Readers and their Rides

Noah and Missie Bedell and Their 1957 Harley-Davidson FL Panhead

Written by  October 31, 2008

I was walking through the bike show at the 2008 Bikers for Babies RIDE when one of the entries in the antique category caught my attention. It was a hardtail Harley Panhead and appeared to be in pretty much original condition. As I admired the bike, a young man walked up and began visiting with me about the gremlin Stripe airbrushed on the back of my vest. I soon found out that Noah and his wife Missie were the owners of the Panhead. I talked Noah into doing a 'Readers and Their Rides' interview and shot a few photos of him and the Pan. A while later I watched as the award for the Antique Class and the People's Choice Award were presented to Noah. Noah's brother and niece were there to congratulate him. Since Missy didn't attend the event, I look forward to meeting her on another day. Here's the interview:

CC: What is your occupation?
Noah: I'm a trashman. Missie owns the Hilltop Bar in Tonganoxie.

CC: Do you have any hobbies other than motorcycling?
Noah: We like to travel.

CC: How long have you been riding?
Noah: I've been riding about five years. Missie grew up on the bike.

CC: What do you like most about your Panhead?
Noah: We pull up to any bike friendly bar, people will walk right past the $50,000 custom choppers and all of the other new bikes and stare at ours! Another thing is when the old timers walk up and start talking about all the things that only someone that has owned one knows about.

CC: What is your dream bike?
Noah: This one, without the charging problems.

CC: What is your most memorable riding experience?
Noah: Almost losing it around a corner on Route 66 outside Laughlin, Nevada, two years ago. That one still gives me nightmares. Damn drum brakes.

CC: Do you have a least memorable riding experience?
Noah: Nope. Every time it’s a blast!

CC: To what motorcycle clubs or organizations do you belong? Noah: Just our friends.

CC: What motorcycle rallies & events have you attended, and which is your favorite?
Noah: Sturgis; Laughlin; Bikes, Blues and BBQ. Laughlin has to be our favorite, although ABATE of Kansas throws a hell of a party out at Perry Lake every Labor Day!

CC: Do you have a favorite bike night hangout?
Noah: Of course, the Hilltop every Sunday! Cheap tacos and good music.

CC: How many tattoos do you have?
Noah: Two sleeves.

CC: Do you have a favorite tattoo artist?
Noah: Stacey from Big Daddy Cadillac’s in Lawrence, Kansas, but he moved down to Austin, Texas.

CC: Who are some of your closest riding buddies?
Noah: Jay and Twila Hickman, Jerry Robison, Mike and Lauri Smith, and I love riding with my brother Tom.

CC: Noah, how do you and this Panhead get together?
Noah: I had a gallon jar that I was dumping all of my quarters into when Missie and I first got married. She asked me what I was planning to do with them when the jar got full. I told her I was tired of not having a bike and that I was gonna use it for a down payment on a new Harley. A couple of weeks later she called me at work and said, “Why buy a new bike when I already have one?” I knew about her dad’s Panhead, but it was the main thing she and her sister had left that was left to them from her dad who had died in a car accident 15 years ago in Los Angeles. But I really didn’t want anything to do with it, mainly because I didn’t want to cause any problems with her and her sister and her sister’s husband, Jimmy, who had been storing it for ten years. But they talked about it and it was brought out here. I’d rather spend our money keeping that bike running rather than buying my own. We try to keep the bike exactly how her dad had it, which is really tough for me, because I’m not even close to being as good a mechanic as he was, but I’m learning as I go. After too long, we’ll end up buying a new bike because when Seth, my wife’s nephew is old enough, the bike will be given to him. Lucky little booger, ain’t he?

CC: Is it difficult to find parts for a vintage bike like this? What sources do you have for parts?
Noah: It is pretty damn hard to find parts for it sometimes. E-Bay and swap meets provide a lot for us. Even harder is finding someone to work on it who has the same frame of mind about keeping it original. Thank God for people like Paul Penner of Penner’s Cycle Barn in DeSoto, Kansas. He really understands the old school ways of keeping it original. He’s an antique Harley owner’s best friend. If you see this, Paul, you own me one! Ha Ha!

CC: What makes it worth all the effort to keep this bike running?
Noah: When we go for a ride, we could be in the middle of an argument or just having a bad day. We hop on and everything seems to not really matter any more. I think my wife sometimes closes her eyes and imagines riding on the back with her dad driving. She’s never told me that, but I think she does. Her dad probably looks down from somewhere up there just beaming with pride thinking, “That’s my girl!”

CC: Do you ride the bike frequently?
Noah: It’s our only bike, so we ride it a lot.

CC: Congratulations on the People’s Choice award at Bikers for Babies. What made you decide to enter the bike show?

Noah: Well, the generator needs to be either rebuilt or replaced. There’s not enough money in the account right now, so we have been riding only as long as the battery will let us. I wasn’t sure if it would last the entire ride, so I decided to just ride to the Speedway, park it in the show, and see what would happen.

CC: It turned out well. Your Panhead was a real crowd-pleaser! We're glad to see you keeping this great old scoot on the road.

Inverview and photos by Stripe

Historical Note: The 1957 model year marked the end of an era at Harley-Davidson with the big v-twin motor riding in a rigid frame for the final time. With the introduction of the swingarm frame on the 1958 Duo-Glide, Harley's hardtail frame passed into history.