Scooter Tramp Scotty: Modern Motorcycles, Drifters, and Sturgis

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Article By: Scooter Tramp Scotty

Originally Published In The May 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

August 2017 – With only a few days until the Sturgis rally would officially begin, plenty of bikes were in town and most vendors had been open for days. And still more came every day. The energy was climbing steadily, and one could feel something big was about to happen. It was the usual scene. I and a handful of other riders, many living full time off their bikes, had already been in Camp-5 for a week. Although I’d been enjoying these lazy days at home spending time with friends, visiting the Deadwood casinos for the inexpensive buffets, and riding together, I knew my work week would begin in a few days and there was one order of business I wanted to attend to first. I’ve had Legend Suspensions shock absorbers for a few years now and one had developed a leak. Although I could easily pick up a stock set for nothing, these things improve the ride so dramatically that I had no intention of letting them go. I also knew that Legend shocks are guaranteed for life and their factory is in Sturgis. A friend had had a problem with his sometime back and Legend sent a new set before he’d even returned the bad ones, so I figured they’d probably take care of me as well.It was a sunny day as some of the Camp-5 gang and I rode to the factory. Mostly, everybody just wanted to see the place. Once we arrived at the large building, I pulled through the bay doors and everyone followed me inside and parked. After milling around for a few minutes, we were met by an employee who checked the leaky shock and said they’d get right on it, if I didn’t mind waiting. I didn’t. Jesse, who owns this place, soon showed up and a bullshit session ensued. I’d met him before. While his guy pulled my bike farther into the building, we took a look at the place. There were a bunch of CNC machines and I watched how all the parts are made right here in  Sturgis. It was very interesting. An hour and a half later my stuff was fixed and we rode out.

Saturday marked the beginning of my work week in J&P Cycles parking lot. J&P sells the parts and tires. Fix Cycles, who I work for installs them. My boss and J&P are simply scratching each other’s backs. It was 9:00am when I pulled into the lot. My boss, Ian’s, 80 ft. tent that we use for the mechanical work on customers bike was sitting beside the building. Inside, sat the long row of motorcycle lifts the tire guys would be using to do installs. Men were already spinning wrenches on various bikes as I pulled/squeezed beside my own lift on the far end. Unlike the other employee bikes, mine would not be relegated to the hot parking lot for the workweek’s duration. I’d been working with this crew for years and the atmosphere has always been that of one big family. After a lengthy reunion with the guys, I pulled tools from my saddlebag and spread them out in a cardboard box on a table. Any tool I didn’t have I would borrow from Kevin. The boss always puts him beside me for just that reason. With that done, I grabbed a bike from the lot and went to work. Joe Sparrow, who works inside the J&P building, is a full time drifter. He’s been living on an old Goldwing for eight years now. That afternoon, Joe showed up to see if I’d mount his tire. I offered him tools to pull the wheel, after-which I’d pop the new rubber on, pro bono. Joe said he had no time, and offered to pay instead. I sent him to talk with my Ian. Since Joe works for J&P he’s technically one of our guys and Ian told him, “No charge. Just tip Scotty.” My boss is very cool, and we’re always allowed to do “bro jobs” for friends, so long as it doesn’t interfere with money work.

When the tire was mounted, Joe gave me his battered Wing for a test ride. Having seen well over half a million miles, that rattling bucket of bolts seemed the Honda equivalent of my old 1988 Electra Glide—which had also seen half a million hard gypsy miles. Rally noise increased and wrenches continued to turn. Tom Rogers, who pulls his bike behind the old SUV he lives in while surviving on a small pension, always camps with us. One day he showed up with bike problems. This guy doesn’t know which end of a screwdriver to hold on to. In his defense, Tom had a few strokes some years back and anyone can quickly see that his thinking has dead spots. Because of this, we all try to help him and I spent some time on his bike. But I had a job to do, and it was soon necessary that I return to customer bikes. So I sent Tom to Randy’s Cycle Shack, which is another mobile mechanic I sometimes work for. Throughout the week, Randy spent considerable hours on Tom’s bike— all pro bono. Back in my 20s I was deeply impressed with the closeness of biker friendships and the way they took care of one another. For Randy’s effort on Tom’s behalf, it was good to see that this tradition is still alive.

The days rolled on as I worked, showered, visited friends for a minute, slept, then did it over again. We average around 900 tire changes during the rally and the great pile of take offs are stacked behind our tent. One day two Mexican guys, a small older man who needed a tire but spoke no English, and his younger associate who’s English was pretty bad, asked me if they could grab a used tire from our pile. I speak a little Spanish, and asked the old guy where he was from? “Mexico City,” he replied. “Did you ride here?” I asked. “Yes amigo, on my Sportster.” That got me. This old man was probably on the ride of his life, and obviously doing it on a tight budget. At these rallies I always keep the best take-off tires for my own bike stashed under a table. Unfortunately for me, these also fit old Sportsters. I selected one of my best and handed it to the little guy. When he asked how much I said, “Nothing”. Then added, “If you bring me the wheel, I’ll mount it.” The next day the old Guy showed up with his wheel and more friends, one of which spoke clean English. I popped his tire on and handed it back. “How much?” he asked. I said, “Nothing”. I’ve spent two years’ worth of winters in Mexico and generally find its people some of the most hospitable there are. These were no exception. They all gave me their phone numbers with excited invitations to stay in their homes. “We’ll take good care of you my friend!” And I believed them.

Kevin Bean’re showed up on that crazy chopper of his. He and I have known each other for 20 years. In the biker world, public personalities actually make up only a small number and Bean’re is one of them. Today his chopper’s rear wheel bearings were out, he needed to work on the bike, and hoped we’d hook him up—as we have before. He needed a bearing puller, which is a shop tool so I took him to my boss. Rather than use the parking lot as Bean’re had planned, Ian hooked him up with an empty lift. I loaned him most of the tools he needed, and some of the other guys pitched in stuff I didn’t have. Once the wheel was off, Ian brought the puller. The two of them soon learned that the wheel’s aluminum bearing recesses were shot. In other words, the wheel was junk. I’ve no idea what happened after that, except that the chopper still sat in the parking lot when we closed but was gone by morning. Although the rally builds slowly, it ends abruptly and within two days Sturgis had reverted to its normal state of a little nowhere town. At Camp-5 the regulars were gone and only a handful of drifters remained. Everyone was rested up and growing restless. The old question of where to go next was at hand. I had decided on the Cripple Creek rally in Colorado, which would take place the following weekend. The others contemplated heading to the same rally. We knew a rain storm was coming. Although most storms are pretty normal around here it’s said the Great Planes get the most powerful weather on earth. Having experienced this first hand, I’m always weary of these while in the area. Then we were offered refuge… I’ve known Barbara Jean for years. Every season she rides the country solo on her bagger. With almost no money, she’s also managed to ride many foreign countries as well. She’s kind of an anomaly.

Barbara Jean is friends with a particular MC who’ve got a house in town and she comes early to ready the place, tend to things during the rally, then stays to close the house afterwards. With the rally over now, the house was empty and Barbra Jean offered us shelter. Joe Sparrow, Maps, and I, decided to accept Barbara Jean’s offer, while most of the Camp-5 crew did not. It was a wonderful stay. We ate, talked, relaxed, smoked, and stayed dry. The weather report showed the storm now west of us and hitting Wyoming hard. All we’d got was a light rain. Restlessness prevailed among the guys back at Camp-5. Chip sent me a text and after and more contemplation the crew had decided to start for Cripple Creek and were already on the road. I tried to talk them out of it, but those nitwits were intent on riding directly into the storm! This should be interesting. So the rest of us drank coffee, hung on the porch, relaxed, and watched the show on Facebook. By the time they’d hit Wyoming, the storm’s intensity had grounded them in a turnout where they all sat under a tarp stretched over the bikes while watching a movie on someone’s tablet. A great adventure I’m sure. Glad I wasn’t there. e following morning the storm had subsided. Joe Sparrow would ride for the Warf Rat’s rally in Nova Scotia, Barbra Jean headed to friends in Minnesota, Maps was going home, and I for Cripple Creek. After dawdling over coffee and conversation until the hour had grown late, we all finally mounted and rode in different directions.