Chopper Charlie: Southbound And Down

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Article And Photos By: Charlie Weisel

Originally Published In The June 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Early March in Colorado is not typically considered a great time to embark on a multi-day motorcycle adventure. In fact, it’s a risky time for most parts of the country which is the main reason why I’ve never bothered with the Daytona Rally in Florida…or should I call it the Greater Daytona Area Motorcycle Get Together? I’ll get back to that later. The likelihood of bitter cold temperatures, spring rains, and even snow are well beyond possible, it’s almost guaranteed, and this trip would prove that multiple times over. My departure from home was about as expected, better even, with temperatures in the mid 40’s and a gale force westerly wind I was thankful that the thermometer had clipped north of 32 and the roads were dry, but this would all change on me soon enough. Eastbound on I-70. I chose to blaze across Kansas as quickly as humanly possible, I’ve learned from previous experience that back-roading Kansas doesn’t gain a person much but added hours of wheat field viewing. I’ve already checked “see 1000 wheat fields” off my bucket list so the interstate it was.

My unofficial destination for the day was somewhere in southeast Kansas but with my late start I chose to aim for Marion, Kansas where I knew my friends Roger and Pam would have a warm meal and bed for me, they are good people like that and my next morning’s experience would further prove that stop to be priceless. You see, I had set my alarm rather early to  get a jump on the sunrise as I hoped to ride from sun up to sun down that day, but my plan was foiled when all my bike gave me was some pathetic half-assed attempt to start itself when depressing the starter solenoid. Crap. My bike has a funny way of doing that; it runs like a champ for 500ish miles to Rogers house then decides it wants to sit put for a day. Maybe she partied all night in the garage with the other motorcycles and was too hungover to do anything but sit, who knows, but she was sounding a little puckish. But, like so many times in my life, I was wrong, and it turned out, after a few of hours of head scratching, that my starter had gone bad. This resulted in a roasted battery and my feeling guilty for accusing my beloved motorcycle of having a substance abuse problem. Miraculously, the Harley-Davidson dealer down in Wichita had a new starter so off we went on the 180-mile round trip drive to procure said item. Meanwhile, Dylan of DFS Moto in Canton, KS, who made a house call to Rogers place I might add, removed my old starter. At this point in the game, I thought that if we got this fixed quick enough, I could still hit the road that day, wishful thinking on my part, especially considering that I had a perfectly pleasant place to stay for a second night if needed. Upon our return with the part, Dylan had it installed in no time and problem solved. I chose to stay another night and leave in the morning as it was approaching 6 pm at this point and another night with friends is not something one should pass up.

6 am alarm, again, felt a bit like Groundhog Day except that this day my some-what trusty steed would fire up beautifully and I would be on my way. The downside was that it was dramatically colder than the previous morning with my departure temperature being a mere 23 degrees and no signs of it warming up anytime soon. It wasn’t until noon that I regained feeling in my fingers, somewhere in Arkansas if memory serves, but my brain resembled something like a snow cone at that point, so I can’t be held responsible for remembering any details before 1 pm that day. Regardless, Arkansas is always a treat with its endless supply of snaking tarmac, grand vistas of the Ozark Mountains and a plethora of roadside oddities. The kind of roads that make you want to twist the throttle a bit more and test the limits of your tires, and I did. Pushing my way down roads that barely resembled roads at all and leaving me wondering if I was even going the right direction, I finally arrived in Hot Springs, Arkansas where I decided to call it a night. The sun had dipped below the horizon at this point, and that roadside Hibachi Grill food truck was calling my name.

Day 3. I was excited; I knew that I might actually find some warm weather, and I did, well, warmer anyway. Someplace near Jackson, Mississippi, the temps started to creep into the 50’s, the skies were clear, and the southern drawl was thick in the air. I could sense that I was starting to get somewhere and that’s always a good feeling. This is also about the time my mind began to clear, the stresses of everyday work life began to shed its weight, and I could really sink into the rhythm of travel. Typically, this only take a few tanks of fuel to achieve but work life has been beating me into submission like never before and losing a day in Kansas didn’t help. Southbound and down I went, deep into the heart of Dixie, and now hellbent on making the always oh-so-good Cycle Source chopper show, I cranked out the miles. 300, 400, 500 and upwards to 780 miles for the day. This was my target number for no other reason than I knew it would put me within 200ish miles of the show and it’s 11 am opening the following morning. I was raised with a military father, so punctuality is thick in my blood. If you aren’t 5 minutes early, you’re late. I made it by noon, an hour late…oh well.

This is where things started to get weird, but keep in mind I’ve never been to the Daytona “Rally.” I expected to roll into Daytona and be greeted by an onslaught of thousands of bikers, complete with scantily clad woman strapped to their Street Glides and Def Leppard blaring from there onboard stereo systems, but no, not at all. I did however almost immediately get taken out by a group of riders that chose to blindly change lanes in front me as I approached in the left lane, so that made it feel more like a rally, but that was it. Where was the event? I thought to myself as I pulled into the Broken Spoke Saloon. It still felt like I was on the outskirts of town. I pulled in, parked my bike, and after making all the appropriate greetings, I inquired as to where the rally was. Turns out, and many of you may already know this, that the “rally” is spread out over 20 miles…that’s dumb, and almost immediately killed my enthusiasm for the entire thing, not that I’m much into big events anyway. So, on that note, I chose to stay for the show, one of 4 main reasons why I came to Florida in the first place and enjoy the company of great people I only get to see once in a great while.


Wait, four main reasons for going to Florida? Yes. The Cycle Source show was one, seeing my friend Lee ride the wall in the Wild Wheels Thrill Arena was two, getting to Key West to seal the deal on having choppered to both ends of Hwy 1 was three and visiting my buddy Fletch in St. Petersburg was four. I would successfully accomplish the tasks but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The immediate next step from the Broken Spoke Saloon was to find my way to the Cackleberry Campground where I would meet up with the aforementioned Lee, witness him whip that vintage Indian around the wall of death and spend a night inside the motordrome, or sleep with the legends as they say. As I crawled into my sleeping bag and closed my eyes I could feel the history in the air, the distant cheers of crowds of days gone by and the smell of those old bikes, just feet away, calling out to be ridden. I’ll leave you with that for now and continue the saga on the next go around until then, go out and create your own stories, live the life you dream of, explore the world around you. For more photos of this trip and others, visit me on Instagram @ charlietravelingchoppe

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