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XL-List Kansas City Run

Written by  July 31, 2004

The power of the Internet continues to amaze me. It brings stories like this and others to thousands and more. It likely has consumed much of your time, changed how you ask questions, how you stay in touch with family or friends, and how you buy and sell. It’s creating subtle culture changes even as you’re reading. In this case, the XL-List, located at www.sportster.org, is an Internet based discussion forum dedicated to Harley-Davidson Sportster enthusiasts. It provides bikers from around the world a forum to discuss the specifics of absolutely any aspect of maintaining, modifying, riding or racing Harley-Davidson XLs. And the Internet, which made all this information sharing possible, now provided these riders with the conduit to unite.

Members decided in late 2003 to utilize their mailing list to organize a rally. An offer to assist in planning the event came from 883 owner and frequent poster, Lee Bussy. Through months of communication, preparation and significant efforts by Lee and the Kansas City XL-List members, the plan was established. The event would be Friday, June 25 through Sunday, June 27th, and the venue was an isolated and wooded private property just east of Leavenworth, Kansas. The rally agenda included a tour of the Kansas City Harley Davidson Assembly plant on Friday afternoon, informal socializing on Friday evening, live music on Saturday night and a final breakfast on Sunday before departures. The weekend menu included smoked chicken and baked beans on Friday, spicy ribs on Saturday and pancakes for both weekend mornings. For quenching your thirst there was tea, lemonade and, of course, plenty of beer.

Participants arriving early Friday afternoon had an opportunity to tour the assembly plant and meet first-hand, the people who make their bikes. Since early in 1998, all Sportsters have been assembled in Kansas City. Thomas Howard of Columbus, Ohio and former Dyna rider, commented “By 11:00, there was no more bike parking available, as it was full of Sportsters. The plant tour was cool!” After all, Sportster enthusiasts from the XL-List did play a part in better than expected sales of the redesigned 2004 models. Assembly line employees, some, who are members on the list, expressed to tour participants their appreciation for helping their output roll off sales floors everywhere.

Following the tour, I arrived at the venue to find several had already set up camp. I had rolled in on my Geezer Glide, or Road Couch (as they called it) and since I was not a list member, I felt like the stranger. I was greeted by riders who presented themselves by their post names. Strange, I thought, thanks to the Internet, we are now changing something as simple as how we introduce ourselves! I watched introductions amongst list members who recognized other post names immediately. Names like; Banzai, Bird, Kat, Navy Jim and Turbo Sam to identify a few. By the end of the weekend, the prior virtual acquaintances were now faces with surnames and more stories to share than you thought imaginable. What was obvious, throughout, was their passion for their beloved XLs.

Throughout Friday night, they shared stories that could fill volumes. There was Navy Jim from San Diego, with the super wham-a-dine headlamp that quit, and the jury rigged power receptacle that fed his GPS, and the windshield that adjusted itself in a crosswind. There was Turbo Sam from Dakin Engineering. He’s the only guy I’ve ever met, who smokes chicken (damn good chicken) and builds turbos to improve the already quick Sportsters. There was Shane, from Tumwater, Washington on his Buell, who mapped out his long route, with as many winding roads as he could find to get here. Then, less than 100 miles from home, he got a speeding ticket, but finished his trip here without getting any others. There was Ohio State Professor, Steve Rosenstiel, with his beautifully restored red over black’57, the original superbike. There was Jason Wallin, from Colorado Custom Cycles, who not only contributed several items to the fund raising raffle, including a paint job, but also utilized his contacts to capture several kegs of beer that ”fell off the truck.” The list members and their stories went on and on all weekend long, with fellowship amongst members growing with each new tale and shared experience.

One couple from Springfield Ohio, Dale and Tammy Amsden were the toast of the group and my favorites. Arriving late Friday afternoon, the Amsden’s had set up their tent at the far west side of the venue. Dale, a master mechanic and member of the Sportster List Racing Team, modestly and willingly shared his immense knowledge of performance modifications and bike maintenance. In 2001, he’d built a 1000cc EVO engine that set the land speed record (LSR) of 142 MPH at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The amazing thing is that he did so without stroking the engine, but by increasing displacement through boring! All too often, ego gets the better of people building performance bikes, but not in Dale’s case. Throughout the weekend, participants chatted with Dale about their bikes, their mods or their concerns and patiently listened to his diagnosis and recommendations. He truly enjoyed meeting them and sharing his expertise. But that’s only part of the Amsden’s story.

It had always been a dream of Dale’s to ride to California, so they used the rally as an opportunity to take that journey. Over a 13 day period, Dale, on his 1995 custom café racer 883/1200 and Tami, on her 2001 883 XLH Hugger (the same bike but different motor that set the LSR), traveled through 14 states, taking the southwest route. They had logged 4,880 miles on their path to Kansas City, staying at at several list member's homes along the way, some of which they had met for the first time. Dale brought along his laptop and used it to keep a wonderfully detailed daily log of their journey and experiences. Throughout their trip, each time he had access to a phone line, Dale posted his stories. Many rally participants followed their journey and read his posts in the days prior to the rally, keeping pace with their trials and tribulations. A condensed version of Dale’s log is available in Scenic Rides and Destinations, entitled, Dale & Tammi Amsden – From Ohio to Kansas via California.

http://www.cycleconnections.com/articledetail.asp?TypeID=3&ID=302&admin=1

On Saturday, the daytime agenda was left open for participants to do as they pleased. Some visited area sites, while others recovered from too much beer the night before. One group of riders, led by Dave Lynn, who lives a mere 40 miles from the venue, rode west on 24 Highway, past the Leavenworth Penitentiary, towards Perry Lake, and then to Topeka Harley-Davidson. They visited the basement museum of old Harley-Davidsons and enjoyed a BBQ pulled pork/brisket lunch from the attached café, known as Henry’s Grill. Upon their return to Leavenworth, I caught up them while refueling, and enjoyed listening to their viewpoints of the places they went and the countryside they had just seen.

Saturday evening, back at the venue, dinner was served. As occasional light rain fell as the live music began. Event organizer, Lee, had promised we would be entertained, but in my estimation, he understated it. First up, was the cover band, Rock Hounds, who did a good job with many classic rock tunes. They were followed up with Jeff Scheetz and the JSB. Jeff Scheetz is an accomplished guitarist with an outstanding group who play original tunes. They blew us all away! For two solid hours, they played non-stop, get up and boogie, blues rock. I found the best description of their sound on his web site, 'Throwback music that is part rock, part blues, part jamming.' His mastery of funky guitar rhythms, mixed with ripping leads and a variety of sounds was perfect entertainment for the rally. The music went on, people danced, the beer flowed, and everybody had a great time. Following the show, Jeff hung around to sign CDs and chat. He is as genuine a person as you will find anywhere and you simply cannot say enough about his skills as a guitarist.

On Sunday morning, breakfast was served and the rain picked up. Those who didn’t depart early had real challenges leaving the venue. The bike path to get out was uphill, and had become a sloppy, muddy mess. While some of us played in the mud, attempting to push the scoots up, property owner, Dave Walker, stepped in. He used his truck to gently assist bikes up the mucky mess. His efforts were clearly appreciated by those who were headed home in the downpour. His overall contributions were best stated by Lee; “When I started planning the rally, Dave stepped up and stepped up big. I knew the man less than a couple months at that point. He's just one of those guys that always helps.”

The first annual XL-List rally was a complete success and I fully expect more to come. Jim Vanderpool, an IT professional from Louisville, Colorado, who was on his first ride of any distance said, “What a bunch of nice guys; it felt like a reunion of old friends, even though I'd never met anyone before!” Another unknown rally participant was quoted as saying, “It was nice seeing so many Sportsters in one place, and not feeling like the minority.” As a BT rider (XL-List acronym for Big Twin), and clearly in the minority here, although they teased me, they were still respectful, friendly and outgoing. Everyone I spoke with throughout the weekend shared their experiences enthusiastically. And to think, none of this would have happened if it weren’t for the Internet’s ability to connect people.

Story and photos by Nic