Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Thunder in the Sand 2005 - Conesville, Iowa

Written by  September 30, 2005

The Circle of Pride Motorcycle Club owns over 20 acres of real estate between the small southeastern Iowa towns of Columbus Junction and Conesville. Every year during the Labor Day holiday weekend, bikers arrive there by the thousands to attend the Thunder in the Sand Rally. They buy tickets priced at $25 in advance and $30 at the gate to be admitted to this adults-only biker party. The event features vendors, music, and a wide variety of entertainment.

My holiday weekend started on Thursday with a very nice solo ride from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, to the home of my buddy Zick in Washington, Iowa, about 20 miles west of the rally site. When Zick got home from work, we loaded our camping gear into his pickup and headed over to set up camp. That done, we returned to Washington where several friends joined us for a cookout on Zick’s patio.

My Friday began with a ride to Davenport where I attended an antique bike show, swap meet, and races. The race track at Davenport has an unusual east-west orientation. As a result, there is a long delay in the racing during the period when the setting sun dangerously decreases visibility for the riders. The onset of that intermission was my cue to head for Conesville, hoping to arrive in time for the opening ceremonies prior to the Friday night bull riding competition.

I parked my Harley just as Zippy and Salimay rode into the rodeo arena proudly bearing the American flag. After the national anthem and the introduction of the cowboys and clowns, bikers were entertained by expert cowboys riding (or trying to ride) some really nasty bulls and by four bare-breasted biker chicks on the backs of steers that threw them off in about two seconds, on the average. I spent the rest of the evening hanging out with a group that included several friends from Washington as well as Randy and Susan who had arrived from Kansas City and Mark and Rhonda from Dodge City, Kansas.

Friday’s musical entertainment included the Bruce Kaiser Band, Corp Rock Band, Skin Candy Band, and the musical comedy duo of Hank Rotten & Allen Ross. At midnight, the musicians yielded the stage to the contestants in the “What T-shirt?” contest. The competition was spirited with all the ladies doing whatever they could to generate applause from the audience. The lady judged to have received the loudest ovation was rewarded with a trophy and cash collected from the crowd.

Proceeds from Saturday morning’s poker run and other activities throughout the weekend raised nearly $700 to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The on-site 1/8-mile drag strip was the center of activity beginning at noon on Saturday. Several times during the day, there were breaks in the drag racing action during which a team of three riders took to the strip performing an impressive array of wheelies, stoppies, burnouts, and other stunts. At an area east of the rodeo arena, another group of stunt riders did several shows featuring ramp-to-ramp jumps including insane tricks like those seen on television’s X-Games.

Also on Saturday, bike show entries filled the main tent. The Best in Show award went to a magnificent old school chopper owned by Donnie Thompson of Grandview, Iowa. Just before heading to the beer barn to begin celebrating, Donnie took a few minutes to pose for photos and tell me about his prize-winning ride.

CC: Please describe this gorgeous bike.
Donnie: I started out with a 1948 Harley Panhead frame with a Model T Ford springer front end. It had a Shovelhead motor when I got it. I took it into the shop, tore it apart and basically started from scratch. Kevin Grothe at B An K Cycle in Muscatine, Iowa, actually built the bike. I put him through Hell. As you can see, this bike’s had a lot of fabrication just to make it all fit together. There are tons of people in Muscatine and around that donated work on the bike. It was a great experience for me to know that there are still people out there who just like to do things and make things look nice.

CC: How about the motor and tranny?

Donnie: It’s an S&S 65 Panhead replica motor with kick and electric start. The transmission is from a 1969 Shovelhead. A lot of pieces that weren’t supposed to go together went together on that bike.

CC: How long did the project take?

Donnie: We started last November and finished last night. I picked it up from the shop this morning and brought it over here to enter in the show.

CC: How about a little more detail about the work that went into the bike?

Donnie: After everything was disassembled we took it in and did a diagnostic check on all of the stretches and welds. Whoever built this frame, probably back in the early 1970’s, really knew what they were doing. We love old school bikes, and this one definitely is.

CC: Who did the paint?

Donnie: It was done by Big River Customs in Port Byron, Illinois. Vicki did the artwork, and Doug did the rest.

CC: Who else was involved in the project?

Donnie: Jimmy Poole built the exhaust. Rod Eaton from Muscatine build the brackets for our rear disc brake system and did some other precision machining work. It was just a lot of good local guys that know how to build a motorcycle. That’s proof of it right there.

CC: How does it ride?

Donnie: Believe it or not, it rides like a dream. Everyone warned me that it would be hard on my kidneys, but I couldn’t stop smiling on that first ride.

CC: Congrats, Donnie. Your bike is definitely a winner!

Each day during the weekend, at least two airbrush artists kept busy painting colorful artworks on women’s bodies. Butterflies, monkeys, pumpkins, and other designs decorated areas of skin not normally displayed in public.

Keith McAlpine has operated his mechanical bull, Bob, at Conesville rallies for many years. During the May rally, Bob was replaced by Willie, a giant mechanical bucking penis. Keith was going for something completely different, and he certainly succeeded! With the return of Willie to Conesville for Thunder in the Sand, the number of male riders declined significantly from past events, but numerous ladies hopped on and shed clothing as Willie gently rocked and pivoted. Keith has gotten a number of requests to bring Bob back. He is contemplating Bob’s return, perhaps bringing both Bob and Willie.

Another popular entertainer at Conesville is the Bag Lady. No topic is taboo during her standup comedy shows.

At 6:00 p.m., bikers crowded around a boxing ring that had been set up in the middle of the rodeo arena. They watched as extreme fighters, both men and women, proceeded to pound the snot out of each other. It was quite a spectacle! Arm wrestling competition also took place on Saturday evening.

Saturday night’s music was provided by Filthy Sanchez, the Randell Zwarte Band, and Hank Rotten & Allen Ross. A great fireworks display filled the sky beginning at dusk. At midnight, another “What T-Shirt?” contest took place as well as a tribute to veterans.

On Sunday morning, many of the rally attendees broke camp and headed home. Stormy weather was forecast, and many had long distances to travel. Others may have set Sunday as their travel day in order to spend the holiday Monday with family. Whatever the reason, there was a long line of bikes and RV’s hitting the road as the day began.

With so many leaving, I wondered about the status of the bike games scheduled for early Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, the severe weather remained to the north, and there was a good field of competitors entered in the Slow Ride, Keg Push, Potato Hunt, and Weenie Bite events. A good crowd gathered to cheer on their favorites. I was able to recruit Myra as my teammate for the latter two events and really enjoyed the competition. As the games concluded, a light rain began to fall. I had previously sent my baggage back to Washington with Zick and the others, so I hit the road after saying my thanks to Possum and other Circle of Pride members for their hospitality and their hard work in hosting the rally. Thankfully, I was in the clear within five miles or so. That evening, the group enjoyed another cookout at Zick’s.

Susan, Randy, and I headed back to Missouri on Monday morning. Zick, Darrell, and Ron provided us with an escort for the Iowa portion of the trip. All agreed that it was another thoroughly enjoyable Labor Day weekend in Iowa.

Story and photos by Stripe