Kickstart Classic 2017 Set For This Weekend

We were thrilled with last year’s turnout. This year, we decided to hold the event a little earlier: we don’t need anyone suffering heat stroke! Join us for a weekend of pure, old-school fun

Start stretching your hamstrings, topping up your oil, and packing the extra tape for those loose parts—it’s time for the Kickstart Classic once again! This coming weekend, May 18-20, marks the 6th annual meet-up and ride at the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Each year, we try to pick a unique, interesting destination for the Kickstart to conclude, and this year we settled on the AMCA meet in Denton, North Carolina.

We just saw Buzz off today, the boss man packed and ready to head south to get to WTT museum sometime between what we can only surmise as today and the ride on Friday. (Keep your eyes peeled for the American Iron truck with an auld Harley in the back!)

Rolling out from the Wheels Through Time museum, you’ll score a chance to get a sweet riding shot and possible be seen in the magazine!

Thursday evening will be the meet and greet at on the museum’s grounds, where you can either sign in and pick up your stuff if you preregistered, or you can register for the ride on site. Food will be served, and the museum will be open for all of your gazing and drooling leisure (admission is included with your registration).

Friday morning, we ride. As most of you know, the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains provide some of the most beautiful roads for cruising this side of the Mississippi. We’re going to take our time, snaking through the region as we make our way to Salisbury, North Carolina, for an overnight stay.  There will be an entire day’s worth of riding.


Gorgeous roads await. Make this the trip for your riding season.

Saturday, we roll into Denton in the late morning, and there will be a parade, vendors, a show, and more awaiting our arrival.

The Kickstart Classic is open to all makes and models of motorcycles, though the newer bikes will have to ride behind the old lugs, just in case a thing or three goes bouncing backward. This is a purists dream, deep in the valley of the mountains where time feels as though it stands still, and for a weekend it truly does, as Dale Walksler’s invaluable collection of old iron serves as the appropriate setting for the rumble of motorcycles from the teens, ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s reverberating through the mountains from the small town of Maggie Valley, and suddenly we’re in a different decade—heck, we’re transported to a different century.


E-ZMount From Wetcoats Inc. Is A Gamechanger

Riding through New York can be a nightmare–and I love it. I know, I know. I know about distracted drivers. I know about the potholes, the never-ending construction, the taxis (Okay, the taxi drivers do stink), the buses, the trucks, the double-parked space hogs, the bicyclists, the glued-to-phones pedestrians. I know. It’s a risky environment, but it’s home and always has been. And weaving through the streets on two wheels makes rediscovering the city an entirely unique experience. Not to mention easier parking, the occasional filtering through traffic (don’t tell mom or Johnny Law), a multitude of motorcycle shops to hang out at, events to attend, beautiful photo ops–you get it. I love getting away from the city as much as anyone, but it’s far from an intimidating and negative experience.

Between my bouncing around from Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, however, one thing always provided me with another slight headache. The E-ZPass. Commuting to AIM‘s HQ in Connecticut from Queens made for three tolls a day (ever since I completely ditched the car, my checking account has breathed a sigh of relief. But morning rain sucks). I usually kept my motorcycle E-ZPass in my right jacket pocket, which meant shifting down to 1st gear, riding with one hand on the clutch, trying to avoid the slick spots at the toll, digging for the E-ZPass with my gloves on, and pulling out the transponder before I had rolled too far past the scanner. Oy vey!

My clutch-control skills are now excellent. But more times than not, my transponder did not read and I had to wait for a traffic cop to come to my rescue, all the while being the guy holding up the line.

No more! Wetcoats Inc. owner Shane Salisbury sent me his company’s very own E-ZMount ($39.99). The mount was handmade in Brooklyn using locally sourced products, including full-grain leather. The Velcro hook and strap makes it an easily mountable, versatile product, on and off in seconds, and it can attach to literally anything. Fork leg, handlebar, clamps, triple trees–heck, you can even latch it around your backpack strap.

Here is it strapped around the fork tube. It has not missed a read, and I have not had to put my foot on the ground or take my hands off the handlebar once since attaching the E-ZMount. Considering I’m always bouncing between boroughs even when I’m not commuting to work, this is a dream. And the simple design, subtle and effective, means that the mount is far from an eyesore.

Your E-ZPass tag can be quickly inserted or taken out by merely popping open the metal snap button. It’s easy–E-Z–as it should be. It truly has made my life easier, no matter where I’m riding. With the influx of express E-ZPass lanes across the country, having the tag ready at all times gives me constant peace of mind.

Check out for the full scope of Shane’s work, and to order your E-ZMount today. And also check out Shane’s Instagram to see him lay down some trick pinstriping, tattoo work, and other various work in mediums with which he’s supremely talented.


Dream Ride Editor’s Choice Winner: The Red Mosquito 2004 Night Train

2016 Dream Ride Editor's Choice Winner

This sweet customized Harley Night Train earned our Editor’s Choice Award at the 2016 Dream Ride & Show.

  • Photos by Mark Velazquez 

Beneath the massive tent that houses the show bikes at the 2016 Dream Ride, one man stands out from the rest. His salt-and-pepper beard, trimmed yet full, his overalls cuffed to just below his calves, and his flip-flops exposing his toes to the subtle summer breeze set him apart from most other attendees, myself included, in boots with worn left toes and protection-less jeans. Yes, on this warm August afternoon, Chris Donaldson’s outfit truly belied the voracious young builder’s latest accomplishment. His craftsmanship on Bert Marinaro’s 2004 Night Train led to the bike’s designation as the Editor’s Choice winner, and yet, amid photos, trophies, and an interview, he is inundated with humility, true to form for a man in cuffed overalls.

Chris patiently and meticulously walks me around the bike, excitedly pointing out the multitude of pieces that required extra attention and dedicated work. Every piece of this drastically reworked motorcycle has Chris’ fingerprints fossilized into it, with this build essentially taking three years to finally be a complete, fully functioning, everyday rider. Owner Bert even rode to the Dream Show in Farmington, Connecticut, the day of the event, a fact made all the more refreshing while standing next to the builder amid a sea of trailers and hitches.

Bert Marinaro with his custom 2004 Harley Night Train built by Chris Donaldson of Donaldson Fabrication, LLC.

Bert Marinaro with his custom 2004 Harley Night Train built by Chris Donaldson of Donaldson Fabrication, LLC.

“This bike was built to be ridden,” Chris says. “There were several instances when the owner found it difficult to appreciate some of the one-off creations until they were visually appealing, but first we had to conquer functionality.” That helps explain the lengthy build time. But so does the meticulous eye with which Chris turned his attention to the foot controls, hand controls, front end, motor, gas tank, frame, oil reservoir, seat…you get the picture.

Let’s start up top, where the bike sports a supremely minimalist design. Chris opted for a set of highbars from Exile Cycles with risers from Roland Sands Design, which include an internal throttle assembly that helps set the stage for the ultimately clean system. Aiding in the effort to remove all the hubbub around the bars, Chris designed and manufactured a one-off remote master cylinder, which is operated by a modified clutch cable, and a bell crank system supplied by a remote reservoir. It’s a fresh design, and one that only entices the eye to look even closer at the minute details sprinkled throughout the body of work.

Red metal flake, gold leaf, silver leaf by Robert Pradke

This king tank received the Donaldson touch before being coated in red metal flake paint and both gold and silver leafing by Robert Pradke.

The gas tank is a modified king tank (note the crown gas cap) designed for Sportsters. Chris cut and lowered the tunnel to mount the tank higher on the backbone. The fuel petcock was relocated to the rear. The oil tank is also a custom-made piece, a mild steel cylinder with integrated battery box, ignition switch, and high-beam switch, the latter two components complementing the clean look on the handlebars. We’ll revisit the oil tank soon, as the paint and decal remain pertinent to the build. One of owner Bert’s favorite pieces of Chris’ work is the beehive oil filter located on the left side, just behind the BDL primary. Made from a single piece of 6061 aluminum, this is a fully functional oil filter with an integrated Harley filter, and the addition of copper supply and return lines accentuate the retro styling.

Bert wanted the bike to remain relatively modern, while achieving the appearance on an old school bobber. The springer front end was handled by Thompson Choppers from Ozark, Missouri, a well-chosen piece in the appeal to elder aesthetics. The chassis rolls on two Performance Machine (PM) Gasser Contrast wheels, 21″ up front and 18″ behind, wrapped in Metzler rubber, a tastefully modern look that meshes with the springer and other vintage-esque pieces scattered about. But Chris and Bert had to compromise on a few other parts, including the West Coast Choppers Jesse James rear fender, which Chris did not want hugging the tire nor too far forward. But Bert remained adamant about both this and having baffles in the exhaust, which was another Donaldson original made from .125″ stainless steel. The seat is custom-made, a steel pan with a support bracket and rear fastening system that allows for quick access to the battery. Bert did meet Chris in the middle, however, especially when it came to including the sissybar that not only adds another visually pleasing aspect (this was Chris’ take), but functionality, too. Now, both men can attest to the bar adding necessary support, especially “when the rider launches from a stoplight with 105 hp.”

Bert Marinaro's Red Mosquito

The “Red Mosquito” theme was influenced by the Pearl Jam song.

Speaking of those 105 ponies, Chris beefed up the motor as well, as he worked with supreme autonomy from Bert. “When it came to the motor and mechanical aspects, Chris had free reign,” Bert says. With room to maneuver, Chris punched the 88″ Twin Cam up to 95″, and opted for S&S Cycle 570 gear-driven cam, Screamin’ Eagle (SE) pushrods with .569″ of lift (“a perfect fit”), SE 10-1/2:1 forged pistons, and S&S Super E carburetor. The transmission remained untouched, but he did go with a BDL primary and clutch. The foot controls come from PM, but those presented another challenge for Chris. They had to be greatly modified in order to be pulled back to compensate for Bert’s limited leg reach.

And how about that paint? Both Bert and Chris came to a consensus on who would handle it: Robert Pradke of Eastford, Connecticut. A quick glance through Robert’s Instagram is all the evidence you need to understand why the two went with his tightly controlled vision, but you needn’t log online to figure this one out. Pradke laid down a base of red metal flake and hand-painted the gold and silver leaf flames flowing along the tank and fender. The Red Mosquito was influenced by the Pearl Jam track of the same name, which happened to be rocking across the airwaves when Bert was in Pradke’s shop. The caricature painted on the oil tank is curled in such a way that it almost mimics the aggressive style with which one would ride, buzzing through the wind at breakneck speed, riding the high.

After walking around the bike several times, round-trips filled with crouching, leaning in, stepping back, Chris’ wife, Carolyn, comes to collect him from the Dream Show tent. “She really runs the business,” Chris says with a hearty chuckle. “She flicks the lights in the workshop on and off to let me know it’s dinner time.” Donaldson Fabrication is as grassroots as it gets, as Chris works closely with his father on most projects they take in, and it’s not Chris’ full-time job, either. “We are a small shop focusing on the quality and individuality of each and every bike. Our goal is to fit the motorcycle to the owner while maintaining his or her original vision and to create a functional work of art,” Chris says. After taking home the Editor’s Choice award, Bert says, “Yes, it took the better half of three years to complete, but it worked out for the best.”

And so Chris heads off, and I make a few more rounds, snapping some photos and picturing myself in the leather-bound saddle. When I first arrived at the show tent, the glistening red custom was my personal choice for the award, yet I thought it stood little chance of actually being chosen given some of the other bikes that were entered in the contest. I kept returning to it, and after speaking with Chris, he puts into words the reason I felt drawn to it. “The beauty of this bike is found beyond the initial walk-by, and it isn’t really recognized until one takes the time to slowly examine each of the custom pieces as an individual element. It’s then that the bike really comes to life,” says the man in the cuffed overalls. This bike truly is one to be celebrated. AIM

If you like this story, there’s plenty more good stuff in American Iron Magazine Issue # 346 including a feature on Arlen Ness’s 1970 MagnaCycle, Rick Petko’s Racer X Boardtracker, and PDX Speed Shop’s cool XL Surfster!  To order a back issue of this or any other issue of American Iron Magazine, visit
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Subscribe Now For A Chance To Win H-D Boots!

For just the price of a subscription to American Iron Magazine, you could find yourself with some of the finest Harley-Davidson® boots available strapped to your feet and, of course, the best V-twin content right there in your hands.

American Iron Magazine has partnered with Harley-Davidson® Footwear to award our readers a pair of any boots from the Harley-Davidson® Footwear catalog every week for the entire month of April. Start, renew, or gift a subscription, and you’re automatically entered to win! The best part? You save money while having an entire Harley-Davidson catalog at your discretion. And that magazine subscription ain’t too shabby either, if we do say so ourselves.

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Harley Expands Street Line, Launches 2017 Street Rod

Inverted 43mm fork, a new speed cowl, 17″ wheels, and a new seat spruce up the Street line.

Ah, so here we are again. Harley-Davidson, with its century-old heritage and wisdom, needs to sink its hooks into another generation of  young riders, thus bolstering the future of the brand by banking on customer loyalty, the bravado of the Bar and Shield, the familial feeling among Harley riders, and remaining the perennial cool kid on the block.  Alas, the question plaguing many big corporations trying to tap into the youth remains–how?

When Harley announced the new Street lineup in 2013, subsequently introducing it in 2014, this represented a shift in thinking. The Street 500 and 750 were the first lightweight models to roll out of the minds in Milwaukee since the Sprints of the ’70s. (The Kansas City factory handles North American production and shipping, and the factory in Bawal, India, handles production for overseas markets. H-D outsourced production of the smaller-displacement models there as early as 2011.) The models featured the Revolution X motor, which, like the V-Rod’s Revolution, is liquid-cooled and employs a single overhead cam; the differences, however, span beyond displacement, including a single internal counterbalancer, vertically split crankcases, and screw and locknut valve adjustment. In a two-pronged strategy, H-D set its sights on two major demographics with distant but similar tastes, both of which demanded a larger chunk of The Motor Company’s attention: Millennials (specifically new riders) and the Southeastern Asia market.

And while the new Street family received more of a distant cousin’s welcoming party in North America, the overwhelming reaction from Asia remained positive. In a land where lightweight, maneuverable, cost-effective, 500cc-and-less motorcycles are the main mode of transportation and commuting, Harley seemed to have finally and successfully embraced the market overseas. And if those specific tastes sound like a lot of the scoots (hmm…cafes and scramblers) you see in your city, well Harley smells what’s cooking.

There she blows, a new entry-level bike ready to hop from borough to borough.

Welcome to the fray the 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Rod, this designation repurposed from the V-Rod’s discontinued model. That’s where the comparisons end, however, as this Street Rod is the third member in the Street family and the first to feature a new, updated motor, the High Output Revolution X 750. That’s right, another new Harley motor. Only this time around, the design team merely revamped the liquid-cooled Revolution X with a larger air box, dual-throttle body, revised four-valve cylinder heads and high-lift camshafts, and a more voluminous muffler. Plus, the compression ratio bounds up to 12:1. With the target market ostensibly 18-34 year-old city dwellers, the brand-new Street Rod, equipped with the new High Output Revolution X 750, should be capable in the midrange, bopping through the accordion of stop-and-go traffic and offering the necessary giddyup.

The Street Rod’s air intake is inspired by superchargers, drawing attention to the new motor and helping with the power gains.

Rolling stock is new, too, with two fresh 17″ Split 7-Spoke black cast wheels, front and rear, wrapped in new Michelin Scorcher 21 radials. Up front, a 43mm inverted fork handles bumps, and coil-over rear shocks have an external reservoir to increase fluid capacity and improve control; rear travel increases to 4.6″. The seat was specifically designed for the Street Rod, a sporty piece that might call to mind something on, say, an XR1200. It’ll help achieve the leaned-over, aggressive riding style which many young guns employ carving through the city on brief jaunts. Couple that with a 29.4″ seat, 3.7″ higher, more gracious lean angle, and a drag bar, and you have yourself a sportier design capable of handling all the city terrors.

The drag handlebar moves the rider forward, and the bar-ends are a nice touch in cleaning up the front end.


Coil-over suspension with an external reservoir helps with control and adjustments.

Harley has good reason to expand the Street lineup. This is an entry-level motorcycle, one that allows a new rider to flaunt the Bar and Shield and break into the sport with style. As a bonus, Harley can start to cultivate its next crop of riders who may eventually upgrade to cruisers and, later, Touring models. Funnel the young through the ranks, and start that process early. Figures actually back up Harley’s augmentation; as maligned as the Street 500 and 750 might have seemed, sales of  Sportster and Street models increased from 23,396 in the first quarter of 2014 to 29,149 in the first quarter of 2015.

Consider this. CivicScience conducted a survey over the course of a year that compared adults ages 18 and up, regardless of gender, to adults ages 18-34 (Millennials, yo).  A simple question: Do you currently own a motorcycle? Of those aged 18 and up, 11% answered either, “Yes, but I need a new one,” or, “No, but I plan to buy one soon.” Of the Millennial demo, 14% are in the market for either their first bike or a new one.

Can Harley finesse its way into the tight pockets of new riders?  Offering a liquid-cooled, small-displacement package at a fair price point, one that represents enduring tradition, shows that Harley-Davidson is paying attention to all its markets and is starting to break from the norm while retaining standards that loyalists desire. Build from within, out. And tapping in to the Millennial market ain’t a bad way to expand your business model.


Mark Potter’s Man Cave

Harley memorabilia offers a quaint and acceptable substitute to wallpaper.

This edition of My Garage appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of American Iron Garage. Back issues of  American Iron Magazine and American Iron Garage are available at

Mark’s 2007 Softail Deluxe combines retro and modern to keep his oasis grounded in the present day.

Kick back and relax, and please try not to drag your jaw on the floor. Welcome to Mark Potter’s home garage, something more of a gearhead haven and the initial induction to a new segment here in AIG. And what a way to kick it off. Mark’s garage is a polished collection of wow and more wow, and it’s a delectable collection of eye candy for all. From the decadent, handmade Harley-Davidson-imprinted floor plate, cut to look exactly like the Bar & Shield, to the stroll through history lining the walls in the form of posters, newspaper clippings, photographs, and artifacts, any motorcycle enthusiast would find a warm, fuzzy welcome in Mark’s garage.

This micro-Harley utopia orbits the centerpiece of the garage, the nucleus of Mark’s universe: his 1942 WLA. We would be content enough hanging around in the garage, lighting a stogie, taking in a ballgame on Mark’s surround sound television, and lapping on for hours about Harleys and all of the memorabilia strewn around the room. But talking points would begin and end with what Mark attributes to fully tying the room together, the mint ’42 WLA in all its historic glory. WLAs were introduced in 1942 as production of

Here’s that ’42 WLA, the bruising cruiser that helped win the war. Now, ain’t that nice?

civilian motorcycles was almost stopped entirely when America entered World War II. The WLA, also known as The Liberator, primarily operated as a military vehicle, though many soldiers who rode them during the war were inspired to purchase Harleys when they returned home. Mark’s WLA dons an all-black paint job (as opposed to a military green), but it’s still an incredible piece of history flashing its style in the middle of his garage.
Mark did most of the work, along with some help from his riding buddies. He tells us that it’s an ever-evolving process, but it has been heaps of fun to build and, of course, enjoy. The Harley bistro table was handmade, and the barstools feature leather seats with the Harley-Davidson logo. Not lost in the luster is his 2007 Softail Deluxe, sporting some sweet sharktail exhaust tips, and fitting into his blast-from-the-past theme with some whitewalls and a windshield.

Everywhere you turn, you’re met face-to-face with Harley-Davidson history.

We’re thoroughly impressed with Mark’s motorcycle Valhalla, and we appreciate his letting us take a look around. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a friend who puts in this kind of legwork for his “man cave,” but we’d certainly take an invite from Mark any night of the week. It’s Miller time! AIG

Remembering Pearl Harbor and All That Followed


With today marking the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the catalyst for America’s entry into World War II and to not remember both the loss of life on December 7, 1941 and the following sacrifices over the subsequent four years. Many of us have a close familial tie to WWII, and we receive photos and stories every week involving grandparents and motorcycles and the war effort.

America’s immediate response to the bombing of the Hawaiian naval base is not beyond reproach, as detailed in Dain Gingerelli’s upcoming tour story when he rode to Manzanar, California, the site of one of the internment camps for Japanese and Japanese Americans living in the States in the aftermath of the attack.

Here is brief excerpt from Dain’s piece: “Perhaps the most touching place is the cemetery at the west end of the camp. A tall stone obelisk, erected in August 1943, marks the location where about 150 souls are entombed. The obelisk’s inscription in Japanese Kanji script reads: Soul Consoling Tower.”

As we put the finishing touches on issue #346, we found the coincidence of Dain’s tour and the anniversary too much to overlook. #346 will be on newsstands in January, and Dain’s reflections at Manzanar are well-worth the read.

Dyno Solutions’ New Location

State-of-the-Art Tuning in Connecticut 

Dyno Solutions, conveniently (for us, anyway!) located in New Milford, Connecticut, is now operating at a new location. Just 2-1/2 miles north of its old location on Route 7, the new HQ can be found at 571 Danbury Road, New Milford, CT. We’ve taken numerous bikes over to Dyno Solutions to get ’em tuned just right, and you may recognize the name from multiple install stories in which we’ve swapped out exhausts, air cleaners, etc. A center for all your tuning needs, Dyno Solutions is a certified Dynojet Power Vision tuning center offering custom fuel maps for all bikes, and older bikes are welcome to be serviced, too.

Dyno Solutions uses the latest wide band 02 sensor technology. Every dyno run can show you not only horsepower and torque, but also the exact air/fuel ratio. This takes the guesswork out of fueling adjustments. The air/fuel ratio graph and printout shows a rich or lean condition at each rpm range during a dyno run allowing fast and accurate engine diagnostics. Load control simulates real world riding conditions that are needed to finely tune smaller throttle positions on a motorcycle. This “steady state” testing is the only way to accurately and quickly tune a motorcycle. Dyno Solutions has the latest Eddy Current load control system for repeatable, consistent results. The work done at Dyno Solutions comes highly recommended from us here at American Iron.

More Riders, More Awareness: Ride to Work Day


More Motorcycle and Scooter Riders On the Road on Monday, June 20th This Year

The 25th annual worldwide Ride to Work Day is expected to be one of the largest-ever, according to Ride to Work, the non-profit organization that coordinates this annual event.

On Ride to Work Day a much higher number of America’s 8,000,000 cycles and scooters are ridden to work. Some estimates put the numbers of added riders at over 1,000,000. Across equal distances, commuting riders can reach their destinations more quickly — in up to 20% less time than those using automobiles in some situations — and motorcycles and scooters consume less resources per person per mile, and they take up less space on roads and in parking areas.

“Many people do not always appreciate the societally positive value of transportational riding, and some don’t know there are also a few hidden deleterious ramifications from having almost everyone default to private autos. Cars are wonderful machines, and we love them, but the reasons to ride, when one can, go beyond stuff like energy or carbon footprints” states Andy Goldfine, an event organizer.

This Day is about more than traffic congestion, motorcycles and economics. Winston Churchill famously said: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Other thought-leaders have presented or expressed the same idea in different ways. It applies to things beyond our homes and buildings. It’s about all technologies, including our mobility tools.

That’s why riding and the annual Ride To Work Day event is important. This Day is not narrowly about encouraging the wider adoption of transportational riding…it’s about increasing the understanding of — and tolerance for — those who choose this form of mobility, and about providing support and encouragement to those who like to ride in transportation-centric ways.

The Ride to Work website includes forum areas, merchandise, information, and free promotional support materials.

American Iron Garage: Garage Built


Therapy Build

Evolution and survival through craft

by Stephen Long

Merriam-Webster defines evolution as “a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state.” For George Holland, the process of evolution has been a pertinent and sustained element of survival. “Evolution,” he says, “I like that word.” And in his ever changing circumstances, George, otherwise known as Dutch (see: Holland, George), embraces his own evolution with resounding resiliency, as the ever-unforgiving, unpredictable universe hurled an all-too familiar fate in his direction: cancer.

From the very first time Dutch straddled the saddle, he strived unapologetically to be the baddest, most domineering rider amongst his friends and peers. Although starting out on a small displacement Japanese bike, he immediately felt the urge to go bigger, if for nothing else but to one-up his buddies, first by upgrading to a Suzuki 250, then to a Norton 750. His commitment to foreign brands remained until 1971, when he had a run-in with the law. No, not that kind of run-in. “In Downingtown, Pennsylvania, I bought my first Harley from a police officer. A 1971 Shovelhead FX,” Dutch remembers. Not that his American epiphany would stop there.

Dutch's flask serves another, darker liquid these days.

Dutch’s flask serves another, darker liquid these days.

“In 1979, I sold the ’71 Shovel and bought my very first new Harley-Davidson, a red and black Shovelhead FXEF. Rode that bike for 26 years.” At that time, Dutch was living in Atlanta, building his metal fabrication business, specifically constructing billboard structures. A long way south of Pennsylvania, he felt himself getting closer and closer to his final goal: Florida.

While building a motorcycle from scratch had always been a lifelong dream of George’s, he often found himself too wrapped up in other projects such as completely restoring a dilapidated marina that he purchased in Nokomis, Florida. “One of my favorite sayings is ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it,’” he says. The restoration and subsequent success of the marina turned into his passion (well, second to, you know, riding). He repaired and dredged all boat slips and developed a tiki bar that was renowned for being the only tiki bar to host a recurring bike night. Enter Tammy.

Tammy frequented the bike nights George’s marina hosted, with her attendance eventually leading to their introduction. As their affections began to materialize in a very real way, George found himself facing a decision that seems as though it wasn’t as tough as it sounds. “I wanted to get Tammy a diamond,” he says. “That red Shovelhead? It sold very quickly, for three times as much as I bought it for. And I’ve never regretted selling it.” Their meeting and eventual marrying is an important aspect in the development of George’s dreams. “In 2006, we bought the new Softail Deluxe and modified it with a Stage II kit, bringing the Twin Cam up to approximately 1500cc.” He notes this as one of the many stages in his own evolution, as he moved into a new phase of his life, with his new wife and his new motorcycle (they still ride the Softail), he now had a pairing of the two loves at the forefront of his life.

In 2012, Dutch retired and needed a way to keep busy. He credits his friend Hank for giving him the scoop on a 1967 Shovel that he owned and would sell to George at a reasonable price. George completely restored the bike, turning it into his “bar-hopper bobber,” complete with a suicide shift and foot clutch that he fabricated himself. It was during this time, however, that George began to feel his voice fade into a raspy shell of itself. “It was the first signs of cancer growing in my throat. Then I was down, on and off radiation and operations for a couple of years.”

Undergoing daily treatment for seven weeks, George remained steadfast in his approach to riding and to living. “During the treatment I was still able to ride my bike to the appointments, at least until the last couple of weeks,” he recalls. “Then, it simply became too sore.” As the radiation therapy came to an end, his doctor brought the news George wanted to hear. They beat the cancer to a pulp. And, as an apparent silver lining, the doctor told him that he’d come out “sounding like a rock star.” As time went by, however, his throat remained sore and, as cool as it was supposed to be, the raspy voice never alleviated. During an unscheduled return to the doctor, all signs pointed to the cancer’s return, wracking George’s throat with a vindictive vengeance in the form of Stage Four larynx and vocal cancer.

George flies black sails into the storm.

George flies black sails into the storm.

Operating was imperative, and George was on the surgical table almost immediately. Doctors performed a total laryngectomy, an operation that includes removing the larynx, vocal chords, lymph nodes, and partial thyroid gland. Post-op, he spent the following week in a self-reflective stupor, with resounding sympathy washing over him as he saw the suffering of those worse off than he. Not lost in the turmoil of the disease is George’s attitude; he never delved into self-pity, refusing to say, “Why me?” In speaking with George, a sense of overwhelming humility seeps forth from his micro-philosophies.

George clearly has a knack for taking things that are seemingly hopeless and turning them into something powerful. And his wherewithal was certainly being tested. He admits that he began to feel seriously depressed during and after his two-year bout, as he and Tammy had to come terms with his new circumstances. “Tammy never left me during my entire stay [at Moffit Cancer Center]. We both learned how to care for and get along with my new configuration and feeding tubes,” he remembers. “For me, the worst part was the unknown. At home, the healing process was more painful, and I had to create ways to get things done.” Tammy arrived home one day with a check for $1,200 and a note saying, “Go buy a frame and get started on that chopper you’ve been saying you always wanted to build.”

To continue reading this story and about other home-builds like it, pick up a copy of American Iron Garage Spring, available at Greaserag.comAmerican Iron Garage Summer is available on newsstands 5/31.