Choppering-Sturgis And Beyond

Article And Photos By: Chopper Charlie

Originally Published In The November 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

This may come as a surprise to some of you but I am not really a big fan of Sturgis. Aside from seeing friends I may only see once or twice a year and participating in the Cycle Source events there isn’t really much there for me. Sure, there’s plenty of cool choppers to look at, people to meet and events to go to but as I’ve gotten older I suppose I’ve simultaneously become a bit of a loner. Sturgis did give me an opportunity to make the first leg of my trip north from Boulder with my friend Paul. A soft spoken, kind and an overall pleasure to be around kind of guy, Paul added a layer to my trip that was very pleasant. Watching his eyes light up while exploring backroads of Nebraska and South Dakota reminded me of how infrequently most people stray from the safety of major interstates. His excitement was contagious and I couldn’t help but smile with him. This wasn’t the only oddity of my Sturgis adventure. My friend Roger and his wife Pam met us in Hot Spring, SD and gave us a guided tour back to their campsite in T Hill City where Paul and I would stay for the next two nights. The riding was amazing, visiting with Roger and Pam was as pleasant as always, and I think Paul enjoyed himself. When you are around good quality people, it is hard to not feel welcome and comforted. I even took a day, with Roger’s encouragement and samurai tour guide skills, to explore roads like Iron Mountain, Needles Highway and we even took spin past Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. Giant faces carved into a mountain, what’s not cool about that? I told Kayla that when I die I want her to carve me, on a chopper, into a mountain. Her face said that she thinks I’m ridiculous, but I think she’s secretly on board with the idea.

On my third morning at the rally I woke up at Bear Butte State Park in my soaking wet tent and sleeping bag because, for the first time in five years, my tent failed me. The previous night’s storm was too much for its weary bones and it totally collapsed. But, after nearly 400 flawless nights spent inside that green nylon shelter I can’t complain. With the sun now shining and temperatures on the rise I packed my soggy gear and headed north, along HWY 79, toward the Canadian border. All was well, the roads were scenic, the weather was perfect and the solitude I had been looking forward to wrapped itself around me like a warm blanket. But of course, like most of my trips, there has to be something to keep me on my toes and provide material for these articles. I found that material 70 miles south of Williston, ND. With a rather sizeable storm working its way northeast directly ahead of me I opted to pull over and wait it out. I certainly wasn’t in a hurry or on any sort of timeline. I’d say it was probably 30 minutes before I decided to continue on, the skies had cleared a bit and my concern for a lightning strike cleared with it. So picture this, the nearest town worth mentioning is 70 miles away, it’s just me and the crickets on this lonely road and what do ya know, my starter decides to take a crap. Just Great! After spending some time trying to get the bike pushstarted on my own, which must have looked absolutely ridiculous, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to need some help. Fortunately, not long after this revelation I spotted the headlights of an Ultra Classic coming down the road. After flailing my arms and practically jumping in front of the guy to force him to a stop, his blinker came on and he coasted to the side of the road.

Sheldon was on his way home to Edmonton, Alberta and seemed hesitant to help at first. I sensed that maybe he hadn’t had many road side encounters like this. I explained to him what was going on and that I needed a push start, he was willing to help. But now, in typical fashion, we get the crazy lady that pulls over spouting about how she grew up around bikers and was willing to do whatever it took to get me going. All this was great except she was creating a bit of a roadside scene with her frantic pacing along the roadside. Regardless, after a couple of attempts by Sheldon to get me going, it still wasn’t working. Meanwhile, the crazy lady managed to flag down a young fellow, who stood nearly 7 feet tall and weighed in at probably 300 pounds. With his assistance the bike fired up on the third push. Standing there, everyone was out of breath at this point, we exchanged handshakes while I told them how thankful I was for their help. With the exception of Sheldon and I, we all went our separate ways. Sheldon offered to ride with me for a bit to make sure everything was good but explained that he would pass me at some point because, based on the looks of the bike, I think he assumed that he was keeping a much faster pace then I. 70 miles later though, when approaching the town of Edmonton, I pulled over to confirm where I was going, he stopped with me. During that whole road side fiasco I had also been on the phone with Black Magic Harley Davidson looking for parts and a shop to use. Almost immediately Sheldon started asking questions. I think he was surprised by the pace I was able to keep on a bike as radical as mine. I explained that this wasn’t really my first rodeo and that the bike and I were nearly joined at the hip. His demeanor had changed during that 70-mile ride.

It was as if his initial impression of me was more one of viewing me as a scumbag biker type, but now he was curious as to who I was and what I was doing. The pages in the book didn’t match the cover sort of situation. I could have done the same to him I suppose. It’s easy to do. There are a lot of guys that are quick to judge the bagger crowd. They are the ones who are cleaner cut then us, their pasts are a little less checkered and their bikes and clothes are far cleaner. But the bottom line is that they are out doing the same thing we are, enjoying the open road. Regardless of the type of bike a guy rides, the clothes he is wearing, the questionability of his past, we all have at least one thing in common, a love of motorcycles. Let’s not forget that. Sheldon wasn’t the only person that helped me on this trip though. The manager of Black Magic Harley Davidson in Williston, ND blew my mind when he officially became the first HD shop employee that was willing to help. Throughout the years, and t h roughout c o u n t l e s s breakdowns all over the country, HD dealers have refused to help, literally, every time. Their excuse is typically that the bike is too old or too modified for the techs to work on. I always plead my case that I am a long way from home, the bike isn’t that old and that the heart of the bike is like any other 2003 Harley…it never works and I always leave frustrated and look for other ways to get myself out of whatever situation I’m in. As I pulled into the dealer parking lot the manager was leaving for the day. I assumed that once he got his eyes on my bike he would change his tune, but he didn’t, he was still willing to help. In fact, he even told me it was o.k. for me to sleep in the parking lot that night, and that he would let the local cop know that I was back there and not to worry about me. I couldn’t believe it. Once everyone scattered, and I was back on my own, I unpacked my sleeping bag, made myself a little nest for the night and ordered a delivery pizza. All was right in the world I thought, I would be back in operable condition in the morning. Was I ever wrong about that….

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