Folks, I'm here to tell you I'm a Cherokee Survivor. Okay, in all seriousness, I'm not Cherokee but I did survive the trip to and from last month's rally of the same name. What a ride!
What started as a planned trip across the mountain to camp out and go to the rally Friday turned out quite differently for me. My Shovel was not quite ready in time to do the trip early Friday morning as I had hoped, so I took the opportunity to do a shakedown run on it for the rest of the day. (Hated to miss the shows from Drivin' and Cryin', Mic Harrison especially so, and the rest of the talent booked for the first night, but it wasn't to be.)
By daybreak Saturday I was getting all my junk together, got my clutch adjusted, waiting to hear from my buddies Charlie and Ed who were riding over the mountain with me. We figured it would be smart to ride together, seeing that we were all on AMF-period machinery—always good to have one or two buddies to stand by on the side of the road to watch/help when a breakdown happens. Got the wheels rolling, met up with them in Walland (after re-plugging my loose coil wire just away from the house), and off we went, taking River Road through the park to avoid all the Rod Run traffic.
Not far past Metcalf Bottoms, I notice Charlie up ahead of me leaning over and looking at the side of his bike, then kicking his shifter a few times—found out when we stopped for gas in Cherokee that he'd gone all the way across stuck in 4th gear! Talk about clutch abuse—but he made it. Ed had an ignition wire split, but he was expecting it, and had an easy fix. (By now you may notice a trend here...)
As for me and my Shovel, so far so good. We got back on the road, got to the fairgrounds early in the afternoon, and got settled in. We had made it just in time to witness the inevitable Miss Cherokee Wet T-shirt competition. Hoo-boy, what a sight—unfortunately, I must say, there was much more pork than prime rib. I'll leave it at that.
As for the rest of the rally site, they had plenty of vendors for anything you might need, lots of good eatin', some well-known tattoo artists slinging ink, you name it. A big part of the fun of any rally is the carnival atmosphere; folks were definitely having a good time. As the late afternoon sun began to wane, the music got started, more and more folks were arriving and getting ready to party down.
I had forgotten how good Big Engine was—the band really set the mood, rocking out a strong set of classic rawk favorites. They were obviously enjoying themselves and playing their hearts out. Then came the Reverend Horton Heat, with a great stage show and one of my favorite doghouse bass players burning it up—no small task to open for Mötorhead, after all. Between sets, one after another gung-ho biker started up their ride and gassed it to the rev-limiter, sensitive eardrums shattered instantaneously. Lucky for me I had remembered my earplugs, because when Mötorhead got started, they were every bit as loud as those bikes were! As the headliner, they owned the place, everyone held in rapt attention as Lemmy and his band tore through their set—except for me.
As darkness fell, I had come back to my bike for some refreshments. Noticed a strong odor of gasoline. Started looking, found a fast drip and bubbling paint at the back/bottom of my gas tank. Gas dripping on my primary, and my plug wires, and my coil. Craaaappp!! What a buzzkill!
During the whole Mötorhead show, I was trying to figure out my situation, thoroughly distracted from a great performance, worrying about stray cigarette butts and where I would end up that evening. As they were finishing up, I had been walking around, looking for my best options, as I dare not turn the key with my flammable ride. It just so happened that the rally organizers had brought in a very talented mechanic service, Easy Eddie's out of Huntersville, N.C. A guy named Bear saved my day.
I had spoken with Bear earlier, and we guessed that my metal tank had a crack in it—but he had no welder, and the only other fix was to use a special epoxy putty available only at an auto parts store over in Maggie Valley the next day. When Charlie and Ed got back to their bikes, preparing to head back home over the mountain after the show, I mentioned this—and suddenly Ed says, "Hey, I've got some of that putty with me! Had the same problem with my tank, so I carry some around just in case." Wow—with that kind of luck, I should have headed straight to the casino!
Instead, I went back to Bear's wrenching booth, stuck my head in, they were closing down for the night. Told him I had found some of the epoxy, asked if he could fix it in the morning. "Well, you gotta get home tonight, dontcha?" Bear told me to go get my bike. I brought it to him, and he got to working on it. Keep in mind, this was after 11 p.m. Bear and his outfit have a reputation, essentially the old code, that you don't let a fellow biker down if you can help. Bless his heart, he got 'er done, and it was half past midnight when he finished. All the credit goes to my new friend Bear, his sweet Tammy, Christopher, and Diamond Jim with Easy Eddie's MC Service and Lounge..
My grand plans to camp out in the mountains were dashed, but I was finally back on the road. I figured to cut my losses right then, found a room at the Ramada, to hell with it, put it on the credit card, I needed some ZZZ's.
Sunday brought a beautiful day, so I planned to head back over to the rally and see what I'd missed. Just before leaving the hotel, noticed my voltage regulator mount had broken through—not good to travel with. Went straight back to see Bear again, he fabricated a beautiful new chrome bracket, off goes another $70. I must say, although I largely avoided spending $$$ on trinkets and stuff, I most enjoyed spending my money on bike repair. No better satisfaction than having your bike rolling without a hitch.
I did want to get a little prize for my GF back home, so I looked around while Bear was fixing my bracket- got some delicious hot salsa from a fella named Threehawk. He was there with a whole range of good stuff from various Native American producers around the country. Later in the day Sunday they had a ride-in bike show with several nice rides- plus two serious rat bikes. Seriously, one of them had a live albino rat named "Fred" living fat and sassy, in a no-kill wire trap strapped to the back of the bike. A crazy dude named "Harley" owned these two rolling contraptions, he was working the crowd, expecting a 4th-in-a-row People's Choice award. What a sight! One had a barely recognizable Yamaha motor, the other I couldn't guess. Got my picture taken on Fred's bike, gave Fred some "cheese," then I hit the road to head back home.
Had a great ride back, no problems at all, bike running like a top all the way. Don't know how the Cherokee will top Motorhead next time, but I'm looking forward to finding out. Hopefully with minimal to no trouble, but hey- a little challenge now and then keeps things interesting. Just as long as my knees are in the breeze, I'll be a Survivor...
J. Brad Hardin is a rider from "Mur-vil" Tennessee, who may or may not have sold you your bike once upon a time. Ridden them all, from a Moto-Morini moped at age 12, through all kinds of rice, to his current rides: a '77 Shovel, an '82 Beemer, and an '05 Buell.