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Road Trippin' to the 5th Annual V-Twin Expo

Written by  February 28, 2005

This year, the 5th Annual V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati, Ohio was held on the last weekend in January. It was much too chancy to ride a bike to up here in the North, but it was certainly worth a ride in a cage to participate. My partner, Wild Bill and I had the great fortune of being invited by Berry Wardlaw, owner and founder of Accurate Engineering, to assist his staff at their booth in the show. Berry’s Signature Series engines are considered by many to be top of the line for custom bike builders. They are not just pretty machines. They build their products to an uncompromising standard that includes design and construction of the highest caliber possible for maximum performance and reliability.

Wild Bill left from St. Louis, Missouri and I left from Cherry Creek, New York, so on Thursday evening when we arrived at the Weston Hotel in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, almost simultaneously, it couldn’t have been planned better if we had tried. After we parked the trucks I suggested we leave all our crap and get checked in first. We got keys to the room Berry had reserved and were concerned when the desk clerk informed us that we were the first of the group to register. I figured we’d get there before Pete. Coming from the shop in Alabama, he had a lot more work and further to drive, but Rogue’s fight from Florida was scheduled to land in the afternoon. I wondered if he was waiting at the airport for someone to pick him up, so I had Wild Bill call his cell phone.
We had nothing to worry about. He was across the street at the Rock Bottom ready for dinner. We walked over and joined him with that 'just in time' feeling that this was going to be a great weekend. That’s when the Jack Daniels began to flow.

I’d like to say a few words about Rogue. He has been riding motorcycles for 50 years and has been employed in the industry for 35 years. He is well known for his expertise in building and repairing motorcycles, having worked the past ten years as Vice President of Research and Development, Supervisor of Final Preparation and Repair, Engine Shop Supervisor, and Technical Supervisor for two aftermarket Harley-type big cruiser companies. He has a vast knowledge of the industry’s inner workings, culture, and is well respected, not just by bike builders and repairers, but folks in various bike clubs as well as the music and media fields. His photojournalist work has been published in national magazines for the past 35 years, mostly as a contributor to Paisano Publications, who publishes Easyriders, Biker and In The Wind, just to name a few. The term 'Old School' is becoming rather cliché these days, but its true meaning describes Rogue perfectly. Every time he speaks to me I feel like I’m receiving an education.

After a delightful meal and several Jack 'n Cokes, that Rogue
Graciously paid for, Wild Bill and I headed for the parking garage to get our gear, and told Rogue we’d meet him at the room. This hotel we we’re staying in is very fancy and expensive. While Berry has a quality product, it does not make him a rich man. None of us complained that we had six guys staying in one room. I did, however, bring two 20 inch high queen size air mattresses to make things more comfortable. Also, my luggage is made to pack on a bike, so we were quite a sight in the crowded elevator, riding 15 floors in this 3 star hotel. One fella asked us if we were with the Clampetts. I knew Berry would be proud. He prides himself on being just a Hillbilly workin’ on motorcycles in Alabama. I remember the time he told me of his pride, when he drove the rhythm player, Jeff, with The Charlie Brechtel Band, to get in a different van at a gas stop on the way to the Love Ride due to the pungency of his flatulence.

We got settled in and after a while, Pete showed up. I’d spoken to him on the phone once and Rogue knew him, but this was our first meeting for the rest of us. We fit in like the brothers we are. Pete’s got that talkin’ thing like the rest of us. I’m sure observers will see all of us talking and nobody listening. Brothers can do that. We got to sleep early that night, compared with the rest of the weekend.

Pete’s van was valet parked since it was too tall to fit in the normal parking garages, so we had to wait for them to get it warmed up and drive it over in the morning. After one trip around the Convention Center we asked a cop and got a great parking spot right across the street from the receiving docks. With the three of us to help, the two trips with the cart moved everything we needed for the booth, which consisted of two engines, one with a transmission, a table, two stools, tools, a banner and some literature. The rest of the exhibit was just the guys, Pete, Rusty and Berry. Rogue, Wild Bill, Mial and I rounded out the crew, but the guys have an incredible amount of knowledge in their heads.

It was exciting to help Pete assemble the display engines. They cleverly use the traveling crates as display stands. Nothing fancy, but it works great. We had to attach the transmission and starter to the 103 cubic inch Panhead and put short exhaust on it. They didn’t make the bolts. They were purchased. And a couple of them didn’t fit. It just proved that you must test everything. These regular chrome bolts were made by specifications that allowed for a sloppier fit. Luckily, Pete had brought an exhaust set for each engine and I was able to find enough good bolts in both sets to display the 103 the way they wanted it. The 93 cubic inch Panhead would have to be displayed without. Wild Bill and I had time to prowl around and get a few pictures. At the booth everyone was asking for Berry. I was already getting overwhelmed. This was going to be quite a show.

Shortly before 5 p.m., Pete decided he should move the van and found a great place to park about a block away from the Convention Center. The rest of us headed for Rock Bottom. When we walked in, we were greeted to a welcome by a whole crew of Rogue’s friends from Melbourne, Florida, where he lives, including Nicky Boots, Gypsy, and Bob Filla. Nicky has been on the Discovery Channel in the Biker Build-offs and is quite the character. Bob is an editor for Thunder Press and Gypsy, who knows Rogue from Melbourne, is one of Bob’s photojournalists. They both live in Texas now. Jack, Daniels that is, showed up immediately as details begin to blur. I now we headed to a different hotel for a free feed from S&S a little later on. Jack was there too. I think that’s around the time Berry and Rusty showed up. Now the whole crew was safe and ready for morning.

I was amazed at the volume of interest there was at Berry’s small booth up in the corner on the third floor. I tried to listen in when either Pete or Rusty were talking so I could answer questions later on. Whenever Berry was off somewhere, which was often, and either Rusty or Pete had to stretch their legs, Wild Bill and I tried to fill in and just acknowledge someone’s interest. Invariably, they would ask some technical question and I’d just say “Let’s ask Pete or Rusty,” who was already talking to someone else. They never seemed to mind, but there barely ever seemed to be a break in the action. I was floored to see Billy Lane, Keith Ball, and Paul and Keino from Indian Larry’s Shop stop by the booth and treat Berry like an old friend. I’m sure there were others that I just didn’t notice or that came by when I was away from the booth. Later on, when Bill and I were cruising the main floor, I noticed the display one custom bike manufacturer had. It was huge. Their space was easily ten times larger than Berry’s. They had an enormous elevated round structure that must have cost thousands to build and hundreds to ship here and erect. They had several complete motorcycles on display and at least eight people with matching shirts mostly standing and sitting around doing nothing. Berry’s booth was receiving more interest. Upstairs in that corner people were bunching around trying to get a close look at a real quality American product. It made me feel good.

The paint, lights and chrome dazzled the senses. The 450 exhibitors presented an incredible array of all things motorcycle, including new, pretty and exotic things. I prefer function to form, so there are few exhibitors that I recall. One booth featured a device that acted as a right side kick-stand to easily position your heavy cruiser in an upright position when you wanted to work on it. Another was debuting their new LED headlight. I’ve heard a lot of good things about LED lighting recently and I think it’s going to become a real trend. There was a full dress custom with saddlebags filled with electronic gear to power the sound system and three DVD screens. There was one in the dash, and one on the back of each saddlebag. I was surprised at all the clothing. To be able to spend the money necessary to exhibit at this show these folks must be selling a lot of T-Shirts and skull caps. I recall one vendor showing off a new multi-use cloth that you can use as a head cover or pull it over your face for protection. It looked like no more than a bandana that had two sides sewn together to form a tube. Bill was excited to see the Red Horse exhibit. He’s got one of their choppers and I think his schmoozing at the booth will get us a couple of bikes to use in a shoot during Daytona Bike Week. I love his style.

That night we went to the awards ceremony and I knew I needed to be writing down the winners so I could include them here for you, but I went to see Jack instead. They gave us a good feed, again. After the ceremony we eventually moved on to our hotel, then to Rock Bottom, then back to our room. I know at one point later on, there were about 20 people in our room and everyone had their pants on. I know we stayed up real late. I know I met at least 30 new friends that evening. Oh yeah; at one point, Wild Bill and I were waiting in a van down by the river. Not Pete’s van. It was Jodie’s friend’s van and we were, ah... I think that’s all I can tell. Rest assured, a good time was had by all. One of the comforts of staying in downtown Cincinnati were the covered walkways that allowed you to travel several blocks through the hotels and malls. We had to pop outside to actually get to the Convention Center and Rock Bottom, but it made it easy to stay warm while the party surged from one place to another.

The next morning, the show went on. It was pretty much more of the same, just new, but still interested faces and everyone wanted to talk to Berry. He was pretty late showing up. Ruthie from The Hog Farm in West Seneca, New York came along and it was good to talk to someone from home. In the afternoon I ran into Toni Woodruff from The legendary Buffalo Chip Campground, and it was good to talk to someone from my Sturgis home during August. After all, I met Bill, Berry and Rogue at The Chip. That evening, Drag Industries had a dinner for their Dealers. There didn’t seem to be enough tables and chairs for everyone and after I got my food at the buffet, the table that most of the crew was at was already full. At the adjacent table was an empty chair right next to Grot, so he offered it to me, and there was one more chair for Bill. As I chowed down and followed the conversation, I got curious and finally asked everyone at the table, except Bill, it they were from Western New York. Besides Grot and Ruthie, there were guys from three or four other Western New York shops and Ken Caves, the Western New York sales rep for Drag Industries. This was perfect for me. Being in the right place at the right time, I just tried to soak it all in. I thought that it just couldn’t get any better. But what do I know.

Later on, Wild Bill and I were hanging out with Bob and Gypsy. The rest of the crew was at a meeting with PRIMEDIA, so we didn’t think they needed us, but in a little while, Bill’s phone rang. It was Berry demanding our attendance. We headed downstairs with a new feeling of actually being a part of Accurate Engineering and this whole American biker industry that we were seeing. We pulled another table and a couple chairs over and sat down. Suddenly I was having a conversation with Keith Ball, a.k.a. K. Randall Ball, one of the founders of Easyriders magazine. In November, PRIMEDIA Performance Automotive Group announced that he was hired as Editor-in-Chief of Hot Bike magazine, as well as Editorial Director of Hot Rod Bikes and Street Chopper magazines. Wild Bill was the one always talking about getting his pictures in magazines and writing articles. You know me; all I want to do is ride. But the media people that I met this weekend just blew me away. I’ve learned that when a door opens, take a walk through. Something good might happen. And something about spending time with Keith made me finally sit down and try to put some words together.

The true civilization is where every man gives to every other every right that he claims for himself. Robert Ingersoll


Story by Wild Bill & BeeB