1 Dale's 1999 Road King is the fastest Harley I personally have ever ridden.

The Saga of Dale Sheppard

Posted on 20. Nov, 2014 by in Gypsy Bikers

by Scooter Tramp Scotty Kerekes

Dale Shepard died recently (November 16th). His passing was unexpected.

For those unfortunate enough not to have known him, Dale was the man who owned Biker Dale’s Bike Shop in Groves Texas where I replaced Betsy’s engine only weeks ago.

2 We'll get 'er fixed It was at the Galveston Motorcycle rally last weekend that Dale ate two bad oysters. For what ever reason, these caused an infection in his blood that somehow complicated an already existing medical condition. It was one of those times when something that should not have killed a man did. I’ve seen this before. I have also seen men survive things that should have killed them 10 times over. Go figure. Some say that when your number’s up, it’s just up and nothing can change it. So it would seem.

When a man dies those who knew him often get to saying a lot of nice things—even if the guy was a complete asshole. 3 Dale's birthday party at the shop I have no intentions of doing that here and will only talk about the man as I did when he was still alive.

Until the end Dale dedicated his life to the motorcycle. Although grumpy at times, he had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I’ve known. He was a biker through and through. He was my friend.

4 Good friends. It was a sunny day the first time met Dale. After being turned away at two other shops, I’d pulled onto his yard with my clutch problem to ask if it’d be okay to pull my bike apart in his lot. Of course I’d buy any needed parts from him. I also secretly hoped to barrow any special tools I might need, and maybe get a little technical advice too. I was on the road with a mechanical problem, not to much money (as usual), and no where else to turn. So I looked hopefully at this stranger as he said, “Let me ride it.” This seemed an unusual request but, with little choice anyway, I said, “It’s not locked.” So I watched all the possessions I own in this world ride off with a man I’d first laid eyes on only moments before. When 10 minutes had 5 Check copy for this caption. passed, and to my surprise, Dale walked out of his shop and told me to come inside. There, sitting on his personal lift, Betsy was already strapped in and jacked up. Without my knowledge Dale had brought her in through the back door. “You can work on it there,” he offered, “That’s my tool box,” one hand pointed to a huge roll away, “Use those tools and ask if there’s anything you need.”

8 Friends hanging at the b-day party. When evening came and Betsy was still on that rack (where she’d remain for an entire month), Dale offered me the shop’s back room or “guard shack” to stay in. For transportation Dale gave me one of his own bikes and often loaned me the shop truck. To date no one had been able to diagnose my clutch problem, but Dale determined it was inside the transmission itself. I located another tranny and began the shipping process. During this particular stay I worked sporadically on the shop’s customer bikes, painted the ceiling, and installed a little water heater. In the end Dale charged me for only any small parts I bought; and even then it was at his cost. But by then we’d become friends.

I later learned Dale was building a motorcycle around the broken—now fixed—transmission I’d left behind. Since my 10 ability to run down inexpensive used parts was sometimes better than his, he’d occasionally call to hit me up for something needed on this new bike build and I always found it for him. First it was a clutch; then came other parts too. Very weakly that cheap fuck would ask what he owed me, but I never let him pay a single dime.

My good fortune here was not exclusive. This is another example: Dale’s birthday party was held at the shop every year with a big BBQ and beer fest. Having ridden the 100 miles from Huston to be in attendance, Chadd’s Shovelhead 11 Dale takes Betsy for a test ride only to determine that, Yup. She's fucked up. blew an engine not far from the shop. After Dale picked the bike up, Chadd threw it on one of the lifts and soon learned that the front cylinder had suffered an internal meltdown. When time came to leave, Dale gave Chadd one of his own FXR’s for the ride home. Although I don’t know how that story ended, I do know that, although acting like this may not always have been the best for business, it was definitely the best for creating close, long lasting friendships and Dale was an extremely wealthy man in that arena. To my surprise, this kind of generosity did not seem to hinder business much for whenever I made return visits to the shop the place had always been expanded. Wanting for the ability to do complete engine work, Dale was recently putting together a machine shop in one of the shop’s adjacent bays.

With a standing invitation to use of a complete shop to see to the needs of ANY problem Betsy might develop, I returned many times over the 12 Hey! What's this motor (mine) doing here taking up bench space years and, among so many others, have certainly spent my share of time in the guard shack. While there I was always given a lift and access to tools. Bryan—Dale’s sole employee and a Harley mechanic of 30 some-odd years—would be busy working on customer bikes as I slaved over Betsy. Dale had a tendency to sit working at the computer in his little office. Now and then he’d come out all bitchy and gripe loudly at us over some tedious bullshit. I learned that this was 13 Might as well fix it while it's here I guess. just his nature and so I’d tell him, “It’s a good thing I’m here ’cause it gives you more to bitch about.” and he’d not argue. Next I’d tell him that if we did everything perfect he’d still make up shit to gripe about. To this he’d agree. Other times he’d surprise me with sarcastic comical outbursts that seemed to come out of the blue. Sometimes I’d tell him of the parts or information I needed while he completely ignore me and simply went about his own business. Then Dale would surprise me again by quickly ordering the parts, finding them in the shop, or working out a solution to my problem. It was fucking amazing really.

Always, and especially on my last visit, Dale put many hours of his own time into getting my beat up old bike back on 15 The transmission Dale made me watch and learn how to put together. the road. I often wondered how he could afford this when there were so many real-customer money jobs that required his attention. And because of this I always did my best to pour time and effort into any project I was capable of handling for him. He accepted my offers quickly and with no regret.

Sometimes I’d ask how he made that motorcycle go so fast or pump him for other mechanical information (us gear-heads are always hungry to learn more) and he’d refuse to give a fucking answer. Other times that man would go out of his way to teach me something; as in the case of a customer’s chopper I recently worked on. This chopper 16 Ah. Yea. Think this manual will tell us how to fix this damn Beemer needed the transmission reassembled and installed into the bike. It became pretty apparent that, although I might get the guts put back in that thing eventually, I had no idea what the proper procedure for this job was. Seeing this, Dale told me to leave the fucking thing alone. Later, he came outside to get me and made me stand there watching as he put it together properly. Dale wanted me to learn and this was his way of giving lesson. When he’d finished, I installed the tranny, clutch, etc. and ultimately completed the job.

Whereas some shops usher customer bikes in and out as quickly as possible with only nominal thought or attention paid to detail, these guys were very good and very attentive mechanics who used their extensive knowledge and experience to do their absolute best at solving the customer’s problems. I was there. I saw. For them, this whole deal was an act of passion. 17 Check copy for this caption.

Another interesting thing is that Dale was extremely literate. He often complained about the terrible spelling and bad grammar of my writing (I carry only a fourth grade education) and sometimes helped to fix it.

As a young man of 20ish, and long before the “new age” biker scene came to pass, it was men like Dale who’d originally attracted me to the biker culture. For not only did these guys share the same passion as I, but most extended a kind of real friendship I’d seldom seen before. But such men were not molded by that era, they seem instead 19 Yea Scotty. This cam'll be fine. to have been born that way. I believe, and so have seen, that they will always exist among us and it is to this day that I hold in high value the existence of people like Dale.

I have lived long enough to truly know that this world is only temporary. Every year some of those around me just keep popping out of here until the day arrives when it’ll finally be my turn. So it is that I seldom take the world too seriously anymore; for in the end we will all leave this place together and everything left behind will simply return to the dust. And once on the other side I’ll be among those many friends who gather at Dale’s table and talk of the times we shared together in this life.

So it’s not so much Dale’s death that bothers me. We’re all going there. It’s the fact that I’ll not be seeing him again for the duration of this life 20 that puts an ache deep into my heart. And so I say…

Goodby my friend.

9 ...as did I.





Scooter Tramp Scotty Kerekes

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