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Tuesday Edition

Sturgis '97 Part Two

On the Road... Finally...

By Bandit

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Part One...


The Odyssey To The Black Hills-In Style

Part Two: On the Road...Finally...
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...

We pulled away from the security of the abode at 5:10 and headed to the 405 freeway. My bike and Mark's were built with 34-tooth Andrews tranny sprockets, which gave us tremendous top end. I wasn't shifting into 5th until I was over 70, and it seemed to putt at that speed effortlessly-although I was constantly varying the revs to properly break in the engine as we reached the end of the 405 and merged with the 5 north and shortly thereafter with highway 14, heading east into Palmdale. It wasn't long in the cresting morning haze that we spotted the 138 (or Pearblossom Highway) and swung right, heading toward Victorville.

That evening we hit on every waitress in the local Holiday Inn without so much as a bite; maybe it had something to do with our creeping around the bar and restaurant barefoot, because our boots were soaked.

Fortunately, on my way to work the previous day, I went on reserve, got off the freeway, and refueled. My suspicions about my gas capacity were high as we turned left onto Highway 18 to Victorville and a long dry, desert stretch. Just after we passed a sign announcing that Victorville was a mere 16 miles away, my bike began to sputter. I reached for the Accel petcock and switched it to reserve; the bike caught again, but after only a couple of miles began to cough, sputter, and die. At 84 miles I was out of gas in the middle of the desert 10 miles from Victorville and the 15 freeway. We dug around in the desert until we found a Bud can, cleaned it, and initiated a fuel unrep with Dale's dresser. Mark quickly discovered that he had a gas capacity of maybe 20 miles more than mine. After eight trips to Dale's petcock we were back on the road. Already, due to the 98-inch engine's level of vibration, we began to predict that perhaps the big engine should be used in a race bike and that a milder mill be installed in the Dyna chassis. It was tough to keep my feet on the pegs, even though it was a rubbermount chassis-something to think about for the next 1800 miles.

Gas Pains After refueling in Victorville, we jumped on the 15 to the 40. The vibrations took their toll on the right saddlebag as the desert sun began to bake the sand for hundreds of miles on either side of the freeway. We stopped for breakfast in the 100-degree heat of Needles, and I broke my first exhaust bracket in Kingman, Arizona. We took a break at Kingman Harley-Davidson. We had been almost 400 miles at mostly 75 mph, so the guys in service changed the oil, replaced my sharp-looking Hurst pegs with more gooey rubber Isotomer pegs, fixed the exhaust pipe bracket, and set us on our way again. In Kingman, we asked the ladies at the counter to ship our helmets back to the Golden State; we wouldn't be needing them again for some time. I also had the petcock changed to an expensive, but high-flow Pingle unit. Ultimately ,we discovered that it didn't make a damn bit of difference.

I felt confident in Kingman that we had half a chance of solving the bulk of my mechanical problems and that we could roll (or was that the afterglow of several Coronas). A couple of beers makes almost any motorcycle run smoother, and we rode onto Seligman for Machaca plates in a fine Mexican restaurant. We blasted through the hills of Arizona and into the tail end of a storm creeping north from Mexico and carrying monsoons with it. We had originally planned to wind 'em up on Monday, but as the gods of chrome ride with us, we were warned in our sleep to delay the trip a day. Becky Ball was also breathing down our necks about the weather. I had more to think about than clouds and a little rain, and put weather reports out of my mind, but we were generally blessed until we hit the Mazatal Mountain range, a portion of the Coconino National Forest leading into Flagstaff on Highway 40. We hit the front head on, and 30 miles from Flagstaff we took a break in Williams, where the world's rudest waitresses brought us coffee and apple pie while we watched the skies unload on our bikes. Of course, we fucked with her until she lightened up. We finally called Myron in Flagstaff and told him we would pick him up in the morning. That evening we hit on every waitress in the local Holiday Inn without so much as a bite; maybe it had something to do with our creeping around the bar and restaurant barefoot, because our boots were soaked. It felt good to be out of the rain, though. Mark propped the roll-away bed against the wall, directly in front of the heater, and we lined up the boots for maximum exposure. We set the heater on 90 and split.

It started to rain again as we rolled into town, and the red clay dust turned into red mud.

We finally rendezvoused with Myron on his highbar Road King in the mountain, tourist community of Flagstaff, adjacent to the Grand Canyon, which I have yet to see. We then split 52 miles into the Navajo nation, stopping in Cameron, a one-stop mesa in the middle of the desert. This oasis on the muddy Little Colorado River is home to one gas station, one outpost, and the most complete American Indian gift shop you've ever seen. If they don't have it, it can't exist. The outpost was built in 1916 out of indigenous rock. A motel, made from the same stone and by the same architect, is attached to the outpost, in addition to a small art gallery/museum and a restaurant packed with Indian artifacts and rugs. The ceiling is copper paneled and all the employees are American Indians. All the furniture in the rooms is handcrafted by their own employees. We ate breakfast in the dining room, and Myron was scared off by the 8-inch grilled Ortega pepper that accompanied his breakfast burrito. Cameron was only 50 miles out of Flag and a good stop on our way through the desert.

The redhead, as Becky had appropriately named the stretched crimson monster, was hanging together. The engine was still moving around a lot, but it was a cool 73 degrees, and we felt comfortable blasting along at 75 on Highway 89 north, then turning onto 160. We were beginning to check parking lots for other Dyna Glides to compare the motor mounts. We also wanted to balance the front wheel 'cause it seemed to bounce instead of working the lowers. It could have been the length of the front end or the rake. Dale tightened the Works Performance shocks, which stopped the bottoming I was experiencing.

We made it another 100 miles to Kayenta, a grizzly little desert burg in the center of the reservation. This place reeks of bad vibes, although it is the gateway to beautiful monument valley on Highway 163. It's as if you need to pass through the ghetto to reach the Promised Land. The valley is a must-see for travelers, just shut your lids passing through Kayenta. It started to rain again as we rolled into town, and the red clay dust turned into red mud. Pulling into the Chevron station the service bays lay vacant, and I asked the Indian clerk if we could push the bikes out of the way for a spell to tighten a few nuts and bolts. He scuffled his feet, looked at the floor, and denied my request. "Da boss is coming," he kept saying.

We discovered the one bolt holding the exhaust bracket to the transmission had broken off. It was the only bolt holding the entire exhaust system in place. No shops in the neighborhood. Dale spotted a True Value hardware store across the highway and we wandered over and began to search through bins and drawers to find the hardware and a long narrow punch. Meanwhile, Mark bought a cheap 4-buck rain suit and sneaked back to the register to pay for it. I spotted him and jacked him up. "What about your bros, pal?" His eyes dropped and he pointed to the rack under the fishing poles. Of course, I couldn't find the damn things. Like my pappy used to say, "If it was a snake, it woulda bit ya."

Roadside Repair

Dale spent over an hour coaxing that bolt out of the transmission. With a knife he cleaned the threads; he could see a quarter of an inch into the hole. Then, with the punch, he tapped on the broken bolt in a counter-clockwise direction, gradually easing the shaft of the bolt out. While we were in the station I adjusted the handlebars and tried to convince Dale that he had worked tirelessly long enough. "Gimme a shot, goddammit," I said, to no avail. He was like the preacher in the milk commercial-unrelenting. As the rain let up we rolled out of the grizzly, muddy little town and headed toward Durango. Just over 40 miles out of town we caught up with the rain. We stopped and donned our bright yellow rain suits. For 36 miles it rained on us as we rolled over broad sweeping miles of highway. It actually wasn't bad, hiding behind the Wind Vest windshield as we crossed the desert.

Although I was packing wire cutters, pliers, adjustable wrenches, and screw drivers, when it comes to mechanical repairs there's nothing like the right tools.

We missed a turn onto Highway 666 and rolled through the town of Astez, where one of my steel bags came loose, directly in front of the Tool Crib. It was almost 6 p.m., but the owner kept it open-over his ol' lady's objections. The bolt from the exhaust bracket was gone again. Myron suggested a bolt and large washer, rather than the existing recessed Allen. It never backed out or broke off again. The plan was to add another bracket and tie the two brackets together when we returned. We discovered that the fender rails were loosening up, causing the bags to shake and loosen. We bought a 3/4 open end wrench from the Crib, tightened it, and discussed running a bead of weld. The fender had sagged just enough to put the tire in close proximity to the sheet metal, heating and blistering the paint. Dale, Mr. Muscle, tightened the sonuvabitch so tight we all cringed at the thought of the wrench slipping or the head turning off the bolt.

As we crossed the desert in the rain our cheap rain suits began to disintegrate, sending strips of yellow plastic slipping past the riders behind us. It was entertaining watching the suits gradually shred to streaks of yellow as we blasted through the rain and onto Durango, another 50 miles of winding wet road ahead. Since I didn't have a change of Levi's, I was forced to stay sequestered in my room or in the work out room until they were dry.

Durango, with its elegant downtown tourist region, contained no dearth of up-town eating establishments and bars. The steaks were thick and meaty, and the Jack Daniel's flowed. The next morning, while in front of the Double Tree Inn, we inspected the Touring Chopper for the winding road out of the valley and into Silverton. The weather was cool and crisp. The rugged countryside, pine tree-strewn mountains, and roads dried as the blazing sun crested the jagged peaks and we attempted to head out of town.

Mark's bike wouldn't fire. It was the first and only time we had a problem with another bike, which heightened my complex, although Dale seemed to enjoy the breakdowns and worked on my red sled with the same unrelenting desire to move ahead as I had. That meant a lot to me. Mark, the constant tool supplier, taught me something about packing tools that week. I pack one of my Bandit's Day Rolls wherever I go. It works fine; it's just that I'm not carrying the right stuff. It's important to pack a socket set and a set of open end, box end wrenches. Although I was packing wire cutters, pliers, adjustable wrenches, and screw drivers, when it comes to mechanical repairs there's nothing like the right tools. I repacked my bag as soon as I returned. I pushed Martial Arts Mark; his bike fired immediately and never blinked again-stuck relay.

It's astounding, the beauty you find out on the road. It constantly makes me wonder what the fuck we're doing holed up in some garage when the entire country is out there waiting.

But as we weaved alongside the river of Lost Souls there was a nagging doubt about the reliability of my mount. It was comfortable, but vibration was concerning me and a banging at the rear of the engine troubled me. When I applied the rear brakes I was catching a loud clicking, but the brakes were secure and even the Performance Machine anchoring system appeared tight and unyielding. The only aspect of this design that would indicate a weak link was the severe angle of the shocks. Advice and opinions ran the gamut. Some felt the shock angle, although only 15 degrees more than stock was pushing the engine back and forth. Later I would discover that to be the case, but at the time I had no clue, except for the incessant banging over low speed bumps and while rear braking. As we wound and rose to 11,000 thousand feet my mind cemented a decision, a rare occasion. While the guys were warming their hands on hot cups of coffee and refueling in the mining village of Silverton, I would find a welder and have him run a bead along the top of the fender rails, where they were bolted to the frame. I would loosen the bolts slightly, and lift the back of the fender to capture maximum clearance from the tire at the time the welder struck an arc.

An hour later we pulled into the first gas station in town, and I asked the biker who worked there about a welder. "Just pull it into the back after you refuel," he said, "I'll clear out this cage, and we'll have all the room we need." The service bay behind the gas station must have been a hundred years old. The mortar holding the stone walls shored-up by metal "I" beam girders was falling away. The floors were rough asphalt, with standing pools of water and dirt in some areas, but the area seemed to extend way beyond the normal working space of a gas station, as if the service bay had been built and modified several times during the history of the town.

With a pneumatic dye grinder we dug away at the joint until there was 3 inches of welding area. The mechanic, a veteran, tattooed biker with a big inch Shovel who relished terrorizing the town from time to time, had a light touch to prevent damage to the frame and paint, but Dale took over and tore through the cutting wheel, making the grooves 3/8 of an inch wide and a 1/4-inch deep. We all wanted a shot at the welding chore. I've been welding for 30 years after post-military training and certification. Dale runs a body shop and welds regularly, and the man who worked in the shop owned the key to the welder. We stepped aside and let him have his way. For the first time since we left L.A., the chassis, except for the banging, felt secure. I could detect a difference immediately. The bags never loosened again, and the road fell beneath me with predictable regularity as we wove out of Silverton through Ouray and into Delta, another picturesque mining village where we stopped for gas, beer, and a shot of tequila.

Most of the day we followed the San Juan river, north on the 550 to the 50, to the 92, to the 133 over the McClure Pass-some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It's astounding, the beauty you find out on the road. It constantly makes me wonder what the fuck we're doing holed up in some garage when the entire country is out there waiting. Ultimately we rolled onto Highway 82 into Carbondale, not far from Aspen, where we planned to meet up with the Hamsters. They were stuck behind the monsoon front in Santa Fe, so we moved on another 10 miles to the town of Glenwood Springs, adjacent to Interstate 70, 120 miles from Denver. I witnessed the largest swimming pool I'd ever seen in my life. Glenwood Springs is known for its hot mineral baths along the Colorado River. We parked our asses and fed our faces.

- End of Part Two -

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...
...Part Three 

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