4. Now all that’s left is a photograph: Custom H-D Short-Tracker
One of the first bikes I had an order for was this Harley. We’d done a four-speed Sportster, and the guy didn’t like the way the frame tubes go. So I say, ‘oh, ok we’ll do another one, a little different style.’ And I go, ‘Oh, by the way, do you have a 4-speed or 5-speed?’ Oh 5-speed. And I say, ‘well this one’s a 4-speed frame so it wouldn’t’ve fit anyway.’
So I had this frame left over and all this crap so I start piecing together a bike for me, my own Harley. I’ve got a bunch of trick bits, ten grand in the motor, crank with Carrillo rods, headwork and all this cool stuff. So we paint it all up, build it just the way I want, CBR900RR forks, TZ rotors, blah blah… take it to Long Beach Show. I come back Sunday night to pick it up and they tell me your bike didn’t win. OK, whatever. But the good news is we want to feature it in Big Twin magazine.
Bitchin’! Cool. So Allan Girdler calls me up, we’re going to go to Ken Maely’s Ranch and we’re going to have you slide around do some wheelies – if we can get a good shot, it’s cover material.
Bitchin’! So we show up at Maely’s, Jeff Allen’s there, takes a bunch of stills – bitchin’, bitchin’ pictures. We wait for the sun. My friend’s got a video camera, so I tell him, ‘video every bit of this, don’t turn the camera off.’ So he’s taking pictures. I go to put my leathers on, all I’ve got are these old Yamaha ones, a copy of Agostini’s like he wore when he won Daytona in 1974. Bitchin’ big red Yamaha. Somehow I knew that wasn’t going to fly.
So Allan looks at that and says, “Hey, this is a Harley magazine, you can’t wear that.”
This is all I got.
So Allan goes over to his truck and gets out this Harley Factory Racing team jacket, he got it from Corky Keener or Rex Beauchamp or somebody like that, and I go ‘holy crap’ and I put it on and he gives me the kiss of death, “Don’t screw up my jacket.”
He had another one, but his first wife burned all his stuff when they divorced, so this one’s twice as priceless to him. So I put the jacket on, the track’s really dry – dry slick it’s called, like cement with sand over it, hasn’t been prepped at all. At the time the bike had 18-inch rims with street tires. I didn’t realize until I got into the heat of battle that I didn’t have nearly enough fork lock. So I go down to the end of the track and roll around, and Jeff’s walking down the hill to set up the camera. This thing made about 100 horsepower, a lot on the dirt, it was a 1200.
I’d been racing a 250 two-stroke, and I did pretty well on that. So I go in like I would on that and whack the throttle – and I’ve got like 25,000 laps at Maely’s – so here I come back towards the camera, give it a big handful, and find out I can’t steer into the slide nearly as much as I need to. I’m midway through the corner, here I go, full throttle, with one handlebar in my armpit, into the wall I go, a 4×8 sheet of plywood with dirt piled up behind, like concrete, pafoooom! The bike goes end-over-end over the wall, I’m trying to get away from it but I’m all tied up in it… so I tumble and I’m hurting real bad. The bike’s upside down, wheels going chug chug chug, and the thing is like, laid against the wall. So I stand up, and both of my thumbs are dislocated and I go OOooooooo… this hand’s looking like a tomato, I’m seeing spots, I’m in sad shape. And the first thought I have is that the dignity of the bike is gone. It’s upside down against the wall, humiliated. So I walk over. I don’t have an ignition switch, so I pull a wire. The pipes are straight up in the air. There’s a big gouge across the beautiful paint from the hot shoe. The AFAM bars are bent and they’re unbendable. The tank’s still good. So I’m standing here looking at the bike. And then I think of the jacket. I look down at one sleeve, it’s ok. I look at the other side, the sleeve’s ripped off at the shoulder and it’s all slid down and bunched up like a bracelet on my wrist. The jacket is toast.
Allan walks up and says, “Straighten out the pipes and we’ll shoot it again.”
I am done.
My buddy who was shooting the video, just when I start to fly out of the saddle, the camera goes from the track to his foot and you hear him say, “Oh shit.”
When I told Allan about that later, he said, “that’s the difference between a photographer and a guy with a camera.”
I think his next wife sewed the jacket back together, but I still owe him a nice jacket. But I talk to him a lot, and he’s never mentioned it again.