A Grass Roots Gathering in Omaha Inspired by America’s Greatest Bike Shows
Words by Kali Kotoski
Photos by Chris Aizenberg/Lawless Lands Photography
Not everybody in the American V-Twin and motorcycle universe can make it to the elite and prestigious invite-only shows across the country. Too often we have to work, preferably on our motorcycles, and can’t get the time off and afford the hotel stays or the cross-country trips, hauling the bikes long distance in a rush, sleeping out of a van and relying on fast food.
While Joe Nielsen, a 20-year veteran in the motorcycle industry, had been to the Brooklyn Invitational some 10 years ago and the now-infamous Mama Tried show in Milwaukee last year, he thought it was time to bring a show back to his home in Omaha, Nebraska. And this summer, that is exactly what he did at his veritable second home, Dillon Brothers Harley-Davidson, using the showroom floor to display world-class two-wheel wonders. Joe had personally invited all bikes and builders to the show, which featured three pre-1929 Motorcycle Cannonball racers and Bob Butterfield’s 1938 Flathead (Bob had passed away a few years ago, but this honored his legacy. He was a local icon, having owned and operated a successful aftermarket parts store in Omaha that is still going after 30 years in business.) Monte Meyer’s Panhead also showed up, a bike Joe had seen 40 years ago and hasn’t aged a bit. Harold Waddell’s Nitro Hill Climb bike paid a visit. The Waddell family has been into hill climbing for three generations. Bob Alf brought his 1967 Matchless.
All in all, Joe said 30 bikes showed up for the inaugural show, a pretty big accomplishment we must say. While Joe had built his wife a 1975 Shovelhead in a rigid frame some years back, she was not invited to the show, Joe said with a laugh. For the record, that bike has already won awards at numerous shows, including at the Full Throttle Saloon during Sturgis.
So, here are a few reader submitted photos by professional photographer Chris Aizenberg (Lawless Land Photography) of Joe’s show, and plan on visiting the next show in Omaha, scheduled for April 27.
Artist Bio: Chris Aizenberg, Owner of Lawless Land Photography and master of digital operations at Dillon Brothers Harley-Davidson
When Chris was managing a restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska, he was unhappy with the daily grind, the surly customers and the never-ending stress. But he had won a first-generation iPad from the restaurant and things were looking up. A quick Craigslist posting, a handful of cash, and in comes a 1982 Kawasaki LTE—his first bike. “It changed my life,” Chris said, noting that he was already a father and considered himself a latecomer to the moto party. He quickly took to wrenching on his bike in his basement to learn about its intestines and became a regular guest at Dillon Brothers Harley-Davidson to pick up parts. But there was a problem. He needed to switch the title of ownership into his name at the DMV and the previous owner had botched the paperwork. So, he went back to the home he bought it from. A 70-year-old woman stood in the doorway, demanding to know if he was a cop. “I couldn’t believe it. I was probably wearing a Slayer shirt, had long hair and tattoos,” Chris recalled. The house had been raided by the F.B.I. a month before and the previous owner was on the run. That was six years ago. Four years ago, when he was on another one of those parts runs to Dillon, he passed the owner and said, “Hey, I will do anything to work here. Even if it is cleaning toilets, I don’t care.” Chris started there the next Monday. Being a prolific videographer, mainly shooting B-rated horror movies with his friend Rob, Chris quickly turned his skills toward shooting stills for bike shows and for all Dillon Brothers’ marketing needs. “I have done event coverage, commercials, their calendar, you name it,” Chris said. Sometimes he even gets models on bikes, like the misleading profile picture we chose for him. Now, he rides a 2018 Harley-Davidson Low Rider and says, “if you are happy with your job that translates into your life. Motorcycles have made me a better person.”
Plus, he gets to photograph models! Check out his work on Instagram @lawlesslandsphotography and if you need some solid pics taken, throw him a bone.