Archive for November, 2010

Lost in Miami

A few more miles down the road and Whoosh… the group behind us fly past. I continued on with Rob and Bear for a while, we end up in Miami. Bear in the lead is becoming increasingly frustrated. We’re lost! Even though I’m getting great footage of a very frustrated Bear screaming around looking for the road, I think I’d better move on because there’s no doubt in my mind that this may take a long time. I offer to use my GPS to help them escape Miami but they aren’t certain it’s allowed so they turn me down. I GPS myself out of this predicament and head down the road alone. While pulled over, Jon calls to say there had been an accident just up the road could I shoot it. I ride faster hoping I wasn’t going to come upon blood and guts all over the highway. By the time I get there the injured riders have been flown to the hospital. The riders who stopped to help had gone. A gas station attendant told me that he heard the injured rider was shooting video of himself when he crashed. But I can’t confirm that. I don’t believe it so I don’t bother to get a taped interview.

I call Jon and ask where he is. He says he’s on the interstate heading toward Ft. Lauderdale. OK he is NOT following the riders. I am at least two hours behind the starters, God only knows where Jim and his group are but I keep on the trail. Rob and Bear catch up so I ride with them for a while. We’re in the Everglades it’s hot as hell but really pretty. Jon calls, he’s be at the first checkpoint only for a short while then he’s headed to Mobile Alabama area could I just catch the Interstate and meet him there. I ask him to stop and let me catch up with him but he says they need people at the next checkpoint.

I tell Bear and Rob I have to catch the 75 Interstate. Bear says, “Don’t leave! I have a bad feeling about this. Just stay with us”. But my job is different from their job so I assure him I’m fine and I’ll see them at the next checkpoint. 1 a.m. I’m dead tired. I pull into a rest stop outside Tampa. The guard asks me to park close to his truck so he can keep an eye on me. I do. I ask him to wake me at 4 a.m. He says he will. I lay on top of Tigerlily pull my cover over me to keep the mosquitoes out and fall asleep.

At 4:30 a.m. my eyes pop open, I shove my cover into my saddlebag, wave at the guard in his truck and take off. I can’t even count on the cold air to shoot some energy into me because there is none. Thirty minutes into the ride Tigerlily starts blowing oil all over me. I shut her down and glide down an off ramp. It’s too dark to see what the problem is but I lock her down and walk to the nearest gas station. I call my best friend in L.A. and explain the problem even though I don’t know exactly what it is. I buy oil at the station, walk back to Tiger and pour oil into her. The oil pours out all over the ground. I don’t have a flashlight because stupid me put my entire pack in the back of a truck headed for some place other than where I am.

I’m great about having Tiger serviced. I had a full service done a week earlier at my favorite dealership. Kutter H-D in Janesville, Wi. Since I’d left home two months and 14 thousand miles ago I had her serviced four times. Texas, DC, NC and Wi so I wasn’t too worried. Not that I hadn’t had my share of problems. I had started this ride with a friend whose bike broke down nine times by New Orleans so I sent him home there by ending the friendship. In N. Carolina something flew out from under a truck and hit my front tire ruining it. In DC my starter went out. In Wi. I replaced my battery. I had quite a bit of trouble with the air shocks and an exhaust leak. But there was always someone there (put there by a kind Universe looking out for me no doubt) to sort it out and this would be no exception.

I had been Facebooking and Tweeting the entire ride so I wrote on Facebook I was broken down near Tampa. At 5 a.m. the dealerships and service stations weren’t responding but Facebook was open for business and I got an immediate response!

A month earlier in Cherokee I had met a couple Judy and Stumpy. They were straight shooters, easy going and I liked them immediately. Judy had a friend outside Tampa. That friend showed up an hour later with hot coffee and air conditioning. I had pushed Tiger off the ramp and to the nearest open gas station and I was safe but I was truthfully feeling awfully alone. We waited for the tow truck and trucked the bike to this woman’s house. When the sun came up I can see that the bolt that this guy tightened at the start of the run is gone. The cover holding the rods is pulled up and I can see the bent rods. CRAP!!

By the way this woman who didn’t know me from Eve has Fibromyalgia. So the fact that she showed up at 6 a.m. with coffee, took me into her house and offered me a shower and a new toothbrush while she washed my oil soaked clothes was just too much. She will forever be my hero!

When I finally got Jon on the phone my thoughts were to chill out in Tampa, fix Tiger and send him his camera, he could leave my things at the dealership. He said he still needed me on the road because there was no one else on the road. The other camera groups were headed to the Pine Ridge Reservation. So he suggested I leave Tiger there, fly to Mobile where he would pick me up and they would have another motorcycle. He said Jim had a Road King and they would just camera up that bike so bring my mounts and camera’s as well. OK.

I bought a ticket, flew out of Tampa and ended up near Mobile where Jon and the Canadian Kid (still can’t remember his name) picked me up.


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Out the gate!

5 a.m. The hotel was buzzing with excited riders lined up in the driveway. I pulled my motorcycle (tigerlily) into the parking area where I ran into Jon Compton. He took me to see Jim Redcloud who I’d seen speak at the meeting yesterday. Mr. Redcloud looked down at me and said, You’re coming with us! and walked away to handle the many people who were pulling at his attention. I asked Jon what kind of camera’s they were using. He didn’t know but would find the guys to put them on. I showed him my helmet cam and bike cam already on my motorcycle, they only needed to put their camera on my front camera mount. He left to find his guys. I continued shooting interviews and just the overall scene with my big camera.

When I saw Jon next he still hadn’t found a camera for me. I asked him if he wanted me to get out front and shoot them as they passed and then just fold into the pack. He said, “no I should wait until the pack left and follow behind”. “That sort of defeats the whole ride with the pack, shoot the pack thing doesn’t it?” He said, “No, it’s safer and I would ride with Jim Redcloud and his guys”.

So I returned to the driveway to shoot riders getting mentally prepared. One guy was doing push ups, one guy was playing bagpipes, children were hugging fathers, the Army Rangers were chanting their battle cry. The tension in the air was palpable. Yesterday they were riders on the same adventure, today they were competitors. Except for the chanting Army Rangers there was no more camaraderie.

I ran into a cameraman I knew from Chicago and brought him over to get footage of the Indian doing a ceremony in the driveway. I had directed some footage the day before with this same cameraman and I knew he’d get a really pretty shot.

I should have prefaced this by saying I didn’t just grab a guy with a camera and say, “here let me tell you what to do”. The film industry is very small. And oddly enough, film people run into each other all the time. I’m not talking about these new people who own prosumer cameras, learn how to operate and now have a business card that says writer, producer, director, cameraman, actor, kitchen sink salesman. God bless them but I’m not talking about them.

I was a union grip at the studios since the milk dried on my lips, I’ve been a 1st Assistant Director for more than ten years now and if I run into another crew person I’m friends with, well that system is still in place. So the day prior, this shooter saw me and asked me to set up with him. I did what I do which was to set up interesting interviews, tell him where to shoot and directed the action. Today was no exception. I still wanted footage for myself, he had a great camera and a good eye, I knew we would be able to buy his footage and Jon had not returned so I shot with this guy for a while.

But there were a ton of folks and interviews going on in that driveway. As Carl and I were shooting the Indian in the driveway I saw Chris Callen walking through the people. I jumped in front of him and said “Hey Great you made it!” He said, Where’s Rob? I said, “I haven’t seen him”. And Chris was off. The girl from Vagabond Choppers passed me. I said, “Hi” and she just stared. I figured she was either really tired or didn’t remember me from the interview at her shop a few days earlier. It felt strange but I know when I’m busy and focused I’m not too chatty myself so I turned my attention back to shooting.

Jon showed up and said the Florida highway patrol had given them fifteen minutes to move out instead of the slower paced groups they had set up for, so Jim Redcloud arrived and suddenly the bikes began to move. They rumbled past the Indian who was using a large feather to wave smoke in their direction as they passed. It was quite interesting. I figured it was some sort of blessing. After the bulk of the motorcycles left there were a few guys who hadn’t heard about the switch up. They came outside from the restaurant with “where’d everybody go?” looks on their faces. One guy who was really angry was assured that in a two week run, a few moments or even a few hours was not going to make any difference in the least. He didn’t want to talk about it but he settled down and rode off.

Jon came to get me, I was taken to a hotel room where I was introduced to some of Jim Redclouds crew. All white guys except Mr. WhirlingHorse and his son, (just an observation). A young french kid from Canada, an older guy Chuck, Peacekeeper (Terry) from Michigan, A young woman Sydney or something like that and Jim’s wife Beth. I was handed a camera for my motorcycle. We returned to the parking lot where Peacekeeper, Chuck, Jim and a few other men were parked. I retrieved my motorcycle and attached their camera to my front mount and removing my windshield because this camera was longer than mine. There was also a truck with a trailer. Jon suggested I leave my personal gear in the back of the truck. This was another one of those “my heads up my butt moments”! I know that being separated from my gear is never a good idea, NEVER! But Jon assured me he’d be on the route right behind me so my stuff would be readily available.

OK. So my job at this point is to ride with Jim and his guys. Get the intro to the race with this group and then chase after the other riders. We’d trailer between checkpoint locations then I’d unload and ride with groups as they left. I’d also be interviewing riders and support teams at the checkpoints. I asked for a map of the directions and was given a map of the first leg. I asked Jon for the entire route so I could hit the highway and move ahead of the group because it was already an hour past the start. There would be riders strung across the state. A thousand riders is not a lot of people when you think of the distance. Jon told me he’d get a map of the route at the next stop but he didn’t have one then.

OK. Rob Keller and his son roll up. Another guy named Barry rides up as well. Jim tells me that they call him Bear. I don’t know if he is a long time friend but they seem to know him and he will be riding with this group. He and Rob are chatting and seem to be getting on quite well. Barry says he was a Navy Seal but is out of the Navy now. I ask him which seal team and he says the same seal team as Chuck and Jim. Someone comes to me and gives me some green dusty weed sort of stuff and tells me to rub it on my face. Jim hands me a yellow strand of braided grass and tells me to keep it on my motorcycle. As these guys are preparing to get on the road, I’m asking Jon about the ride. Where should we meet, what is the first stop. Where are the other crews?

I’m told the other crews had gone ahead to the first stop to shoot the riders coming in. And that there is another guy named Cleveland who’s following some guy specifically and he will be at the next stop as well.
I give my friend Rob some of my potassium pills and Bullfrog. We chat a few moments about nothing. One of the guys says it looks like I have a bolt loose on my bike. He gets an alan wrench and tightens it. I walk around shooting Jim and his friends as they get ready to ride. Jon Compton and the Canadian kid (I’m sorry I’ve forgotten his name at the moment) will be in the truck. There are about eight riders and me in this group. At about an hour and a half after the competitors leave, we leave the parking lot heading out of Key West, Florida.

At first I was in the middle riding with Rob just ahead and Bear beside me. About a mile or two out of Key West Chuck rides up beside us and motions to pull over. We do. He walks back to us, obviously pissed off and says, “Don’t wave at other riders, we don’t do that. You understand!” then he turns around and walks to his bike leaving Rob, Bear and I with “What the fuck was that?” looks on our faces. I have no idea what the guys behind me are thinking but I’m thinking this is going to be an interesting ride and I’d better keep that camera pointed in this guys direction. Everyone takes off. Rob is driving ahead of us now and he’s going very slow. Possibly he’s afraid to get near Chuck, I don’t know. The speed limit is low and one ticket kicks you out of the run for the money but I can feel the group behind us edging up. Any moment I think they are just going to shoot past us and be gone.

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