Backstreet Choppers

Posted on 18. Jul, 2012 by in Gypsy Bikers

by Scooter Tramp Scotty Kerekes

Throughout these gypsy years I’ve been asked many questions. The most common of these is undeniably: “How do you get money and take care of your breakdowns and other mechanical problems?” To these questions I can offer only one answer: There’s an old saying that states:

‘Do what you love to do, because you truly love to do it, and the money will come’.

In other words, trust fate or god or whatever you believe in and simply follow your dream. If one is able to truly apply this philosophy, then the world can most often be one big playground—and less a tedious grind.

To these ideas the reply is most often, “That’s a great philosophy in theory but this is the Real World.”

This statement is very true. It’s often hard to follow such convictions in light of, the Real World. Yet, I personally have no pension, no set means of income, am not a thief, and have been on the road for 13-years and living by only this philosophy and little else. There would seem to be some security in that.

The story that follows is simply one example from a hundred…

Sunshine warmed the formerly frozen pavement of the little South Carolina two-lane as the heavily loaded Electra Glide beat out a constant rhythm against the fine pine-forests that lined either roadside. It was the last day of April. Summer would be upon me soon and I always begin the seasonal migration north in May. For a man who travels by motorcycle, spends most of his nights in camp, and is in a state of perpetual motion, the necessity of basic survival—and simple pleasure—dictate that he must migrate. Summer was coming and with it freedom of motion throughout all of the north!

It was exciting stuff.

A hundred or so miles ahead lay the Myrtle Beach Motorcycle Rally (an exceptionally large event) and, traveling at this much relaxed, back road pace, I expected to arrive within a day or two. There was no hurry. For a time my mind settled quietly into only this moment and all of its surrounding beauty.

Ahead, the South Carolina forest opened up to a dirt lot with one building set back and to the left. A sign at street-side read, BACKSTREET CHOPPERS—a small motorcycle shop. I pulled in to investigate.

A handful of bikes—Twin Cam, Shovel and Pan as well— littered the parking-lot. BACKSTREET had the immediate air of “Old-School.” I entered the building. Inside, many motorcycles lay in different states of repair. Parts, new and mostly used, hung along the walls and rested in boxes among the vice, grinding machine, drill-press, and other tools of the trade. This was a candy store for men. Big Dave, the owner, seemed quite at home in this environment and busied himself with the bike on his lift while engaging in conversation with those who hung around for just this purpose.

Among those sitting out front was a rather wiry cat named Brother Speed. Although I’d later see his face printed in a magazine or two, to date it was the first I’d laid eyes to him in person. While standing beside my heavily loaded Electra Glide I listened as Speed insinuated—or rather stated flat out—that I must be new. Dropping my eyes to the old FL I regarded its features. The bike was 19-years old; had 363,000 rather hard miles on the clock; had never been painted; and offered a fine array of re-weld jobs and duct tape repairs. I wondered what looked new to him. Speed soon showed me to his ancient pick-up that held a just as ancient Shovelhead. I looked closer. The rusty old bike was adorned with so many antique coins and other doodads (lots a glue) that one could scarcely tell a motorcycle still existed beneath. Maybe I was new.

And so we talked.

With truck loaded, Speed was now prepared for his annual trek to work the numerous rallies across the country. His trip would last the summer.

The shared love of bikes, extensive knowledge of their inner workings, and the fact that we both work at rallies was a great catalyst and friendship was soon born. While I’d be working at the Metzeler truck changing motorcycle tires this year, Speed would be employed as head of security for the Broken Spoke Saloon in Myrtle Beach. He’d leave in the morning.

For the last hour clouds had been rolling in. It looked like rain. The afternoon was wearing on as well and it would be dark soon. Speed invited me to stay at his place. He said it was only a few miles away. I graciously excepted then followed his truck.

It was more than a few miles.

Eventually, a little dirt road brought us to a remote piece of backwoods property. At the right, I took note of the large double-wide trailer (Speed’s place), suspended some distance above the ground. Beside it stood his tiny, free-standing garage while some short distance off was a rather fine home. His folk’s house. It was family land. Speed had lived here for 22-years. A fine place to say the least.

Speed parked near the double-wide, and I threw down the kickstand behind his truck. After dismounting, I turned to survey the place. Junk. Lots of it. On display along the front porch, was every worn out sprocket, clutch-cable, tire, chain, etc. that had ever adorned the old Shovel. There were other items too. But rather than simple piles of trash, all seemed arranged in a kind of display. Brother Speed was obviously a memorabilia junkie.

After covering my bike with a tarp against the rain, we entered the house. I’d seen nothing like it before. From the walls —and ceiling—hung every kind of trinket or poster ever made. This fucking guy had everything he’d ever owned lying around— even his baby teeth I’d bet. Pictures hung from above in paper chains of one taped to another until they were halfway to the floor. STUFF was everywhere and colorful seemed a weak description. This was an experience unlike any I’d enjoyed before.

Seating room was still plentiful though and we soon sat to talk the night away. Speed was a story-teller. No longer a young man, the long years of biking adventure offered him a trove of material from which to draw. It was late when my head finally hit the pillow.

My host seemed as a vampire who cared little for daylight hours. I did not disturb his casket, nor did I see him again the following morning. Instead, I wandered over to the folks’s place to mooch coffee. Both were very old and excessively friendly. Hospitality seemed their finest virtue.

But Myrtle Beach called and in short time I was again on the fine Carolina highways that led to that place.

Although no rain fell, the roads were still wet this morning, and it was only 30-minutes out that I began to smell burning rubber. Wet roads…burning rubber. What the…? A stop to check the bike soon revealed that both rubber swingarm mounts had broken to cock the rear wheel left therefore pushing the tire’s side-wall into a fender bolt. The obvious outcome? Burning rubber. But the damage was still only slight and I soon decided to return—rather gingerly—to Backstreet Choppers.

Upon arrival Dave noted my problem but had no new mounts to sell me. “Got anything used?” I asked. The big man went to check. He soon returned to hand me two used mounts. Both in bad shape. “They’re all I got,” he said. I had no choice but to install ’em.

“Got a jack I can use to lift this tank?” I pointed to the FL. Dave soon returned with one of those red pump-lifts that picks the whole bike up off the ground. He then insisted that I do the work on the cement under his front awning rather than in the dirt yard in case it decided to rain again. I did.

Years of hard use had turned the motorcycle’s underside into a filthy mess and I was all but covered in grease when Brother Speed finally arrived for his courtesy stop before continuing on to Myrtle. My situation brought him cause for concern; for there is an old and unwritten biker law that states: Unless extenuating circumstances exist, no rider shall ever leave another broken down along the road.

Well, I was not at roadside today but was obviously on the road and the fact still remained that, for many Old-School bikers, this idea is simply ingrained into the very fiber of their being. And so it was with Brother Speed and—thankfully—Big Dave as well. And although there was little he could do for me, it was this very thing that compelled Speed to hang around to offer support and advice for some hours to come.

Removing the swingarm axle and rubber-mounters was not an easy job, for there were exhaust pipes and other parts that needed to come off as well. It took time.

So I wrenched diligently beneath the little awning that sat smothered in South Carolina countryside as a plethora of men, some performing smaller tasks to their own bikes in the parking lot, came to bullshit, hang around, and drink beer with the others.

Dave checked on my progress periodically. He gladly offered the loan of any tool needed, and even stuck his own hands in my grease to help with the harder aspects of this job. Bikes break. It happens. But at least help was available and the company was good. I did not complain.

When the old rubber-mounters finally came out, I held them to Dave beside the ones he’d given me earlier. There was not much difference. He took them and for a moment only frowned at the beat up parts held in his meaty hands. Finally, he pointed to an older FL that sat with the engine removed. “See that bike over there? It’s got the same mounts as yours. Go pull ’em and stick them in your bike.”

“Are you sure?” I eyed the parts-bike thoughtfully.

“Yea. That bike’s mine and it ain’t goin’ anywhere for quite a while. Don’t sweat it. Just do it.”

I did.

It was late afternoon by the time the finished product once again held the back wheel in its proper position as the bike now leaned rightly upon its kickstand. The workday was done and the men now relaxed in a semi-circle of metal chairs to drink beer, bullshit, and talk with small amazement at the nature of my long journey. To this topic I answered many questions.

Grease. I was covered in it. “You got a hose I can use Dave?” He pointed. Strangely enough, the spigot was inside the building. I pulled the nozzle end through the bay doors then suspended it from the nearby awning outside. Next, I visited the bathroom for a quick change into shorts. After retrieving a bar of soap from the right saddlebag, I stood under the hose-water and scrubbed vigorously. For a moment the men (a reluctant audience, but I was after all unavoidably in their line of sight) looked confused. I don’t think they knew whether to laugh or call me genius. A change of clothes finalized the task and I was clean and roadworthy once again.

“What do I owe you?” Dave stood in front of me now.

“Did I ask you for money?”

“No. But I don’t expect you to work for free.”

He just turned and walked away.

Again the small highway opened up ahead, and again my thoughts wondered to events of the recent past. If there really are angels, could some of them be rough men who ride Harleys? Regardless of how you see it, and just like 100 times before, fate had once again supplied the mode and the means to keep one man’s journeys free and easy.

A smile crossed my lips as I twisted the wick and settled farther into the saddle.

It was a good day to ride.

Note: I’d offer the number and location of Backstreet here but the shop is now closed and no forwarding address was left. Too bad.

Join the forum discussion on this post - (1) Posts

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “Backstreet Choppers”

  1. Sugel

    21. Jul, 2012

    Let me expound on this truth that Twinrider brought up. The batwing is extremely disappointing when it comes to buffetting coming from under the tank…The lowers DO cure that issue (ask me how I know!). On my 99′ RoadKing I never had an issue with any buffeting. You need to really put on a good day of riding at highway speeds to see if you’re a batwing guy or not. Dont let the buffeting completely discourage you, the lowers do cure that chit. Twinrider made the great point that Ill second that you get better hand protection with the batwing…..I got my SG Dec 30th, it was 35 degrees and that was the 1st thing I noticed….how comfortable my hands were. Now that I have the bike set up like I need it (lowers, TP, etc), I can honestly say I dont miss the RK as bad as I did a month ago…… That being said, I’d just about have to recommend the FLHR just because of its ability to wear so many hats. You can do it all on the king in style…..And if cash is an issue, you can build her up the way you like over time. Do I regret the FLHX? Hell no…….But if you like to change things up from time to time just for the hell of it, look real hard at that FLHR.

  2. Glenn Priddle

    29. Aug, 2012

    Hi Scotty, just finished your story on Backstreet Choppers, it was a good yarn mate. I truly believe if you help others and you are good person… It always works out.

Leave a Reply