Story: Lee Lopez
Images: Mark V
Not all features are created equal. Each like a fingerprint can tell a story from many different angles. In the end they all lead back to the reasons we read and the reason we admire the images at hand. This feature tells the tale of a series of unfortunate events that lead to a happy ending of growth, and a bright future on the horizon. Enjoy!
This bike was a new beginning for me when I built it. It opened doors and took me down paths in life that I never would have ever experienced.
In a very short period, I went from building my first street legal motorcycle, which was a piece of shit 1984 Yamaha xs400 hardtail chopper in July of 2015. Next was a 1975 shovelhead chopper in May of 2016. After that, I jumped straight into a 1948 panhead in December of 2016.
Now you might be thinking, wow that’s all great, but a whole series of unfortunate events brought me to where I’m at now.
It all started with the xs400. Bought it in pieces thrown in milk crates. Threw it together and rode it for a little while. Wanted something faster so I sold it. Ended up finding a 1954 ford custom line project that I really liked so I bought that instead of another bike.
The day after I was finally done building that car and it was all officially street legal, I drove it to work. At about 3:45am on my way to work, 3 deer run out left to right. I nailed the last one. Fucked the whole front end of the car, and the clutch started acting up and the engine started ticking. I knew my insurance wouldn’t cover it because you’re not supposed to drive to and from work with classic insurance, so I drove it to work and got out early around noon. Drove it to a gas station parking lot and called them and acted like it had just happened. Got a tow to a shop, they totaled the car, and I received a good amount of money from the insurance company, and I didn’t buy back the car.
A Series of unfortunate events..
I then used that to buy my first Harley, a 1975 shovelhead hardtail stretched chop. Got that home and changed around what I wanted and built it to be my own and rode that up until Friday night on October 21st, 2016.
I was taking a ride out east after a long day at work around 11pm and I woke up in the hospital the next day. Turns out a car had hit me from behind and dragged me 100 yards and left the scene. Forensics estimated I was going 45mph and the vehicle that hot me was going 75mph+.
A good Samaritan pulled over because she saw sparks flying out from under a passing car and found me on an unlit road, laying in the middle of the double yellow, unconscious in a puddle of blood. She called 911 and held a flashlight and stood over my body so no other cars would run me over, she saved my life that night.
They wanted to air lift me, but it was too foggy. While she was waiting for the ambulance to arrive, she said that I woke up for a brief moment and just rattled off my home phone number and nothing else and then went back out into unconsciousness.
She called it and it was my mother who got that call.. Her and one of my best friends who I ride with came to the scene and when they arrived, one of the officers was writing me a ticket for riding out of class. At the time I only had a permit. My friend was able to talk him out of it because he explained I was only weeks away from going into the air force at the time. I still owe him for that.
So, then it turns out one of my buddies in a local fire department was one of the first responders who loaded me into the ambulance. And I was so fucked up that he didn’t even recognize me. Later on, we found out that during that ambulance ride when they started cutting all my clothes off, I came out of unconsciousness again and grabbed one of the EMT’s collars and said “don’t cut my fucking leather” and passed back out.
My 1960s A2 bomber jacket. That thing saved most of the skin I would have lost. Surprisingly, he didn’t cut it, but that luck runs out later.
I ended up in Stony Brook hospital for one single week of the one month that they wanted to keep me there. My hospital roommate was ironically the father of one of my mother’s high school students who had recently died in a motorcycle accident where someone blew a stop sign in front of him. All day, every day I had to listen to him complain that he wanted more pain meds for his knee replacement. Meanwhile, my whole body is completely fucked and I rip the IV out when the nurse came in and put something into my IV bag and said “this’ll make you a little more comfortable”. The whole time I was there they were trying to feed me vicodins and oxys. I didn’t want that shit in me, I never liked pain meds. They fuck with your head more than they actually help the pain.
After trying to escape the hospital one too many times, they let me rent out a hospital bed and put it in our living room at home.
the light at the end of the tunnel
After about a month’s time and fighting with my insurance to get 12k out of them for the totaled shovelhead had insured for 21k, I was able to buy this panhead. It was a complete bike but not how I wanted it. My friends got it home for me and I immediately took it all apart and sold whatever parts I didn’t want and got it put together just in time for the January first cold finger run; a charity ride for children with cancer. After that, I fine-tuned it and got it painted with the same exact paint scheme as the 1975 shovelhead. In a lot of ways, I built this by guy to resemble the shovelhead as closely as possible because of how much I loved the way the shovelhead was. Since then, I’ve taken it too many car and bike shows. I’ve taken it to Daytona Bike Week. I’ve put a lot of miles on this bike, so many in fact, that while riding to the cemetery during a friend’s funeral behind a flatbed with his bike on it, it finally blew up and only ran on the front cylinder. Rear cylinder head zero compression and the front was almost gone too.