American Road Runner Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 

“GO BOB, GO!!!” the term I will mutter, yell and scream to myself the next few day. My skoot is performing in the most superior manner imaginable. This is no mistake, my hours of engine work, welding, chopping and moving this machine around to fit me is all part of the plan. With so many hours invested in this machine, I know it inside and out very intimately but it’s just a machine, doing as I command of it, all science, not magic. Sure it can fail, it’s only a piece or, many pieces of mechanical equipment all working together. For most people in the their relationships with their wheeled machines they seem to name them as if they carry the spirit of an animal or being in the same fashion we used to name our horses but, we did not name our carriages, did we? 100 plus years ago company might have just numbered their carriages in the same fashion they might of just numbered the horses to keep them organized. Naming a machine has always seemed strange to me. The first story I remember hearing naming of a machine was that of Horatio’s Drive by Ken Burns. In this awesome and very true tale of man and machine, one Horatio Nelson Jackson on a bet made in his gentleman’s club, set out to drive from San Francisco to New York. The year was 1903, paved roads were as scarce and rare as gas stations back then. He purchased a horseless carriage with a gas combustion engine, hired an assistant driver, loaded up the machine with provisions and very few spare parts. He had no real mechanical experience but his wife, had money. So with her money and the right attitude, this young Doctor from Vermont took off across country, naming his Winton Auto Company built machine, The Vermont. This dude, was a badass!  He made it, but wow it took forever, like 63 days. My favorite side story to this 4 wheeled fame is that at the same time, a young man in his early 20’s by the name of George Wyman was the first to ride a skoot cross country. On a California motorbike built by Roy Marks, Wyman also started in San Francisco and got to New York faster in 50 days. With pen and writing journal, warm clothing, an oil can, fuel can, camera, .357 revolver and ammo, Wyman followed mostly railroad tracks on the 90cc 1.25 horsepower motorbike. He completed the 3,700 mile journey faster than the old Vermont car. The answer is, the first internal combustion engine to get across this country was mounted in a skoot. What I am doing out here is very american. Wyman wrote all about his journey for the then new Motorbike Magazine, read it some time if you get a chance, it’s above badassery and as americana as it gets for us, here’s to you George A. Wyman!

So it seems the trend of naming machines started with the car and everyone jumped on the bandwagon with soft, hard, happy or evil names to describe and differentiate them from others, almost bringing them to life. I, like Wyman, do not do this. But wouldn’t it be nice to just say Ole Betsy or Hell Bitch when referring to one of my many machines? It makes perfect sense for me to do this, I was even raised in a family where my Mom named everything, including the vacuum cleaner. Then there was my Pops, who seemed to shiver a little thinking of referring to a machine with a human name so the answer is, numbers and strange descriptive titles will do for me. Thanks for the lessons Pops. This skoot is therefore the Chopped Cop Racer #27, or KZ1000 Rigid, or the Kawasaki Cop Rigid skoot, or The Police Special, or the Cop Moto. Ok, ok, damn I reckon I really should just give it a name, one name and get on with my life.  The Problem is that I own a few of these Cop bikes, all set up differently so numbers and code titles work best for that reason, sticking to my guns for now on this one. These really are wonderful machines with great engineering and design. All were built the same between 1984 till 2005 so consumable parts are cheap and available. Anything that wears out or breaks can be found almost anywhere, sometimes in my backyard. This was the first one I owned, retired from the streets of San Francisco, the city by the bay. It’s a 1989, so it has been around for a few years, proving its worth in salt and gold and has the rusty battle scars to prove it. Seeing more and doing more in its life then I could ever imagine and here it is, rebuilt and resurrected by my two hands, flying fast. This is a machine, my machine and a righteous one at that. The only life it has is that which I pour into it with the purchased petrol gasoline and the free air we all breath. Suck, Bang, Power, Blow the explosions go propelling me forward with the twisting of my wrist.

Reaching down with my left hand where my coffee holder is mounted for my stainless coffee tumbler, I pick it up. This always takes a few seconds longer out here in the wind but, I got time and its worth it. It’s a good tumbler, been with me for years and has seen many miles. As with all good things around me, it was present from a good ole high school friend. Yes it has fallen out of its holder a few times showing a few good battle scars, once it even got ran over by a Toyota truck but it’s still here, serving hot coffee for me. Picking up my face shield to inhale some of this nectar of the Gods my tumbler offers up, thankful that Ella filled it for me this morning. Coffee always tastes better when someone else serves it, especially when it’s my hot young girlfriend.  As I inhale and enjoy doing 85 m.p.h. on this smooth interstate something start to wiggle weird with my head. Throwing my tumbler between my legs and grabbing my face shield just as it starts to fly. I managed to barely catch it on it’s way into the wind. I have almost 3000 miles to do and a stupid new face shield is just one of those necessary evils as without it, my fair white face would suffer wind burn of unthinkable proportions half way through the race and there just is not enough sun lotion or bag balm to make up for it, believe me, I have tried. The darn snaps for the face shield must of come loose, crap.

So now I have my coffee tumbler balanced between my knees and my face shield in my left hand. How did I not drop my tumbler onto the highway in all of that? It takes me a minute to figure out I can lift my left leg and jam my face shield under it. It seems to be holding so now, coffee tumbler slowly makes its way forward to its holder after a quick stop at my lips. I pick up my left leg, find my face shield and start to tuck it in front of me, in the netting on top my headlight holding my small duffle bag, this takes a few minutes at my current speed and maneuvering of my skoot but eventually I get it done. No immediate remedy for this, I know I have to stop in 200 miles or so when it is time to refuel, will have to figure it out by then. Of course I carry duct tape, hanging off the back of the skoot, ready at a moments notice. It’s right next to my lense tape, hockey stick tape and electrical tape. What a great ride as the cool air kisses my face, thankfully Ella covered me in sun lotion before the start, and I mean like every square inch of me, my clothing only keeps so much sunlight out and I am going to be out here in it for a while.

Remembering I have my phone mounted on my handlebars, I hit the screen, turning it on and pick a social media. It takes me a few moments as the camera on its mount in moving around violently but manage to push the shutter button and kind of take a picture of myself and the brown of the California desert behind me. I think it shows my location so all will know where I am and that I am moving well. I hit the post button, which also takes a moment, then comments come back asking me where my face shield is as my face, is terrible distorted from the wind at this speed.  I laugh to myself, if I could only text a novel and race at the same time, lord knows I always have a lot to say, or write.

Flying north and passing by the Fabulous Las Vegas, best to slow down a little and do my part to keep the fuzz away. Of course there is a bit of traffic and as it stops, fellow racers are stopping with it as I split lanes and pass them by.  Does Nevada state highway patrol have moto officers? In my rear view mirror I see two of my competitors start to follow my lead but within a mile, the traffic is opening. It seems Flamingo Avenue is always a popular place for lots of traffic. Moving again now, fast enough to get by yet slow enough that I don’t think law enforcement would view me as being a danger to myself or those around me. The problem is myself and other competitors, well we kind of stick out. Our skoots look nothing like others and we draw a little attention, wherever we go. Sometimes it is the car next to me looking out their window or rearview mirrors. Naturally the car or winnebago or big arse semi moves over into my lane because they are too busy staring at me and my righteous funny looking skoot to stay in their own damn lane. Other times a flash of blinding white light from a car as someone is taking my picture. My favorite of course is people who slow down in front of me because they assume I am law enforcement and they are speeding, or talking on the phone, or smoking weed, or having sex, or yeah, I have gotten to see it all in the moving vehicles around me. No fairing on this cop bike of course but I think they see the black and white and my spotlight only to assume maybe I am some new pilot program for Moto Officers to ride around on rigid chopped skoots to blend in for a big coolness effect. I crack myself up sometimes, whatever the reason, it is part of riding skoots such as these. Got to keep my head on the pivot and my eyes always moving, danger is everywhere and dressed like a soccer mom minivan.

I see other competitors passing me, just flying as I think to myself they either started late or had to stop for fuel already. Regardless I am hoping I am gaining ground in the long run as I will stop less and just keep moving forward, “Go Bob, Go”.  Every minute is a mile and I need to chomp up the miles to take care of the business. Let them pass Bob, I mumble to myself, don’t take the bait, let them be the bait for law enforcement, the Pig Bait if ya will. Don’t get me wrong, the Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies around this country have a hard job to do, better them than me and I have the highest respect for them but sometimes, I really wish they did not look at me and compare me to a really stupid drama television shows that’s been on the boob tubes lately. Damn I think my life on 2 wheels would be easier sometimes without those stereotypes. Maybe if I wore one of this cool reflective riding suits and rode a new B.M.W. or Goldwing or something?  Maybe someday, those guys always look like they are having fun in style and comfort.

The skoot is doing fine! I repeat, THE SKOOT IS DOING FINE! I can feel it still has plenty of power and I am growing more and more confident in all the work and hours given it to perform.  Ya see it’s not your average run of the mill type style of chopper, it’s hardly a popular looking, discovery channel, magazine cover chopper at all but, it does qualify and has passed inspection for this race a few times. Popular chopular, this thing always gets plenty of looks and stares everywhere it goes or, everywhere I take it.

I started with a totally stock 1989 Kawasaki KZ 1000 Police Moto model that I picked up a few years ago on the cheap from a kid who wanted to get into private moto escort work but, decided to sell it when he realized the carburetors were acting up and the tall boots those cool escort guys wear are 300 bucks. I had actually originally seen the skoot a year earlier for sale from another party online and wanted to purchase it then but the original selling party was a big ass. Then, it was a little stripped down but when i bought it, it was in full dress and ready for funeral patrol service complete with all hard bags and flashing lights.

I was married at the time, so I had my Pops meet me up in North Los Angeles, ya know where they did a lot of filming for the famed television series about cool dudes in tight pants riding around on these skoots? Anyways my Pops pays the kid a thousand bucks for me. I brought the fully dressed cop skoot home in the back of my truck saying, “look what my Pops bought for me Dear, isn’t he the best?!?” My wife was not too happy about it as I already had 2 skoots I rode regularly and parked on the back porch but, how could she put up a fight against the bike if my Pops bought it for me? I spent the next month slowly feeding my Pops cash to pay him back, I have learned this is what Righteous Fathers do for their squirly adult children, married or not, isn’t my Pops the best?!?

 

I quickly went to work on this poor unsuspecting Police Moto getting it ready, in the world of racing, nothing is sacred. My reasoning was pretty simple for choosing this model as just about every part of this thing was bullet proof and this one had obviously been through alot in it’s time on service. It seemed to of even been shot at, it had some weird niks that looked like bullet holes in the back fender that had been bonded and painted over with factory issued touch up paint, cool points earned for this machine. When i was a kid, my Pops had a 1959 Harley Police model. His was a Pan engine in a truly chopped frame with a 6 inch over and out springer front end. There was no front brake as the front wheel was tiny thing, he had a mouse trap for a clutch and long raked bars that sat on the horizon and slung back over the tank. It was all black and black with a bit of chrome. When you are just a few years old, these things stick in your head as the coolest of cool. He never rode it much as it seemed to always be in pieces in the garage but I do remember the one time I watched him jump on it, kick it to life and take off down the street as I grabbed my ears in pain. Watching this freak show of awesomeness thunder in front of me, with his arms flapping and body bouncing as the rigid frame and springer front end did it’s best to through him off, I was hooked. Damn my Pops looked cool!  I knew then and there that someday, I need to get me a machine like that.

So I got to work on this cop skoot of mine. I ripped the front fairing with windshield off, got a monster large 9 inch headlight, built a mount and mounted a spare 3 gallon fuel cell beneath it, like a Saint Bernard Alaskan Dog might carry a barrel of whisky under his neck. I also found a cool cop car spotlight, the kind that mount in the pillars of a police cruiser. I mounted that on the right side of the headlight where I could flip on and manipulate it with my left hand, mostly using it as a backup to my headlight and a great deer spotter. I have had a few close calls with those wonderful majestic and dangerous creatures that love to wander on the road. A good spot light shining in the ditch would be perfect, maybe give me a little warning. The only thing us riders fear more than big rigs and distracted drivers are, deer.

From here I cut the back of the frame off and extended the swing arm 10 inches.  I built struts and lowered the rear 4 inches and built pillar posts off the back of the swing arm to meet the frame to give it all extra rigidity. When most people see the bike, they assume it to still be a cop bike without the fairing as it even has the cool rear cages remounted to protect the machine when it falls over. They either pay it no mind or, stop, scratch their heads and spend minutes looking at it. I have spent hundreds of hours building and rebuilding this poor motorcycle over the last few years including the engine. It is full of tricks and small details all to aid it in this race and to get it going down the road as fast as possible, for many days at a time. For me it’s perfect, just as I set it up to be, for me.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that most people like alot of chrome, shiny, well painted and good looking stuff on their rides, the romantic side of us humans if you will.  It attracts the eye and turns heads. When the rider mounts it, it makes them feel good to be seen on such a well manicured, head turning machine of folkloric wonder and amazement to the common man. They might even give these awesomely built machines names, or characters, or fenders all to aid in the self purpose of what the machines serves them for why they have it, or built it, or had it built. My skoot is nothing like that. Oh sure all the parts I have made or remade have a good few coats of rattle can primer and black paint on them but there is no show chrome on this machine. Any of the chrome is original and faded from the years of service the bike endured in the lovely seaside city of San Francisco, salt air and all. I know it’s from San Fran because it still has their Barcode sticker on the frame under the seat. I assume this sticker was part of a scanning system the city used to know what Moto it was exactly when it came in for service. They would scan it and pop up all this information they needed on the Moto on their commodore 64 or whatever beast of a computer they had in their City Moto repair shop in 1989.  

With the spare fuel cell and original tank, it carries about 7 gallons getting me around 220 miles to the tanks before I have to hit the reserve lever, about 35 miles to the gallon depending on how hard I push it. Luckily it has a huge reserve, that is when I hit the reserve, I still got maybe 50 miles before I really need to stop for fuel. Sometimes I hit the reserve around 180 miles and sometimes 240, it just depends on the road, weather and how much lead I got in my throttle hand. All of this is in my opinion is the make or break of the race. I like to pick my fuel stops as carefully as possible. Stopping on the right side of the highway is best to avoid left turns or waiting for old traffic lights or old motorhomes and their occupants at old stop signs. I prefer the higher priced gas stop as it should be less crowded and this is a race, I really don’t care about saving a few cents on fuel.  

Scanning the horizon now, it’s time to find one, and there it is, it looks open and ready for my business, off to the right, just past on of those bargain gas station. I have not hit the reserve yet on my main tank but I am sure it’s been over 200 miles since the start of the race so it’s near time, and this station, is perfect.

Riding the last 50 miles or so next to me on his raked out chop we call the deerslayer is my competitor and good friend Velarde Gonzalez. He has hit 2 deer with this righteous machine and managed to plow through a small compact car that pulled out in front of him on his way to the starting line this morning. Velarde is a well built man and shows no sign of his early thirties age.  He usually wears button down shirts if he is wearing a shirt at all, with cool patterns and good worn jeans held up by true leather suspenders attaching his holster to for his firearm. His boots are just as you would expect, equally well worn and colorful. He always removes his hat when meeting a lady and tells you his full name and shakes hands very well. I speak so highly of him as he has gotten me and many I know out of a tough spot a time or 2. He is covered in his newly purchased rain gear as everyone but me seemed certain it would rain this morning. I point to my tank and wave off to him and a few others behind us in our custom over excited racers wave.  He leans over giving me a good fist bump as I slow my skoot for the off ramp. I wish I knew how to describe this wave we came up with years ago, it is the most ridiculous, over exaggerated hand jester ever imaginable on a skoot. If you were driving your car out on the highway I suspect the only thing that gets you more alert than a ragtag bunch of scary looking dudes on choppers is, a ragtag bunch of scary looking dudes on choppers with shit eating grins waving to each other like a bunch of excited little girls. Humor is a wonderful spice to life.

 

Robbie Robertson and The Band, “The Weight.” Music From The Big Pink, Capitol Records, 1968.

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