West Coast Report The Sturgis Special: by John Gilbert

The Road to Sturgis — And The Long Way Home

This week’s West Coast Report is going to deviate slightly from its usual semi-unpredictable content. As I’m writing this the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is in full swing. I guess that’s what the square world calls it… my friends and I just say Sturgis. Today, August 5, 2013 is the first official day and the fun continues until August 11, 2014. No, I just made that up, the event only lasts for one week. Anyways, it got me to remembering about the last time I rode to Sturgis in 2010 for the 70th. The following images are extractions from actual coverage, they’re more like fragments of three Easyriders staff members journey to and home from Sturgis. I’m sorry I couldn’t show you guys the wilder side of the lifestyle. That un-coverage appeared in Biker, In the Wind, and Easyriders.

This shot is from before I left for Sturgis in 2004. My plans were to ride with “Clean” Dean, and Beatnik on my rigid frame chopper like all the years before.

I was going to make some old guy concessions like Mickey Mouse mounting a Heritage windshield onto my Apes. The OL convinced me the rigid bike was a bad idea, so I bought a 2005 Road Glide the day before we left.

In 2004 I had five dogs, and then one-by one they all died off. In 2010 the only Lab-Pit left was Bear, and Ruby the red Pit Bull pup I inherited from a neighbor that passed away a few days earlier. Here’s Bear watching me leave out the front door for Sturgis. He looks kind of sad. Ruby slept on the couch and didn’t budge. That’s the next photo.

In year’s past we’d make 800 miles the first night. Here’s the first night 2010 for the 70th .We made it a whopping almost 200-miles to the state line. The three of us were on the phone to the old ladies complaining about how hard life on the road can be. Then we went to the endless buffet and ate like pigs… it was so good.

Beatnik is a rockabilly superstar in Sweden. Here he is on the stage with the Fryed Brothers at the Knuckle Saloon filling in for I think it was Harry Fryed had a broken arm.

 Sorry about the bad focus folks, my camera drank a little bit too much beer that night.

Google the Fryed Bros. I Ride movie, Beatnik wrote the Sturgis Tango.

Can anyone tell me what this is?

More important than 60W oil. Notice the Senior Center sign? There was a prune shortage in Sturgis, and we heard those folks at the Senior Center were sitting on a large stash of fresh prunes.

That’s Easyriders editor Dave Nichols judging bikes. We were all bike show judges, but it was like herding cats when the promoters asked for us to turn in the results.

This is out at Michael Lichter’s annual bike show at the Buffalo Chip.

Arlen Ness and the digger style of custom motorcycles are synonymous.

The bike is a ’61 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLCH.

The sign says Carl Olsen owns the World’s Oldest Knucklehead. Yea Carl.

The first year for the Harley-Davidson Knucklehead was 1936. I think there’s only around 50 Knuckles known to exist. Ron Paugh owns 10.

Not to sound artsy-fartsy, but this bike shows a direct lineage to the Streamline Moderne design movement expressing all the … Ah, just call it Art-Deco.

The distinctive pushrod tubes on ’36 Knuckleheads were unique to 1936.

Sticking out halfway at right is a Sears. They were sold by, you guessed it Sears & Roebuck from the Sears catalog.

Once of out of Lichter’s exhibit and back outside we wandered around looking for food. We ate some overpriced greasy Gyros.

With a World globe for a gas tank, I’d say this was one of the corniest theme bikes I’d ever seen… Except for the Corn Dog bike that is.

There sure is a lot of long-haired greasy guys at the pool, we said as we looked at each other.

Fellow Easyriders staff member Kit Maira rode a Victory test bike from California to Sturgis and back. He wrote the article, and I did the photography the story ran in V-Twin.

Here’s my old ’05 Road Glide, I borrowed it back from Dean to make the 2010 ride. We did oil changes on the bikes before we returned to California. I can’t remember what brand of oil we used.

Japanese tourists always take pictures of the trash cans at Disneyland. I thought as a tourist that lives 4 miles from Disneyland I should take a picture of a Sturgis trash can.

I travel pretty light, as you can see my right saddle bag was consumed almost entirely by my camera gear. I still can’t remember what brand of oil we used.

This is the motor court in Buffalo, Wyoming we stayed in the first night out of Sturgis. It’s also where I shot the breakdown tech featured in this edition. Please see below.

Next stop the hot springs in Thermopolis, Wyoming. We rolled into town around mid-day. It didn’t look like a bad place to live.

Things look pretty average, just another beautiful day in a really nice little Wyoming town.

Then walk towards the hot springs and it gets more beautiful by the step. There was a bad sulfur smell, but I think that was Beatnik’s socks.

Only an idiot would have climbed out on the rocks to take this picture. I darn near fell off climbing back down.

Check out the colors.  I don’t ever use Photoshop, this is the real deal.

The next night out we made it to Rock Springs, Wyoming. If you’re ever there and the place still exists, stay at the Springs the rooms are huge!

We got a room back in the corner where we could park the bikes out of site. Did I mention Beatnik rides a BMW? I have to tell you, I was really impressed by that little 500cc single-cylinder BMW. Beatnik rode an Ironhead Sporty for years before.

There’s “Clean” Dean in the master bedroom. The highest ranking member of our troupe, Dean was paying for meals and rooms for us two bums, Beatnik and I slept in the room seen in the background. Bad noises came from Dean’s room.

Its always a good idea to photo-document the toilet in the motel room, before its put to the challenge. Somehow at every motel we arrived with a sanitary wrap across the toilet seat, and left with crime scene tape in its place. We don’t mean to be bad men, its our digestion.

 —John Gilbert

Just look at the size of smaller bedroom at the Springs. There’s luxury homes in Tokyo that aren’t this big.

We don’t get to see that many plain Jane shortbed 4x4s in So Cal, most of them are fully-loaded Extra, and Crew Cabs. Notice the ’91 Chevy has GM’s infamous paint adhesion problems. I think a good Eastwood pressure washer would go a long way in getting this thing ready for paint.

Around the corner to the left there was a pretty good little topless bar with cheap beer at a fraction of California prices. We stayed around for about 20 jiggles.

From Rock Springs, Wyoming we cut directly down toward Utah via the Flaming Gorge. It’s a long downhill decent and my borrowed back Road Glide got 73 miles-per-gallon, an all-time record for that bike.

This is across from it. We made it to the Big Rock Candy Mountain that night. We heard a pack of riders talking in Elsinore, Utah about heading there, so we hopped on the bikes and hauled buns, before they got there.

That’s the Big Rock Candy Mountain. The building at left is a little restaurant with real good food. At right next to the trendy Japanese import is the motel we stayed in.

Here’s the sun hitting the Big Rock Candy Mountain the next morning.

From Hershey, some Penn State girls laughed at us when we told them we were staying in the Chocolate Fudge Room, and declined our invitation to visit… Hey, no highway jokes.

After another great meal, breakfast at the Big Rock Candy Mountain restaurant we headed for Las Vegas. Heavy winds through the Virgin Gorge and extreme heat into Nevada was the order of the day.

Actually we didn’t leave the Big Rock Candy Mountain until after enjoying the Chocolate Fudge Room’s dual bathrooms one last time. When I get rich I’m going to have two bathrooms in my master bedroom with dual chrome toilet paper roll holders.

I still call them Geezer Glides. I returned the Road Glide back to Dean after spending the day detailing. This made the 3rd time I’ve ridden the Glide to Sturgis. I think between me and Dean the Glide has been to Sturgis every year since ’04.

I hate Tour Packs, and don’t like stuff tied to the bike. Everything I packed for Sturgis fit inside the bags. And going home the sexy Sturgis souvenir tank tops I bought for the OL.

The ’05 R-Glide is stock except for Vance & Hines True Duals with a Fuel Pak installed in a tech feature done while I was at Hot Rod Bikes.

Motorcycle Breakdown Tech

The Bronson Rock Lives!

On the road to Sturgis’s 70th anniversary, “Clean” Dean, Beatnik, and I observed the only thing that had changed since the old days was instead of Shovelheads, whiskey, and all-nighters it was now all about baggers, Metamucil, and hitting the sack early. Actually a lot of things have changed since the three of us first started riding Harley-Davidsons. Instead of having to tinker constantly with the mangy old Shovelhead, Knuckle, and Panhead rats we used to rely on for daily transportation we now count on new motorcycles to fill the bill. In 2004 just two days short of Dean, Beatnik and I leaving for Sturgis on our beat up old choppers I chickened out and bought a brand-new 2005 Road Glide. The scramble was on for Beatnik and Dean to come up with some new iron. Dean checked out a bagger from Harley’s press fleet, and Beatnik scored a dorky looking Kingpin test bike from the nice folks at Victory. Mechanically speaking the trip to Sturgis that year was uneventful, but that wasn’t to be for our 2010 pilgrimage. The trusty Road Glide I bought new in ’04 has been to Sturgis five times. I took it again in ’05 while I was still at Hot Rod Bikes magazine, and then after I sold it in ’07 to Dean he rode it numerous times more. For Sturgis 2010, I found myself the proud owner of three crusty old barhoppers, but with nothing worth trusting all the way to South Dakota. Aware of my plight Dean loaned me back the Road Glide, and then opted to ride his ‘99 Road King. Outside of riding through California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah in triple-digit heat everything was turning out pretty delightful. In Colorado things took a turn for the worst. The Colorado border brought heavy rain and with it an urge to stop for an early lunch. Dodging the storm we ate like pigs at the Wendy’s in Grand Junction, and then resumed our journey when it lightened up. When Dean kicked the Road King’s kickstand back it didn’t want to tuck up against the frame. The kickstand’s return spring had broken and Déjà vu, we had ourselves an old-fashioned breakdown. For a temporary fix Dean wrapped an extra bungee cord around the kickstand and then we headed off to the Harley-Davidson dealer on the other side of Grand Junction. This was not to be the last of Dean’s mechanical troubles, but that’s okay because it really added a nostalgic touch to our roadside sojourns.

Leaving Sturgis we were headed for Yellowstone. But it was unusually cold, so we cut down toward Buffalo, where it was only freezing cold. In the morning we left for Rock Springs, Wyoming, 339 miles away. All of it incredibly beautiful riding.

This was at the Rusty Cannon motel in Rifle, Colorado. Biker friendly it was a great place to stay. With over 70,000 hard miles on the clock breaking a kickstand spring didn’t tarnish Dean’s esteem of his trusty Road King named Elvis. Carrying a complete tool bag is a habit Dean never shook from the old days. When things went south it really paid off. Knowing the trick on how to change a kickstand spring the easy way came in handy too.

Before hitting the road back to California, Dean and I had the oil changed with Lucas 50-weight synthetic motorcycle oil. When I owned the Road Glide I used Screamin’ Eagle Syn3, but I noticed its Twin Cam motor ran quieter with Lucas straight 50W oil in it. The real test would to pull the Twin-Cam motor down and see if the straight-weight oil scuffs the cylinder walls when cold… I don’t know.

Dean’s 95-inch Road King got a whole lot noisier when the stock Harley exhaust system decided to break in half. This was somewhere in the middle of Wyoming, miles from the nearest town. At the side of the highway we figured out how to cannibalize the heat shield to remove and use as a temporary splint..

This is a typical spot for a stock Harley exhaust system to break — Kit “not the devil” Maira says he’s broken nine of them in this spot during the course of riding his EVO bagger 290,000 miles. For an emergency fix all one has to do is remove the heat shield, take off the stock Harley hose clamps holding the shield and then attach (wrap) the hose clamps on the outside of the shield to use it as a splint.

Once we got to Buffalo, Wyoming we went to the hardware store and bought this steel strap along with two longer hose clamps.

With the exhaust pipe shoved back into position we placed the strap at the bottom of the pipe. At the bottom is the best place for strengthening against up and down movement.

Next we used the two longer hose clamps to pull the pipes together at the Y section.

Since we couldn’t find a muffler, or welding shop that was open this fix really worked like a champ. Dean never had another problem with his exhaust system all the way home from Wyoming to California — And it sure beat the snot out of some Harley shop telling us they could have a new pipe for us in a couple of days.

Speedway Motors Remembers Joyce Smith, “Mrs. Speedway”

I remember meeting Joyce Smith with Speedy Bill for first time at Americruise while covering for Custom Classic Trucks. That was in the Museum of American Speed, my associate editor Cody Wentz and I got a chance to talk with Bill and Joyce for several hours. It was truly amazing, both very gracious with wonderful stories. We were the last four people out of the building that night. She was a nice lady, real down home, like someone’s favorite grandma. 

John Gilbert

The Speedway Motors family is mourning the loss of Joyce Smith, “Mrs. Speedway.” Joyce was co-founder of Speedway motors; wife of “Speedy” Bill Smith; mother to Carson, Craig, Clay and Jason Smith; and a great friend to an extended family of thousands of Speedway Motors employees, business associates and customers. Joyce died Sunday after a courageous 34-month battle with cancer.

Joyce Smith played an integral role in the Speedway Motors business since its inception in 1952. Fresh out of college, Joyce loaned her new husband, “Speedy” Bill, the $300 he needed to start the Lincoln, Nebraska-based speed shop. She worked alongside him for the next 61 years, initially serving as Speedway’s bookkeeper, parts runner and counter girl, and always as a financial officer, corporate secretary and treasurer.

Through the decades, Joyce provided crucial support to all facets of the Speedway Motors business. “Every step, every minute, every day, she’s been right there with me,” said “Speedy” Bill in his biography, Fast Company. “I could not have reached this point without her. Even if I had made it this far, it wouldn’t have been near as much fun without her. Joyce was the glue that held everything together.”

Joyce’s six-decade involvement with Speedway Motors earned her a wonderful reputation throughout the racing world and performance industry. She likely attended more races, car shows and trade shows than anyone in America. Since their inception, she walked the fields of Hershey, the aisles of SEMA and PRI, the pits at Daytona, and the lanes of nearly every NSRA Street Rod Nationals. Her tremendous impact on the automotive community was recognized in 2005 when she was honored with the Goodguys Woman of the Year Award. As the proud co-founder of the Museum of American Speed, Joyce was able to share her profound love of racing and rodding with future generations.

The Smith family is extremely grateful for the thousands of friends and fans Joyce has in the racing and street rodding communities, but has respectfully requested privacy during this emotional time. Funeral services will be private. A public celebration of life is scheduled for late September.

In lieu of flowers, the Smith family asks that friends share their memories of Joyce through a memorial at the Museum of American Speed:

Joyce Smith Memorial
Museum of American Speed
599 Oak Creek Dr.
Lincoln, NE 68528

Leave a Reply

Back to top button