“Hey Bruce, I think I am close, give me some directions.”
“Just go straight from where you are at about 50 miles and look for the yellow 39 flattie in the front yard and the downed trees.”
Downed trees, wasn’t sure what he meant by that but oh well go with it. I am in central Maryland now and the buildings show architecture from the late 1700’s and early 1800’s mixed with new mini malls all on narrow roads. The roads were built for horse carriages and often the buildings consisting of barns and carriage houses were a foot of the road now trying to carry automobiles. Following the route through the tidy towns is anything but straight and the route signs show up at the corners where you need to turn and not a block before so I am constantly going around the block to get back on track.
I know Bruce said I was only 45 minutes away but he doesn’t know me that well and I learn later that 45 minutes to Bruce is an hour and half to most people and 2-3 hours for me. There is a lot to see in this area.
Bruce and I met on line through one of the many Motorcycle circles I am involved in. He and a buddy of his were looking for a spare motor for a 1930-36 Harley to use on the 2014 Cannonball Endurance run which is a rally of over a 100 pre 1936 motorcycles going from Daytona Beach Florida to Tacoma Washington. The endurance run now on its 3rd rally is 4300 miles in 17 days and something I would love to do myself but timing, money and the limit of 100 riders with many on a waiting list would keep me from doing this year. I had a spare 1930 Harley motor and though this would be a great way to be part of the rally so on line I offered up the motor. One thing lead to another and now here I am in Maryland about to meet Bruce for the first time. Much more on the Cannonball Rally to come in later posts so stay tuned.
A tornado in Maryland? I found the downed trees in Bruce’s yard and the yellow 39 ULH Harley Flattie
“I got some stuff lined up if you want to do it, I got a friend with some old bikes, too late to go towards DC to my shop or we could go to this place near DC where I got friend in a band playing or we could go see some other bikes at this bar and then we could go to DC or we could just hang around here. Have you ate yet?”
Wow that was a lot real quick for my mind to comprehend. In the middle of all this conversation Bruce fired up the yellow 37 flattie on one kick and rode around back to the garage and the he rolled out the 58 pan police bike and started it up on two kicks.
” Tomorrow we got this birthday run with about 75 guys going, you won’t be disappointed, it is a real fun time. it a friend of mine’s birthday party and we started going to her house every year to celebrate and it just kind of turned into a annual run, it is a lot of fun.” During all of this Bruce sorted tools on the bench, rolled some more motorcycles around. “I know I got a float for a linkert around here someplace, it’s all I need to finish this 55 panhead, I tested this one and it is bad.”
By this time my head is rolling trying to keep up. ‘ Hey Bruce slow down, I am game for anything, but no I haven’t ate yet and I need to find a motel.”
“Oh hell no, I got an empty room and I already blew up a couple of air mattresses, it’s only me and my daughter here so you got your own bathroom and everything. It’s up to you.” Bruce showed me the room and the secret combo to the shop and lights in case I wanted to do some maintenance on my bike. How could I turn this down, I get to sleep with motorcycle parts, so I threw my sleeping bag down on the mattresses and said “Let’s go”
“Ok let me call PeeWee and see if he is around, he has some really cool old bikes and he has one I want and been trying to deal on. Here, load up my saddlebags with some beer and see if we can soften him up enough to deal, plus he is just a cool guy.” “Hello PeeWee, hey there this guy who loaned us a motor for the cannonball all the way from Colorado and we’re bring some brew and coming to see you.”
” Follow me” So Bruce fired up his only push button bike as he called it, a 67 shovel head. I could tell as soon as it fired up, it wasn’t just any old 67 shovel, it had spunk and bark and I would soon find out that following Bruce took all my fancy dancy new 110 cubic inch Street Glide could do. Not only did Bruce have a little Hot Rod, he could ride like the wind and ride he did counter steering around every curve of which there were many. We passed everything, broke the speed limit by at least 20 mph on every road. We hauled ass down the interstate then exited into a two lane that wound around the country club neighborhood passing fancy cars when there was the slightest opening and then over a hill, through a valley, through a forest and onto a one lane road but had two lane traffic and all of sudden we pulled into a driveway with a couple of old barns. Would have been nice to have looked around during the ride but if I ever lost sight of the back of Bruce’s bike, I would have been so lost I could have never found my way out. We were at PeeWee’s.
“Hey PeeWee this is Cole.” Bruce started tossing beers out of his saddle bags, they were good and shook up. They opened theirs with no problem but when I opened mine it was a geyser! I felt so stupid. “Hey is there a trick to this or something!” Then I discovered that mine was not only shook up but was frozen causing the geyser of beer now spewing all over PeeWee’s shop. Showing them it was frozen allowed me to save face, hey the kid from Colorado knows how to open a shook up beer but nobody can open a frozen shook up beer without a geyser. PeeWee was a little cold towards me and I though it was because of the beer spewing episode.
“Hey Cole is riding all 48 states and he has a couple of panheads and some other bikes and some kind of really old….. Hey Cole what is that really old thing you have?” All of a sudden PeeWee warmed up a little. ” It’s a 1910 to 1912 American Imperial, here is a picture of it.’ I soon found out why PeeWee might be a little cold to strangers, he has to be with the stash and quality of the old bikes he has hidden away. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when he opened the barn doors. Pans, knuckles, flatties, from 1909 to 1965 and a couple of in lines and an extremely rare 1909 Excelsior .
The bullshit was soon flying between Bruce and PeeWee and I was checking out all the bikes, asking dumb questions and listening intently to them and learning. Somehow the conversation came up of the all original 63 panhead PeeWee’s wife found on Craigslist with only 3600 miles and they were joking that it even still had the original air in the original tires. As I looked around I didn’t see any 63 pan? “Oh it is in this other garage over here.” PeeWee opened the other garage and holy shit more bikes!
It was now dark and time to leave. “Bruce, does PeeWee have a last name?” Bruce thought about it for a few minutes. “You know, I have known PeeWee probably about 25 years and I don’t think he has a last name. Follow me.” Off we went only this time it wasn’t the same way we came in. Bruce was taking me to a bar with a grill so I could eat and the road was curvy, hilly and forested, damn please don’t let there be any deer. We were less than 20 miles from Washington DC and it was the deepest darkest forest I have ever been in. It was bike night at the bar and we rolled right up front and parked, Bruce walked in like he owned the place. “Hey Bruce when you guys all ride together do they ever let you lead?”
Bruce had told me that he never out rode his brakes and I already had learned that he spends a lot of time hand fitting his brake shoes with his drums so he had excellent brakes for such old iron that he rode. He took it a little slower going back to the house, I think on my account. I slept like a log amongst the motorcycle engines, frames and tins in the room with me. The smell of cosmoline, motor oil and high test regular gasoline filled my dreams.
“I just got a call from my friend, the birthday run is off. My friend had a friend that got killed o a motorcycle last night and she is destroyed so the run is off.” I let that sink in while Bruce started making phone calls to others letting them know. Since he let his phone get wet the day before it would not come off speaker now so I got to hear all the phone calls. On the last call they were discussing what they were going to do now instead of the birthday run when his friend said he was thinking about going to the antique motorcycle auction in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. That caught my ear and was something I was interested in. “Hey Bruce, how far is Harrisburg?” Bruce thought about it for a bit, looked at his watch and said 90 miles, if we leave now we could get there before the first bike rolled across the block in an hour. I did some quick math in my head….. Bruce pushed in the 58 panhead police bike and pulled out a push button bike. Hey Bruce, I know that is a 58 but why do you have 59-60 tanks? “Cuz I hate the cheap plastic 57 and 58 tank emblems and I like the metal 59-60 emblems better.” I thought about how much money I recently spent on the cheap plastic 58 emblems for my 58 pan.
“Yeah, follow me” Off we went and in nothing flat we were at the Pennsylvania state line where Bruce pulled over.
‘You see them hills over there awhile back where the 3 helicopters were flying? That was Camp David.”
“Is that why we stopped?”
“No we stopped to take these dam helmets off, Pennsylvania is a helmet free state, lets go I know a back way into the auction where we won’t have to pay parking, we just have to ride on the sidewalk for a bit. Follow me.”
I noticed Bruce slowed down since we hit Pennsylvania. We were 10 minutes late and the first two bikes had already rolled across the block. A good thing I had no plan to be here or I would have pre arranged a bidders number, stuff was going cheap!
The best bike there was this 1956 original paint panhead, it wasn’t so cheap but still a good deal for what it was. I later meet the guy who bought it in Davenport.
There were so many 50’s and 60’s panheads there it seemed like the money ran out and the later ones went for really fair dollars. Why didn’t I get a bidders number, damn. There was a speciality car auction the day before and the cars that didn’t sell at that auction were still on the floor. I found my favorite, a 1961 Chevrolet Impala, 409 with a four speed. Think “shes so fine my 409”
We stayed until the last bike rolled across the block and had a great time. I had the best time over the last two days and learned so much about the area and motorcycles and gained a life long friend.
“Hey Bruce, did you slow down in Pennsylvania because of me? I noticed we were only going 10 mph over the limit once we hit the state line.”
“Oh I thought I told you? My little brother is head of the Eastern half of Maryland Highway patrol, I kind of have a get out of jail free card in Maryland. He always told me the reason he became a cop was to keep assholes like me off the highways.”
With that I went east and Bruce went west, both smiling and riding hard.
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