Jun 20, 2009

Got Friday on My Mind

I don’t even know how to begin describing this day of the trip. It started nicely--clear sky, light wind, and dry—and went so far uphill I thought I might be dead. Fats Waller supposedly used to say, when he was really rockin’, “Somebody shoot me while I’m feeling good.” Friday, I should have been shot.

I hit the road with a questionable back tire. It was good enough to get me home, for sure, but I hoped to rack up another 1500 miles before going home. It is, maybe, not that good. Probably not.

So, I decided to try for Lee Klapprodt’s favorite shop, the Cycle Hutt the internet home for all things KTM, and see if they had a tire that might work. I’d take almost anything that would fit, if it’s not adventuring touring it will be a perfectly fine road tire and I’ll just stick to the road. I am such a retard, I hooked up on the Interstate and managed to stay on the long worm about 20 miles, I got bored, got off, and aimed for a frontage road that paralleled the freeway. In about a dozen miles, that road degenerated into a knarly, wet clay path that put an exclamation point on my failing tire. It also hurried the failure a bit, I’m afraid.

I arrive at Mandan at about 7:15AM and drive by the Cycle Hutt just to check out their opening time and someone is there, Tami Bohn the co-owner of the shop. Mentioning Lee’s name is like flashing a $100 bill at a New York cop. After describing how much everyone at Cycle Hutt “loves” Lee, Tami tells me the store isn’t open, but it will be at 9AM and she’ll have the mechanic look for a tire for me then. She sends me to a great place for breakfast (another place Lee recommended) and I lose a half-hour zoning out eating, writing, and reading.

My waitress asks the guy at the table in front of me, “Are you looking for a tire?”

He says “no” and I say “yes.”

She tells me, “They have a tire for you.” She doesn’t know what that means, but I do.

Now I’m solidly relaxed and absorbed in my reading. I show “patience” and don’t leave for the shop until 8:30, a half hour before they open. This is obviously one of the places where everyone likes to work because a good bit of the shop is there when I get there.

Tami asks if I got the message, and apologizes, “We don’t have a tire your size.” But she tells me I can look at their stock and see if something might work. They might have a half-dozen tires to choose from. One of them is a 150/70-R17 Metzler Tourance, exactly the tire I need. It’s set aside for me and the mechanic, Chad, will install it when he gets to work.

I’m set, so I screw about in the store looking for stuff to buy that I don’t need. The other owner, Justin Bohn (Tami’s husband), and I get into a conversation about work in Antartica, the dismal economy, motorcycles, and . . . music. When he hears about my other life, he insists I call an occasional customer of his, Denny Delzer. After wasting an hour of Justin’s and a good bit of his employees’ time, I am ready to go.

Almost out of obligation to Justin, I call Denny. He invites me to his shop and that digression was the second really good thing to happen to me that Friday. Denny is a connoisseur of all sorts of collectible objects: hot rods, go-carts, Hammond organs, and motorcycles. He is, in fact, a fairly famous Vincent collector. He is also incredibly generous with his time. He gave me the $1 tour around his shop, let me ogle his motorcycles (you’ll be disgusted to know I particularly lusted after a mid-70’s Yamaha IT200 dirt bike, not the Vincents), and he was exceptionally generous with technical information about his Hammond organs. I have always loved the sound of the Hammond and I’ve wanted to hear more about how they work from an expert for decades.

Denny has four B3’s crated up and ready to ship to Hong Kong. He does a fairly brisk internet business and Billy Joel and Greg Allman are some of his more recent well-known customers.

Denny described the collector’s mindset as an attempt at explanation, “Once you have one, you may as well get another.” This was how he described how an otherwise reasonable person having collected several Vincent’s, a couple of Yamaha IT dirt bikes, a few go-carts, fifty or sixty Hammond organs and even more Leslie speaker cabinets. If you’re going to collect something, you might as well make some money out of it, which inspired Denny’s business: B3Hammond (http://www.b3hammond.com/).

After the shop tour, Denny invited me to his home to see his priced Dick Busby-built Egli-framed Vincent. Denny was between hanging out with his grandkids from Florida and setting up for a gig with his band later that evening, but he blew another hour with me showing me his hot rods, his Vincent, another 70’s Yamaha IT, and . . . sending me off for a short ride on the Egli. Before leaving and after I returned, Denny took pictures; one of which is to the right.

If he knew me better, he’d have asked for a huge security deposit. I’m renowned for my kultziness around expensive things. I managed to struggle through right-side shift and one-up-and-four-down Euro-ness, but I got tricky and tried to swing back to his place through the neighborhood, instead of simply turning around and coming back the way I’d gone, as Denny had advised. I got lost in the zillions of cul de sacs and, finally, gave up and tried to turn around. In a car-jammed deadend street, on a hill, I stalled the Vincent. The bike will absolutely not idle. Luckily, it is electric start. Not so luckily, it took a bit of figuring out to make the electric start do its starting thing. Fortunately, due to the Cheap Bike Challenge, I’d recently dealt with a vintage electric starting routine on the Honda 450 and we got going again. After what must have felt like a decade to Denny, I made it back up his driveway and returned the Vincent to its more capable owner. Now, I can say I’ve ridden a Vincent. And I didn’t crash it. You guess which of those two was more important to me.

The ride out of Bismarck was sort of a letdown. I was going through some terrific territory, but I didn’t do everything I should have done in the city; especially visiting the offices of Vintage Guitar Magazine. Oh well, a reason to return someday soon.

Once I’m out of town, I’m in the plains heading northwest. My target is the north Teddy Roseveldt park, where I’ll camp tonight. My route is too convoluted to describe. I’ll put up a map someday. I had a collection of suggested roads and historic highlights that Denny and Lee had provided and I hit about 2/3 of them. It was a great ride, I’ll have several scenes stuck in my mind for the rest of my life, and after setting up camp and taking a short sundown walk through a tiny section of the park, I was out like a deadman.


  1. I think I would have said...thanks for the tire but I'll take a KTM. Hey it has two new tires on it right?

  2. Your experience of "Yes, we have a tire for you/No, we have no tire in your size" reminds me of a similar experience.

    In 1978 Rich Schlachter and I showed up at the Guzzi Museo in Mandello del Lario. A large girl was seated at the office window. We asked if we might see the museum.

    "No, it is not possible".

    We tried a few variations, but her only response was to call someone else - a dapper young man in the usual shiny pointed shoes and tapered trousers.

    "No, it is not possible."

    So we asked him again. "We wish to see the museum.Is it possible to come in?"

    "Yes, it is possible"

    So we saw the museum.

    Same in Spain, three years later. Have you rooms? We wish to stay the night.

    "No, we have no rooms".

    "Can we stay the night here?"

    "Yes, it is possible".

    There is evidently value in just plowing onward.



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