Chopper Charlie: Planning Season

Article By: Charlie Weisel

Originally Published In The April 2019 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

They shuttled us to the back of ship where the orange escape pod hung precariously at a 45-degree angle, opened the hatch door and instructed us to climb in. Nervously, we exchanged glances of concern and did as we were told. This was a practice maneuver for what would be the escape plan in the event that the freighter ship we were about to cross the Atlantic Ocean on were about to sink or be overtaken by pirates. The latter bit about the pirates is not a joke, though we were told that the area we would be sailing in was not a high-risk part of the world. Again, the nervous glances were exchanged. We carefully climbed in, grabbing the seats as we went for support in the hopes of not slipping and tumbling downward to the back of the pod. We fell awkwardly into our seats while the Polish Captain began explaining to us that, in the event of an emergency, we were to board this pod, pull the release handle and hope that someone found us within six days, that’s how much provisions were on board. Enough food and water for the entire crew for six days. I didn’t to think to ask at the time about what to do in the event of a bathroom emergency while bobbing around the ocean in this tiny orange tomb; I’d have to imagine that conditions would quickly turn dire. Keep in mind that at this point we hadn’t even left the Port of Wilmington yet and I was suddenly beginning to question every part of this decision to cross the Atlantic on a working freighter ship. Soon though, we would be on our way, and any concerns of sinking to the bottom of the ocean would be overtaken by the anticipation of arriving in Antwerp, Belgium where our motorcycles would be offloaded from this same ship, and we would soon be choppering all of Western Europe.

I was reminded of this journey while perusing old photos the other day, the sort of activity one indulges in when the daily high temperatures  only have one syllable, and the clouds are in no danger of breaking up anytime soon. Partaking in this sort of reminiscent activity happens a lot this time of year, it gets me thinking about what other adventures lie in wait, and there are plenty of options out there. One in particular, keeps rising to the surface though, and that is the idea of riding to the southernmost tip of South America, and back, on choppers

I know this isn’t an original idea, plenty of people have done it, but few have done it on a rigid chopper, and I’d love to add my name to that short list. In fact, my wife recently built a rigid chopper, and she would be part of this endeavor as well. I won’t go into how her new bike is entirely brand new, fully custom with zero miles and has a considerably larger motor than mine, that’s a rant you’ll have to hear in person. She’s a tough lady, to say the least. Six to eight months I think would be the appropriate amount of time to take but stretching it out to a year would be optimum, I think. I would fully anticipate having to make a couple of small modifications to the bike, of course, the thought of going back to a hand clutch is one of them. The idea of foot clutching my way down hundreds of miles of rough dirt roads sounds like more of a pain in the neck then its worth, especially through those stretches of sand where you want both feet down. That’s right; I have no problem off-roading a chopper. Saddlebags I think would be in order, those soft adventure bike type bags, something to make life a little easier and provide room for those trinkets we would surely find ourselves purchasing as souvenirs. Then again, I guess I’ve gotten this far without them. A trip of that caliber would undoubtedly be a life-changing experience so adapting the bike a little to minimize headaches would be well worth it. Sure, I could take my brand-new BMW adventure bike sitting in my garage, but where’s the adventure in that?

My other big idea has been to tackle a true, honest to God, cannonball run from coast to coast. Retracing the original cannonball route from the Santa Monica Pier to the Red Ball Garage in downtown New York City. I’d like to see how close to the record I could get or beat it. The current solo motorcycle coast to coast record is 38hrs and 49 minutes… that’s hustling. Interesting fact here, or at least as far as I can tell, every holder of that particular record has done it on a BMW; I think it is time to change that and see that record broken on a rigid chopper. Now, I fully realize that this may be a near impossible feat, but I’m hanging on the “near” part of that statement. Strap on a sizeable auxiliary fuel tank, insert catheter and go like the wind is pretty much how I picture that going. Who knows, it just might be possible. I’ll give it hell either way, and we will see what happens. How hard can you push a Twin Cam with over 200,000 miles on it? I’m aiming to find out. As you can see, I am not one to think small nor do I like to sit idle. With the icy wind whipping and the snow flying right outside my windows at the moment, I’m left with not much else to do but dream of over the top warm weather activities. I imagine many of you are doing the same at the moment. So, what are your summer plans? What life changing adventures do you dream of? This is the time of year to plan them, to get inspired. I have said it a million times, and I will say it again, go buy a map and start exploring! I’ll see you on the road! For photos of these adventures and others, follow me on Instagram @ charlietravelingchopper

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