Doin’ it on a Dyna: Storming Around Iowa on the J&P Cycles Street Bob
The Dyna’s not dead. It lives and breathes in Iowa. This particular Dyna is a 2014 Street Bob that usually dwells on the showroom floor of J&P Cycles’ Anamosa retail store. Luckily J&P was kind enough to gas ‘er up, give it a once-over, and wheel it out for me so I could mob around Iowa on it.
While Harley’s Street Bob is already a real runner, J&P injected this Bob with a hooligan bend. The angle of the front end’s chop extends skyward thanks to the 12-inch rise of the Ness Modular Drag Bars. Vance & Hines upped nastiness levels with a set of Super Radius pipes and an FP3. Roland Sands Design bits were thrown into the mix, an RSD intake helping it breathe more freely and Black Ops Wheels adding to its wickedness. A stout set of Legend Air Shocks are primed to battle anything the road throws at me. Burly MX Pegs with a gnarly bite sit underfoot, and between the mid-controls, custom La Pera solo seat, and high bars I’m curled up in the crouching tiger position ready to rip.
It’s unseasonably hot for this time of year, temperatures hovering around the 90 degree mark. The land is begging for the fall rains to come as light brown corn husks sit crisping in the afternoon sun. Silos stand sentinel above the fields and pockets of air are filled with the rich smell of cow manure that makes these fields so fertile. Red barns splash the Iowa landscape with dabs of color like strokes from Grant Wood’s paintbrush as I hustle through the heart of “American Gothic.”
In the distance clouds stack higher and higher as thunderheads build to the north. It’s the only storm in a 100-mile radius so of course I chart a course right for it. The horizon below it is an imposing purple, its boundaries hovering just outside Dyersville. Close to town the roads are slick from its recent passing but luckily it’s headed away from me. I pass below the fringe and catch a few wayward drops on my visor but I ride undeterred, eager to find the Field of Dreams.
Carved out of a cornfield, the baseball diamond’s red dirt infield and manicured green outfield looks exactly the way I remember from the movie. Ray Kinsella’s not around but a young family visiting from Australia is batting balls on the fabled field, the father pitching as his two young boys took turns swinging. Thoughts of slinging the Street Bob around the bases danced in my head, idle ideas spawned by the wicked disposition of the Dyna. I blame my temptation on the Freak Brother who used to work at J&P for building a bike that inspires wanton thoughts. Reason wins the day, as does the thought of spending the night in the local hoosegow. Joking aside, this is sacred ground for movie buffs, the Field of Dream themes of “family ties, faith, second chances, and the special relationship between baseball and the American people” striking chords of commonality and creating a dedicated fan base like few other movies have. Almost 30 years after they built it, people still come.
Leaving the field sun rays slant through the clouds, beacons of white and blue light streaming across the grey asphalt before me. The ethereal display makes me wonder if Shoeless Joe Jackson and other ghosts do indeed call these corn fields home. Wouldn’t surprise me if the guttural howl from the Vance & Hines Super Radius pipes could wake the dead. I unleash another round of sonic waves with an emphatic twist of the throttle.
While the city of Dubuque was full of promise with its scenic location on the Mississippi River, ripping up rural roads enticed me more so I charted a course south on U.S. Route 52. The sun was slowly getting lower in the sky as it made its way westward. Just out of town roadside stands offered plump orange pumpkins and freshly picked apples from local farms. Mazes have already been carved into corn fields as All Hallows Eve quickly approaches. The further south I go the more vegetation thickens and trees start to dot the landscape instead of stalks. The road begins to rise and roll as I skirt the Mighty Mississippi. To my delight, traffic is few and far between on this scenic stretch as straight lines give way to fast sweepers and tight turns. The J&P Street Bob is feasting on these roads like Thanksgiving dinner, gobbling them up like someone who hasn’t eaten in a week. Though the road is fast and flowing, there’s some serious kidney-punching bumps on this stretch. Every time I square one up I thank J&P for throwing on a set of Legends air shocks as they dutifully soften the blows and keep the Bob from getting out of sorts.
As the sun sets I roll into sleepy Sabula, known as landlocked Iowa’s only island town. But it wasn’t always an island. The town is perched on a patch of land surrounded by the Mississippi, a result of the Army Corps of Engineers constructing a lock and dam system back in the 1930s. Crossing over the two-way bridge to Savanna, Illinois, trees spring out of swampy waters. An old truss bridge covers the final stretch over the Mississippi, the Street Bob doing an uneasy dance over the steel grates of the antiquated Savanna-Sabula Bridge.
I pull into town just in time to catch them closing the doors of the Iron Horse Social Club. Turns out on slow nights they close up shop early and everybody migrates to the pub on the corner. But once Iron Horse Social Club owner Jerry Genbreau heard I had come all the way from Oregon to visit his establishment he graciously turned the lights back up and gave me free rein to check out the place. It also gave him a chance to test out the new sound system he just bought for the bar which frequently features live bands.
Any place that has an old coffin-tanked Panhead sitting just inside its doors is good in my book. A giant Harley-Davidson neon sign cast an orange and red glow throughout the place. A menagerie of memorabilia fills the bowels of the old brick building, from a vintage gas pump to a cow skull and stuffed coyote to a collection of bras slung over a big beam overhead. But the true beauty of the bar is its collection of vintage motorcycles, from a 1929 Harley-Davidson OHV Peashooter to a specialized Crocker Speedway bike to Indian board trackers and flat track racers. Adding to the nostalgia are vintage signs, photographs, posters and old race jerseys. The third floor of the bar has been converted into a biker’s chapel complete with stain glass windows, pews, an altar, and a couple of rusted out motorcycles to round out the motif. Eccentric and funky, it’s easy to see why the Iron Horse Social Club has established itself as a must-see biker bar. Genbreau’s a gracious host, first offering to feed me and then offering me a room for the night. But I had an early rendezvous at the National Motorcycle Museum back in Anamosa so back on the road I went.
A sliver of moon hung in the sky as the heat of the day gave way to the coolness of the night. Black gnats made kamikaze flights toward my headlights by the hundreds. Skies left and right of the road lit up in the distance, streaks of lightning flashing against the outline of intimidating black thunderheads. At times the corn stalks are so high and close to the road it feels like I’m in a dark tunnel. The Street Bob’s Harley Daymaker headlight throws out a strong beam and lights up a raccoon making a mad dash ahead of me. Iowa living must be treating these raccoons right because they’re some of the biggest I’ve seen. Cars pass by in the other direction every so often but for the most part I ride alone. In Maquoketa I finally find signs of civilization at the bowling alley, the epicenter of town on a Monday night because half its residents were parked outside Timber Lanes. About 10 miles outside Anamosa the lightning is closer and the roads are slick with rain but thankfully the storm surrounds but never engulfs me. Iowa has put on quite the show, from finding the Field of Dreams to adrenaline-inducing runs through its driftless region. It also reminded me why I’m fond of Dynas. Thanks J&P. Your Street Bob is dialed for a spirited ride, so I set the dial and cranked it up to 10.