It’s crazy, but brothers and sisters all over the country are moving to the Badlands. Jason Mook from Deadwood Custom Cycles made 13 trips pulling a trailer from North Carolina. At times I need to tell my dust-covered self that brothers all over the country have done this.

I’ve moved the same tools for 50 years from woman to woman, from place to place, from one adventure to another. As I open every drawer, every box or study each shelf, I’m pondering the memories parts remind me of and deciding what to keep and what to toss. I had four wooden book shelves in my shop/office, two were 10-foot tall. They were all overflowing with books, catalogs and of course magazines. They had to go. I must keep telling myself, we are downsizing. I’m trying.

So many of these magazines I wrote for, created or edited. Some bring back memories. I remember the time when we decided to hire a new associate editor. We finally made a decision and he flew out. I believe on his second day he was riding down Kanan Road when a couple of drug addicts ran over him, and I was put in the position of calling his mom the next day.

Then a bunch of us, including Kim Peterson, the long time, extremely devoted editor of In the Wind, Riparoo, two more staffers and I attended the Harley Rendezvous in New York. Produced by a father/son team, who with success went to war and split up. The father took our staff to dinner at a posh regional seafood restaurant. During dinner the son beckoned me to leave the dinner and meet him in the bar.

On the edge of his seat, he looked at me wide-eyed and told me 40 Hells Angels were riding out of the hills to his event. Could I do something? I immediately thought his descriptive concept would make a terrific David Mann centerspread.

Mil Blair still has this original.
Mil Blair still has this original.

I told him I would look into it. We finished dinner and returned to our motel room. Natch, there was but one option, roll a doobie and pass it around the room. “We better head over,” I said and coughed.

This was one of the first all-encompassing events, secured from the cops in a grassy compound. It held everything you needed to do anything you wanted, and nobody would fuck with you. It was a bikers' dream at the time. Biker events were generally pushed around, over-charged, regulated without cause, and more often than not shut down.

We showed our badges and wandered into the late-night grounds. A band played, strippers danced and vendors partied with their customers. I studied the perimeter, checked the bike parking for new bikes and looked for patches, fights, or innocent folks being clubbed. I didn’t find anything. Finally, I found a member of the Hells Angels asleep in his lawn chair next to his vendor booth. He didn’t seem to be disturbed about anything.

I opened another drawer and spotted something that reminded me of the greatest bike show we ever produced on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, in 1989, until the Redhead spotted a member of a rival club approach a Hells Angel, draw a knife and kill him right in the parking lot next to the ship. Even from a distance she sensed the outcome wasn’t good and ran to find me.

I told her to take my young son, Frank, to my mother’s house not far away and check with me later. The cops shut the show down and that was the last time we ever had a show on the Queen Mary. Brothers brought bikes from all over the world. Later and for years, Jim Gianatsis held shows in the adjoining parking area right on the water. They were amazing shows.

The Redhead who swept me off my feet. She's back and packing with me.
The Redhead who swept me off my feet. She's back and packing with me.

The Redhead became no stranger to death. We split up, and in 1992 she lived in North Hollywood with a mad artist. She resided down the street from the famous bank, when it was gang robbed by machine gun tooting mad men who fired thousands of rounds at the local cops. A couple of months later she was dressed to the nines and on her way to work, but she had to hit the old concrete Post Office built in the ‘40s to look like any ominous government building from the era, all concrete, tall steps and pillars.

Halfway up the steps, across the street from a park, she encountered a small homeless guy with an uncustomary bright smile and a twinkle in his eyes. He hit her up for spare change. She told him she could help him out her way out. She turned and noticed a larger than usual line at the counter pushing against the glass and steel framed doors.

As she reached the top step, she heard something and turned. She witnessed another homeless man approach and stab the little man and dart off, scrambling down the steps to the street below. Alison immediately returned to the man’s side, but he was already fading. He wore a stained white t-shirt, but now it contained a bloody slit on the left side of his chest.

The man’s girlfriend screamed from the street and ran after the assailant. The Redhead dash up the steps again and jerked open the door and hollered, “Someone call 911, a man  has been stabbed.”

A clerk respond, “Another one?” None of the patrons left their space in line. The scene was chaotic, and unreal to the beautiful Redhead in pleated crème-colored slacks as the homeless victim’s dog barked and screeched, police cars arrived and paramedics followed. She held the man until the thin man was loaded onto a gurney and the blaring ambulance sped away.

She couldn’t understand how the staff treated him, as if they were only interested in drug abuse and not the injury. She drove to the hospital and ran into the hallway in the ER as a doctor and a nurse came out of his room. They immediately shook their heads. “You’re not a relative?” The nurse asked.

“I was at the scene and wanted to know what happened,” Alison.

Bill Dodge with a satisfied customer, I hope.
Bill Dodge with a satisfied customer, I hope.

“That's extremely compassionate,” the nurse responded. “You should consider working in the medical profession.”

I picked up a box of posters and opened one to find the shot of a babe with the ’92 Dyna Glide Jim Waggaman and Mike Maldonado modified for me without removing the engine and trans. They handled all the hand fabrications and mods and Ron Simms supplied the billet lightening Bolt Bling. The bike was bad to the bone.

The engine was stock except for Bartels' shaved heads and a cam. Ultimately, I ran one of Carl Morrows carburetors which supplied tons of torque. I could hardly hang onto the throttle. It jumped to 90 horse and 90 pounds of Torque. For an 80-inch Evo that was flying.

That was the first bike I rode to Sturgis, though I cheated slightly. I flew to Vegas and someone delivered the bike. I partied with my Hamster brothers and rode the rest of the way to the Badlands. After the rally, I flew home and the silver Dyna was delivered to LA.

Bob Clark has been in the industry as long as I have. He was the managing editor of Hot Bike and many other mags over the years. He's still building cool shit today.
Bob Clark has been in the industry as long as I have. He was the managing editor of Hot Bike and many other mags over the years. He's still building cool shit today.

I want to make a comment about the Hamsters. I’ve never been a joiner. I believe I became a Hamster when I attended the Sturgis Rally for the first time in ’87. I sent Mike Lichter to cover it in ’78. That was the first year Easyriders featured the Black Hills Rally and changed it forever. The attendance doubled the next year, to 24,000 and so on to the 50th when it hit half a million.

At the time there was no Hamster initiation. If you rode with the small group of bike builders to Sturgis from Spearfish they gave you a T-shirt. It was up to you to follow up and become a member. Dave Perewitz called me the next week and asked me if I would truly want to be a Hamster. The group was made up of industry guys and builders, so I said yes.

Hamsters have taken some heat over the years for being rich guys, but I have got to say that I have received help from Hamsters for almost 35 years. I mean real help when a brother needed something, from structural steel, to a legal jam with the City of Los Angeles, to a brother Randy Aron helping with my gas tank on the blue flame on the way to Sturgis in about 2003. You name it, a brother always wants to help a brother. Tony recently helped with the Salt Torpedo.

I left the Hamsters for a few years after I left Easyriders in 1999 after the company was sold. I just couldn’t afford to attend events like I did in the past, so I stepped aside. Again, Dave Perewitz approached me and asked me if I would come back. That was the same year I was inducted into the Sturgis Hall of fame.

Here's the Buell gas tank from the deer incident. The bike was totaled.
Here's the Buell gas tank from the deer incident. The bike was totaled.

Speaking of Hamsters, one of my very best friends over the years has been Dr. Hamster, or Dr. Christian Reichardt. He’s a chiropractor and a very sharp guy. He’s also ridden with me to Sturgis numerous times and was with me on the trip in 2001 when I hit a deer just five miles from Thermopolis. A wild year, I customized a Buell, and it ran like a top. Geoff at Joker Machine helped with some of the custom aspects. Phil Statton, another Hamster custom painted it and off we went to the Badlands.

I just bought this original David Mann from Mil Blair. It was featured in the Jammer Handbook in the '70s.
I just bought this original David Mann from Mil Blair. It was featured in the Jammer Handbook in the '70s.

We rode north through Mamouth and then east to hook up with the Hamsters in Thermopolis. I had a Wyoming girl who I saw every year for 20 years. She owned hair salons and worked in corn fields as a kid while they crop dusted the fields. She ultimately hit the cancer button and died not long ago. My grandson got to meet her while she made runs to Salt Lake City for chemo.

She invited me to create a book signing in Worland, Wyoming, which I thought was just a few miles outside of Thermopolis. As it turned out it was 35 miles, no problem, right. After a successful book signing with local riders, I was bent on being true to Nyla and not spending the night with Deb. At midnight I mounted the Buell and started to ride back through open grass lands toward the Holiday Inn in Thermopolis.

I’ll never forget zipping along at about 80 mph and spotting a sign that said Thermopolis 8 miles, and I calculated that I would be there in five minutes. That’s when I spotted the first deer in my headlight maybe 25 yards ahead. I just started to back off the throttle when the next one was in my face. I slammed into the rear hind quarter, went over the bars and smacked deer in the ass and then fell to the pavement. Of course, it shit all over me and my Buell. I smacked my head and passed out.

I know I’ve told this story many times before, but the good Dr. Hamster helped me through that situation. I was in the hospital for four days with broken ribs and bleeding on the brain. Chris determined that the deer’s ass saved me from many more broken bones. “That deer’s ass was your air bag,” he said.

Every ride to the Badlands contains a story of wrecks, breakdowns, women, wild roads, whacky weather and beautiful scenery. I always told younger riders that my joy was always the ride to Sturgis, not so much the rally itself.

But the Sturgis stories are many and rich with outlaws, more women, characters, events, floods, hail and history. I’m currently reading a book by Louis L’Amour, the western book writer about writing, reading and his life. It’s interesting reading about his times on the road as a hobo. He talks about the depression and how the demographics of the wanderers changed. He said bums were local drunks who didn’t want to work and Tramps were wandering men who also didn’t want to work. But Hobos were wanderers who worked menial factory jobs and in the fields. Many of them started working the harvest in Texas and followed the ripening grain north through Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska into the Dakotas. Much of the above changed during the depression.

We have been so ultimately fortunate to live in the best of times. Our bikes are more reliable than ever. Technology and medical care is amazing. Some folks just don’t get it.

Bikers do. We understand hard work and freedom.

Ignorant people often feel that they are treated unfairly and their talents are not appreciated.

Intelligent people often say that conditions are testing them,
and they can created their own future.

--Venerable Master Hsing Yun

Click to Join the Cantina.
Click to Join the Cantina.

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Reader Comments

Great trip down memory lane. Been working in Anacortes, Washington, then to Artesia, New Mexico. I travel to Fort McMurray, Canada at the end of the month before a project in Denver.

Having a job that requires this much travel is sexy and romantic at first, but it does get a little old. I always swore I wanted to leave Texas, but after being all over the states, I think Texas is where I will die. A close 2nd place would be Custer, South Dakota.

Just passed 62,500 miles on ym 2016 Road glide Ultra, and watching friends buy new bikes...I'm content to hold what I got. My wife's 2020 Fat Bob will suffice, but it's a little small bike with big engine...not a distance type of bike. The fairings make them uglier and heavier but man can you haul down the freeway.

I know you've never liked the bigger bikes, calling them couches. I'm hoping to make another trip to your place soon. Time is the ultimate killer, my friend. My mother starts chemo next week, and I'm not ready for what's coming. Been a helluva year...keep doing your thing as it is one of the things that keeps me sane and helps me escape...

Johnny White
Humble, TX
Friday, March 12, 2021
Editor Response Thanks oh Humble one. Can't wait to show you the new extra digs in Sturgis on two acres. I should be there and settled by June. Sorta settled. Then the projects begin.
Great summary KRB. Scheduled Spearfish in June. Be cool to see your new digs.. Will holler when we've arrived.

Port Charlotte , FL
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Editor Response Absolutely. By June things will have calmed some.
Love these stories I remember a lot of these! Especially the deer incident.

I did the same the same thing in my little garage going through things, each contains a memory. I also have a hard time getting rid of things. Like old t-shirts. I say I am going to get rid of them but when I pick them up the memories start to flash back to where I was what I was doing or who gave the shirt. Oh yeah, as always GREAT looking bikes from Sam.

Wishing you the best!

charlotte, NC
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Editor Response Thanks brother.
Be safe. Try not not to lift stuff that's to heavy. I know easier said than done. Guilty of it myself.

We moved last fall to Henderson. Still unboxing. Giving away, throwing away or selling stuff cheap--that we paid to move! So don't get to frustrated when you do it too. Just have a good chuckle. And know we all do it.

Everything Stealth said X 2.

Henderson, NV
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
Editor Response Thanks brother,

I keep telling myself we're downsizing, but it isn't working.
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