I can really feel the road now, slowly getting tuned into it all. I can feel the land, the weather, the air flying past me and my machine is running perfectly with I astride it’s frame. Perfectly in tune with all of it, completely part of it, zen. This may seem a bit intense to state but I have learned over the years that it really does take me several hours of riding to gain complete zen in what I am actually doing. A short ride to the Colorado River from my home in Southern California has always proven to be a bad idea. As soon as I get there for a bike run or something, I want to keep going as I truly feel I have just gotten the right amount of time to get in touch with the road, my machine and my body, all working together for one common purpose, moving forward as fast and efficiently as humanly possible, or as fast and efficiently as my machine and this road will let me and right now, that’s a pretty darn good click.
Robert Earl Keen, “ The road goes on forever and the party never ends.” West Textures, Sugar Hill Records, 1989.
I have time to really think now, to process all I want at my leisure. My mind starts to wander about my family, my Pops with my handsome Son I left at the starting line. I think about my new Girlfriend Ella I left there as well. My Mother and little Sister even showed up to see me off. I suspect after the race took off that they all went across the parking lot to the diner to let my Pops buy them all breakfast, I can hear him now, “We are the Men, we always pay son!” I have to wonder if, I am concerned about my family embarrassing me in front of Ella or am I actually wondering how breakfast tasted for her. I’ll do my best to concentrate on the latter as we can never control other people, will have to leave it all up to the universe at this point. I mean, even if I was there enjoying a fat side of bacon with my biscuits and gravy, I would not be in control of ant or all embarrassing comments my family could and would make around my new girlfriend because that’s what family is for right? Control, damn control is always an illusion for us, we never truly have it no matter how hard we try. Control over this machine or the road or, the meeting of my new girlfriend with my Mom. Yup, totally out of control I am, pretty much all the time, but watch me try and compete, on something.
For this race we all had to check in yesterday, day before the race by 4 p.m. get through tech inspection, pony up our money and get our race numbers. Lucky for me I got to retain my lucky number already hand painted on my big arse headlight by Charlie a few years back, # 27. Every competitor is issued a number for his headlight, it’s kind of incognito that way. We also got the route and had our racers meeting at 6 p.m. The meeting was basically a few minutes on the hot black asphalt of the parking lot, El Nomad Charlie talking and handing out the route while reinstating the 4 rules of the race. These 4 simple rules that govern us with a few sidebar religious convictions that keep us going, handed down to us from The Gospel according to El Nomad Charlie himself from the pages of a chop mag.
So by design the Stampede is a chopper race where our rules are designed to keep it as such, and they are:
- Rigid frames only! Struts are ok as long as there is no rubber mount in the strut, this is a chopper race.
- No hard bags, no windshields, no bullshit. Again, this is a chopper race.
- Every man (or woman) for themselves. No chase vehicles are aloud, this includes other riders who are not competing, especially swing arm bikes.
- No rubber mounted motors of any variety are allowed, rather it’s a bushing or a fill on suspension motor.
We will all follow the same route which will be proven with fuel receipts. Most everyone that makes it out for the race has the integrity to keep to this plan but this keeps it honest. This race is illegal, immoral, dangerous, kind of stupid and a hell of a lot of fun, everyone runs it at their own risk. We are completely unsanctioned, unsponsored and as real as a toothache. People have wrecked, died, blown up engines, destroyed their bikes, been stranded, soaked, lost, and generally screwed but we all remain undaunted. That being said, to each his own, you ride at your own risk. The road goes on forever and the party never ends.
So the meeting in the parking lot goes on with El Nomad Charlie stating to us the basics of the race as well as a sloth of other good updates on known weather for the route, tips and tricks and the subtle reminder that this race, DOES NOT EXIST! All lean, mean and built 130 pounds of him jumping in our faces about it, and appropriately so, so we all are in agreeance. The sanctity of what we do can not be understated, to keep ourselves safe from so much confusion in this world of the general public and Johnny Law we have to guard our race as much as humanly possible. This race is not legal, moral or in any way, safe. It’s a bad idea and no one should be participating but, there we all were, coming from near and far to stand in a hotel parking lot and get the route map and the talking too. F Bomb gives a classic talk as well to all of us on what all would REALLY think of a competitor who got beat by him on the little 250cc Miss Lorri skoot. He will be moving slower than most so don’t get caught finishing the race behind him. A few wagers amongst us competitors were set for the fastest smaller bike below 750cc, the 750cc class, the 1000cc class that I personally got some action on, and the big harley types as well. I think a few other bets were set as well like middle place, how many of us will really finish, and last place, etc… Lots of bills got thrown around and the race was set, in 11 hours all the uncontrollable madness knows as the Stampede Cross Country Chopper Race would start.
So it all started for me and mine a few days ago on Friday when my Excursion of a truck got loaded up with camping gear and hitched up my land speed racing trailer, complete with my land speed racing skoot and 3 bicycles for good measure for some classic family fun on the playas of El mirage. For us weird enthusiasts of speed and all things that go fast El Mirage is a dirty mecca, where many a past generations of man and machine have been pushing ever farther in the quest for speed on the dirty old dried up flat lake bed of El Mirage California. Yeah i like to compete in a few different types of racing. Land Speed racing out at El Mirage is almost as cool as racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the northwest part of Utah where we get to really open up the throttles and see just how fast, our machines can go.
Lately, unfortunately the local potash mine has been taking so much salt off of the Bonneville Salt Flats without replacing or pumping it back that we have not been able to race there. The Bureau of Land Management has done such a piss poor job at regulating the salt flats that in the near future the state of Utah wants to take it over, damn I hope they do, or just give it to us racers to manage. Losing a great treasure like the Bonneville Salt Flats to bureaucracy and corporate greed would be a terrible slap in the face for mankind and our planet, but I digress. I employ everyone to jump on a skoot or pack up the kids and pets, get a cooler full of sandwiches and head to a time trial event, either at El Mirage or Bonneville, or both. Enjoy the fastest cars and skoots in the world right in front of you pushing for glory in their quest for speed. Only then will anyone ever be able to truly understand the magic and speed of these Holy grounds.
So Friday morning, my Pops meets me at my house, mounted himself behind the steering wheel of my rig with my 9 year old Crew Chief (My Son) and, my 14 year old nephew visiting from Oklahoma thrown in for good measure. I threw my girlfriend Ella on the back of this Cross Country Chop and off we all went to have a Saturday morning run for the record at El Mirage. The playas is simple several square miles of flat dirt located north of Riverside by the desert town of Adelanto. Lucky for me, it was halfway between Riverside and Barstow, where the Stampede race would start so why not, leave a day early and do some land speed racing before some cross country chopper racing right? I am a genius! El Mirage is nothing more than an old lake bed where water used to gather in the desert and, where for one weekend a month, several months out of the year, the Southern California Timing Association or S.C.T.A. gathers for a meeting of the clubs and to set some land speed records. I am a member in good standings with the S.C.T.A. race club known as the Roadrunners, out of Riverside California but no, I do not hold a land speed record, yet! I am not the world’s fastest anything, but I am getting closer, competing and having a good time with the science and family fun of it all. Originally I got into land speed racing as a newly single Dad a few years back, after my wife left, as something I could do with my Pops and my Son as a family activity. After a trip we all took in my excursion up to Bonneville to spectate, it was decided, the Marshalls can and will do this, we can and will land speed race. I know there is a lot of money and speed in this sport but I saw some good loopholes in all of that with my mechanical ability where for just a few thousand bucks, racing could be had.
We got up to the Playas of El Mirage, got the bike all checked in and pass tech inspection. I gave the S.C.T.A. my 100 dollars to race and the camping began. My Pops, my Son and my Nephew slept in my excursion while Ella and I slept on an air mattress under my EZ up brand instant pop up, after a good walk to the middle of the long flat race course in the dark, hundreds of yards from anyone, yeah I totally had sex with her out there, and sure again on the air matress. I slept like a child that night in the cool desert air, holding that woman’s beautiful body then, it was up and at em for a run down the course.
Land Speed racing kind of works differently than most might think. First ya get everything ready to race in the pits then, you drive yourself, your skoot on the trailer and your chase vehicle over to the start line and wait in a very choreographed line for your turn on course. After an hour or so of waiting, you are near the front of the line where you, put your suit and gear on, start and warm up your bike, get your bike off the trailer then, get to the starting line and wait for Jill Shannon or one of the other fine starters who ru the course to motion to you with a wave of their arms that the course, is yours.
Oh man how I dream of Jill waving her arms at me, 2 pumps then a motion to close my face shield, then 2 pumps towards the track. My bike is idleing between my legs with both feet on the ground and my chase vehicle behind me and all the waiting has led to this, go time in the world of speed. I jam my land speed skoot into first gear, rev it up and take off. With 1 and a ⅓ mile to get up to speed I have to make it happen quickly. I twist the throttle beating hard on the skoot as I jam the shifter at my left foot down through the gears, clutching and twisting, trying to be as efficient as possible. I can barely hear my skoot even with it’s wide open exhaust as the land is open allowing the sound to dissipate as my big leather suit shuts out all wind and feeling of my speed. No i don’t have a speedometer on this bike either, I mean that’s what I pay the S.C.T.A. for, to measure my speed. The only place I can feel anything land speed racing is between my legs, and I have to concentrate hard to feel what the engine is doing and how to react accordinging.
On this run or race down course I was really getting a good start in when all of the sudden, the bike started to burp and the power started to fumble. I let off the throttle than twisted again as it gave me a little response I knew something was terribly wrong. I get up to the last gear and played with the throttle some more but could not get the bike out of it’s fumble as the bike and I limped through the timing gate at like 90 miles per hour, damn what a disappointment. I knew something had to be wrong with the carbs and or fuel but, I also knew we had no time for another run as I had to get up to Barstow to check in for the Stampede. I would figure out later that somehow one of my floats in one of my carbs got stuck and was allowing the air box to fill up with fuel, causing the bike to run way too rich and basically drown out my poor little land speed racer of a skoot. Well, that’s racing, sometimes ya win, sometimes ya compete, and sometimes ya just fall flat on your face.
I race with a 1980 XJ650 shaft drive yamaha model I scored as a basket case from a friend for 200 bucks. Thanks Amigo Adam, you are a good one. No paperwork needed as land speed racing is not done on the highway so yearly registration and ownership paperwork is pointless, possession is 9/10th of the law. I rebuilt the engine to make sure it was all tight, assembled it, tuned it and set it up for S.C.T.A. rules and regulations including a set of high speed tires that had to be shaved. Now when I say rules and regulations what I mean is, the craziest, most over redundant set of rules a racing organization could ever have. Usually we rebuild and setup skoots for D.O.T. regulations that is, as the Department of Transportation sets the rules for vehicles for highway use, ya know, blinkers, horns, speedometers, yeah like half the crap I am missing on this skoot now but for going as fast as possible in a straight line, that skoot has to be setup on a very different set of rules and, pass a rigorous inspection before every meet. It’s all in the name of safety at high speed, my Pops, my Little Dude and I, ok mostly me had a great time figuring out all the rules and building a bike in just a few months that passed inspection the first time out.
So I paid 200 smackers for the bike, maybe another 200 in engine gaskets, carb jets and safety items like a steering damper and hand grips. Hand grip can be so overrated sometimes, if you aren’t crossing the country on the skoot, some hockey stick tape works just fine but, real handgrip it is for the land speed racer skoot as it’s all part of the rules. Also there was 700 bucks in the tires, I had to buy them than, have them installed on the rims and shaved down so the treat would not come flying off at high speeds. Luckily there is a one stop shop for this over in Signal Hill California by the beach called Cowboy Tires and Nate there does some good work. My Pops rebuilt our old jet ski trailer by lowering the axle, and setting a large 8 inch heavy duty U channel peice of steel right down the middle, with the assistance of a ramp, that’s where we roll the skoot up too and it sits on the U channel. He even painted it and when I say he, I mean he owns a small machine building business so he had his guys do it but I am sure he watched and told them how to do it right as the Engineer he is. Then I added new tire to it and an old chrome truck bed tool box to the front of it complete with bicycle rack so yay just a few hundred bucks in that as well.
Then came my racing suit, it had to be all leather with no perforations (a rule I think they did away with these days) so usually people had them custom made for several thousand dollars. I purchased one from an online store for a few hundred then handed it to my younger brother who does leather work on the side. He expanded the chest of the suit for my large bulk by adding leather under the armpits then added leather to the crouch for my large set of balls or, so I could straddle the seat on the skoot comfortable, you pick. The best part was he had a lot of perforations to cover up which most people do with strip of leather. My brother in all his creativity added metal studs to cover all these hole. So yeah, I look like Elvis in my suit but it passes regulations and after the initial cost and a side of cow plus metal studs, a full face approved helmet on sale for 200 bucks, some fully covering leather gloves and a set of Doc Marten boots, I was only out a thousand bucks or so for my suit.
Hitching it all up to the excursion that has been around for many years and my flying circus of a motley race team was complete. Yes, it does cost to keep it all going which I have managed to subsidize with selling the parts I take off my skoots via ebay. It’s only a few grand a year and I have a few more hundred in small sponsorships but, it’s good family memories and comparable to what most people pay these day to enjoy more corporate or popular things with their children and family. Mine is just dirty, on the cheap and all about going fast in a straight line for a few minutes then, camping in the dirt. Land speed racing has got to be the most unpopular sport in the world.
Did I mention how big the bonneville salt flat is? It is so big, flat and white that Astronauts use it as a marker on earth when they are up flying around in space and doing what those cool people do. My personal interest in the sport started many years earlier as a young man when my Pops in his many travels as a salesman had gone to the speed mecca of the world to check out a S.C.T.A. event. He brought me back a postcard of a racer standing in front of his race car which looked nothing like a car at all to me and these crazy high numbers of speed records were printed on this card. I remember thinking to myself how the heck could anyone get such a funny looking vehicle to go that fast? And as they say, nothing was ever the same again.
Fast forward many years to my early thirties when my Pops and I loaded up on our cool Honda cruisers with some clothing and snacks and set off for the Bonneville speed week event. The journey was only 600 miles or so but it took us 2 days to get there fighting heat, overloaded bikes and my Pops having to stop in Las Vegas to collect a business check for half a million dollars or some crap like that, it totally got in our way of being awesome road warriors on our mission to spectate speed. My Dad, always letting business be important, damn I wish I had a dollar for every time he was on the side of the road on his skoot, with the phone to his ear, on a business call.
Pops rode his newer 2004 Honda 1300 V.T.R. a cool black model he had purchased a few months earlier. I got to go and pick it up for him because of course he was out of town on business when he bought it sight unseen and it was up to me to determine if it was worth purchasing and picking up. What a foolish notion for him to trust the likes of me with such responsibility. It really was a wonderful machine complete with windshield and sissy bar for all the crap he wanted to bring and ready for the open road, as well as any or all apocalyptic events and maybe a complete breakdown of civilization or an Alien encounter. Damn my Pops can pile that thing high.
I was no better packed on my 2000 Honda VT1100 Shadow also complete with windshield and sissy bar, with bags, camping gear, cooler, and 2 Stanley coffee urns for good measure. Wow, what the heck were we thinking? I can tell you these days I travel A LOT lighter. Even if I had to camp, a gas station or food joint is never far away. I don’t need as many cloths because what’s the point? I don’t mind stinking a little out here in the wind and there are no ladies to impress or, non I want to impress anyways, usually. I am a dedicated man these days to one Miss Ella. Besides, there are laundromats or even general stores everywhere, if I need to buy more clothes. On this race, I am probably one of the most loaded down on my skoot but, I am confident I am carrying only what I need.
For starters, a general clothing bag, it’s about 16 inches wide and 12 inches tall, dark brown, pleather, old and worn. It rides between my headlight and handlebars under my jacket unless I happen to be wearing my jacket.
- A set of blue jeans and my belt as I am currently wearing my overalls and plan on enjoying some good ole blue jeans at the finish line.
- 2 long sleeve t shirts, my prefered riding under garb to keep the sun and weather off my arms.
- 1 short sleeve cotton t shirt, ya know I just seem to be able to buy a good short sleeve shirt anywhere so why carry them.
- 3 spare boxer briefs.
- 3 sets of lighter socks. I prefer the heavy socks when I ride and am wearing them now. They were a gift from my Mistress that keeps out more weather and seems to add a little shock absorption in these old worn boots of mine.
- Chuck taylor type tennis shoes and my cheap sandals.
- A spare small towel for a quick pits and crotch shower.
- My Dopp kit. Yes full to the brim with all extras I might need and then some. I keep it right on top by the zipper so I can access anything out of it as needed.
My Dopp kit holds:
- Small toothbrush and small toothpaste
- Bag balm for all my dry skin
- Extra sunscreen
- Small deodorant
- Small liquid soap
- Eye drops
- Earplugs for sleeping next to the highway
- Q tips, like a 30 pack, very important for cleaning out my ears, nose, and most motorcycle parts.
- Band aids and mouthwash for some first aid as needed.
Then I have my small tank bag. It works well and I fiddle with it often to re organize it and keep it working for me.
In it I have:
- 2 Dark or tinted Goggles
- 2 clear goggles
- I set of yellow goggles
- 1 set of clear glasses
- 1 set of dark glasses
- Lip balm, spf 15 with a touch of mint so I can shove some up my nose if needed and aid in breathing issues should any such issues occur.
- My super heavy leather gauntlet gloves
- 1 extra set of light leather workman’s gloves
- Spare lighters
- Mini Mag Flashlight
- Spare batteries AAA for my flashlight and mp3 player
- Spare ear buds
- Sunscreen, mini tube
- Snacks like trail mix or beef jerky and small hard coffee candies
- Blue nitrile gloves for really cold riding
- Dry towel to wipe rain from my eyes while riding
Yup, it’s a lot to fit in a small tank bag but everything has its place and it works well for me and as I go down the road I can reorganize it as needed or as a distraction to assist in keeping my mind focused. Sometimes keeping the stuff inside from falling out or blowing away is half the battle.
Next I have a smaller set of saddlebags under my seat strick for tools and spare parts. I can rip the bike apart with all the tools and carry a spare of everything important like a coil, clutch cable, throttle cable, nuts and bolts, etc…
Then I have my big black bag in the passenger’s seat behind me. What’s in the big black bag you might ask? I mean I am already really carrying everything I could ever need and then some right? The answer is, THE SUIT! The suit is a large, insulated full cover all made for all weather riding. It takes up the space of a 0 degree sleeping bag but, it also doubles as a sleeping bag when needed. Most of the other racers carry some or all the needed rain gear and warmer gear like leather jackets or maybe chaps. Personally I have tried leather but i got to tell ya, after an hour or 2 of really hauling ass and riding in it, it just becomes cold in the cold or hot in the heat. Yes it’s true leather can and will save your arse in a crash but it’s heavy and cumbersome so for this trip, I opted to leave most of it at home. If i need to be warm I carry it all in one big black and green suit, with some reflective materials sewn on to it by the manufacturer for good measure. I also had my Aunt sew some pleather guards on the front of the legs so needles to say, I look like a big black puffy marshmallow man with a white face when I wear the suit. I don’t mind this because it will able me to travel through very cold temperatures and very wet conditions or both. All I have to do is pull over on the side of the road, give myself 5 minutes to zip it on and adorn my vest over it and bam!
Oh those bags in the cages, so when the cop bikes were originally built by Kawasaki, it was important that they could do almost anything and go almost anywhere and, be bulletproof about it. Yes they even came with bullet proof tires that did not deflate when punctured. So, of course having some cool cages around the original saddle bags was very important. Cool ⅞ chrome bars that I wrapped in bungee netting because a big rule of this race is we cannot have hard bags. I have a small bag on the left side holding my chain lube and wax, some air filter oil, a hammer, some tire spoons and above all, my oil. Yup, I’m losing a little oil, about a quart every 1000 miles currently. I can see in the lower part of the left casing where it is leaking from but did not fix it or even try to fix it before this race. I’m just carrying a few quarts and a funnel to add as needed. I use a very well known racing oil called amsoil that is not cheap but, as with most things, I feel good and view it as cheap insurance to invest a few extra dollars for the good stuff. Sometimes I even get it for free or at a very discounted rate, one of the only perks being in the world of motorcycle racing and having good friends like Steve Adams who doesn’t mind throwing a little sponsorship my way. Sure sometimes I miscalculated the amount of oil I will go through on a trip and end up picking up another motorcycle oil or even a diesel truck big rig oil. As long as it is all synthetic and has no molly or graphite in it, it can be used. That molly and graphite really does a bad number to the wet clutch plates most motorcycles have so yeah, no regular car oil allowed in skoots.
For this race I was able to secure a few good sponsors. Sponsorship always seems to work differently for most people. For example, F Bomb is not the biggest fan of being sponsored, it gives him commitment to people he does not want to owe anything too at the end of the day that makes a lot of sense. So if ya see a name on him or his skoot for any reason, it’s because he likes you or maybe you are a friend that has hooked him up with some good work. Then there are others who maybe make a living off of sponsorship and wear the funny shirts and jackets where every square inch is covered with a brand name, good for them! So yeah, none of those types of people are in this race. Don’t ask me why, I mean this is the coolest race ever but people who make a living racing are not here?!? Oh well, to each their own. Than there is me, for the fun of it I always put out that I am happy to take a little sponsorship if anyone is interested in putting their name or brand on my skoot. I usually wait till the last few weeks before a race to put it out there on my social media or at different skoot based meetings I attend. “Hey everyone, who wants to see their brand name race across country on a home re made old cop bike that may or may not make it to the other side?!? Give me a small brand sticker and 100 bucks and you are in the club! For 400 bucks I will give you the big main gas tank and paint your logo or brand on both sides.”
So far this has netted me several sponsors whose small stickers are on my fenders, engine, and spare fuel cell, even my Mom gets in on the action and my Girlfriend Ella drew a Mom tattoo looking logo on the top middle of my front fender, ya know the heart with the arrow through it that says Mom, very cool, I was impressed. My main gas tank is still stock and bare, no one had forked over the cash to buy my fuel for the tank for the race and that was ok with me as I do this for fun, not for a living because I got a J. O. B. to assist me in that money stuff. The more sponsorship you have, the more people expect out of you. I personally view all this as a little kick in the pants to make sure I make it to the starting line and I had just enough sponsorship to make me get there. I can’t lie either as the new girlfriend was terrible impressed with what I did and how I did it. Yeah, getting the starting line this morning was really like half the battle and that battle, was won victoriously.