Thursday, July 31, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
I've been working almost continually on my 1939 ULH so I can rip around on it next week in Sturgis. This past Saturday I cleaned up the combustion chambers, valves and pistons and topped off the motor with a fresh set of aluminum heads. The perfomance improvement is unbelievable! Throttle response, acceleration and torque all improved and I swear it even sounds better.
Including the head work I mentioned above I have a had what seems like nine million other little things to fix, fab, create or replace getting ready for this trip. Although most of the grunt work was handle by my lonesome I need to give a BIG THANK YOU to 5 guys who never said no to anything I needed and with out I NEVER would have got this scoot done, and they are in no particular order:
Tony Prano who helped with a variety of broken fasteners, bracket creation, welding and general tricky metal work. He also kept me perpetually hydrated with a constant flow of cold beer from the little white fridge in his killer poolside garage. One day I'm going for swim in that beautiful thing I swear!
Dwayne Fietzer is responsible for all the metal shaping, fab and welding on my fender (twice!), headlamp bracket, seat brackets and seat/p-pad bases. Whenever I needed it done overnight Dwayne was there and like Tony has a killer work space at home with a cozy vibe that you never want to leave.
Dave Hatcher stitched up my seat and p-pad, tolerated my pickiness and came through with some creative solutions to the design of the seats. He is also one of the most positive individuals I know and spending time with him was/is always an uplifting experience.
Buss Yax (aka BUZZ) was the first local vintage Harley guy who gave a shit about me. He learned me when I needed learnin. Spent a lot of time lookin at potential bikes with me. Even invited me into his warm little world/workshop to improve my knowledge of all things Harley, and also drool all over his sweet scooters. He also introduced me to "Fancy Pan" Joe below. I'm still not sure if I should really thank him for that?
Joe Gardella who really gave me the lay of the land so to speak. When your around Joe it's like getting caught up in a hurricane, before you know it your a million miles from where you started and having way more fun then you should be allowed to have. His collection of bikes is unbelievable and his knowledge of them all is even more so. He has walked me through almost every major issue I have had, bolt by bolt and never tires of my never-ending procession of mundane questions. Thanks Joe!
Without all these characters my bike would still be a pile of parts and my life would be a little less dangerous. SO THANK YOU GUYS FOR ALL THE HELP!!! Sturgis here we come!
Putting New Mexico in my rearview mirror I crossed into Colorado, welcome sign photos complete I moved on. My route was from a South Eastern direction through the entire right half of the state. First stop was (and it was entirely by accident) the Great Sand Dunes national park. Did you know the largest sand dunes in North American can be found a couple hours from Denver? I didn't either so I stopped to take a look. I've never seen such a drastic shift in landscape in such a short amount of space. One minute your in the Rockies the next the Sahara. There was some kind of trickling "river" at the base of the dunes everyone was frolicking in - looked more like a creek of mud to me but the dunes were very impressive.
The skies began to brew up as I was leaving the dunes. Rain came on and off the rest of the afternoon which unfortunately made me push on through many cool little mountain towns without stopping for photos. One such town was Leadville. I really regret not snapping a few there but I would have gotten soaked (If you keep the bike over 45 MPH the fairing pushes the rain right over your head). There were periods of sun and I stopped to take advantage of them whenever I could. One such window came as I rounded a bend and found a picture perfect lake/mountain/woods combo (you can see it above).
With the rain pushing me away from Aspen (I wanted to visit Woody Creek, Hunter S. Thompson's home) I set my sights on Rocky Mountain National park. Glad I did because I got there right as the sun began to fall in the west and the scenery began to light up like neon. Elk. Did I mention the elk? Huge elk, huge elk everywhere. Snow. Did I mention the snow? I had been snowed on in New Mexico a few days prior but it melted as it touched the road. But here it was still pilled up in drifts of ten feet tall. As I climbed past the timberline the temp dropped dramatically. Icy spots on the road had to be avoided - it was the beginning of July. The images I captured up there attest to the drama of the place. Pick your superlative they were everywhere.
I found a warm bed in a road side cabin in Estes Park on the Eastern side of the Rockies. Turns out my little cabin was less than a mile from the hotel where they filmed "The Shining". After eating some great food and drinking a well deserved vodka at the towns local steakhouse. I took a walk under the moonless midnight sky. In Colorado the night sky is so plump with glowing stars that you begin to realize there are more stars then sky up there. The sense of depth is awe inspiring. Nothing about that state is small or understated and I love travelling the length of it's perfect twisting roads.
On the Eastern side of the Rockies your meet the great plains and getting back to Detroit you have to cover every square inch of those fuckers. I strapped everything down extra tight, found an empty back road heading East and gave the Roadqueen full spur. By midnight I was in Des Moines and by the following afternoon I was home. I did have one more dance with old Route 66 outside Odell, Illinois when I tripped across the Mother Road on it's Southern line out of Chicago. The town of Odell had restored the oldest Texaco station on 66. It operated from 1933 to 1999 - 66 years on Route 66. Cool stuff (if you’re a little funny in the head like me).
Back in my driveway in South Eastern Michigan I found an odometer reading of 3955 miles. I traveled through 10 states in 6 days, took over 350 photographs and met some fantastic people (Kevin and Kathy Patton from Minnesota whom I met eating tacos at the Taos Inn bar come to mind. Great people on a journey not unlike my own), experienced some of America's best 360 degree views, took on 4 seasons worth of weather, ate like a king (drank like one too a couple nights) and finished up with a 4 state drag race home.
I've always believed in the healing powers of the road. It's a place to clean out your mind, warm up your heart and stoke the soul. As much as I love the road the best thing about it to me is how it makes you appreciate what really matters back at home. If you get the chance, fill up the tank, grab an iPod, a camera, your sunglasses and GO. The gas will cost you but the memories are yours for free and you can keep them the rest of your life.
I'm attracted to people with maverick streaks. One such person is Danny Lyon. Danny is a photographer/filmmaker who has created a unflinchingly strong body of work. His photos created while riding with and then becoming a member of the Chicago Outlaws back in the sixties are some of my favorite photographs of all time. His work is beautifully composed, brutally honest and dripping with soul. Here is some of his work. If you like it go to a book store and pick up "The Bike Riders", it's packed with a ton of powerful images and some great interviews with some of the more colorful subjects in his photos. Dig it.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The late Joe Strummer. What can I say that hasn't already been said. Growing up listening to horrible late 70's/80's rock stumbling onto the Clash turned everything around for me. Like tossing a hand grenade into 50 gallon drum or nitro - that band blew a huge hole into the end of a dreadful decade. Through that hole I could finally see light.
Joe was the nucleus of all that energy and he was violently smart to boot. Not a precise player, but like his name suggests, an atomic rhythm engine that until his untimely death never ran out of go.
Through the beautiful arcing trajectory of his musical legacy you can find whatever movie you want to star in. Take heed angels, I hear a tele tuning up in heaven.
See you on down the line Joe, the Volatile Molotov says...
Monday, July 21, 2008
Despite a sketchy forcast and soaring fuel prices Wauseon 2008 proved to be bigger than ever. After spending most of Thursday night putting the new P-pad on my '39 ULH I decided to bed early and hit the road at the crack of dawn. Friday morning came fast and I found myself counting cornfields west of Toledo by 6am. After locating Gene Pain's RV spot at the campgrounds (Gene graciously offered a piece of ground next to his rig where I set up camp) I had the '39 off the truck and running lickity-split.
The down home feel of the place makes it my favorite event of the year and this year was no exception. The hospitality flowed from all my good friends especially Cindy and Joe Gardella who not only gave the '39 a spot in their pasture next to all the pretty bikes but also fed me lunch and dinner in their new land yacht dubbed the "Big Banana". Thanks you two!
Pan-heads were the featured bike this year but I must say I have never seen so many knuckleheads in my life. Everywhere I looked there was another cool example of the HD OHV factory hotrod. They came in every flavor shape with all model years in attendence and the ones looking for new homes carried HEAVY price tags beyond most wallets.
Friday night brought vintage flat track racing to the county fairgrounds 1/2 mile oval. The stands filled up fast and the racing proved worthy of all the attention. Numerous heat races whittled down the entries to a half dozen 10-13 bike finals which made the racing tight, fast and dangerous. The biggest highlight for me was one of Joe's good friends lapping everyone in his field aboard a 1923 HD direct drive board tracker on white rubber. Mucho Grande Attachments.
Check the pics and mark it down on your calender for next year. I promise you won't be disappointed.
A personal note to my accountant - I did not find that '41 knucklehead I have been looking for and I have already put the cash back in the bank.... but I'm gonna be back on the search at Davenport!