Burbank California, One Day Before the Ride
We all speak the same language, even if the dialects differ. Over dinner at the Burbank Marriott’s Daily Grill, the jokes leapt over each other like sportive otters, just the way you always do at a family reunion.
Most of us have never met, of course. At least three services are represented: army and, um… some other guys. Most everyone riding tomorrow sports a noticeable disability. Some of us have had enough of deserts; we’re riding across one to Vegas tomorrow. Some hate crowds; we’re plunging ourselves into an estimated million bikers we’ve never met, all squeezing into a town with a normal population of fewer than 7,000 souls.
None of that matters. In that room, smiles came easy and unguarded. Trust was exchanged.
Will 2015’s inaugural running of the Indian Motorcycle Veterans Charity Ride (veteranscharityride.org) connect veterans with their best pathways through life? Will it, in fact, become the Next Great Tradition? Will we cohere as a team by the time we reach Sturgis? Will we biff any of our shiny new Chieftains along the way?
Los Angeles, California – The Big Dog Garage
“Your bikes are in this warehouse,” said I don’t know who, because the next thing that happened was a roll-up door did what roll-up doors do best, revealing a fleet of completely invisible Indian motorcycles.
When the door went up, the smiling guy wearing jeans and a perfect tan was Jay Leno. He’s pretty much never invisible, but we kinda looked through him as well.
He was standing in front of Jay Leno’s garage. Let that sink in for a moment: Jay Leno’s garage. A hundred years from now, his motorized collection will still be as well-known as the man is now. Behind him were rank upon rank of fabulously collectible dream cars, most of them out of reach of most of us. All the bitching and joking that characterize any movement of military personnel stopped cold, replaced by a sound embarrassingly akin to an unfaked cargasm.
More alive than any museum, Leno’s collection reveals a perfect-pitch sense of what is fine and good in American motors. There’s a one-off, aluminum-skinned car built by a 17 year-old aspiring engineer who drove it all over CONUS and Alaska. There’s a row described by Leno as, “and these are the Duesenburgs.” There is a room devoted to steam.
Everything runs. After good-naturedly fending off numerous applications to perform live-in site security, Jay kicked over his 1940 Indian Four to lead our happy band out on the first leg of our road to Sturgis.
Hahn’s Peak, Colorado – On the Road
Princess Thunderjugs, our pistachios ‘n’ cream 2015 Indian Chieftain with a paint-matched passenger pod lashed alongside, was in fine form today. There are two sidecars, our own dear PTJ and a red-over-red hack with a smaller, lighter car. With three rotating amputee passengers between the two rigs, we have plumbed the inky black depths of bad jokes about legroom.
Robert Pandya, dauntless Indian rep and all-around evil humorist, keeps telling me that I should try the red unit; says it handles better and steers much lighter. He doesn’t seem in any hurry to switch, though.
Today, we met a news crew at the base of Colorado National Monument and rode over that wrigglesome road at what finally felt like an interesting pace. The sidecar wheel left the ground a handful of dozens of times, sometimes long enough that the car wheel slowed down and screeched like a landing aircraft on touchdown.
I’ve been not-so-secretly wishing for the pack to occasionally break into a fast group and the others, but when the two-wheelers started touching down floorboards in a few of the turns the biceps tendon I strained on day two spoke up. Working the hack like a sharecropper plough, Sean and I managed to keep up, but the physical drain was extraordinary. With my arms and back feeling like I’ve been worked over by a dominatrix with a meat hammer, I will sleep either very well or very poorly tonight. Stay tuned…