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Sturgis '97 Part Three

Out of Colorado and Into the Home Stretch

By Bandit

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.... Part Two


The Odyssey To The Black Hills-In Style

Part Three: Out of Colorado and Into the Home Stretch
Link to West Coast Choppers Page

Bandit's Sturgis '97 is sponsored by
West Coast Choppers
Click on the images to visit Jesse's website...
A Complete Line Of Hand Made 18-gauge Steel Fenders
For Ordering Information, See Your Local Dealer or call
(562) 983-6666
...tell 'em you saw it on BikerNet...

The following day we would catch the furry pack in Cheyenne, or so that was the plan as we pulled out of Glenwood Springs, refreshed, welded and headed up the 70 freeway, taking the direct route toward Vail and Denver. It was a bright and sunny day, and the road was as clear as a new highway the day before its opening. Just 20 miles up the road we passed Eagle, where the traffic slowed and shitcan-sized fluorescent cones forced us into one lane of slow-moving, ascending vehicles. The steeper the highway, the slower the pack of cars and lumbering trucks. Naturally, our frustration grew, and we began to weave past cars, attempting to put the chain of cages behind us. A truck squeezed to the side to allow us passage, as did a handful of cars. But the last holdouts wouldn't budge, determined to have us suffer their powerless blues with them.

Undeterred, Myron broke out of the cones into the road construction marked-off lane (no construction seemed evident) and throttled past the traffic. Mark followed, then Dale. I was the last, although usually I'm the first, to downshift, dodge a cone, and pour it on. I slid between two very large fluorescent cones and shifted, but my engine revved as if I'd missed a gear. The JIMS tranny had been the tightest tranny I had ever shifted. It was effortless to change gears, with little toe movement to bring another gear to life. This seemed completely out of context. I coasted with the clutch in, downshifted gingerly, and let out the clutch. The engine revved again. I repeated the process with the same results. As I heard the other riders disappear around the bend ahead, I coasted to the side of the road.

"Listen, how about I buy a baseball bat on my way into town and beat your busy asses into the pavement."

I checked the rear belt and the shift linkage, praying that a bolt had come out and mysteriously the symptoms would lead to missing linkage. The night before in Greenwood, as I inspected around the engine, determined to find the source of the banging, I stumbled across a ball of fuzz lodged between the engine and the trans. We had carefully installed the fiber breather between the two, and I told myself that some of the banging was the breather being crushed by the kickstand stud. That wasn't the case. As it turned out, my Rivera Brute III Primary belt was misaligned, and since I was using the very latest Dyna Glide components the webbing inside the outer and inner primary was shaving away at the belt. The metal shaved the belt down to 1/2 inch wide before it said adios.

I had just finished inspecting the belt when a sheriff's patrol car pulled up, just as I was about to call and order another belt. The officer was totally cool, looked the bike over, offered assistance, and split. I pushed the bike to the crest of the hill so I could see if my bros were waiting for me to emerge from another bolt tightening session. They weren't. I paged Mark, called home, and then rang Rivera and asked them to Fed Ex another belt to 2-Wheelers in Denver. Then I called the shop. "Hey, man, there ain't anybody here. They all went to Sturgis" I asked 'em if they had a belt. "Nope." Then I asked if they could you call around and see if anyone in town had a belt. "Nope, too busy."

I'd had enough. "Listen, how about I buy a baseball bat on my way into town and beat your busy asses into the pavement."

"I'm calling right now, Bandit, and Eric, our only mechanic, will have the shop cleared for your bike when you get here."

"Thanks, guys," I said. When a Hamster threatens, people shake.

As I hung up and stared off into the distance, listening for a motorcycle heading my way, a Kwik Mobile Lube van pulled up and a short, upbeat biker jumped out.

"Howdy. Can I help you?" he said, yanking his cell phone out of his pocket.

"Looks like I need a lift to Denver," I explained, and in a matter of minutes he had the Texaco station 9 miles ahead in Vail on the line. Natch, it's run by bikers, and Rich, the manager, sent out his flatbed. An hour and a half later I was in Denver. Buck Lovell from Rivera had already shipped the belt and was loading two more on his Dyna Glide for the ride to Sturgis. He would meet me there to inspect the bike. He also spoke to Eric, the mechanic, and coached him on what to look for and how to set up the belt. I was in good hands.

Hot and nasty from the long haul, we arrived in Denver. As soon as we hit the city limits, Mark made a call to a young Title Investment broker he met on a flight earlier this year. She's a rider, as are a couple of her female pals. She volunteered to meet us at 2-Wheelers and haul all our big asses into downtown for lunch at Tsunami's sushi bar. I don't know what was more relieving, the sight of this petite brunette getting out of her Bronco-style vehicle, her eyes sparkling in the sunlight, her hair pulled tightly into a ponytail at the back of her head-phew, she was a site for sore eyes-or the restaurant, the cold Sapporos, and the heaps of fresh Sushi. The combination made us all sit up and think bad thoughts.

I bought the Levi's I needed, and while Mark disappeared with the brunette, Myron took a break. I had my boots shined by a beautiful, blond, blue-eyed babe and showered for dinner. Although I wished the blonde was sharing the shower with me, I was still nagged by the bike. My concern for hanging up my brothers was building a tension inside me. Myron was hoping to become a Hamster at the gathering at the Cottonwood Lodge this year, and he wanted to spend as much time with the other members as possible. But due to the belt, we were now a day behind the pack. If on schedule, they would arrive in Spearfish by noon the next day. Although, by the clock, it was only 400 some miles away. Mark, the navigator who couldn't keep track of the highways, had some doubts we would make it and was planning an overnight in Lusk, Wyoming. I could feel Myron's pressure, and the fact that all the other black bikes were running trouble-free added to the strain. I slept fitfully and called the shop at nine the next morning. The belt had already arrived and was being installed. Mark, who had shacked up with Laurel and her pals, returned and we hit the chow line, though I didn't have much of an appetite. I needed to get my hands dirty, feel that I was contributing. The only way I was going to get back to 2-wheelers was to catch a cab or ride her Sportster. Sitting on the passenger pillion, I piloted the fringed Sportster back to the shop where Eric was wrapping up the assembly. He had changed the oil and performed a couple other lifesaving fixes while waiting for the belt. We were concerned about leaving in the afternoon, but as it turned out we were on the road at 10:30.

Not so fast, though. Mark didn't like the noise his belt was making, so Laurel, our petite Sportster-riding guide, escorted us up to Sun Harley, where the lot was full of bikes passing through. We spent a half hour inspecting other Dyna Glides and lubing Mark's belt. Finally we hit the road. It was a direct shot at this point, 25 due north to 18 or 21 east into Sundance, Wyoming. We blasted until 20 miles south of Chugwater, where we hit rain. It was as if we'd ridden our bikes across the sand in Malibu and into the surf. It was worrisome, watching the front showering down ahead. For several miles, the highway headed directly under the storm clouds. Then it veered first to the left and I sighed a heavy breath of relief, then it veered back to the right and looked as if we would pass the storm on the right. Then it redirected once again. As we got closer the road zigged and zagged again and again and, ultimately, took us right into the sonuvabitch, although the clouds were moving east quickly.

As we entered the storm we spread out. Myron, who lives in Scottsdale, and encounters rain infrequently seemed to relish its presence. He always sped up in the rain, even in the winding hills. Dale who's used to New England's harsh winter weather, could stay with Myron. I'll do 90 on a freeway, but am much more cautious when the road bends, and Mark fell behind me. He was the only rider among us without the benefit of a windshield. As the storm curtain lifted and we ran into the healing rays of the sun, my bike began to miss. I stayed with it until clear of the precipitation, hoping whatever was causing it would dry up and disappear. No such luck. I pulled one plug wire at a time to determine which one it was, and soon found the problem. Running on one plug, I had to pull over. Each time I touched the front plug wire under the Danny Gray seat my wet glove allowed the spark to make my fingers dance.

It was the smallest truck stop - market - burger joint I had ever seen-a rickety old building setting on a knoll in the center of a gravel parking lot with one sparse tree growing alongside it.

When Jesse built the side panels, we suspected that we would need to cut half circles in the lip he built to reinforce the panels, in order to keep the aluminum from interfering with the plug wires. Again, time got the better of us, and it was never done. I quickly assumed that the boot had cracked under the vibration and the wire was shorting to the panel. Mark caught up with me and pulled over. He had a plastic water bottle bungied to his Bandit's bedroll. We cut out a chunk of the neck and worked it between the panel and the boot. Didn't make a difference. I took off the panel and first Mark then I whittled at the thin aluminum sheet with a file, then knives, until we had clearance. We reinstalled the panel several times, but when I sat on the bike one plug died. A half hour had passed, and I was sweating the time. Mark stood back from the bike as I sat in place once it started. The front plug wire was running over the rear rocker box, between the box and the frame. When I sat down the engine was crushing the plug wire against the frame, and it was beginning to break down and short to the rocker box. By simply pulling the wire to the right, out from under the frame it quit shorting and we rolled up our tools and hit the road. Ultimately, we would have to replace that wire in Sturgis and the other wire once I returned to L.A., for the same reason. I also noticed, at this point, while surrounded by these beautiful rolling Colorado hayfields, that my rear-wheel- drive speedo had quit at just over 1,400 miles. I don't care much for speedometers, except this small Custom Chrome job had a trip gauge I reset at each gas stop so I had a gas gauge. The speedo was fine, but the engine was smacking the cable when it smacked the spark plug wires and was straining the drive unit on the rear wheel. Ultimately, the pin inserted into the Performance Machine pulley let go. I now was without a gas gauge and would be forced to rely on Mark's mileage checks.

We seemed to be catching another front as we neared Orin and the 18/20 junction. I had caused another 1/2 hour delay, and it was resting securely on my shoulders as I pushed the speeds. The Orin junction had little to offer travelers. The station aspect had two poorly maintained pumps, one unleaded and one premium. As we pulled up, a straight with a Camaro was just lifting the premium nozzle to fill his car. I sensed the front looming behind us and suggested to Mark that we live with regular unleaded till the next stop. Our trusty Navigator looked at his map and shrugged. In less than five minutes the front moved closer, and 100-mile winds pushed dirt, gravel, and debris all over the bikes. Then it started to rain and the dirt turned to mud. We quickly filled our tanks as a hail storm kicked up. Deciding to take shelter in the leaning cafe, we pushed the bikes to the leeward side of the building and dashed to the safety of the cafe.

Stuck for 45 minutes, we ate chicken sandwiches and chili and stole beers from the fridge. We wound up paying for 'em, but they wouldn't let us drink 'em inside the building, so we didn't tell them about the beer till we were ready to leave. Pushing off, we followed the rapidly moving storm on wet pavement for another hundred miles. As we pulled into Lusk, Wyoming, I noticed a new vibration coming from the exhaust pipes. We had broken the bracket again in the only place that hadn't broken so far. Again, I asked the attendant at the High Super Service Texaco, and he said, "Pull 'er in the service bay. I got everything you need."

As I straddled the red sled for the final blast, the Jack Daniel's crept into my blood and my throttle hand twitched.

He wasn't bullshitting, either. After letting the bike cool for a few minutes, we removed the entire system and Dale welded it. While he was welding I inspected the belt-Oh, shit! More fuzz. The belt had already lost a quarter of an inch on the outside. We pulled the primary and inspected it. The new Dyna Glide's outter primaries have several extra webs to strengthen the overall primary structure. One of the webs was interfering with the belt. Dale and the attendant broke out a dye grinder and went to work. Another 15 minutes, and we were on the road again. I was beginning to take on a numb attitude to the foibles of breakdowns. I was going to get to Sturgis, if I had to fix some little bullshit item on this machine every hundred miles. We kept moving.

Nearing Sundance, Wyoming I went on reserve and hung on as we rolled through a bad construction zone, then one canyon after another, looking for some sign of life or at least a gas station. Mark had scheduled gas stops, but as we rolled out of the last filling station we were due to hit another one 50 miles up the road. It was 81 miles to Spearfish, and if we didn't get gas in Mule Creek, I would be running on fumes. At 50 mph we passed an empty Mule Creek, and I started taking shorter breaths. I was well over 80 miles when I spotted the lights of a town. At 8:15 we rolled into Sundance, Wyoming, 28 miles from Spearfish, South Dakota. Signing in at the Dime Horseshoe Saloon the sky was dark and only a couple of riders were leaning against the bar, but the barmaids were bustling around a folding table in the center of the bar, setting up a birthday do for one of the locals-finger food, birthday cake, and the whole nine yards. We ordered serious cocktails, showed our respects to the birthday boy, and attacked the food and cake. Four big, hungry bikers with almost 400 hundred miles under their belts-we could smell Spearfish and the Hamster lodge.

As I straddled the red sled for the final blast, the Jack Daniel's crept into my blood and my throttle hand twitched. We had spent five long, hard days milking my sorry ass halfway across the country. The bike had now survived this far and would surely survive the next 30 miles.Master of his Domain Muscle Man Myron and I rolled onto the freeway and immediately put the pedal to the metal. I knew how I felt at that moment. The 98-inch stroker motor had almost 2,000 miles on it, was now broken in, and actually felt smoother the faster I went. We rolled up to a hundred and settled in for the final blast. We had played with spark plug wires, welded exhaust pipe brackets, and dicked with petcocks and a limited fuel capacity, but the machine made it in one piece. It was a completely new, innovative, one-off, handmade, excellent machine-perhaps one of the most comfortable bikes I've ever had the pleasure to ride. As we traversed the distance from Sundance into South Dakota, that red sled planed out and we pushed the bike harder. Myron felt the speed. He paced my every turn, accelerated whenever I did, and backed away when I needed a lane to pass. Over the last week we had become a team, like fighter pilots, riding in unison, watching each other's machines for problems. Twice Myron spotted my bags loosening and alerted me. I knew as well as I was beginning to know this bike that Myron was watching my back as we crested 110 and passed two cruisers who had pulled over a camper towing a trailer load of bikes. We thought about shutting down as we discovered that there were cop cars alongside the highway, but we knew it was too late. We were hauling. It felt good, and we weren't about to stop. The slogan, "Able to avoid high-speed pursuit," flashed through my mind, and I pulled the Ness throttle harder and the S&S carb responded as I flashed passed the sign stating that Spearfish was 8 miles up the road. In a blink of an eye the 1-mile sign streaked past and together we all pulled off the freeway. Although it was difficult to slow as we entered the small town, our uniform group gathered in a final demonstration of unity as we passed the Silver Dollar Saloon, lined with scooters from all across the country. We knew we were home, home to every scooter bum on the planet.

It was 9 p.m. as I pulled into the parking lot of the Cottonwood, only three hours behind the main group of Hamsters who began their trek in San Francisco. I was greeted by fellow riders like Arlen Ness, his son, Cory, Grady Phieffer, Laun from Reno, Ron and voluptuous Toni from Connecticut, minuscule Allen Deshon, exotic car Barry Cooney and his lovely wife, Kimi, and many other brothers and sisters. Man, it felt good to be home.


- The End -

The Saga of Sturgis '97 is sponsored by
West Coast Choppers
Specializing In Hand Fabrication. If you want that special touch to your motorcycle, a tank with scalloped pannels, hand made exhaust system, a custom fairing or small detail touched to make your bike unlike all the rest, Jesse James may be your man.
Click on the image below to see some of Jesse's Products...
bike image
Custom Fender Images and Descriptions
For custom fabrication quotes call the legend himself at
(562) 983-6666
...tell 'em Bandit sent ya...

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