Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! I got sad news today. Tommy Dwyer, a friend from Squantum, Massachusetts, passed away on March 17. Tommy was a long-time rider, a member of the Hamsters USA, and president of the East Coast Missile Crew. He was a disabled Army veteran of the Vietnam War. He leaves behind his wife, Mary Joe, a son, James, a grandson, Frankie Sullivan, and numerous family members. Reggie and I offer our sincere condolences to Tommy’s family, friends and his Hamster brothers. R.I.P., Tommy; Riding In Paradise.
As most of ya know, my little wife, Reggie, uses a wheelchair to get around, an’ carries it on her trike in a cradle I built for that purpose. I designed a quick release system that latches it down solid by the frame so it can’t get away, but it seems that I overlooked something that came back to bite me in the ass. Last Saturday, the weather was perfect here in Central California, so we decided to go for a lunch ride in the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains. I locked the chair into the cradle like I always do, and off we went. As we got into the foothills, the countryside was all green with spring grass, the citrus orchards smelled heavenly, an’ life was good. We rode around the back side of Bass Lake, (where they filmed the John Candy movie, The Great Outdoors) and stopped for lunch at the Buckhorn Tavern in North Fork. When I went to get Reggie’s wheelchair off, I noticed that the outside wheel was gone! She won the custom $5,000 wheelchair in a national contest, and next to her trike, it’s her most prized possession. Needless to say, we skipped lunch and headed back the way we’d come to see if, by some miracle, we were able to find the wheel. Like most mountainous areas, there are hundreds of brush-choked gullies and fields of tall grass on both sides of the road, and we didn’t see the wheel anywhere along the route. Much to Reggie’s credit, she didn’t blame me for losing the wheel, but I still feel lower than a snake’s belly in a deep ditch for not thinking of that possibility, and securing the wheel better.
After we got back to the ol’ Buckshot Ranch, my son, Kevin, and I took the cage back up the 40-mile route, drivin’ slowly and looking as close as possible. Several hours later, we admitted defeat, and headed home. Meanwhile, Reggie was worried that the wheel may have injured somebody, or caused an accident, but there was no evidence of that. Either the wheel bounced off into the brush, or someone stopped and picked it up. I keep asking myself what they’d do with one black wheelchair wheel with hot pink spokes, so I’m convinced that the Gully Gods had it for breakfast.
The next day, Reggie called Mike Box, of Box Wheelchairs, to order a new wheel. The wheel has to be custom powder coated and laced, so it will take a while to build an’ ship. Meanwhile, I pulled the wheels off her old wheelchair to see if I could use them until the new wheel arrives. With the loan of an axle from my pal Mike Barner, who’s also paralyzed, I got them to work, so she can still use her new chair. She’s going on a “lady riders” ride to Morro Bay soon, an’ that’s the only chair that fits her trike. I avoided bein’ in the doghouse so far, but as they say, “It ain’t over yet.”
Now, on to better news! A buddy picked up an old ironhead Sporty, and wants me to build him a café racer. I’ve found that café racers are a lot of fun to ride, but they’re also a lot of fun to build. A couple of years ago, I ended up with a ratty old Yamaha 1100, and built a café racer out of it. Fast and fun, but it went to live with somebody else as soon as it was done. I enjoy adapting parts to fit, an’ custom making parts whenever I can. I picked up an “upside-down” front end off of a GSXR, and I’m making custom brake-caliper mounts and an axle to adapt a Harley wheel and brakes for the Sporty. I’m building a one-off gas tank, oil tank, rear fender/seat combo and controls. I like building bikes that keep the 50’s and 60’s vibe, but with modern braking an’ handling. This build promises to be fun, and I’m starting on it as soon as I finish another couple of projects that have been sitting around too long. My ol’ Softail is overdue for a new paint job, with rock chips an’ scratches from a lot of hard miles. I just picked up some candy blue Ed Roth “boat flake,” an’ some House of Kolor blue base coat, so I think that may be its new summer wardrobe. I think I’m going to do some customizing on it as well, with a strutless rear fender and some other changes to make it purty again. I also think I’m going to lower it a couple of inches while I’m at it. I guess I’d better get my butt in gear if I’m gonna beat the summer rush. See ya on the road!