We’re going to Born Free 9
Born Free is what I consider to be “The Show” for the under 45 crowd. There is so much to see over the weekend. People come from all over the world to see for themselves the best the chopper culture has to offer. When J&P Cycles became a sponsor for Born Free 9, I was stoked. I knew it would be good for us to get out to the West Coast and be seen by the many riders and builders. I didn’t want to just show up with the basic corporate look. That’s when the fun began.
I thought our booth needed to have a new look. Nothing flashy or corporate looking. Something more along the lines of how the company began. I wanted to display a bike that could be replicated from our catalog, but would show well and be relevant to the BF9 crowd. I got our old Shovelhead from Daytona and reworked it to give it the right look. To make the booth more of a draw I arranged to have well known artist and pin striper, Zorac lay down some stripes on the bike as well as letter and stripe the Biltwell helmets we gave away for J&P Cycles Choice award. We knew the booth would be just basic folding tables with blankets under a couple of tents with the van behind the tents. This would work, but a white 2013 Chevy van did not have much appeal. Ryan from our creative department found some old J&P artwork from the 80’s and we applied it to the van. The graphic completely changed the look.
Our Journey Begins
With our new look in place, Carter and I loaded the van and headed west. Knowing that the trip is half of the adventure, we opted to stop for a few must see tourist traps along the way. The first of course was the Big Texan in Amarillo.
We didn’t go in to try it, but most everyone has seen the signs for the “Free” 72 oz. Steak. Not too far down the road was our second stop, the Cadillac Ranch. This strange automotive Stonehenge of vintage Cadillacs planted into the ground at an angle attracts people from all over. Carter and I stopped and left our marks.
We got back on I-40 and made good time until we hit Tucumcari, New Mexico. This is one of the old Route 66 towns and there is plenty to see. We ate at Del’s, shot some pictures of the town and continued.
I’m surprised anyone ever made it to their destination on old Route 66. There are so many cool places begging me to stop and check them out, it would be easy to stop and explore for days. It’s a good thing Carter was with me to keep me focused, or this may be the story of how I got fired for not making it to Born Free. We drove to Albuquerque, New Mexico and got a room for the night. Next morning we got an early start and for the rest of the trip, tried to limit stops to when we needed fuel or a bathroom break. Still, we stopped at interesting spots and not just another gas station. The scenery was beautiful all the way into Orange County, where we hit our first traffic of the trip. We got to our hotel and called it a night.
On Thursday morning we unloaded the bike, set up our tents and tables, and then hauled butt over to the rental car place. After a bunch of paperwork, (because Carter is under 25) we got the rental and made it back just in time to finish our rough set up before they closed up to get to the Stampede flat track races, which could be called the “Opening Ceremonies” for Born Free 9. The bikes raced into the night and everyone had fun seeing old friends and making new ones.
Friday morning Carter and I went to the booth for final set up to make sure everything was ready when the gates opened Saturday. After arranging and rearranging a few times, the booth looked good and we headed to Cook’s Corner. This is the spot for Friday night. Not only was it the pre party, but this is also where a group of amazing machines vied for the coveted Peoples Champ award. People’s Champ winner gets to display their custom creation on the grass with the invited builder bikes. The bike that won was an extremely unique Knucklehead with more custom stainless steel work than I’ve ever seen. Oliver Peck presented the award in front of a great Friday evening crowd. It was great to see a high level of craftsmanship in all of the bikes and it made everyone that much more eager to see what the invited builders would be showing. With Carter driving the rental, I was able to have a couple of beers and hang out with some friends I rarely see. I met up with Zorac and we headed to our hotel.
It’s Show Time
Finally it’s go time! We grab some breakfast and head to the show. Even getting there early, parking for vendors was full and we had a decent walk in the general parking. We got to the booth and raised the tents waiting for the levy to break and the crowd to come rushing. In a few minutes, that’s exactly what happened. So many people happy to see us there and loving our new look, not to mention our swag. The coozies and shop rags we brought with us were a hit, not to mention the first issue of ROLL magazine. A few people even asked about getting a “Pauly Approved” sticker. As the day went on it got pretty warm and our little spot under the trees was a good place to be. A little bit of breeze, plus being in the shade made the temps tolerable. This was my first time working this show, so it was a bit of a different experience not getting to explore and see all there was to see. However, even from the booth I could see there were bikes of pretty much every make and vintage filling the place. The flow of people slowed around 2:00 and I was able to break away to go check out the FXR Show and see what Bike I thought deserved to be the J&P Cycles Choice. Walking through the park was rad. There were so many amazing builds with plenty of detail and unique custom touches. When I saw the bike I picked, I knew it was the one. I looked it over and loved that there was absolutely nothing on the bike done to match the current trends. Super narrow front end with a 21” spool and a tiny little seat meeting up to the bobbed fender all topped with a super sano and clean paint job. I shot some pics and showed Ryan. He agreed that the bike should be our choice. After the show we presented the owner of the rad little FXR with a Biltwell Lane Splitter helmet custom painted by Zorac. After a few pictures, we closed the booth for the night. The heat had taken a lot out of us, so no going out. Dinner and sleep was all that was in store before we start all over again on Sunday.
Sunday morning and the gates are about to open. The people started coming in, but at a much slower pace than Saturday. The lot eventually filled up and the day played out much the same as Saturday. Bands, bikes, and all around good times. The FXR we chose on Saturday was brought to our booth to display along with the Biltwell helmet trophy it earned. Zorac striped up the shovelhead I built and got a good crowd while doing so. He ended up doing more bikes and helmets over the weekend. People can’t get enough of his amazing artistic abilities. We talked to so many people at the booth, but I must say, working an event just isn’t the same as covering an event. Over the two days, I may have had one hour total to check out the bikes and vendors. I really wanted to check out all of the bikes, vendors, and see the Supersuckers, but couldn’t leave the booth. This was a big change from the past two years of covering events and getting to see everything. I was at Born Free, but I didn’t experience it. As the show was drawing closer to the end, Ryan and I decided the same bike that was People’s Champ, was also the J&P Cycles Choice pick. We presented Christian Newman with our second Biltwell helmet lettered by Zorac for his amazing Knucklehead featuring more attention to detail than you could consume in a weekend. As the crowd dispersed, we tore down our booth and loaded the van. Born Free 9 was a wrap.
On The Road Again
After a much needed night of sleep, Carter and I got back on the highway. While driving, I realized why all the vendors live it up at the pre party festivities. It’s the time to let loose, because the rest of the event is straight work. With that in my head I also thought about the journey being as big as the destination. We pulled out into the desert and drove around for a bit for no reason other than I wanted some pictures of our freshly done up van with a desert back drop. After a few pictures and almost getting stuck, we headed east. I saw a sign for Winslow Arizona and knew I was stopping to stand on the corner. There really was a flatbed Ford and Take it Easy could be heard from the Route 66 gift shop. It was cool, but we did need to get home. We stopped only for food and gas from here on out, but it was a good road trip.
All in all, Born Free was cool. I saw a lot of old friends, but I worked a lot. I still want to go back next year in vendor or content capacity. The drive made the trip for me, and the show was icing on the cake. If you come out next year, come up and say hello…