Holsclaw is a 1975 three railed motorcycle trailer. I first met her on a bastard cold Chicago day in November last year. She was barely able to peek her remaining rusty blue paint over the snow and ice to look at me as My Shirley and I entered our friend Barb's house. Her husband Don was my best friend. We lost him to a heart attack in 2009. We were helping Barb sort and divest some of her considerable accumulated crap, and I thought I would get a better look at this poor decrepit trailer when Spring eventually rolled around. Through those months I developed a plan to rebuild it, if possible, and take it and a motorcycle or two down to Arkansas to see my dad for his 90th birthday. Dad had expressed interest in buying one of the new Chinese scooters readily available lately, and after my due diligence in researching these machines, I successfully talked him out of it. Not because of his age, but because of the reviews and reliability of such machines, and the hoops you had to jump through to get parts or repairs from overseas parent companies that didn't really give a care about after-sales warranty or service.
Dad raced and rode and fixed motorcycles his whole life, but had never been on a scooter before. He became interested mainly because I have two of them now and simply love the comfort of them, and the ease of driving them in stop and go traffic without the trouble of shifting gears or using a clutch.
My Shirley expressed interest in learning how to ride the scooter that Barb had in her garage and wasn't using. A pretty red 1985 Honda Elite 250 with almost no miles on it. Even though Shirley practiced on it a lot and took a motorcycle safety class (and failed because she had problems with the clutch on the bikes the school used), it didn't really prepare her for street riding where other people are trying to kill you. She dropped the bike a time or two going slowly, and there was no real damage. She was getting used to it, and we even took bikes to church a time or two.
One Sunday morning as she left our driveway on a quick errand with me behind her on another bike, I noticed that her kickstand was down. Modern bikes won't even let you put them in gear with the side stand down, but in 1985 Honda had not built this safety feature into their scooters. So I grabbed a handful of throttle and squirted in front of her, gesticulating wildly for her to slow down and get off to the side of the road. I didn't want her to turn left and have the stand get caught and bash her to the ground. She had plenty of time to slow down, but she choked, and I watched in slow motion horror as she motored into the left front wheel of a car crossing a state highway. I won't ever be able to get this sight out of my mind. The scooter rolled first on its left side before crashing with a sickening thud into the car, with My Beloved Shirley into the quarter panel. Body work and glass flew everywhere. I threw my bike to the ground to get her out of the way of traffic. Unbelievably, she was ok except for some bruises and scrapes. The car wasn't bad, but the bike was totaled. I pulled it off the road and was eventually able to get it home, where it sat under a tarp in the backyard all winter. My KLR 650 was not too much worse for the wear when I dropped it. Thank God that she had the presence of mind to drop the bike first, or she would've gone over the hood of the car, which would not have turned out very well indeed. Barb accepted a fair $1000.00 for the destroyed scooter.
The next year, My Shirley still wanted to get back on that horse, so we shopped around and found another scooter, a Honda Elite again, the same make, model, year and color! It had a factory Kenwood stereo and windscreen. Lovely bike! She crashed that into a curb while relearning. Destroyed the front end and damaged the rear. So I took the best parts from both bikes and put them on the new scooter, while the other bike was left with the damaged parts. I bought new parts as necessary and soon they were both working again. Hers (called the DOGMOM because of her license plate) was now perfect, and the old one (dubbed the Battlescooter) worked ok. The front end is crooked, the hubs out of round and all the gauges were smashed to match the remaining body work, but it runs great. Camo duct tape holds the electronics into what's left of the instrument panel and keeps it water tight. It looks like it needs to be mercy-killed. I covered the body all over with black Gorilla tape and added a few Batman logos and script just for fun. I installed Nanuk 910 dry boxes on both scooters, and added a vintage milk crate with hinges to the top of the dry box on the Battlescooter that would hold our 13 pound miniature pinscher Crash Almighty on top of the hot pink cushioned bottom I made for her to sit on. I cut out strategic bars so she could stick her furry little Doggle-wearing head out from the cage. The Crash Bars, as I call this contraption, also retrofits on my Kawasaki. I can get both scooters up to just under 70 MPH downhill in a tuck with the wind, and I get almost that many miles per gallon. Of course with mine I had to be paced with another vehicle because the speedometer and other gauges on my bike are destroyed. I later on swapped Shirley's Nanuk box for an excellent Bestem T-Box and light kit and a lighted license plate frame from Cycle Gear. It nearly drove me nuts for a few weekends figuring out the different color codes for the wires from the bike, the box, and the plate frame, but after sparks and blown fuses, I got it figured out. Now with all the flashing going on it looks like Times Square on wheels!
I brought Holsclaw home early Spring without incident besides hurting my back pulling it out of the ground. The tires still held air and the bearings weren't frozen after years of being static, annually sinking deeper and deeper into the mud. An ugly diamond in the rough. I eventually stripped it of everything including the paint. New hubs, races, bearings, tongue hitch, shocks, wiring, lights, and new two inch larger diameter tires and wheels. Even a spare. Pounded the fenders back to straight and rattle-canned all metal back to very near factory colors. It looks great and follows so easily you can't even tell it's behind you. I made an extension for the rails for easier loading. It took a little research from forums to find out what shocks were good replacements. Monroe model 555002 shocks worked perfectly.
I wanted dad to ride a scooter before he bought one, and I wanted My Shirley to be able to ride on some of the back roads, also, so both of our scooters were going. I tried to fit my Harley Sportster 883 in the middle of them, but there wasn't room, not even close. My dual sport Kawasaki KLR 650 may have fit because it's very tall and somewhat thin, but the contact patch on pavement with the knobby tires is less than a bikini bottom in Rio. So I settled on just the two scooters. The Battlescooter certainly wasn't my first choice to run the Pig Trail, but that's what I had, so I made the best out of it.
The Pig Trail is in Northwestern Arkansas and is considered by many to be the second best motorcycle road in the states, after the notorious 11 mile, 318 curve Deal's Gap in North Carolina into Tennessee. The Arkansas Route 23 Pig Trail is about 19 miles and is named for its hairpin turns and steep hills. The whole of Route 23 is about 130 miles and runs through the breathtakingly beautiful Ozark Mountains. Dad lives on the 8th hole of his course in Bella Vista, Arkansas an hour or so away from Route 23. Two weeks before we left, dad called and said heavy rains washed out a portion of the road and it was closed. So my one hour ride to Route 23 from dad's now meant a detour of over 100 miles just to get to the bottom of the trail so I could unload, run up a portion of the road and turn around and come back to the car. That certainly sucked, but since the goal from the beginning was to take Holsclaw and some type of bike on the trail, I was going to do it anyway. Two days before we left, one lane of the road was reopened to traffic so I could proceed as I originally planned.
The day before our departure I made a wet run with Holsclaw and the Battlescooter behind Shirley's Ford Escape called the Radcab (our last dog's name was Radical Lee von Dundee) to work, an hour away. When I parked it I noticed grease coming out of both grease seals and coating the complete inside of both wheels. I thought I may have over packed the bearings with grease, and when I got home it was a lot worse. So I ran out and got two new seals and replaced them that night to feel more secure. I had spare parts along in case of any emergency that may happen on the 1500 mile round trip.
Barb stayed at our place and watched the dogs along with our top floor renter brother in law, and we packed and were gone. Holsclaw was a dream to pull, and my Harbor Freight ratchet straps and other hardware worked perfectly. Every time we stopped I checked for grease leakage and felt the hubs for heat. Grease was spinning out everywhere, coating the complete inner wheel, and both hubs were almost too hot to touch. I decided to continue anyway, thinking that a catastrophic failure was unlikely. We made it in under 12 hours, and it's always great to see dad and his Marly! Just leaving on a road trip soothes the soul and decreases blood pressure. Plus, there's nobody I'd rather have as a traveling companion than by beloved Shirley.
The next day was a good weather day, with the next few days after that showing possible storms, so we would leave for the trail the next morning. And what a morning it was. Clear and in the 90's early in the morning with no wind. Shirley wouldn't dare ride a scooter on such a road, but was going to play on her laptop and maybe take a nap while I rode. The roads getting to the trail were outrageous, especially towing a trailer on Route 62! 15 MPH hairpin turns with decreasing radius and angles, Holsclaw wheels touching both yellow lines. Fun fun fun! One of the coolest roads I've ever been on.
We got close to the trail head and settled Radcab and Holsclaw in an out of the way shopping center parking lot. I unloaded the Battlescooter and got dressed. I wore my old Leupold denim jacket with the sleeves rolled up over a t-shirt, with jeans and my Blackhawk Warrior Wear Light Assault boots. These boots have a lace-lock which allows you to snug the laces and close a toggle to secure them instead of tying them. I love this feature! The remaining length of laces get tucked into a pocket built into the tongue. My black Bell helmet with a dark shield is great. Bell helmets were good enough for my boyhood hero Evel Knievel, so they've always been good enough for me. My well worn Under Armor gloves completed my clothing, except for the HK P& M13 I wore in a left hand shoulder holster. Left hand because I could keep my right hand on the throttle while drawing. It was in the mid 90's now, so before starting out I dumped a bottle of water over my t-shirt, and the evaporative cooling effect was significant enough that I was pretty comfortable when riding. Not too hot to handle. My clothes dried quickly, and throughout the day I went through quite a few bottles.
The trail was what I hoped it would be, except for one thing: I was the only one on it! Even better than I imagined! Through the several hours I was on the road I hardly saw anyone, and 95% of the time there wasn't another vehicle in sight! The turns were easy and the roads were perfect and spotless. I almost completed the whole trail one way and was stopped by a closed road. It seems the previous weekend had more bad rains, and a different piece of road was washed out. Anyway, by this time I was already through most of a tank of gas, so I turned around happy, although I never did get the most gnarly parts of the Pig Trail. It's in my mind to do the whole thing again with a proper, powerful motorcycle. The Battlescooter did really well, although I sure did beat hell out of it, especially on steeper inclines. The radiator kept it cool even though I ran a lot of the roads flat out. I was a bit concerned about my tires, because when I replaced them on both scooters I bought $40.00 entry level tires, not knowing at the time I was about to fall in love with these little bikes and ride them on the jagged edge so often. Next time I replace them I'll get better quality, but I certainly cannot fault how they handled the heat and my abuse. I got back to My Shirley and had a nice cold beer or two and got out of my clothes. My lightweight shorts were a dream to wear after dousing my dirty and sweaty body with water from our cooler. Man, did that feel good. We went back to dad's, me wishing the whole time that I could've returned on the Battlescooter through those ridiculously twisting roads, but I wouldn't dare ask My Shirley to drive Radcab and Holsclaw through those corkscrew roads.
We all relaxed and had a great meal with dad and Marly, and the level of the Chivas bottle dropped dramatically through only my doing. My sister Kara and her kids came down to spend dad's 90th with him, also. The next day, dad was ready to try the scooter out, and while I was explaining a few different things about a scooter as opposed to a bike, the old fart just took off. Driving too fast on a scooter on his 90th birthday. He's still a stud. Just a shorter wrinkled one now. I just knew he would fall in love with scooters the same as I did the first time I rode one. But when he got back from his ride he thanked me for bringing it down and said with disdain that he would never get one of the damn things. He didn't feel comfortable on it, it didn't handle well, and he'd rather have a proper motorcycle. My 1993 Harley Sportster came from him, and that's the type of bike he likes, with no fluff and a peanut tank. Just a speedometer and lights. It's a great bike.
All the kids got rides in this beautiful part of the world dad calls "Heaven", and sister Kara rode for the first time in years like she never missed a beat. My Shirley and I got out a few times together on our scooters and we really relished those rides with each other. I got a couple of new bearing kits and replaced the hub guts and grease again in dad's driveway. The parts were from a different manufacturer, and that made the difference, because all way home there was no grease leakage and the hubs never got hot. Not watching my speed, we were even going over 90 MPH a few times, and the average speed overall was probably in the upper 70's. We made it home to the dogs in one piece!