Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9-10-11 and a Full Moon

I awoke saturday morning with Kari nudging me, saying “Your alarm just went off!!!”. It was right around 7 a.m. and the Flatlanders crew was supposed to be here at 8 a.m. We were riding a 400+ mile round trip to visit our friend Jeff Hammel over in Hamilton, IL, just across the river from Keokuk, IA.

I first checked my phone, yep, slept right thru the annoying wake up call. I also noticed a few texts already from Scrap (our resident early bird) asking: 1) If I was awake and 2) had I heard from the others. The answer to both was no.

I scooped myself outta bed and headed for the shower. Once out of the steamer I’d noticed that the others had since gotten in touch and would be arriving shortly.

I thru some clothes on over my long johns and headed out to the shop to check over last nights doings. Everything was complete and tightened down. After double checking the rear brake adjustment I pulled the chop out to the gravel and kicked ‘er over to warm up a bit. It wasn’t long after I’d grabbed my jacket and vest, a few misc tools that weren’t already in my bag, and my camera, that Chris, Derek and Falldown pulled into the drive. Within about 15 minutes Cody rode up, and the main part of the crew was assembled. Shooting for 8 a.m., we finally hit the road closer to nine, in the usual Flatlander custom.

After our first fuel stop in Heyworth, IL we only made it a few more miles before I began frantically pointing at the McDonald’s as we rolled into McClean, the next town along Rt. 136 headed west. I raced up to the curb, found neutral and leaned ‘er on the stand, bailed and sprinted for the door. Once inside and sitting down I sent a message out to the rest of the bunch....lets just say the coffe and Honey Bun I’d eaten at the first stop wasn’t jiving with the Keithstone’s or Captain that had entered my gut the previous evening.

Back on the road, we cruised thru the corn ‘n beans until we arrived in San Jose, IL. This is where we met Scrap at the Casey’s Station entering town. I don’t think the locals knew what to think as they were rubbernecking and google-eyeing us as we stood next to our scoots in the corner of the lot. My guess is they’d probably been watching too many episodes of Sons of Anarchy.

The rest of the trip to Jeff’s was pretty smooth and enjoyable. We managed to dodge the rain all around us, only having to deal with pesky wet roads and overspray from other vehicles on the road. After a quick lunch stop in Macomb, it seemed like no time at all before we were pulling into the parking lot of Jeff’s favorite coffee spot on the east edge of Hamilton.

We met Jeff at his local coffee stop, where once again I was MIA for about 20 minutes, this time it was due to the tuna sub I had for lunch. It was obvious the little hole in the wall was “his spot” by the way he interacted with the locals and the waitresses, he had us all rolling. After eveyone (but me) had a cup o’ joe he invited us to check out his shop just a few blocks down the road.

Jeff’s is not your typical shop. He rents a place about a block from the carpet store he owns, that shares a building with a cellular store. Being ahead of us out of the java stop parking lot, he greeted us as we pulled into the lot.

We passed thru a wooden gate to a back porch that overlooked a decent sized “pond”. I say pond with quotations as it is an old rock quary and is about 75 ft deep. A canoe and a zip line were the first things that I noticed, then the giant carp and ducks milling about the pond. Jeff thru a handful of feed into the water and both the fish and the birds swarmed around sucking up every last morsel.

Beyond the porch was the doorway to his work space. Once we entered we were face to face with Jeff’s creations. A few XS650’s and a Honda 550 were immediately recognizable. Surrounded by shelves covered with misc parts and gas tanks, pipes and misc. Around the way was another 650 called the “8 ball” and another bike, known as the Barnstormer powered by an MT250 dirtbike motor. This was Jeff’s build off winner for the Chopper Underground’s yearly Build Off. Man, what a sweet little machine. Definately a head turner with it’s clean lines and all of it’s parts showcasing Jeff’s knack for re-purposing.

(the Barn Stormer)

(XS650 "Street Tracker")

We hung around asking questions, sharing stories, and taking in the surroundings for a few hours before deciding we’d better make the trek home. As mentioned we’d left around 9 a.m. and didn’t get to Hamilton until around 2 p.m. so we had another good sized jaunt ahead of us.

(fork lower tail light)

After sucking down a soda and mapping our way home, deciding to take the 4 lane instead of the 2 in an effort to make time, we said our goodbyes and fired up our crop of bikes. Jeff’s lot was quite sloped and covered with rocks leading right onto the main drag. As we were pulling out Chris hit a spot of gravel that showed him no mercy and slammed him onto the pavement. Derek and Scrap were already headed to the station for gas, but Falldown and I killed our motors and jumped off to make sure he was okay as Jeff ran from the shop.

(Jeff, Scrap and Chris)

(Chris & Falldown)

Chris jumped up in good spirits as we lifted his chop from the ground. There was no major damage except for a small dent in the tank. I commented “at least it didn’t fall on the left side”, where he had a Wild Turkey bottle for his coolant overflow. This was the beginning of our journey home.

After fueling up a few blocks from Jeff’s place we hit Rt 136 back east. We then picked up the four lane 336 to shoot south down to I-72 for our trek back across the state. As we merged onto the 4 lane I thought I felt a weird groove in my back tire, but after glancing around to the others in front and behind me, I shrugged it off to a vibe in the road.

Then my thoughts drifted to the previous night. “Did I tighten this? Did I tighten that? What could that feeling be?” We carried on down the highway at about 80 mph where eventually Scrap pointed behind us noticing the other 3 were not in sight.

He and I pulled to the shoulder to wait. I went to put my kickstand down and thought the crown on the shoulder was keeping me from putting the stand down, until I went to push my bike forward and thought I was in gear. I wasn’t.

“Fuck”, I exclaimed, “I gotta flat tire”. We both looked at each other with an expression of ‘what now’. After getting ahold of the other 3 on the cellie to find out they had pulled off for a break, we informed them of my dilema. Ten minutes later they were there with us scratching their heads too. I don’t know how we were running at the speed we were and within 5 min of pulling over I had a flat. I tend to think I may’ve been very lucky.

After the usual hemming and hawing of “what the fuck are we gonna do now”. We decided to head back about 20 miles to Quincy for dinner. We’d made a few phone calls and lined up a buddy, Tim from Springfield, to come get my bike. I told the others to go on ahead and I’d wait but they wouldn’t leave me behind.

I rode the bike down into the ditch along the freeway and tucked it behind some weeds by the exit sign to wait for Tim and the truck. I looked at Falldown and said “You ready honey?” as he was the only one with a 2 up scooter.

After we had some fine dining at Kelley’s Tavern we mounted the steeds once again, me riding bitch on Falldown’s ‘82 Tour Glide, and headed back out to the interstate to sit by my bike and wait for Tim.

About 20 min later Tim arrived, having missed us as he headed north, but making tracks back south once he realized. We had told him we were on 336 but actually we were on 172 as the highway had changed and we didn’t notice...so he didn’t start looking at mile markers until 336 and he was coming from the south! No worries, he was there with the rescue machine and we loaded my ole heap up into the bed and strapped ‘er down. We were on our way home!

A few miles down the road Tim and I noticed the pack start to slow down. No sooner did the 4 bikes in front of us merge to the shoulder. “Damn, we forgot to get gas back in Quincy!” In light of dealing with my tire no one thought to fuel up before leaving Quincy, where’d we’d already ran close to 100 miles, the last fuel up being back in Hamilton after leaving Jeff’s place.

No sweat. Falldown had a Poweraid bottle and I jumped out of the truck, pulled my fuel line and filled it up twice for Chris to fill his tank to get to the next stop. Once again we were on our way, that is until Dirka and Scrap succumbed to the same fate before reaching the truck stop at Barry, IL. Twice again I pulled my line and filled the Poweraid bottle so we could make the station...which we did, eventually.

Somewhere during this calamity I had gotten a text from Kari saying she was already in Springfield with my truck waiting for us. I regrettingly informed her of our woes and said “we’re still close to 2 hours out babe”. No sweat, she was chillin in the truck and just hoped we were ok and safe.

Once we left Barry, IL the pack was gone. With a few gallons of gas and a couple energy drinks those fuckers made tracks. Tim and I were left in the dust gazing at the full moon as we mozeed along the highway. As we were entering Springfield we spotted a side mount taillight in the distance ahead of us. We knew it had to be one of our guys.

As we approached the sideways red light we noticed the TCU emblem on the back of the rider and deteremined it was Chris. “He’s doesn’t have a headlight” I told Tim and once Chris realized it was us he merged to the shoulder.

His throttle cable had busted but he was able to cruise along at about 65mph as it had locked itself in. The other guys must have figured he’d catch up but at this point they were killing 90 mph and it just wasn’t happening.

Chris pushed his bike up under an overpass and we all squeezed in the Ranger before heading onto the Shell station on the east side of the capitol city to meet Kari and the others. We arrived to find eveyone in the parking lot. The unfortunate sight was that of Derek pulling all of his wiring from his XS650.

Apparentlyy he coasted into the lot as Scrap was fending off a local 5-0 that was yelling at him about his head light being out. “I know ya stupid fucker, thats why I’m trying to pull into the station!!!”

I’d lost track of time at this point but it was around 1 a.m. This had been a long day already and the end was nowhere in sight.

After we all put in our 2 cents about Derek’s electrical issues Kari, Scrap, Tim and I decided it’d be a good time to get my bike outta the back of Tim’s truck and into mine. We pulled across the 4 lanes into a car lot with a helluva ditch to make unloading and loading easier.

(Dirka & Scrap TCB)

Once that feat was accomplished it only made sense that we go load up Chris’ chop that had been sitting a few miles back along I-72 for close to 2 hours. Now we had both immobile scooters loaded up in a rescue vehicle and it was time to shit and git with Derek’s. After testing this wire and that wire to no avail, we decided to revisit the battery, which none of us thought was the issure hours prior. Chris, me and the local fella that just happened upon us with a truck full of electrical supplies walked over the Sierra and pulled Chris’ battery out for Dirka to try.

Sure as shit, once Dirka installed the new battery and had eveything hot wired, BAM, that ole XS fired right up, kept running, and the lights remained of solid illumination. All right, we’re back in business! ...well kind of.

It was now around 3:30 a.m. We had left the border of IA at 4:30 p.m. and were still 2 hours away from the So’full Garage. After bidding our adieus, and bungie-ing a mag light to Scrap’s girder to get him across town (he lives in Springfield), we hit I-72 once again in an attempt to make it to a mattress.

After one stop for gas and coffee, we made it back to the compound around 5:30 a.m. We all were approaching being awake for 24 hours with the exception of Falldown, who'd surpassed it at 4 a.m. Kari, Chris and I were cozeed in the cab of the GMC where I’d been hallucinating for about the last 30 miles of the trip from exhaustion...seeing trees, deer (that were construction barrels) and a raised garage door that were not real. All the while Dirka and Falldown were trying to keep their sanity following me.

Inside the garage a few Keithstone’s were cracked as we all questioned, “Did all of that just happen?”.....needless to say we all hit the pillows with force, only to rise a few hours later to deal with the reprecussions of the past 24 hours.


  1. great to meet you guys, feel bad the road home went south. great read and a story thatll live in biker history. Jeeps.

  2. Now that sounds like one hell of a road trip.

  3. yup sounds like a good time for the most part,