Click here for audio (recorded in my garage)
I arrived in Tuscon and picked up my rental truck (a big 18-foot Budget panel truck) on a blisteringly hot Arizona afternoon. Driving to Tombstone was about an hour - Tombstone's a pretty seedy-looking little place that doesn't seem to have much sustaining it except for its memories and the occasional tourist.
Arriving at Pat and Brook's place, I got out of the truck and made introductions, then got down to the business of the day: The Unveiling I think we must have stood there for about an hour just looking at every part of the bike. It's really amazing; the closer you look, the more you find - there are details piled on details, all executed with the flair of a born artist. Pat rolled it out into the sun and we all stood around with our jaws hanging.
The Flame Chop (click for 1/2M image in all its glory)
Me (on bike) with Pat
Basically, what Pat and Brook did was read my mind and somehow extract my inner mental picture of the baddest-ass motorcycle that ever ate a road - then built the thing. And there it was, sitting right in front of me.
We hung out a while longer, talking about the bike and so forth, then broke for dinner and the rest of the evening.
The next morning, I stood around and took notes, while Pat gave me all the detailed information he could think of that would help me with the bike. I'm not (or wasn't) a "Harley guy" so I'm still not very well-versed on the ins-and-outs of big twin bikes and what they mean. Pat did a great job of filling me in - he's clearly protective of such a masterpiece - after investing months of hard work on the bike, he wants to make sure I'll take good care of it. So I came to learn the difference between "custom" and "factory" bikes. One big eye-opener for me was the stern admonition to periodically check the whole bike for loose bolts. I hadn't realized Harleys shake so much. After about 2 hours, my head was spinning and I had a few dozen pages of notes. Then it was time for test-rides.
Pat dispenses clues on longbike handling
Pat rode the bike to a local school parking lot, with us escorting him in a car. He'd been warning me all morning that the chopper would not ride like a "normal" bike, and now it was my chance to find out! He wasn't kidding! At low speeds a 10 foot long bike has to be coaxed around corners by leaning your whole body off the side and tipping the bike quite sharply. At first this seems pretty counter-intuitive but now I'm used to it. I don't think I'll be able to ever ride a Ninja again, though, without cracking up or falling over laughing.
I spent about an hour doing figure-8s in the parking lot, getting them tighter and tighter, until I felt less like a beginner. If you're a long-time motorcycle rider, you probably can't imagine how weird it is to be on a bike that feels so unlike anything else you've ever ridden (I've ridden wide glides and sportsters and this is not the same feeling)
See my fat ass?
Finally, I rode back to Pat's shop. Going through town collected the first of many, many stares. Then we loaded the chopper into the truck, made sure it was properly tied down, and headed off east.
The seat of power
It took 3 days of wrestling with the Maryland state police and the MVA to get the bike titled, inspected, and on the road. The state police are the laziest, most useless minions of hell I've ever encountered. When you go to get a title for a newly constructed bike, you're met with a load of attitude the likes of which I've never seen before from a "civil" servant. They have big signs in the state police garage that read "if it ain't right, it's ours" implying they'll impound anything that doesn't have good documentation. When I showed up with the flame chop, they immediately got a load of attitude - envy is a disease. When one of them commented "I'm sure going to look forward to riding that bike if you don't have all the right paperwork." I finally leaned over and whispered, "If I can afford a bike like that, you don't want to know what kind of lawyer I can afford." That kind of set the tone for the morning. It took me 4 hours to get the bike titled. When I fially had the paperwork done, a grinning goon from the state police gleefully informed me that they'd have to drill a couple holes in the bike so they could rivet on their stupid little VIN tag (the VIN Pat assigned - with my initials in it - apparently not being good enough). So there's now an ugly little bit of state police penis-envy pop-rivetted under the seat of my chopper. I guess I should be satisfied that my ass is planted on the Maryland State Police whenever I take my chop for a ride. I know most cops don't suck as much as those lamers at the state police garage, but I've got to say I was pretty close to going postal. AND I pay their salary.
What's left to say? Working with Brook and Pat on this bike has been one of the most positive and fun experiences I've had in years. Pat's a real artist - he built this bike, not a team of people working under his direction. You can tell that his hands, human hands, have been all over it; every detail shows hand-crafting rather than machining. It's just beautiful - a one-of-a-kind creation, by the master of custom choppers.
I plan to set up my serious lighting gear and do some pictures of the bike with a macro lens and good color film. There are so many details on the bike that it's going to take a lot of work to illustrate them all. Stay tuned.