By Angela Conner – Black Leather, Braids and a Bandana
Standing there staring at the painting from many different angles I finally decided to touch the canvas and before I knew it I had been absorbed into the brushstrokes of the image. It was as if I had literally stepped into a David Mann original as I walked around the campground taking pictures of panheads, shovelheads, and the wrenches who had built them.
The Choptown Camparound is an authentic old-school biker event that brings like-minded people together for the sole purpose of enjoying each other’s company. For the past 5 years bike builders, bike riders and those who love both have gathered together for games, music, food and laughter.
This year the event took place at the Burro Saloon right off of State Route 89 between Wickenburg and Prescott, Arizona. Tents began popping up behind the bar on Friday afternoon with motorcycles parked within inches of the tent stakes. There would be no separate motorcycle parking for these 2 wheeled beasts because they were as much a part of the party as their riders.
Inside the Burro Saloon you could find smiling bartenders with pigtails, dollar bills pasted all over the ceiling, and a rectangular-shaped bar which made visiting with all the patrons completely accessible. I snapped a few photos and introduced myself to a handsome gray-bearded man at the end of the bar. I soon learned that this was Pat Ford who had judged more than a few bike shows in Sturgis for the mere payment of pizza and beer. Soon after, I encountered Kenny “Big Sexy” from FTD Cycles. Kenny’s mischievous grin drew me in and I found myself asking him where he had grown up. Turns out that we both went to the same elementary school in South Elgin, Illinois many years ago. Blew my mind! Small world indeed.
I decided to spend the afternoon on Saturday wandering the campground taking photographs of motorcycles and people enjoying the sunny day. Everyone was very welcoming as I approached and let me snap as many pictures as I wanted. It was clear to me that this gang of adventure seekers was not beyond adding more members to their already righteous group.
As the sun slid behind the mountain, a group of friends headed up to the top of a hill to say farewell to a lost brother. I watched with great respect as they quietly scattered Randy’s ashes and honored his memory.
The attendees provided all of the free entertainment. Music would come from within the crowd as talented guitarists strummed throughout the day and well into the night. Bikes lined up for the slow race, which included everything from a single cylinder Buell to a full custom hardtail panhead. Expert balance and precision throttle control were displayed round after round as the bikes inched their way down the dirt track. I’m not quite sure who the official winner was because they continued racing long after the final round but Jay Allen sure seemed to hold his own. Sumo wrestling was the contact sport of choice this year as pairs of friends went head to head in the plump Japanese- inspired outfits. The wrestlers performed body slams, backflips and rollovers that would make the Emperor himself proud. The crowd cheered as the fighters did their best not to end up flat on their back like helpless desert tortoises. Possibly the most anticipated contest of the night was a game I’d never seen before. Men gathered around a thick stump with nails sticking upward playing Hammerschlagen. They passed a hammer around taking turns smashing at nails in an effort to prove their accuracy as well as their strength. Barriers of age and background seemed to disappear as they playfully bragged and taunted each other like young schoolboys on the playground.
Later in the night Jack Schit arrived on the maiden voyage of his Barth RV. He held court, sipping Fireball and telling stories of The Broken Spoke and Daytona Bike Week. I was worn out from a long day in the fresh air so I headed to bed with the promise of providing breakfast in the morning. When I awoke the next day, I discovered Jack still roaming the campground visiting with friends. He had been up all night and was now announcing, “The water safety demonstration will be down by the beach at 3pm sharp.” I couldn’t believe he was still moving. I made good on my offer for breakfast, including delivering Jack his bacon and eggs through the window of his RV.
Sunday morning as people started packing up and heading back to reality I decided to thank the event’s host and hostess, Long Jon and Pinky, for such a great time. They told me that the Choptown Camparound was growing each year and that people had come from as far away as Milwaukee, California, Denver and Salt Lake City to attend. Long Jon took pride in the fact that this free event focused on real friends hanging out and riding bikes. He also told me that “Motorcycle events should not be shopping trips.” I understood what he meant and was thankful that there were no vendors or corporate investors to diminish the purity of what Long Jon and Pinky had provided for their friends.
While driving away I realized that this event really was different than most. I love all things motorcycle related but it was especially wonderful to have the fresh paint from an artist’s original work still on my fingertips.