By Theresa Morrison-Meyers, Photos: Sue Meyer, Theresa Morrison-Meyers, Jeff Meyers
Mathew Morrison and his father Bob Morrison wanted to build a bike together. Mathew was very interested in the story of the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber named the Memphis Belle that flew in World War II. He found a photo of a bike in a magazine and that was his inspiration. When Bob asked him what he wanted the paint theme to be, he replied a tribute to the Memphis Belle. When he was asked why the Memphis Belle, and he said that her story was inspirational and that she needed to be remembered. So, a tribute bike to the Belle it was. Bob and Mathew started building the bike July, 2011.
Unfortunately, we lost Mathew to a car accident October 25th 2012 just days after his 22nd birthday. To honor Mathew’s memory, his father, Bob Morrison, set out to complete the bike his son and he had started.
The Memphis Belle’s story is that of a love story between her pilot and a young lady. She is depicted on the nose art of the B-17 Bomber. During WWII, a time of great loss and despair, people were searching for hope. Anything that would give them a sense that the war hadn’t taken all humanity from them. A symbol of strength and love as well as a tribute to the men and women she helped to protect. They found that in the Memphis Belle. The creation of this bike and her journey to be united with the original Memphis Belle in Dayton, Ohio has also been a quest for hope, and a tribute to a young man that had the maturity and compassion to know that the story of the Memphis Belle needed to be remembered. Just as he will always be remembered in our hearts, forever.
Building this tribute bike was Mathew’s vision and it was his father that made sure that his vision was completed in his memory. The build took many hours of hand sanding, wiring, fitting, ordering parts and painting to complete. It was truly a labor of love.
The first ride was July 5th 2013 in Spruce Grove, Alberta. It was an interesting ride to say the least. The suicide shift and rigid frame was a new experience for Bob. It kept him on his toes. He did remove the suicide shift and converted to the conventional shift for the journey. The unveiling of the bike was July 26th 2013. Many friends and family came out to see the bike for the first time. These were some of many milestones that happened during the build and journey of Mathew’s Memphis Belle bike.
The journey to Dayton, Ohio to unite Mathew’s Memphis Belle bike with the original Memphis Belle, B17 Flying Fortress from World War II started in Spruce Grove, Alberta, August 2nd 2013. Bob and his girlfriend, Sue Meyer, who followed in her car, traveled to Carberry, Manitoba. They travelled 756 miles/ 1217 km and arrived there August 5th. They had a few mishaps along the way. The first was that two days before they left Spruce Grove the ignition switch went on the bike and left Bob stranded. The bike had to be trailered back. He had to hurry to find a new switch and install it before they left. Fortunately, he found one and they were on their way. Bob and Sue left for Manitoba with only 25 miles on the bike and Sue’s car trunk full of tools, spare parts, and fuel. The tank on Mathew’s bike only holds around three gallons. This would allow him to travel approximately an hour before he had to refuel. Around North Battleford Sue saw something fall from the bike when Bob went over a railroad track. So, she stopped to check it out. In the process of checking it out the two got separated. As soon as Bob noticed that Sue wasn’t following he pulled over at the nearest gas station and tried to shut off the bike and realized the key was missing. He also had no cell phone and only twenty-seven cents in his pocket. He did manage to call me, his sister, Theresa, collect from a payphone and I contacted Sue and told her where he was. They were reunited and Bob discovered that it was the key that fell at the tracks and Sue amazingly found it.
The rest of the journey out to Carberry was fairly uneventful except for Bob’s numb hands and sore body from riding a rigid. The hourly stops were needed. The only other event that happened is that they ran into rain just past the Manitoba border. By the time they arrived in Carberry they had traveled through hours of a torrential downpour. Bob was soaked and glad to have made it that far. He and Sue rested up in Carberry at his Moms, sisters, and brother-inlaws place, until they all left for Dayton, August 10th. Bob lead the way and his girlfriend Sue, Mother Marjorie, brother-in-law Jeff, and I followed in our motorhome. It was a rough and long ride for Bob with some minor hiccups. Just as we got into the United States Bob picked up a stick to put under one of his foot pegs to make it more comfortable for him. On our first stop we met a gentleman that was actually in Memphis when they flew her home. It was pretty neat to hear his rendition of it. We had a few mishaps from the motorhome tire to small oil leaks and missing bolts on the bike. All were repairable but did slow us down a bit. We arrived in Dayton August 15th. We traveled 1244 miles/2003 km in five days.
On August 16th, Mathew’s bike was finally united with the original Memphis Belle that is currently being restored at The National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. The Memphis Belle airplane is not on display at the museum because she is not fully restored yet. So, they had to make special provisions for us to get on the restricted airbase. The staff at the museum worked wonders to get us in to see the Memphis Belle. We were also fortunate enough to meet the chief of the restoration division on the base who is in charge of restoring the Belle. He was a fountain of information and very passionate about the Memphis Belle. He gave Bob a badge and a sterling silver coin that only the people that worked on the restoration of the Memphis Belle received. It was definitely to our surprise when he gave Bob an actual piece of metal from the original Memphis Belle. It was very generous of him. It was a momentous and emotional time to see the bike and the plane finally together. One that none of us will ever forget.
We left Dayton August 18th. Jeff and I purchased an enclosed trailer while in Dayton and Bob trailered Mathew’s bike for the rest of the journey back to Manitoba except for the odd day ride. We stopped in a town just outside Chicago to meet a young man named Vegas that Mathew and Tony (Mathew’s brother) got to know through a car club. Vegas is a tattoo artist and earlier on in the year Cheryln (Mathew and Tony’s Mom) got a tattoo from him. Bob wanted to get the same tattoo in memory of his son. We then carried on from there and made our way across the country to Rapid City, South Dakota. We took in some of the amazing local attractions and Bob rode Mathew’s bike around the area and up to Sturgis before we all headed back to Manitoba. We arrived in Manitoba August 25th/2013.
Bob and Sue stayed in Manitoba for a couple of days before they headed back to Spruce Grove, Alberta. The entire journey was physically and emotionally grueling for Bob. He logged approximately 3200 miles/5150km on the bike, in good weather with a bit of rain, many rough roads, sometimes struggling to keep the rigid bike on the road. Astonishingly, the stick he picked up at the beginning of the journey to support his foot peg was almost all there when he returned home. The poignant completion of the project and uniting the bike with its object of inspiration, provided healing to our loss of Mathew. It was an amazing journey on which we saw beautiful scenery and met some great people. We know that Mathew was with us the whole time, showing us the way.
Bob would like to send a special thanks out to the many people who made the building of the bike and the journey to the Memphis Belle possible. He is eternally grateful.
Jus Cuz Customs out of Edmonton, Alberta, for the paint/artwork, and airbrushing with a special thank you to Mitch Peacock the artist. Speed Demon Custom Seats out of Beaumont, Alberta, for the seat with a special thanks to Mike Simard the artist.
High Rollers Custom Motorcycle Parts out of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, for the parts and motor with special thanks to Greg Ambrosie and Colleen Harris.
Gray Owl Motorcycles out of Spruce Grove, Alberta, for the electrical with special thanks to Jim Brancannier (owner), and David Scott. Sue Meyer for all her help with travel and pictures as well as support throughout the journey. Jeff and Theresa Meyers for their help with travel and planning and Jeff for driving the motorhome. His mother Marjorie for her love and her mapping skills.
Owner: Bob Morrison
City: Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada
Fabrication: Bob Morrison, Low Class
Year/make: 2012 Custom Bobber
Assembly: Bob Morrison
Time: 1 year
Year/Make: 2012 Altima
Displacement: 113 cu. In.
Cam: Altima • Carb: Altima
Year/make: 2012 Altima
Painter: Mitch Peacock
Type/color: Army green
Year/make: 2012 Altima
Type: rigid frame
Bars: Springer type ape hangers
Headlight: Motel T Ford Type
Gas tank: 3 ½ gallon Sportster tank
Seat: Mike Simard
Make: DNA Springer