Article & Photos By: Charlie Weisel
Published April 2020
I clawed, scraped, and wiped my helmet visor incessantly but it was no match for the dense 25-degree fog I was up against as I worked my way east onto the plains of Colorado. The front range of the Rocky Mountains blanketed by dense low-lying clouds and falling snow, just enough to wet the tarmac. Over and over again, I pulled over to scrape the ice from my visor in a futile attempt to maintain visibility, about every 3 miles to be specific. It seemed the moment I got moving a thick layer of ice would rebuild; then, I would open my visor until I could no longer deal with the sting of ice in my eyes, stop again, scrape and repeat. Onlookers, from the protection of their heated vehicles, stared with wide eyes as I came past them. The front side of my suit now covered in a layer of ice. I have must have looked like a lunatic. This went on for nearly two hours until I finally broke free of Mother Nature’s icy grip and found something slightly resembling that of sunshine as I merged onto Interstate 70. A surprising tailwind and temperatures hovering around 40 degrees proved to be a pleasant surprise across Kansas, I can’t recall a time I’ve ever had anything but an obnoxious crosswind across the Great Plains. I was feeling good and making excellent time, better than expected considering the conditions I had started my day in. As I approached eastern Kansas though, the tides began to turn in favor of Winter. The temperatures sank back into the 30’s, cloud cover overpowered the sun and a light snow began twinkling in the glow of my headlight as day quickly turned to night. Fortunately, by this time, I was approaching Topeka, a bit short of my intended destination of Kansas City, but with the sun having already set, the threat of icy roads ahead was real. I chose to avoid the risk and exited the highway at the first sign of a hotel.
The following morning, I awoke to more clouds and more cold temperatures, but with my solid run to Topeka, the following day I was left with an easy 310 miles to go. I was thankful for this as the highest the mercury would rise that day was 36 degrees. After a disappointing, but warm, cup of watered-down hotel coffee and a bit of a struggle to get my frozen motorcycle started, I began day two of my journey towards the city of the famous Gateway Arch and a surprising amount of Thai restaurants. Despite the brisk temperature, I covered the distance in good time while lingering at the threshold of the speed limit and pulled up to the Pageant Theater sometime around 2 o’clock that afternoon. Every highway patrol I passed seemed to turn a blind eye to my pace, probably taking some pity on my situation. As I pulled into the parking lot of The Pageant I was welcomed by a crowd of top-notch bike builders waiting to present their prized works of motorized art. I had arrived, not hypothermic, and for that, I was grateful. This was my first time at The Pageant so I really had no idea what I was in for. The last time I was at this show was a few years back when it took place somewhere else, a location I can’t recall the name of, but one to remind me that this show was top notch. I walked through the back door of the theater and was immediately taken back by the quality of the presentation. Each motorcycle had its own raised stand to be presented on and under each motorcycle was a blueprint style drop that featured details of each particular bike and information about its builder. In addition, each bike was well lit to allow the viewers to marvel at the immense amount of work thoughtfully put into each creation. These are details I just haven’t seen at a show but seem so obviously important. In all fairness, I haven’t been to a ton of indoor shows such as this so maybe there are others like it. Then there was my bike. Dirty, tired and still warm from the ride in, she stood proudly on display amongst the other polished and pristine builds. To say I felt a bit out of place would be an understatement, but Randy, the curator of this pop-up motorcycle museum, had asked me to be there and I promised not to let him down. Apparently, Randy has a thing for high mileage bikes that have been a place or two, and apparently, my motorcycle falls into that category. Needless to say, I felt honored to be a part of this event. What more can I say, this is a fantastic show, one worth traveling to and I encourage anyone reading this to attend next year.
The ride home was far less eventful than the ride out, predominantly because it wasn’t a ride at all. With a sizeable snowstorm brewing back home, I knew that there was a zero percent chance I would make it back on two wheels before I was required back at work. Fortunately, my friend “Bougee Eric” and his wife from Denver, were also at the show to debut his incredible Knucklehead build. Opting to forgo the displeasure of waiting for him to arrive with his truck and trailer as I sat on the side of the road in a snowstorm, I chose to load my bike up in St. Louis and enjoy some I-70 theater for the trip home. Loaded to the hilt with beef jerky, Twizzlers, chips, peanut butter cups, hot coffee, and cold soda, we popped in a book on tape and hit the road. Who knew books on tape could be such an enjoyable way to pass the time? 14 hours later, with rotgut from all the junk food, we arrived back at my house, unloaded my chopper and pushed it through the snow into my garage. Needless to say, we all made it home safe with our motorcycles safely stowed away in their stables.
I’m not entirely sure how to put a pretty little bow on this article, so let me say this: This trip left me feeling humbled and honored to be part of this chopper culture. I was astounded by the number of people that approached me and told me they enjoy reading my monthly articles or that they enjoy following my escapades on social media. So many of my trips are solo that I rarely spend a substantial amount of time around people that follow my adventures. Couple that with my inherent shyness around people, I don’t know well, and I tend to hide in the corners of a room. Fortunately, most of you are not so shy and had no problem introducing yourselves. I thank you for that.
Until next time my friends, keep those motors warm and the map dry. I’ll see you on the road.
For real-time photos follow me on Instagram @charlietravelingchopper and visit our website roadsareforjourneys.com