Tales From The Asphalt

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July 6, 2012 | By: J&P Cycles

Years ago during a different time and possibly a different state of mind, the hardcore American biker was defined as someone who traveled the country with just the bare necessities. No hotels and plush accommodations for this group!

A bike, a sense of adventure, and an attitude was all that was needed. In today’s go, go, go environment, this type of American biker doesn’t exist. Caught-up in the whirlwind of responsibilities, in a fast-paced world that demands more and more of our time, is where most of us fall just in order to survive….

Today’s bikers are more like weekend warriors packing up trailers and all sorts of pleasantries for the weekend ride. It’s not necessarily an adventure, but more of a vacation from the hustle and bustle, a chance to relax and create some good memories.

There are still a few out there who have managed to escape the strangle, tight hold of a fast-paced lifestyle. They travel where their heart leads them and make decisions on the fly.


Meet Joe Sparrow and Scotty Kerekes.Two of the few true road warriors left who still spend nearly all their time on their bikes and call the road home.

We managed to catch-up with these road warriors during Bike Week. A little time was spent getting advice for what people can do to prepare for the road, find out secret travel and survival tips  and delve into why anyone would ever choose this lifestyle.

Joe Sparrow travels on probably one of the most comfortable motorcycles on the market, a Gold Wing. He averages 50,000 miles each year but has a “home-base” in Missouri. Ninety-eight percent of his time is spent traveling the US, bumping into the strangest and most interesting people, enjoying the freedom of adventure.

J&P: Give us some details about your bike?

Joe Sparrow: I currently ride a 2002 GL1800 with 356,000+ miles on it. Last year I rode 36,000 miles. This is the lowest amount in the last 15 years. Usually I average about 50,000 each year. I have been in 49 states, seven time zones, and every Canadian province that you can get to (I think some don’t have roads to them). One year I crossed the US six times.

J&P: Do you have a name for your bike?

JS: No I don’t, but I like to refer to it as a work horse and not a show horse.

J&P: When did you start getting the motorcycle itch?

JS: I knew at about 12 years old, after my first minibike ride, that this was what I was going to be doing the rest my life. I saved up my money and bought my first motorcycle two weeks before I turned 16. For the first four to five years, I didn’t have any other wheels, so those cold St. Louis winters were pretty miserable. I remember going to the movies with my girlfriend at the time and after it was over the throttle slides were half-way frozen open and I had to drive home continuously turning the bike on and off. There was nothing about that time that I would’ve changed and that’s when I knew I was hooked for life.

J&P: What was your favorite last-minute trip you went on?

JS: I have always been one for the last-minute trips, never caring too much about what I was wearing or where I was going. My best spontaneous trip I’ve ever done happened to be at the end of my normal shift on a Friday and right after work all I had with me was a pair of socks, jacket, and a pesky kidney stone that was acting up. I figured if I was gonna be hurting, I was gonna be on the road doing it. I headed off to “tail of the dragon” in North Carolina and made it back on Sunday night. Round trip was 1300 miles. I had all that I needed to take the trip and enjoy it.

J&P: Why do you do the kind of riding you do?

JS: The people I get to meet is one of the best parts of the rides. Then, there are the people who give me a place to sleep, whether it’s their yards or houses. I break bread with strangers and that’s pretty cool. Don’t get me wrong, there are some weird and freaky people that I’ve met, but even though they’re intimidating, they are interesting at the same time. I don’t carry a gun, that’s one question I get asked, but I don’t. All I have is a pocket knife and all that I use that for is to clean under my toe nails and cut steak. Ha-ha.

J&P:  What is the one thing you can’t leave home without?

JS: Well, once I accidentally left without my false teeth. It was an uncomfortable situation that didn’t get any better, until I got home. Nothing else matters, as long as you remember
your teeth.

J&P: What would your advice be for the weekend rider who wants to strive for road warrior status?

JS: Start with small trips and work your way up. I used to have to make lists for everything I needed. Build 2 piles, one with items you have to take and the other with things you’d LIKE to take. You have to always think about what would make this or that easier when you’re on the road. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I usually stay in National Parks because they have a “passport” deal for all of the National Parks in the US, another cool way to show where all I’ve been.

J&P: What are some motorcycle enhancements that you have done to make it easier for you?

JS: Well, my top two favorites are:

1) Retractable kickstand pad – easily accessible every time I need it and I don’t have to fumble around to figure out where I packed it.

2) Banana holders – located on the fairing within reach, called my road food. My motto on food is, “if you stop to eat it, you have to stop to poop it.” Once I start my ride and have a destination in mind, that’s it.

J&P: Name your three favorite aftermarket accessories that you wouldn’t live without?

JS: A Throttle Rocker is a must! There is no way you can go on a long trip without one. My Airhawk, I think I have the very first style. It’s 12 years old and it feels like it’s just a piece of the bike now. The last thing would be my PIAA Spotlights, they have saved me a time or two from those furry critters on the sides of the road.

J&P: To get your bike ready for the ride, what are some good things to keep in mind?

JS: Having a bike that is comfortable is my No. 1 priority, even before safety. The three points that touch the motorcycle: your feet, butt, and hands need to be as comfortable as they possibly can be. Make sure all of those areas are able to adjust according to your comfort level. Multiple positions for your feet; you need to be able to move them around a lot. Heated grips or soft grips are important. I carry my heated pants, jacket, and gloves all year long. You never know when you’re going to run into weather that is too cold.

You need to make sure to take the time to remember the journey, instead of the destination. There may be a rally that I’m heading towards but there’s always an interesting person or unusual situation around every corner. Those are the moments that I won’t ever lose out on and those are the moments that create memories.

Thanks Joe!

Scotty Kerekes is a true Harley® motorcycle gypsy living soley on what he carries on his bike. Originally from California, he decided in the spring of 1993 to sell his house, truck and all his belongings and make the road his home. Scotty’s story is one of pure delight and surviving in the big world as a motorcycle gypsy.

J&P: Give us some details on your bike?

Scotty Kerekes: I ride a 1988 Electra Glide with over 466,000 miles on it. I don’t push the miles per year, my average is a moderate 20-30,000 miles. There’s no reason to push it. 

J&P: Do you have a name for your bike?

JS: Betsy – should be Mule, I guess, but I call her Betsy because that’s what you called things that were cool back in the day – Betsy the Bomb.

J&P: What was your favorite last-minute trip you went on?

SK: I don’t take last minute trips; every trip I go on is last minute so they are just rides. My favorite place to visit is Ashville, North Carolina. It’s beautiful, a really cool kinda hippy-town with a lot of nice people and places to stay.

J&P: Why do you do the kind of riding you do?

SK: Ha, because I’m miserable when I don’t. I’ve never stayed in any place longer than two months.

J&P: What is the one thing you can’t leave home without?

SK: A big tarp, 10’x16’ is what I have right now. You’d be surprised at how important it is when trying to find the best place to stay at night. It can be used as a roof over your head when tethered between trees or as your flooring when it doesn’t look like it will rain but the dirt is a little damp and cold. Sometimes they wear out and as soon as it does, I have to go get another.

J&P: What would your advice be for the weekend rider who wants to strive for road warrior status?

SK: Learn to try and ride in the “sweet spot.” It seems like a funny concept, but if you think about it, it makes sense. There are a lot of interstates that will get you where you want to go a lot faster, but why would you want to do that when there are so many back roads? Stop whenever you want to. If you can’t feel your tailbone anymore, get off. The “sweet spot” is the only way to enjoy the trip you’re on and should be the reason for riding.

J&P: What are some customizations you have done to make the trip easier for you?

SK: Umm, I guess my skid-guard to protect the engine because currently it’s made out of a yield sign. Previously, it was made out of a stop sign but I needed to get a new one and a yield sign was available. The roads that I travel aren’t always the most level, so this helps to protect the most important parts of ol’Betsy.

J&P: Name your three favorite aftermarket accessories that you wouldn’t live without?

SK: I have two sets of foot pegs on my highway bar to give me some variety in positions. My hi-output headlight bulb is a must and I wouldn’t live without the Throttle Rocker. I have a few other aftermarket parts on the bike, but those are the most important ones, by far.

J&P: How do you make it on the road without a home to go to and where does your income come from?

SK: I’m surprised you didn’t ask that at the beginning. Usually that’s the first question people ask. I consider myself a home-body. I like my space and I have it out on the road. It’s not about the place you go to, it’s not about the consistent place to sleep; home is wherever I end up putting my bike and tent. I make sure I’m not too close to anyone else. Towards nighttime, my No. 1 concern turns to where I’m going to sleep. It’s important and I may spend all morning in that spot or stay a few days. My money, I don’t need much. I work at the rallies I attend, find some place that’s doing mechanic work and hop in with them. It’s not a bad time and it’s all I need. Life isn’t about possessions. If I haven’t used something for a couple of days – it goes. Too often I watch people living with too many unnecessary things – you have to enjoy it, man. Life’s too short and too many things just turn to dirt in the end.

J&P: What is your No. 1 priority when you set off for a ride?

SK: Enjoyment, man…enjoyment and pleasure. You can’t spend all of your time worrying about the what-ifs on the road. If something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. That’s the way you have to look at it, of course I’ve had some spills, but nothing
serious. Enjoyment is the reason for the ride. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be doing it.

Thanks Scotty!

 

Comments (2)

What I like most was Joe and Scotty’s attiude about what they enjoy and how they enjoy it.

I have had the pleasure of only talkin with Joe through the pages of FB. However, I read between the lines and have learned quite a few things from him along the way of our strange friendship. I have known “one or two” bikers in my day, but Joe is different. He is a crass gentleman, smart and quick-witted, would help anyone with whatever he could and has enough roughness to him to blend in where required. I trust his knowledge of the machine we call a motorcycle more than anyone. Fact.

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