I am not gonna try to bullshyte you into thinking I am a world class custom motorcycle builder! I am not gonna sit here and puff myself up to be an expert welder and machinist! Heck man, even as a “Journalist”, I still rely on auto grammar correction and spell-check to polish up my articles! In the early days, when I began my walk into this world of Chopperdom, I was just like many of you, scouring the newsstands for The new copy of The Horse, amongst any other publications that may have a Bike featured in it that had all of the qualities I wanted in a chopped motorcycle. My skills were at best, inexperienced. My parts pile was basically junk bikes I had acquired plus the bike I was building, which was a Honda 750 I still own called, “Kat Killa”. I only had basic tools and a grinder. Back then, the only writing I did was on BackTalk, the online forum for The Horse.
THE EARLY YEARS
I would stay up late EVERY night, glued to the computer, scouring the interweb looking for killer motorcycles that would help me figure out what I REALLY wanted to do to my 2 wheeled machine. I looked for simple, strong ideas I could pull off with the skill set and limited collection of tools I had at the time. My obsession grew and I found myself cutting up magazines and stitching them back together like paper dolls. Instead of drawing up tattoo designs at work, I would draw Motorcycle designs! I began trading AWESOME tattoo work for piles of rusty; sometimes useless motorbike parts, just to have them. Made me feel closer to my dream of building bikes proficiently on a daily basis. My goal was not for the glory of being a professional, I had a job, and I have already been a sought after tattooer for years. I just wanted to make a bike that was useful and purposeful AND super cool. As the years have gone by, I have acquired more skills as well as tools and machinery to reach my intended goal of competent building, as well as executing cool designs that WORK and stand up to the test of time. My garage began in the basement under my 150 year old 3 story wood house. I made it work even though there was not a lot of head room. Using the torch was pretty sketchy and probably not the smartest thing to do, but I was pretty careful with my aim. I acquired a bike lift, MIG, gas welder and some hammers. As soon as I got off work tattooing, I was swatting mosquitoes and creatively screwing up motorcycle parts, to get my welding technique down. I began “fixing” anything steel that was broke! I put together two Triumphs, one Honda 750 and my current ride, Indian Giver. I eventually found a bigger space to work located downtown in the bar district, so I happily moved into the larger space.
CH CH CH CHAANGES!
Things seemed to change, once I got into the new garage, I felt like I was taking myself more seriously as a builder, I realized that I also had a LOT more tools and parts that I thought. I went from a basement garage in the bottom of a three story wood house- to a THREE story warehouse over night! Pretty dang exciting! I did not even want to go home! I was so cramped in my FORMER underground lair; I was amazed I was able to fit all of the parts and motorcycles in there! Along with the move, my marital status had ALSO changed! I was a single dad with custody and had plenty of time to devote to bike building. I was not really interested in partying; I had my 10 year old son with me almost 24/7 anyway. He just rode his bicycle around and would keep me company! I had already acquired a name in my area as a chopper guy and had written articles for a Mississippi state run biker mag, but I often entertained the idea of taking my monthly column, spACEy Knows How to my favorite magazine, The Horse Backstreet Choppers. The dream seemed far away, but at least I could submit a bike write up and maybe it would be published! I have gotten to “know” a lot of people on Back Talk over the years and struck up friendships with XSspeed and Fab Kevin. I was amazed that these guys (as famous as they are) would take time to post and talk to me about whatever I was building at the time. I remember Hammer saying that Back Talk was kind of like a virtual online biker bar. When I read that, I looked down at the Cerveza in my hand and laughed! It was true. Here I sat bullshyting and swapping knowledge with a bunch of other like minded chopper jockeys and having a good time, drinking my favorite beer! We even had fights break out; some of you old Horsemen may even remember when I got E-slapped back in the day! People still bring it up from time to time and it only brings up laughter and good ole memories. When it happened, it had the same effect as a real fight, egos swollen and attitudes rose, but in the end, I called the OTHER guy and worked it out! Whenever someone was broke down or needed some info on fixing a problem, a simple post would bring up a shyte ton of solutions! I invite all of you to get on the board and introduce yourselves!
Eventually, I decided to finally take my bike down to Daytona Bike week, I had never been to The Smoke Out either but I figured that Willie’s Chopper show would be the best way to finally be a part of what The Horse was doing. I wanted to finally meet some of the people that had inspired me to become the builder I am today and here was my chance to make it happen.
ENTER KRISTAL BLUE
Many of you know me by now, but there is another side to the team that makes these articles complete and visually exciting! No matter how colorful I may make the words, it is the eyes behind the lens that make these stories REALLY come alive! Kristal has been a professional photographer for 15 years. She has photographed many private shoots for celebrities, famous baseball and football players as well as high profile weddings in Florida and around the United States. Kristal got her first camera in High School and fell in love with capturing images with a Minolta 35mm SLR, getting a job at a local camera store developing film and selling camera equipment. Kristal began making connections and getting jobs and before she realized it, her career was already on its way!
Kristal has been around motorcycles all of her life, her grandfather, Dean Spencley, was a well known Motorcycle Guru in the lower Michigan area, just about everyone in her family owns a motorcycle, her mom, dad, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, step dad ALL ride! It is only natural that Kristal would gravitate to shooting motorcycle culture!
I remember when I first saw her, she jumped on the back seat of a sportster effortlessly and they spun off down the road, my jaw hit the floor! I thought she was one pretty lady! When I got to know her better, she revealed to me that she was a professional photographer. I WAS HIRED by Kristal and two others to come to Florida and tattoo the three of them. I was just beginning to write articles to submit to The Horse and needed a photographer in Florida. After talking to her, I realized she had a vast knowledge of how motorcycles worked as well as spending most of her life on the back of one! I was single and ready to mingle at the time and here I sat tattooing the woman of my dreams. One problem stood in the way of any romantic intentions, she was already attached! Oh well, at least I could work with her and make some great articles. Months passed by and Kristal’s relationship status suddenly changed, I was floating off my toes!!! NOW Another problem stood in the way, I was not totally sure she even LIKED me like that, AND she lived about 8 hours away from me! Boo! I finally got my nerve up and asked her on a date, she said yes and we decided to meet halfway. We had a few dates like that in different cities until I drove to Daytona Bike Week. Kristal made me wait months till she would officially be my girlfriend (can YOU say FRIEND ZONE?). We did our first photo shoot together at the end of bike week and my first big time builder WAS Arlen Fatland! I was nervous enough because Kristal was so dang beautiful and a serious photographer, but with the added pressure of the legendary Arlen Fatland, I fumbled through the interview. Thankfully, the pictures came out phenomenal and like MANY future situations, Kristal Blue saved the Day! We left and she did a photo shoot with my bike, Indian Giver and me. We also rode all over Daytona doing riding shots. Kristal could maneuver easily with her camera on the back of my bike, sometimes completely turned the opposite way! I knew in my heart we made a great team.
WILLIE THE GREAT UNITER!
Willie Jones will probably never know how many friendships and deals have been made in his parking lot (of Tropical Tattoo) that I have fondly dubbed “the Field Of Dreams”. Imagine how many lifelong friendships have begun, AND how much inspiration has been acquired to build super sick machines, over and over and over again. Heck man, I like to say that I was even pretty much hired to write for The Horse in that very parking lot! I met Fab Kevin, Nurse Nut, Eman, Hammer AND one of my Heroes responsible for hooking me INTO The Horse, Sean XSspeed Sweeney! I remember telling Sean I wanted to send in bike features PLUS, I had a great photographer to work with and he told me, “why don’t you take MY job, I am retiring so I can devote more time to my band”. I almost did a back flip! Imagine my 6 foot 5 inch body flipping through the air knocking over thirty motorcycles in a crowded parking lot full of serious looking doods!!! I can run pretty fast but I don’t think I would have made it far! My writing career would have been over! After playing out said scenario in my head, I decided to keep it “Kool”.
XSspeed talked to Nurse and SHE talked to Eman who THEN talked to Hammer and next thing you know… Kristal and I were MoTo CyCle JOURNALISTS!
FnA MAN!!! it was on!!!
YEP… For The Horse Magazine…. BAMM!
YOU are the STAR NOW MAN!
I think it is pretty safe to say that we are your BIGGEST ally when it comes to getting your trusty pile in THIS killer mag. WHY is THAT you may say? Well REREAD this article! I am one of YOU! I was a fella trying to get an ole rusty scoot together and then kept going till I honed my skills into a professional! I was on Backtalk since 1992 and worked my way into writing in this major publication! Was this my purpose to these things? No, not really, I just evolved into this. I do know that I share the same kind of “rags to riches” story as a lot of the staff of The Horse. Englishman has one of the greatest stories of us all. He began in England and made his way here because of his love of choppers and rock-n-roll. Did he set out to become the editor of the baddest chopper rag of all time? Well kinda but not really. Hammer wrote about his journey as a reader that talked his way into becoming the editor and bringing The Horse out of utter ruin, all seemingly by chance! ALL of these stories I have mentioned have one thing in common, we followed through with our dreams. In the end, I have come to know this; as great as these fellas are, they are STILL people like you and me.
Dreams ARE attainable; you just have to follow through! Sometimes the dreams may change at some point. Remember ONE thing; we ALL share the same love for choppers, even though our ideas may slightly differ of what a true chopper is… We LOVE choppers… PERIOD.
I want to dedicate this article to Richie”Richie Pan” Panarra and Mike Napolitano. We Love You Forever.
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