The David Mann Chopperfest Weekend
Article By: Jack Shit & Milwaukee Mike
Photos By: Bart Mitchel
Originally Published In The March 2012 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
I’ve got the sickness and I’ve got it real bad. The only known cure for it is knees in the breeze and a prescription for some two-wheeled therapy. I can’t believe that it is only mid December and winter has already hit me so hard. Not only has it hit me in my wallet but in my spirit as well. By this time each year, I’ve got a few extra bucks on hand and start some type of winter project. Whether it is working on repairing the damage I’ve done to the Knuckle in the previous months, working with others on their builds and trying to learn something, or pulling off some major project at home, I’ve always got something happening. This year I had big plans to build the lil woman’s XS 650 and not having the cash on hand for it, really took the gas out of my proverbial tank. I needed something motorcycle related in my life and man I needed it bad! A road trip was in order and this time of year in the I Southwest, there is only one direction to go and that is west! California here I come! It just so happened that I got a call from the one-and-only Milwaukee Mike and he was heading my way and looking to hit Cali. as well. The plan was set and I was pumped to hit the pavement and burn up some miles.
Seven years ago, I gave up all I knew, moved back east and entered into the “Winter Protection Program.” I disappeared in to the Valley of the Sun forever. No matter how many thugs Mother Nature sent to find me, I never imagined that she would, BUT she did! I now needed to go on the lam again; a run for my life if you will! The great escape was worked out and we would roll out of Phoenix early on Friday morning and make it to the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach by early afternoon, and crash at Big Ben’s place. The next day we’d be off to Mooneyes and we would wrap up the weekend at the David Mann Chopperfest in Ventura. A beautiful 400 mile ride across the sun soaked desert would warm this old biker’s soul. I set the alarm for 4:30 am for my 6:00 am departure. I awoke to 31 degrees, the cars covered with a thin layer of ice and a dead battery on the bike from the cold! Sweet baby Jesus, this was not what I had planned for! It warmed up to 34 magical degrees for departure and I don’t think the temps ever hit 50 until we were past Palm Springs. It didn‘t matter: I was on a bike, I was riding with my brothers and I could not wipe the smile or the snottsickles from my face! Therapy was working and it had only just begun!
As Jack mentioned, Keith Cole, Jack and I went out to see what was going on in Cali during December. So, I hopped a plane to get to the Land of the Sun only to find the temps more in the realm of what we get in late November. It was low 30s at night but warmed to the 50s and 60s during the day which is perfect for full gear riding. It was back in the saddle of Keith’s trusty FXRP and we were off to Long Beach to visit with Big Ben and Drea so we could catch the opening day of the International Motorcycle Show. First, we spent a little time gawking and talking to the boys at Victory and checking out the new model that was unveiled, the 2012 Hard-Ball, which is a more touring friendly version of the High-Ball I recently rode to Vegas. I also got to talk to Brian Klock and see the bike that he helped to style for Victory as well. Watch for a story on that in an upcoming issue. On the Harley Davidson front, Jack, Keith, Ben and I were eager to check out the new touring rigs that Harley has to offer as well as the 2013 Switchback which I had not seen in person. Harley also had on hand a completed ‘30s race bike that will be featured at the museum once the IMS shows end for the year; very cool! Next, it was on to visit S&S and talk to Ted and the boys to see all the new stuff they have for you good people who love horsepower. Make sure to watch your local Harley dealer as S&S will be doing informational classes on why they do what they do and how it can benefit you! After checking out some of the displays of bikes from the featured builders and the AMCA vintage display, it was time to get out of there and soak up some Long Beach nightlife.
Apparently, shuffleboard took a bit more out of this crew than we had anticipated and we got off to a late start on Saturday morning. A change of plans was in order. We decided we would instead ride down to Huntington Beach and meet up at the issue release party for Street Chopper and then make a mad dash up the Pacific Coast Hwy on our way to Ventura. We rolled out with about 15-20 scoots and took off for the coast. We actually found ourselves on the corner of Sunset Blvd. and the PCH at Sunset. We got trapped behind some Hollywood types filming a movie so we had to crawl for the first 15 miles or so and it was full on torture. Eventually, the crew shooting the film, along with their police escort, pulled off to the side of the road and you would have thought someone had dropped the flag because from that moment on, the ride up PCH was balls out! I will never forget this ride as long as I live. In “Choppafornia,” lane sharing or splitting is legal and is in the top 5 things you can do on a bike! I had no idea where I was going and I was deathly afraid to be the “weak gazelle” at the end of the herd! I was not going to be picked off for dinner by either the lions or the man! In what I am sure is record time, we made it up to this famous sea food joint right on the PCH and we pulled up to find another 20 or so bikes already there and waiting for our arrival. We gobbled down a quick dinner as the temps fell as fast as a Hollywood wannabe’s dreams of stardom. We loaded up again and took off for Ventura with about 40 bikes side by side through the twisties that is the Choppafornia Coast! We arrived at our hotel in Ventura, perfectly named for us, The Vagabond Inn! We were up before first light to make it to the swap meet at David Mann and get first dibs on parts. I was blown away when I arrived to see the turnout that this event drew. Right there in the heart of the midway was a tent set up to help support Bobby Seeger’s boy, Aidan. It was great to see the near nonstop flow of people hitting it up. Once again, “Choppafornia” did not disappoint and the bikes in and around the show were stellar. I counted no less than 30 Knuckles, and Pans were a plenty! I got to see so many people that normally I would not see again until spring. Equal to my love of riding is my love of being surrounded by great friends and like minded choppa guys!
Sunday morning came bright and sunny and I felt a little blessed as the warm sea air shook me up. We headed out to the show and what a show it was! Surrounded by unbelievable show bikes was a hell of a swap and vendors selling all kinds of kooky stuff. I got to visit with Kiwi Mike and family, Bean’re, the boys from Dice, Cro, Nash, Old Gold, Steg and the Psycho Cycles crew, just to name a few. As all good things do, the day was coming to an end and the three amigos had to get back to the desert to beat the crazy rain and snow storm that was bearing down on us from the west. All in all, it was a trip that will stick in my head as one of the best short week/long weekend trips I have ever done. I would like to thank all who made it possible and a special thanks to Tory for doing all the work that it takes to put on one of the best bike events that I have been to in a lot of years. As always thanks to Keith, Jack and Ben for being great travel partners. I look forward to our next adventure with baited breath.
We had to make our way back towards Phoenix as Mikey had a flight early the next afternoon. We left it up to the bike gods to determine how our trip would go. If things were good, we would just go for it across the desert through the night. If things were not looking up, we would ride the first few hundred miles and stop at the “point of no return.” This time, the temps dropped like a crack whore’s panties on “Free Rock Day” on Skid Row, and that is fast my friends! We decided to stop and got the ultimate hook up on the “family suite.” We unloaded the gear and headed out for some amazing Thai food. The weather forecast for the following day was awful but we thought we could race ahead of it, or so we thought. The last 140 miles or so was through biblical rain and about 40 degrees at its warmest. Once again, there was nothing that the universe could throw at me that could wipe the Jack Shit eating grin off of my face! This trip gave me just what I needed. A little more than 1100 miles on the scoot, a weekend with the people I love and an overwhelming supply of antique iron to fill my habit and feast my eyes! Nothing cures the winter blues like putting your knees in the breeze, even if that breeze chills you to the core! I only hope that you fine folks in the Midwest and the Northeast catch a break in your weather and you get the same opportunity that we did. May this upcoming New Year bring you all, at the very least, happiness, success and great health.