MUTHUH's RIDES - Liquid Steel Bike Rally
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After the Speedway I had about 3 hours before I needed to come back, to cover the real reason for coming to Concord, NC ... The Discovery Channel's Biker Build-Off Celebrity Race. They air about 14 episodes of a head-to-head competition between two builders each episode. Kinda like the Orange County Choppers show, but without the drama and bullshit family-fighting. This episode is between Mondo - the acknowledged Godfather of the Chopper, and Indian Larry, a crazy near-fully tattoed builder from Brooklyn. With a few hours to waste, I went to the Cabarrus Arena and paid homage to the Budweiser bike posing out front. The arena was, thankfully, over-air-conditioned for the expected crowds, which never really panned out today. Carolina bikers hardly turn out in force on a Friday anyway, but the exhibits were up and running and I got to wander around unimpeded. Pic #20 & 21 is of some of the Purrfect Angelz who performed throughout the weekend...just some eye candy for the hard working boys.
August 27-28, 2004
For the neighbor on my left, it must have been a strange sight. It was 11pm on a moonless night and a dark shape approaches the car in my driveway, opens the door (it's a nice neighborhood - it's unlocked), rolls down the window, gets back out, closes the door, looks around sheepishly and climbs back into the car from the open window. I could imagine the phone being picked up and 911 being dialed.
Nothing sinister, only yours truly seeing just how hard it is for a 6'4" 280 lb biker to look remotely graceful climbing through a car window without opening the door.
Why am I climbing through my car window in the middle of the night, you ask? Well, I damned sure couldn't do it in full daylight, now could I? Actually, I had a good reason for tearing the belt loop off my pants and breaking the turn signal lever - I was given a chance for the following weekend to drive a genuine NASCAR stock car around the Lowe's Motor Speedway at speeds over 130mph… that is IF I could manage to stuff my fat ass into the car in the first place.
The belt loop snagged on my doorlock as I slid in - I don't think they have them on those cars - and I doubt they have much use for a turn signal, either… they could always just hot wire the left signal on and be done with it. (Don't they remove the steering wheel, anyway?) In the end, I managed it without too much trouble and came back to bed eager for the next 5 days to pass quickly. I fell asleep hoping I would remember tomorrow night to practice getting back out the window. That may be more of a chore after being subjected to the heat and G-forces of the track.
Part of me was suspicious - my editor sends me an email asking, "Would I be interested in covering the Liquid Steel Motorcycle Rally near Charlotte next week?" He says he knows I don't get off on rallies much, but Grand Funk Railroad will be playing the bash afterwards, you can rub elbows with some of the biggest names in custom bike building, and, "Oh yeah, you are invited to participate in SpeedTech's NASCAR driving school AND take a couple laps in a 600+hp stock car at Lowe's Motor Speedway."
I re-read the email a few times… wondering what the catch was. After all - this is the same guy who sent me to a Poker Run in South Carolina which turned out to be not only beerless, but in a dry county, and no bikini contest either. On the other hand - he also sent me to cover the Fleet Ride in Norfolk last year where I got a chance to talk to Credence Clearwater Revival, and interview the Chief Operating Officer of Harley-Davidson. I was faced with a dilemma. Still… ya gotta wonder why he's passing up the chance to cover this one himself.
I spent the next few days trying to get in marginally better shape. Now - I come by the handle "Muthuh" honestly, and 50 yrs of soft living and Budweiser's doesn't disappear in 5 days, but I wanted to be somewhat prepared. I remember two years ago spending less than an hour in a fighter jet and taking 2 days to recuperate from the experience.
I held back in telling my friends about the planned adventure - just in case I made a fool of myself down there. You know… get stuck in the window, failing to get over 90mph or recycling my breakfast all over the padded bucket seats.
The irony didn't escape me, though, as I hurled down the Interstate on my Harley at 5am, doing a paltry 75mph. Totally without safety gear and inches away from the pavement, ready to grind off all exposed and lightly clothed skin from my bones. If I can manage to come close to doubling that speed in the safety cocoon of a NASCAR racecar, I'll consider this a success.
All too quickly, the Grandstands tower over me as I made my Freudian entrance through the infield tunnel. No turning back now - not that I ever considered it - are you kidding?
I arrived at 7:30am - the 2 hours on the Interstate were uneventful. I pulled up to SpeedTech's training rooms and waited - and waited - and we effin waited til a couple guys who were stuck in traffic finally showed up at almost 9am.
The professional staff at SpeedTech Racing School got me signed in, reams of legal stuff in type too small for this greybeard to read without magnification. I assume it said if I get hurt that's too damned bad. Then over to the rack of fire suits. The instructor eyed my magnificent physique, cupped his chin in his hand and just grunted. This wasn't a good sign. I proceeded to test the stretch characteristics of Nomex to it's failure point and selected the largest helmet they had. I felt like a guppy puckered up for fish flakes, but I was fully protected from my impending doom - bring it on!
The next few hours were spent being introduced to the other drivers, the safety crew, and the rules… lots and lots of rules. I really only heard three of them… go fast, turn left, and the car WILL stick to the pavement. The remainder were mere suggestions for the lessor drivers. I heard all I needed.
They weren't of the same opinion, though, and made us sit through 2 and a half hours of training. This course is a bit different from others out there, in that you don't just follow the instructer a few car lengths in front of you. This is balls-to-the-wall, all-out, pass if you can, eight laps of adrenaline overdose - bring it on, dammit!
Finally, after a van-ride around the mile and a half high-banked track at half speed showing us the visual clues for where to accelerate, where to decelerate (yeah, sure), where to pass and where the optimal line was on the track, we were ordered to suit up again. The pucker-factor rose a few points as my only fear remained not being able to gracefully stuff myself in the window. I soon realized that was the least of my worries. I was about to go faster than I had ever gone before in a car and I had no towel to wipe the beads of sweat from my forehead.
Once again, my girlish figure caught the attention of the lady who assigned the cars - turned out to be the wife of the owner - and was told I had the #2 Craftsman Series Super Truck... pointed out it was there for the tall guys and how big the window was on the truck. I took her up on the suggestion and was relieved I wasn't gonna need a crowbar to get in. The owner, Randy, told me it was just as fast and actually had better views out the larger windows. That's me in Pic #08.
My peripheral vision was non-existant, and I felt more than saw the pit crew fastening the 5-point harness, hand me the steering wheel (put it on yourself, sonny), and get out of my way. At least for this first couple of laps, they saw fit to have an instructor driver come out with me. They allowed 4 drivers on the track at any given time and I waited for the sign to fire it up.
600 horses rumbled to life, much of their sound never made it to my ears over the rush of blood pounding in my head. My tunnel vision revealed the starter pointing at me (wake up sonny boy) and then pointed down pitrow - my command to "let 'er rip!"
Let 'er rip I did, too. 3rd gear by the end of the pit, dropping into 4th on the back straight. They only let ya go about 80-90 with the instructor in the car - he spends most of the time pointing out the visual clues again and reinforcing the "line" we were to follow around the track. All too soon, we were back on pit row, dropping off the instructor and getting ready for the real thing.
The technicians from Extreme 3 came over and set up the telemetry - if all worked out well, I would have a CD with not only the video (see below) but also accompanying telemtery showing speed, g-forces, elapsed times - pretty much the same you get on TV watching Nascar.
Sitting all alone in the car - for about 5 minutes before they told me to fire it up again - and another 2 minutes waiting for two other drivers ahead of me to do the same and get moving seemed like hours. Finally, The #3 Dale Earnhart car left the pits, followed by the #25 car directly in front of me, with the Citgo Car behind me. I was already 40 seconds behind. On the third lap, I pass the Dale Earnhart wannabe, and closed in and passed the #25 car on the fourth lap. By the time I hit lap #7 I was on the tail of the Citgo car who left the pits right behind me. Unfortunately I was Checker-flagged on the eight lap - my allotment of freebie driving, and moved down to the apron and entered the pits having reached a maximum 130 mph on the 1.5 mile course. Not bad for a rookie.
LADIES!>... This is DEFINATELY the premium gift to give yer ol' man for putting up with yer shit all year long... think about it! Go check out their website at http://www.speedtech500.com/
I HAVE UPLOADED A 28MB FILE, SHOWING THE 8 LAPS AROUND THE LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY.
WANNA SEE IT?
OK, look... I'm offering a freebie look at a HUGE file that eats up a lot of bandwidth. I've encoded it as a streaming video file, showing 4 views - Front View, My Face View, Rear View and Side Seat View (unused). Unfortunately, the first 5 minutes is just watching me sit there, so move the slider over to 4:50 minutes - that's where I fire it up...but still wait til about 6 minutes before they give me the green light. The total is about 16 minutes, and may take a while to buffer completely...MEANT FOR BROADBAND USERS ONLY!!!!!
The bandwidth alone is gonna cost me, so don't be a cheap bastard and drop me a couple bucks on the PAYPAL links. If I can't recover some of the costs and time involved in doing this stuff, I'm not gonna do it anymore. Capiche?
Even if you have no PAYPAL account, donations are fast and easy.
I never even see your credit card information.
The outdoor stage was rockin' but Christ was it hot. My two $5 beer tickets were gone in a flash, and water was $2 a pop. Screw that - I went back inside to cool down. This was an obvious Chopper-only kinda show, and although I ain't a chopper kinda guy - they damned sure was good to look at.
Back to the speedway, (which is HUGE - Pic #25 shows just one small portion of the complex), in time to meet the celebrity builders as they came out into the pits for their practice laps. Under a rising full moon, with much cooler temperatures than we had this morning, some of the biggest builders in the country were sitting in the stands getting their final instructions, clearly paying attention, and clearly anxious to hit the pavement. Pic #28 shows Dave Perewitz and Billy Lane.
"Dave Perewitz has been a major influence in the custom motorcycle industry for 30 years. Dave was hooked on motorcycles in 1967 when he bought his first bike, a 1964 Harley Davidson Sportster. He learned from trial and error. To gain experience Dave would often do jobs for free for his friends and riding companions. Dave started his business, “Cycle Fabrications”, in Brockton, Massachusetts in 1973."
"Billy Lane burst onto the exploding chopper scene in 2001 with the bike that has come to be known as the "Psycho Billy Cadillac." Although, with Choppers Inc. being in business since 1995, and Billy having been regularly featured in magazines world wide, he was already making a name for himself with his incredible choppers and unique range of "six gun" parts."
Pic #29 shows Deacon sittin on the pit wall concentrating on the driver's meeting. While Kendall Johnson, sitting next to him, enjoyed more recognition from the crowd, Deacon's unassuming air and quiet concentration betrayed a more serious threat to the otherwise jovial atmosphere among the other builders. Deacon, along with Donnie Leslie, was here representing the Mondo entry in the Biker's Build-off, as one of the builders recruited to help build Mondo's entry. Mondo wouldn't be here til later - I'm sure it didn't take much arm-twisting to take his place. Deacon also is a first-rate builder in his own right, promoting the annual "Choppers Only Hawaii" event in Waikiki, and the scene of one of the earlier episodes of the Biker Build-Off between Arlen and Corey Ness. Deacon owns Pro-Street Custom Cycles in Kaneohe, HI.
Pic #30 is the easily recognized Indian Larry. He does tend to stand out in a crowd. Rumor had it earlier today that he wasn't gonna make it due to some breakdown on his way down here. When I saw him sitting on the bleachers waiting for the Driver's Meeting to start I mentioned that and he said they had some "difficulties", but 100mph the rest of the way down made up for lost time - "I wouldn't miss this for anything".
"Indian Larry's inspiration was 50's - 60's motorcycle clubs, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and the legendary, Von Dutch. The skilled machinist, metal-sculptor and master motorcycle mechanic won countless custom shows, participated in motorcycle racing, and originated the hard-core motorcycle style - a blend between classic choppers and hotrod race bikes. Indian Larry's resume includes movie, video, television, and magazine spreads. His eccentric nature combined with a unique and colorful appeal has gathered great interest from media, producing a fanatic fan base. Larry can be found around beautiful women, tattoos, motorcycles, and the Coney Island Polar Bear Club."
Pic #31 is Kendall Johnson. "Since its beginnings in the early 80s, KJC has been building one-of-a-kind custom motorcycles for clients all over the United States. As a result, Kendall has become widely known for his reliable big-HP motors. If you are familiar with the many motorcycle enthusiast magazines available, you are sure to be familiar with Kendall Johnson Customs. These magazines often feature the many "works of art" created at KJC!"
As the lights came on, the practice laps completed and the crowds swelling with spectators from the Liquid Steel event, the celebrity builders crossed over the wall preparing to hop in the cars and have a go at it. There were a few other builders invited to the Build-Off who didn't come out to the track, including, Ron Finch, Mike Phillips, Jeff Nicklus, and Mondo.
Pic #35 shows Donny Leslie on the left, one of the builders of Mondo's entry, and the others. The six builders posed for one last group shot before donning their helmets.
Indian Larry, Kendall Johnson, Dave Perewitz and Donnie Leslie getting strapped in.
Pic #41 has Deacon deep in prayer...hehehe...naw - just buckling up the 5-point harness, and in #42 flashing his signature "Shaka" (thumb and pinkie - common Hawaiian sign). Deacon went on to smoke the others on the track, passing one after the other and damned near lapping another before being checker-flagged signalling "get the hell off the track".
The dissapointment came when it became apparent that the advertised "Celebrity Stock Car Race" was something the Liquid Steel website hyped but was never planned for. So...as far as I was concerned Deacon won the event!
The next day, back at the Arena - another very hot and muggy day drew a far better crowd than Fridays paltry attendance. The entire place, inside and out, was packed with people and the beer was flowing liberally.
Pic #46 demonstrated why it is sometimes an advantage to be "IN FRONT of the Eight-Ball". #47 is a close up of an innovative braking design, where they place the calipers on the drive pully instead of on the wheel... I wondered at the forces that was exerted on the belt, and they simply pointed out that the belt is under far more strain in the opposite direction, when you take off under accelleration. #48 is one of Perewitz's creations for Aerosmith.
Then came the moment for the whole visit to Concord - the unveiling of the two bikes created for the Biker's Build-Off on the Discovery Channel. The crowd swelled waiting for the builders, Mondo and Indian Larry, to parade into the arena. Preceded by a pickup with the TV crew filming them, they entered the arena to a thunderous applause... then they did it again so the TV crew could catch it on film... musta been distracted by the Eight-ball girls next door, eh?
Billy Lane getting some side-aisle autograph seekers in Pic #61, and Suicide Jack of Suicide Jack Choppers with his "neice" posing with Hugh King, the Producer of the Discovery Channel Biker Build-Off Series. Hugh and I ran the same laps the morning before at the speedway and was the only guy I couldn't pass on the track. #63 is, uhhh, the neice again. #64 is Mondo pointing out some design characteristics to the crowd. During this weekend event, the crowd votes on the winner of the Build-Off. This episode should air in late March or early April. I'm afraid I will be seen kneeling on the floor shooting these photos as they came into the arena.
#65 and 66 are the Purrfect Angelz again on the outdoor stage - I gotta think sweating their panties off in the heat and humidity. I left the event on this up note, without getting shots of any of Indian Larry's stunts, or the Chuck Sullivan Stunt Show... Why you ask? Mainly cause they never kept to the schedule. The organizers did a wonderful job at pre-planning the event and got some good acts set up, but the execution of the plan sucked. The announcers gave us 1 minute warnings for events on the other side of the venue, or they never told us at all about the timing of the acts. It was a long walk from one end of the arena to the grassy area set up for stunts. The printed schedule had times "TBA at the show"...but never really did tell the crowd. My Press Kit did have times scheduled, but they didn't keep to them... in other words we either missed acts or they didn't do them.
Many of the vendors were complaining about the costs and disorganization... in short - the whole event had some promise, but didn't quite pull it off.
'S all right - I'm not a big rally/chopper/vendor kinda guy anyway - I came for the racing and Grand Funk Railroad!
Yup... the headline band was one of my all-time favorites, GFR. Following what can only be described as a tedious hour of listening to the Warm-up band, Super-Glide (tedious because the sound system was horrible, 2% treble and 98% bass), who in-between each song wanted the VERY sparse crowd, maybe 10% of the arena's capacity, to shout their approval and verify what a good time we were having - usually demanding a louder and louder response until he was happy. Listen dickhead - play your shit and make room for who we're here to see. Then there was a full hour intermission, when the bike show winners were supposed to be escorted into the arena in front of the stage and the Purrfect Angelz were supposed to perform again - neither of those happened. But once GFR hit the stage the atmosphere changed.
The sound was good, the music was great (although very few of the old classics) and the drum solo was un-fucking-believable. Thats the good news... the bad news was the beer sales was restricted to a little room...bad enough but the beer DRINKING was restricted to the same room.... worse still smoking was restricted to outside only and no beer allowed out there... but...but...but...the damned band was in the arena further away still. What a cluster-fuck. I watched as hoards of people left the arena before GFR even came out to play. I got up to leave myself soon after the National Anthem was played a'la Jimi Henrix (was nice to see the whole crowd immediately stand up for it), but stayed for the drum solo. I know I missed the tail end of their set - where they HAD to have played their good shit, but the atmosphere was pretty soured by the whole thing. Even at 11:30 half-way through GFR's set, the parking lot was nearly empty. Sad...very sad.
So... I rode the 10 miles back to the Hotel by myself, glad the Speedway stuff happened but a little dissapointed in the Liquid Steel Show, especially the Celebrity Stock Car Race that never happened (that's why I came down afterall) and very sad that GFR didn't bring back memories of the 70's (Grand Funk sold a total of around 10 million records during the year 1970, selling more records and tapes than any other band in the U.S.).
Fortunately, as I pulled into the motel parking lot, I see other bikers who left early, equally as pissed, partying by their bikes... ahhhh, gotta love these people. This was a group of Fireman from GA who came up with the promise of an excellent time, only to leave VERY pissed and vowing never to come back to this one. By 3am several more people had bellied up to the cooler and said the same thing - I never once heard anyone who said they'd be back. 'Course, to be fair, these were your typical biker people, not the chrome and neon rubs who lap up anything leather. So... to my new buds from Goergia - thanks for the brew - I promised I'd mention my dissapointment at the whole thing - and there it is.
7:30am and the 2 hour sprint home was a blur. A painful blur.
When I got home, though, all the little problems and disorganization suddenly seemed so petty compared to the news I received that morning. On one of Indian Larry's stunts, and in a way I am glad I missed it, he took a dramatic spill. It was following his usual stunt routine, and he hopped on his own scooter to do more of the same for the cheering crowd. In some freak accident, his bike went sideways, Larry dove over the bars and hit the pavement headfirst and had to be choppered to the hospital (the flying kind of chopper in this case)- followed by most of the builders to see how he was doing. The promoter told me soon after the accident, that he had been checked at the hospital and was expected to return for the final voting, but I'm saddened to tell you he never made it back on his bike.
Now - for all you pricks who download 28megs worth of my video clip without ponying up a buck or two, don't ya just feel like a worthless theiving shit? hehehe - naw - jus fuckin with ya - it's free.
In the words of one of his friends, "He was my friend, and died the way he always expected and wanted to go." That's the way many of us feel - not wanting to lay in a 'home' and have our asses wiped for us... nope, I expect to go out on two wheels myself, so I salute Larry for living his dream and sharing his dream with the rest of us.
Till next time - Ride Safe.... ride REAL safe, K?
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PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHT LAWS AND DO NOT COPY OR USE THESE PICTURES FOR ANY REASON UNLESS WITH WRITTEN PERMISSION. IN ADDITION TO LEGAL PRECEEDINGS, I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN, BURN YOUR BIKE, SCARE YOUR CHILDREN, POST NAKED PICTURES OF YOU AND YOUR OLD LADY AND OTHERWISE MAKE YOUR LIFE A MISERABLE HELL. (Well... OK - I won't burn your bike - THAT's just going a little too far.)
OTHER THAN THAT - HEY! ... HAVE A NICE DAY.