“Ride them! That is what they were made for! It is the most fun you can have during your short stay on this planet…..It is far more satisfying than just looking at a piece of history that has been put in jail with a sign stating “Do Not Touch” on it, just because of its age. “Jailed” is a museum piece, yet yearning to breathe life again. Don’t let FEAR keep you from fulfilling a dream. You will have a wonderful, satisfying experience, which you will be able to take with you into the next dimension.”
“Indian” Jeff McGeary April 4, 1955~January 30, 2010
SEATTLE TO STURGIS AND BACK... ON A 1928 HARLEY JD
It was July of 1997. I had just completed a ring and valve job on my 1946 white Indian Chief, which is a veteran of 17 trips to Sturgis and back home to Seattle. The Indian had over 128,000 miles on it, all by me. Since 1973, the old gal has never failed to get me home. On a test ride earlier in the year, a punk kid in a "POS Toyota ran a stop sign, hit me on my Indian and took off. Since she was damaged, I pondered what to do.
There wasn't enough time to get the old gal fixed and ready to go to Sturgis. So, I started looking over my other rides. My 1973 Guzzi, nope, too new. The 1936 Indian Chef, nah! 1944 Indian, nah! My newest Harley Davidson, which is a 1928 74 cu. inch JD? Fear had been one of the reasons that kept me from riding him there before. A lot of "What ifs I finally decided, "What the hell", it's his turn! Besides, he wanted to see all his great-grandchildren. It really saddened him to see most of them being trailered there instead of ridden. After fitting some pan saddlebags, packing extras (just in case), and servicing him all over, we were ready.
I had always wanted to ride him to Sturgis, but my Indian was more comfortable. Of my 26 trips to Sturgis, 17 had been on my white Chief. I had never ridden a Harley to Sturgis. The only other ancient Harley I'd known of to be ridden to Sturgis was by a good friend JD Cameron. He had ridden his JDH from Long Beach, Ca. JD used to ride with my Uncle Art many years before. Uncle Art had a 1928 JD, thus my desire to find and own one also. Finally we were ready to leave.
DAY ONE: I rode by myself to Dayton, WA and spent the night with Bill Waltermire. Bill is an ex- POW and B-17 pilot He used to race with the last "Indian Wrecking Crew", Bobby Hill, Bill Tuman and the last man to win a National Race on an Indian, Ernie Beckman. These boys are still alive and are dear friends of mine. Bill told me that it was a sad time for him. While attending the "Over the Hill Gang" reunion, his son decided to do his dad the favor of washing his 1946 Indian Chief that Bill was soon to ride in a parade. Bill was pretty upset you see, that 1946 Indian was newly bought by Bill back in 1946 and had never been washed It still had 1946 dirt on it! Bill still rides it, saying, "What else is there?"
DAY TWO: That morning a couple of friends showed up on some new stuff. Ken on his 1938 Indian and Cookie on his 1976 Shovel. We took highway 12 to Lewiston, ID continuing to Lolo Pass road. It is one of my favorite roads in all of the United States. Some years, I've ridden it as many as seven times. We made it to Lovell ID then stopped to throw out our fart sacks at a favorite camp spot of mine that is about 3 miles from town. It is up a paved road that follows a river with white sandy banks. It doesn't get any better than this place. Trust me, with almost a million rides of travel behind me it rates 10 stars! If interested, call me and I will tell you exactly how to get to it.
DAY THREE: We awoke to a beautiful morning Cookie was standing beside his Shovel when I heard a "klop-klop" noise. Holy Shit! "Bullwinkle" was walking past Cookie and was now about two feet away! Thank you Mr. Wizard, "Bullwinkle" kept right on going! After that, we headed back to town for food and gas. Then off we go.
This is where the ride truly starts for me. Up and over Lolo Pass and into what is left of America and freedom as it once was in all the States. We will try to get to Jackson, MT today. Guess I should have trailered old grandpa. He needs gas again! "Ah"- he sure does run sweet! He is the newest Harley I've ever owned, although I do own an old one, a 1912 single, But, hot-ziggidy-damn, I sure like my new "breeze-buggy." This new 1928 has a 3- speed gearbox, an air laundry and a front wheel brake! Just what you need to toy with in modern traffic. Well, l gave the inlet rocker arms a shot of grease. No, I did not forget the fork rockers! Topped off the oil tank for the motor. It has a total loss oil system, meaning oil does not return to the tank. It goes out the exhaust pipe and breather to the front chain, thus requiring one qt. of oil per 150-300 miles.
Highway 93 goes through Lolo north to Missoula, or south through Darby and Chief Joseph Pass. We go south. There is a lot of traffic until just after Darby, but it still beats taking l-90. Life does not exist along the free(?)ways, for it is illegal. While in Darby, we gas up. The next gas stop is Sula, then Wisdom or Jackson, MT. Carpets roll up at dark, so BE PREPARED!
There is good food in Wisdom, an Art Gallery, and a custom Hatmaker shop. To watch a hat being made from scratch is really something! The people in Wisdom are very friendly and welcoming. We make it to Jackson by late afternoon and get a room at the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge. From there, we go across the street to Rose's Cantina for dinner and a cold one. Tim, the owner, is a biker that gives you an honest, good drink for your money and makes THE BEST salsa. He also has the best jukebox in Montana. It is usually off, that way you can hear yourself talk.
We start to talk with a couple of local ranchers who happen to be drunk. Well, one of these good-OLE-boys asks me "What year is it?" So, I tell him it's 1997. He asks again, and I tell him again! He doesn't believe me. Then he tells me, "No, no, it's got to be a 1947!" I reply, "Oh-the bike! Why, it's a 1928." Now his jaw is on the floor. He can't believe that I rode it ALL THE WAY from Seattle. I told him that I couldn't afford a trailer, so I had to ride him! I also told him that since I couldn't afford a new bike, I had to ride an old used one. He wanted to know if I'd had any trouble with it along the way. I told him, "Oh yeah, every day. I keep on having to put gas in it!"
Just then, a blonde gal walks up the steps and into the bar. I knew she was special. I went inside, sat down next to her and we started to B.S. I had my dark specs on, so I dropped them down so she could see my eyes and told her that I was coming "out of the closet." "I'd just found out that I was a lesbian!" She is now in Seattle. She is my wife and angel. Her name is Debi. I told her I would see her on the return trip. I did, and the rest is history, all good.
DAY FOUR: We stopped about a mile out of town that morning and I said, "Ain't it great being a biker!" All my friends could think to say was, "Don't know how you do it." This is a short day. It is now about 100 miles to Virginia City. We've now traveled 850 miles with no trouble. We take highway 278 from Jackson to Dillon. About 20 miles out of Dillon is the ghost town of Bannack. It was the first territorial capital for the state of Montana. It is only about 3 miles off the main highway and well worth a look-see.
History is important. As you climb Badger Pass, from the Bannack turnoff, look at the rock formation ahead of you and on the left side of the road. You will see "Squirrel Rock", as it resembles a squirrel eating a nut. When you drop down from Badger Pass, you will see Dillon and the Tobacco Root Mountains. As we ride slowly through Dillon, I spotted an old buddy of mine. He was giving us the "hairy eyeball look", that only a cop can do. So, we just kept on moving. Next stop, Twin Bridges, for the best chicken at a convenient gas stop. We then take highway 287, which goes through Sheridan and on to Virginia City. When we get there, we head over to The Bale of Hay Saloon for a cold one.
We had not even sat down when I hear a V-twin pull in. Out I go. Well, I'll be dipped in cow pucky! It's Bingo from Bellingham! He is in the film we did called "Going Places-Biking the Black Hills". He rides one of those new OHV Harley's, but that doesn't make him a bad guy. No, not at all! It means he rides new junk, and we get to ride old used junk! Why, our old bikes have about 156 years behind them. So, even though his bike is new, we allow him to ride with us.
Virginia City is plum full of bikes, old and new. We have came here to meet up with our friends that live here. We have been riding together for almost twenty years. We find out that sane have already left for Sturgis. Oh well, we find Pigger, Charlie Bear and a few more of the boys and go over to Pigger's for a meal that can't be beat. He is a damn good gourmet cook. Then it's back to the bar, which is why we did not get on the road the next day until 1pm.
DAY FlVE: All is good this day, blue sky and warm Plus, it will be a short ride. There are only four of us. After gassing up in Ennis, we head for JD's HD shop in Belgrade, which is not far from Bozeman. Now it's decision time Go through "Jellystone" with every motorhome in the world, or do a short bit of 1-90? We take l-90. Then to Peter Fonda's, who is expecting us for dinner and to stay for the night. Was that, "stay the night", or "stay up all night"?
DAY SIX: We did manage to get a good early start, before noon. This day we have to do a bit more of I-90, but it's only to Absorke. We get off that damn I-90. It's not a bad section to ride. Then we take a back road into Red Lodge and spot a NAPA store open, and it's Sunday! We stop to buy some "710" for the bikes. If you don't know what "710" is, ask an Indian rider or turn this page upside down.
Full of BS and gas, we continue on until its decision time again. Do we go up Beartooth Pass, or go the short way to Wyoming? We take the 12,000 ft Beartooth Pass and newly paved Chief Joseph Road. The JD pulls this Pass in high gear with only two down shifts, beating the others to the top by about five minutes. I was able to do that because, the JD only weighs about 370 pounds and I can reach down and adjust the fuel mix for the change in altitude. I am still down on my power, but I don't have a black cloud behind me nor is the motor doing the "too rich mixture" thing. I wait for the others, then down we go to the turnoff to Chief Joseph Road. Another steep climb awaits us.
We stop to take a break for a little rest. Then I hear the sounds of 3 HD's. One of the ride's yells, "Hey Asshole!" It's my Friend Tom who lives half a mile from me. Talk about chance encounters! Plus, he has with him the guy that I bought my 1944 Indian from in 1978. ONLY IN AMERICA! I check my pants to see if all is ok! Back to the road.
Wow, this is pure riding nirvana. Again, the JD beats the others to the hp. One fellow rider, who had not retourqued his head bolts before starting the trip, cooked a new top end trying to catch old grandpa going up one mean hill. They were all loose on both cylinders, one sticking up half an inch. I got him running again, but it had piston slap. I told him that it would still get him to Sturgis, but he was pissed and blamed me for his trouble even though I never worked on his bike. He left on it and would not speak to me for three days.
You are responsible for your preparing your bike for a trip and should not place blame on others for your own mistakes or laziness. Through the years I've accumulated about a million miles on a bike. I've always had extra cash with me so if I did incur severe problems, I would be able to buy a cheap truck to get the bike home. If alone and in need of assistance be patient. Eventually, someone will always come along and offer to help you. You should know your bike and be capable of doing minor repairs. Always carry spares! You and your bike depend on each other.
So, here we sit. It's 18 miles to Cody, Wyoming. We get lucky and find a bar with gas and camping. After a grade 2 meal it was off to make camp on a piece of lumpy ground with a steady caravan of trucks going to and from same nearby construction site. Sleep didn't actually come until about 7am.
DAY SEVEN: I now tell Bingo that we are not any closer to Sturgis than we were the day before. He wanted to know why, so I told him that we had just made a big circle. He got a bit pissed about that fact and decided to go north to Billings by way of I- 90 because we were going so slowly. Now it’s just Cookie and myself. We take the back way into Sheridan, WY. As we ride through town, we see Bingo at a gas station Yep! It's much quicker to take the highway! We ride up and over the Bighorn Mts. Once again, old grandpa got to the top first. Cookie told me that he was doing 85 mph trying to catch me. THE BEST PART? Passing Evo's uphill to 10,000 ft on my 1928 JD.
We gas up and take the old road to Gillette, WY. We stayed on the two laners as long as we could, then taking l-90 for the remaining 40 miles to Sturgis. Finally there, I went straight to Pearl Hoel's house where I have stayed since 1982. Her husband, Pappy Hoel, originally started the Party with other Indian riders in 1938. This is where the boys mentioned in the history books stay. In the garage were about ten of them, including Jim Davis, Bobby Hill, Bill Tuman, Ernie Beckman, and Dick Klamfoth, the whole "Indian Wrecking Crew". They had never seen me on any bike that wasn't an Indian. What else is there?
I got off the '28 Harley and said, "I know you all won't believe this coming from my lips, being a hard core Indian rider for thirty years. I've toured on Indians, Guzzi's, BMWs, and even a Kawasaki. But, this old J model is by far THE MOST comfy and reliable bike I've ever ridden. It has good power, light, and gas mileage. Other than having to put gas and oil in it, adjusting the primary chain and giving the inlet valve rockers and forks a shot of grease each day. It was 100% trouble free. Nothing broke or fell off. "Yep, Harley made one fine machine back in 1928!" All American made. I even have real HD spark plugs the ones that the "hucksters" want $50 for. I have a good stash that I paid $1 each for at Otto Draggers HD shop years ago. Upstairs, at Draggers, there was a whole inventory of "days- gone-by". Up there, time stood still and you got lost in it. Too bad the rich have ruined my hobby. Ride 'em now, since you can't when you're dead!
Well, I took some more verbal abuse about riding a Harley", but they all agreed that the JD was a DAMN GOOD BIKE! Cookie and I decided to go on to where our group camps each year. We were eager to see which of them had arrived. Why we always stay in that spot. I don't know! Well, no Bingo or Ken yet, but about ten of our other buddies were there. Wow, Sturgis has turned into a big rip-off circus! I don't think I will ever go back, except to see Pearl. I mean, come on, $3 for a can of beer? I believe we should go someplace else. Perhaps to that small town in Wyoming where they let women go topless and there are no "robber" cops. In 26 years of attending the Black Hills Rally and races, this was the first time I'd been pulled over for a DWI check. I was of course let go because I was NOT drunk! The pig said I went too far in a left turn lane. I was just going home. Why wait behind 2 blocks of cars at same light half a mile away? "Cars"? I thought Sturgis was supposed to be a motorcycle rally. I guess he thought I was being a "bad boy" for having the audacity to pass all the door-slammers! Inevitably the time came, as it always does, to mosey on back home. Cookie wanted to continue the ride with me, so it was just the two of us again. Cookie turned out to be the best road traveling buddy I could ask for. Of the many miles I've traveled, other than Peter Fonda, he proved to be one of my favorite traveling companions.
DAY ONE; We had to take that horrible 1-90 up to Billings for the night.
DAY TWO: Morning could not come soon enough to get the hell out of that town! More Icky-90 for about 100 miles to Bozeman, then finally a two-laner to VC. In VC, the rest of the boys began arriving. Cookie and I had other plans. He had the phone number of a girl he'd met in Jackson on the way to Sturgis, and I was off to Charlie Bears house to buy a painting for Debi, the gal I'd met at Rose's Cantina. After making phone contact with Debi, I stayed on in VC for a couple of more days.
DAY FIVE: Cookie and I left for Wisdom, MT. We found Debi at the gas pump's or she found us I should say. Over to her place we went. She was happy to see us, as she had thought that I would not came back. HA! Fooled her! I fixed her water heater and sent Cookie to the bar. What a great night! I did not want to go home.
DAY SIX: When we left, I told Debi that I would be back in a couple of weeks. There was to be an auction of a '30's/'40's car shop in Wisdom at that same time This was one nice shop. (I returned and went to the auction and made out like a bandit! I was able to get lamps from the '20's that fit my JD and Indians, 150 of all types for old bikes. I paid $5 for them! I left the auction with over $5000 worth of parts, tools, and shop equipment. The best deal was getting a "Sioux" valve seat grinder, which included over 500 new stones, all the pilots, reamers and more for $325.)
Okay, okay, on with the story. Cookie and I left Wisdom and chose to take a dirt road cutoff to Gibbonsville, ID, thereby bypassing the ongoing construction of the pass at the MT/ID border. Debi had told us about it. So, here we are up this road when, all of a sudden the road looks as if it's going to take us scuba diving. We stop. I test the "'lake" and tell Cookie that it is only "this deep", using my hands to indicate about 8 inches. (Debi didn't tell us about this part) I go first. Soon, I can't see gearbox, muffler or primary cover, but the exhaust sounds really good under water. Good old grandpa, he never quit.
Now it's Cookie's turn. Does he go slowly? No! it's full throttle in low gear! Water is going ALL OVER! After the shower and swimming lesson, he parks the FLH. The first thing he says is, "Are we having fun yet?" He is soaked from his waist to his boots, and he has a real BIG smile on his face. (Apparently, this was the time of year when the ranchers flood their hay fields to start the hay growing. Little did we know.) The next obstacle is a cattle guard that someone had installed with the rails going the wrong way. Oh boy! Now we have to ride over a single rail, being careful not to slip between the rails!
Makes you wonder. What's next, "Next" turned out to be a wonderful bit of time travel down a narrow, steep hill into Idaho. The '28 JD took 27 miles of dirt, giving me a better ride than my 1980 BMW did the next month. We went south into Idaho all on back roads, planning to visit my gold mine and a friend, Uncle Don, who lives in Boise. He is a lucky one with a new HD '58 Panhead Since we had "moseyed' a lot, it was getting dark. We were able to find a nice natural hotspring site to stay at for the night. Since we had done many miles sleep was quick.
DAYSEVEN: We awoke to another perfect day. We didn't see a single cage for over 100 miles and were able to find a restaurant open Since 6:30 am! I called Uncle Dan and made plans to meet up with him at a spot 50milesawey. We had a damn fine meal that morning, right up there with dog "food/shit" or something related. Off we go to the meeting spot. After a short wait, Uncle Don pulled up on his '58pan. He says, "I know of a nice hotspring Went to go?" Well of course we did! It was on the way to a tourist trap town where I was to meet my two sons, Jon and Ryan, anyway. This hotspring site was really nice. Soon there would be three long haired naked bikers in it! Cookie took pictures of us in all our glory but ,for some reason, they were the only ones that did not came back from the developers. Hope someone is enjoying them! After about three hours, we left to go meet up with my boys and their mother. Uncle Don went back home, leaving us to stay in a mote1 for the night.
DAY EIGHT: Morning was quick to arrive. We hit the mad as fast as we could, the boys and their grumbling mother following in a cage. We headed north to a small town in the Tri-Cities area for food and gas. This is where Cookie decided to go on alone, since he couldn't take any more of the constant pissing and moaning my "Ex" was dishing out. I told him that I understood and we said our good-byes. He headed south to his home in Oregon. This to he my longest day. After 450 miles to white pass, the "EX "could go no farther. So, it was more fun at another motel and to bed.
DAY NINE: Today the best bike show and swap meet was being held in Tenino, WA. We arrive at Tenino before noon. The "EX" didn't Want to be there, so she quickly left with my youngest son, Ryan, leaving Jon my older son, with me. By now, the JD and I had covered over 3750 wonderful time traveling miles. I PROUDLY parked him, his well earned dirt and oil from the trip, within the row of sparkling clean "trailer queens" that were there for the "Show". Jon and I and a good time together that day. I found a fuel valve for my 1919 Excelsior, the one correct part that I was missing and had been searching for. I also found a very rare fork stabilizer for my JD! Something he had dearly earned. It was going to be a good last day!
When the Tenino meet was over, the time to complete my trip had arrived. Jon rode home with a friend while grandpa and I sadly started the last 80 miles towards home. I smiled to myself as I recalled conversations with older gentleman I'd met while on my trip. The sight of me riding grandpa had rekindled, for them many fond memories of days long past. They were eager to share stories of their youth and fun times. Many of them damn near shit-their-pants at the sight of the 1928 HD going down the road! Some even shared stories of JD's they had themselves owned and enjoyed many years ago.
One man commented to me that I had ruined it! Asking him to explain what he meant, he told me that they never had "Zerk" grease fittings. I told him that I had been forced to upgrade to "Zerk" grease fittings because I'd yet been able to locate any "button-head grease fittings as were originally used. Not many would have noticed such a small discrepancy, But he did. Good eye!
Disputing scientists, when traveling on a dirt road upon a true antique, time travel DOES exist. I've traveled many times, inducing riding a 1912 Yale to Mt. Rainier. The owner told me to take it for a ride, so I did. It just a short 300 miles round trip! l took along a screwdriver and a wrench just in case, however, neither were needed.
Yes, America used to make damn good reliable equipment, as continued use through the years has proved.
Ride them! That is what they were made for! It is the most fun you can have during your short stay on this planet You will not be able to take them with you into the next dimension. The ride is a lot more fun than watching TV. Thankfully, I have been granted the rare opportunity to know the satisfaction of feeling the "life" of an antique machine reawakened beneath me.
It is far more satisfying then just looking at a piece of history that has been put in jail with a sign stating, "Do Not Touch" on it, simply because of its age. "Jai1ed" as a museum piece, yet yearning to breathe life again. Don't let "FEAR" keep you from fulfilling a dream. You will have a wonderful, satisfying experience, which YOU will be able to take with you into the next dimension.
Written by Indian Jeff
Story Copyright: Indian Jeff
No naughty coping or distributing of any of the contents of Jeffs story. Read and enjoy then go out riding your motorcycle. Keep the Rubber Side Down