February 2000 Ride Feature www.virtualindian.org   
    Home / Features / Road Trip
 Barney goes to LA
  By Stan Jessup
       Before I get started, I'll give you a little information about myself. First, I love long road trips, especially when it involves warm, scenic areas. I live in the Pacific Northwest where the Summers are beautiful, but the rest of the year, is dark and wet. My favorite motorcycles are the "World's Finest" Indian motorcycles, but for the road trips, I ride a 97 Harley Road King. I have owned many brands, and styles of bikes since 1970, but the Road King has proven to work best for the type of riding I prefer. Harley's are dinosaurs, and mine is Violet (Purple), hence the bike has been dubbed "Barney". Although I sometimes enjoy riding with select friends, my preference is to ride alone and enjoy the solitude.  
  
        I purchased an Indian 741B (see photo 741) from a fellow in New York, and when it arrived, I began doing some of the background work for restoration. The bike had an unstamped engine installed, and the original engine in pieces, but complete, so I wanted to get the installed engine running, and then remove it, and install the correct engine. Then the sale of the unstamped engine would provide some of the funds for the restoration of the bike. Once I got the engine running, I was ready to rebuild the correct engine, and found that the reason it had been replaced, was a broken cam gear. I found that the crankshafts and bearing races were terribly pitted, and decided that I wanted to send the cases to John Bivens at Jerry Greer's Indian Engineering to have them replaced. I had also spoken to Jerry about trading, or selling him the spare engine, and some other spare parts, but it is risky and expensive to ship complete engines, so I decided to make a road trip out of it. This would also be an excellent opportunity to visit Starklite, and Kiwi, since I have dealt with all of them, but never been there. March in Oregon is wet and cold, and Southern California is dry and warm, so it was an easy decision, but how do you haul 300 pounds of parts and still make it a bike trip..... Well, I have a small cargo trailer that Barney could pull, and as long as I didn't hit snow and ice it wouldn't be a problem. 
  
        The trip to the Los Angeles area is about 1000 miles each way, and I figured it would take two days each way. I headed south on Friday, expecting to pull in to LA Sunday afternoon, get a Motel, and visit Greer on Monday. Starklite is closed Monday, so I would hit Kiwi and Stark's on Tuesday. I don't usually do a lot of planning, since I like to be flexible, and decide as I go. 
  
        I made it about 700 miles, before deciding to get a room, so I stopped and secured a place for the night. One of the reasons I like Barney, is that he can go the distance with very few problems. Pulling the extra weight, caused the fuel mileage to drop a bit, but Barney handles it well. I had to stop and redistribute the load in the trailer several times to improve the handling, and finally blew the air shock line on the trailer. I decided to make a run for LA, and then I could repair the damaged line at the Motel, since I would have plenty of dead time. I arrived in LA, picked up some air line, and secured a room by around 1 P.M. Sunday. I then set out to replumb the air lines in the parking lot of the Motel. 
  
        Monday morning I went to visit Jerry Greer's shop. I was surprised at how small the facility was, but impressed at the depth of their stock. The shop is located in Stanton, Ca., in a small Industrial rental park. Jerry's shop is very clean, neat, well organized, but not what you might expect by looking at the scope of his catalog detail. Jerry Greer's Indian Engineering, had planted the vision of some massive facility with computers, test equipment, CNC machining, and engineers in my mind...........  
  
       I spent a couple hours visiting with Ron (parts dude), Jerry, and the very interesting, John Bevins. John, owns the restoration part of the business, and besides being quite a character, his knowledge of Indians is impressive. John is meticulous, dedicated, articulate, and just an all round good guy. He is also more than willing to share his knowledge, and is not afraid to tell you when he doesn't know something (That impresses me more than all the self proclaimed experts).  
  
        Since the tour, and visit didn't take as long as I had anticipated, I decided to take a run up north to find Kiwi, in Riverside. 
For those of us that aren't used to LA traffic, their freeway system can be like a pinball game, and you're the ball!  

        I found Riverside, and using my detective skills, circled the area that I was sure they were in, several times, before giving my male ego a kick in the butt, and finding a phone. Steve just laughed, and told me I was about 4 blocks away. Now, you have to understand, none of the streets go through, and their shop is located in a semi residential area, on Mike's property, behind his house. Their shop seamed less crowded than Greer's, but every bit as well organized, and clean. The shop has a small group of bikes on display, as well as some memorabilia and original Indian items. They were in the beginning stages of setting up an area for repair and restoration work. I spent some time visiting with Steve between his other duties, and got a chance to meet Mike "Kiwi" Tomas. They have a very nice custom built Freightliner truck that has an amazing amount of inventory, which is taken to the major swap meets around the country. I got some directions from Steve, and headed back to the Motel, in the late afternoon. 
  
        OK, so I had a little trouble finding Kiwi, but I had a bead on Starklite for Tuesday morning; sort of. I loaded all my gear up, (and the empty trailer) and headed for Perris to find Starklite. Perris, is a relative term, as I don't think I was ever near the town, if there is one. Stark's are located in the foothills that surround the Los Angeles area, and it seamed like the roads were never well marked, and would wind around forever without going anywhere. I knew I was in the area, but again, needed help. I spotted an old store (the Mom and Pop type) up in the hills, so I decided to stop, and have a cup of coffee. Turns out, I was only a few blocks away, again.  
  
        When I arrived at Starklite, I wasn't really sure it was the right place. It looks like a rural, small acreage subdivision, but the sign says I'm in the right place....... I pulled up to the main building, and was directed upstairs to the attic, where the mail order operations are carried out. Here, I found all of the familiar voices that I have spoken to over the years. Everyone was busy answering the phones, and directing the packing and shipping of customers orders. I talked with Frank and Sabrina, met Gary, and Shorty, and was told that Bob was on his way. When Bob arrived, a few minutes later, he was on a mission; someone had called in, and needed a dimension from an original part, which he was determined to find. Keep in mind, I had not made any arrangements with any of these companies; I just showed up. Bob asked if I would like a tour, but said I would have to be willing to take a few detours, which I gladly agreed to. Bob explained that the property is something like 10 acres, and since it is a subdivision, he didn't want to put up one large building, and opted for several "houses" which could be converted to a residence, and sold off individually if need be. We jumped in one of Bob's old Ford Falcon Ranchero's and headed up the road to the top of the hill, where we went inside one of the approximately 10 or so buildings. This building was stuffed full of original parts, (photo: storage) frames, wheels, and a very nice vintage (photo: Tbird) Thunderbird (one of several). This is the place we all want to go to when we die! Bob got his dimensions, and we were off to deliver the information. 
  
        Next stop; the museum building....... OK, I was wrong about where I want to be sent after death. The museum is spotless, and very full of nicely restored bikes (photo: Chief row), an original Indian (photo OBmotor) outboard, and another restored 50's Thunderbird. After snapping some photos, we went upstairs, which confirmed that this is the right place to die...... Original drawings, literature, memorabilia, racing uniforms, reproduction parts drawings, and anything Indian you can think of.  
  
        Off to a storage building (house) to look at stockpiles of semi finished, and ready to ship repro parts. Mountains of parts. Here we found sheet metal, exhaust, castings, and even some more unrestored oddity bikes. I was told we should stop by the "shed" to look at something, and when you go inside, it is full of original flywheels. I mean LOTS of flywheels! I needed a couple small original parts, so we headed for Bob's personal shop, at the crest of the hill, where he lives. Inside the shop, Bob showed me his complete (unfinished) 1953 Chief, which was compiled from nothing but NOS parts, over the last 30 plus years. We looked at the parts they have developed for rebuilding original ignition switches, and even found the parts I needed. Oh yeah, another very nice T bird in the garage. 
  
        After we returned to the main building, Bob asked me if I would like to spend the night in their guest cottage. I declined the invitation, as it was late afternoon, and I thought I would like to get a jump on the return trip by getting out of the LA area. Let's see, LA freeway traffic at 4 P.M........ maybe I should have spent the night.  
  
        I only went about 200 miles north before fatigue started in, so I found a room. The next day, I pressed on, hoping to make it over the Siskyous (photo: Shasta), (the only major pass I had to cross) before dark. When I travel alone, I only stop when I need gas, so I make pretty good time, and found myself at the base of the mountains in the early afternoon. Since I needed gas, I thought I would stop for a sandwich, and get warmed up a bit. While sitting in the restaurant, I noticed it was starting to snow, and knew it was not going to get better, so I better get over the hill in a hurry. Welcome to Oregon; and the rain! Well when I get wet, I get cold, and when I get cold, I get cranky! No problem, but since I hate to stop, I rode the remainder of the way home, wet and cold. The last day turned out to be 800 miles, which isn't recommended, unless you are used to it, but as I said, I hate to stop, and when you are a couple hundred miles from home, and wet, go for it. Oh yeah, did I mention there was a very warm hot tub waiting at home? 

     
 Click for full size 
741B for restoration  
(back to text) 
  
  
  
  
Click on thumbnail pictures 
to see full size. 
Click on full size pictures 
to get back here. 
  
  
  

  
  
  
  

Click for full size 
Storage, Starklite 
(back to text) 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

  
  
  

Click for full size 
TBird, Starklite 
(back to text) 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

  
  
  
  
  

Click for full size 
Chief Row, Starklite 
(back to text) 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

  
  
  

Click for full size 
Outboard Motors, Starklite 
(back to text) 

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

  
  
  

Click for full size 
Mount Shasta 
(back to text) 

  
  
  
     
     
     
     
     
      
     
    
     
     
        
  
Jerry Greer: 
Phone 1 714 826 9940    
   
Kiwi Indian: 
indian@kiwi-indian.com 
Phone 1 909 780 5400 
www.kiwi-indian.com  
   
Starklite:    
gary@starklite.com   
Phone 1 909 780 0421 
www.starklite.com