Interview: John Velghe

I really can’t stress how much I support what John’s doing (as you can probably tell by all the posts). He’s taking his passion for motorcycling and music and doing something to really help people. Having lost someone close to me who was a registered organ donor, this cause hits close to my heart. Please, chip in to sponsor the tour, donate to the aid organizations, see one of the shows … and check that box on your driver’s license.

John’s tour kicks off on Tuesday, September 16th in St. Louis at Cicero’s St. Louis. A full listing of the shows is on the New Hearts MC website.

WorldOf2: Storage space is a precious resource on a motorbike, I know a lot of people that have trouble just packing clothes for a few days, you’re going much longer than that plus taking all of the things needed to perform. I assume you’ll have merch and your guitar any other music gear? How are you squeezing all this on to your bike?

John Velghe: I’ve done a few two-up camping trips of 10 days each. On those trips it was two people, our camping gear (including sleeping bags and tent for autumn in Colorado, stove, etc.), coffee, food, tools, and clothes. I’ve gotten pretty good at prioritizing what’s crucial and what can stay behind.

On this trip I’m not taking camping gear and won’t be bracing for cold nights at altitude. So this will be a little luxurious by comparison. I have a set of Mica Tech Pilot Cases, which are cavernous. I have a pretty big “top bag” that I mount on the back too.

I’m carrying my clothes and music gear and bike tools with me. A couple rolls of quarters take up a lot less space than clothes, so I’ll be doing laundry along the way. For gear, it’s pared down to an acoustic guitar, an Ear Trumpet Labs Edwina Microphone, a couple cables, a capo, and a tuner.

Wo2: Weather happens, how are you making sure things stay dry?

JV: The MicaTech cases and the top bag are water tight. For the guitar I have a sealed fiberglass case and I picked up a Jack’s Plastic Welding PVC bag that is build to put a guitar in for white water rafting. For me I have a rain suit.

Wo2: Do you have a contingency plan if you run out of merch mid-tour? Are you sending some in advance to the venues or will you rely on overnight shipping?

JV: HA! This tour was the reason I made the “design decision” to go with Digipak CDs instead of (breakable) jewel cases. My plan up until last week was to ship CDs and t-shrits to specific places in advance. My daughter lives in Philly, and good friends live in NYC, Durham and Nashville. I was going to set up shipping to those milestones and then ship back what wasn’t needed. However, a kind soul has made it possible to have Juj and Picco follow along in a car and carry merch. They’re going small too, and Picco required ample space to sleep, so I still have to carry my gear on the bike. But we’re saving the cost and wear and tear of shipping back and forth.

Wo2: Have you hooked up with any other riders that will join you for any of the riding? If not, are is that something you’d be interested in?

JV: I would LOVE to have some riders share a stretch. The whole point of this tour is about humanity connected with one another. That’s sort of what organ donation is, isn’t it? One human connecting with another at a cellular level. So the more people I can have ride along the closer it comes to the essence of the tour. If anyone wants to ride along for a segment they can contact me at my website and we’ll coordinate.

Wo2: I love the positive spin you’re putting on the “donor cycle” stereotype. Why did you choose transplant recipients and donors as the benefactors of the tour?

JV: I have a couple friends who’ve been affected by organ donation. One very good friend was never able to get an organ transplant. We all hoped it would happen and he’d be able to move forward in his second chance. Unfortunately he passed away a couple years ago before it could happen. Another friend is in consideration for the UNOS transplant list. And there are member’s of my community whose experiences with organ donation clarified beauty of the process.

Those are the things that lie at the heart of album’s title, Organ Donor Blues. Then there’s the idea that they call motorcyclists “organ donors.” Which in the one hand I say is just contemptuous bullshit and in the other hand I say “So what? Aren’t there worse legacies?” You know, not all organ donors are dead people. There are plenty of people who’ve donated their organs and live to see the beauty of watching someone have a second chance. It’s a beautiful gift, and you don’t have to die to give it.

And anyone who gives of themselves is, in my estimation, an organ donor.
So the title of the album, my friends, and a deep and abiding internal sense of “kiss my ass” made me realize this is something worth doing. If it can help the cause of organ donation and organ transplant recipients specifically, or even just spread the word of the idea of doing something for reasons outside yourself, giving of yourself, then that’s all I really want to come of it.

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Interview: Camping on a Scrambler with Beer and Guns

Will Shoemaker posted a picture of his recent camping trip to /r/motorcycles and it gained a lot of attention and caused a bit of controversy due to some of the items he packed.Will's Scrambler

I knew I had to get the backstory on the bike and the person riding it into the woods.

WorldOf2: I loved the title you gave your post on Reddit (Nobody wanted to go camping with me, fuck it I’ll go by myself then.). It really encompasses the way a lot of people feel about motorcycling being an escape. Avid campers that I know feel the same. Which came first: camping or motorcycling?

Will: Camping came first, my earliest memories are camping with my mom in pops in VA. I started riding when I was 19 and my first bike was a KLR 250 so moto camping logically followed suit.

That’s the attitude you have to have when you want to ride though, you have to say fuck it. Fuck it I’ll ride alone, fuck it I’ll ride in the rain, fuck it 600 miles isn’t that far.

Wo2: Do you have much experience with moto-camping?

W: The type of moto camping I do now isn’t like how I started out. I’d bring my KLR up to the mountains when I was a dumb kid and we’d get drunk and ride it around on trails but we’d take all our gear in the trucks. Now I can pack enough gear for 2 weeks on my bike and camp comfortably and not get drunk and crash my bike on some mountain bike trail like a dumbarse.

Wo2: You have a pretty interesting load out, and one that made for some controversy in some of the comments when first posted on Reddit. Can you give a run down of your luggage, gear, and packing technique?

W: I have 3 packs that I carry on my Scrambler. Back pack which contains my sleeping bag, AR (I don’t always take a rifle only when I want to plink), a hand gun, and a few other small essentials. I also have a small duffel that contains my sleeping pad, cooking supplies, hammock, pillow, book, webbing, lights, food, various other small essentials. I also have a small soft cooler which contains 12 beers from my local micro brewery of choice and various other small essentials (bottle opener).

A lot of people shit the bed about showing a gun on the motorcycle sub [/r/motorcycles] and I believe my comment in response to this was it was for plinking and something about mountain lions.

Wo2: I notice a few non-stock things on your Scrambler. What all have you done to it?
W: I literally just bought the bike a month ago from a rad older dude back in the mountains. He had put the after market seat on (with the luggage rack) but other than that it was stock. First thing I did was put dirt bars on it because it made the bike feel more like my Monster and the low-profile looked way better.

Wo2: Any planned modifications?

W: Planned Mods? I thought about chopping the tail but then again I hate having water pissing down my backside everytime it rains, thought about getting the 2-1 arrow but the stock exhaust is pretty sick. Honestly I’ll probably just get a head light screen to prevent that from getting fucked up and maybe get some legit dirt bike pegs because the rubber one suck for gripping with my cowboy boots.

Wo2: How off-road did you get and how do you feel the Scrambler handled that?

That was pretty tame off road, I could handle a lot more intense off road without being fully geared down. I feel like with that bike you could take it anywhere but there is always the risk of dropping it because it’s pretty heavy and I’m not a huge fellow but fuck it those would just be battle scars right?

Wo2: What other motorcycles have you owned?

W: Previous bikes, first bike was a 2001 KLR 250. No shit, probably the best bike you can get to learn on, you can drive it off a cliff then pick it up and drive to class the next day. Next bike was a 883 Sportster, also great bike for your first “real” motorcycle I’ll probably get one again one day. After that I got a Monster 696 also solid, good for commuting and touring (believe it or not) blew that fucker up first ride in the rockies. Then I got the Scrambler, had it a month and put 2K miles on it no regrets it’s the coolest bike ever made and it gets me where I need to be.

Wo2: Let’s talk about the AR. Is this a custom build or an off-the-shelf?

W: No it’s not a custom build totally stock Bushmaster M4A3 heavy barrel, I’m not really a gun nut but I have an arsenal for plinking and hunting from when I lived in VA. I haven’t really adapted that to CO yet. I spend to much time riding and working now.

Wo2: Why an AR instead of a handgun? It seems like a handgun would be the easier option on a bike?

W: An AR is an interesting choice for motocamping, but I love to shoot rifles, it’s relaxing for me it’s not often you get to that level of focus. That being said I typically shoot .22 for fun (plinking) but living in CO I can’t find any .22 ammo and I’m saving my last 30 rounds for squirrels and rabbits this fall. A hand gun is always a better option when packing light, and I did have one with me but I don’t enjoy shooting them like I do my rifles. I brought the hand gun for critter defense.

Wo2: Any particular challenges packing the AR?

W: No challenges I had it strapped solidly into the side wall of my pack. I’ve done this many times before and never had it become loose or fall out. The biggest risk is it gets some mud on it or some soccer mom calls the cops on me while I’m gassing up.

Wo2: How was the plinking?

W: Plinking sucked because I bought glass bottles and didn’t have any beer cans to shoot. Also forgot ear plugs this time so I just shot at a tree in a bank about 100 yards out just to squeeze the trigger a bit. Needless to say I’m rusty this year.

Wo2: I assume nomadic moto-camper isn’t your day job, what do you do?

W: I’m an IT Project Manager. I dress up and act nice to people who suck and stare at computers all day so I try to do the exact opposite of that on the weekends.

Wo2: Do you have any more moto-camping trips planned?

W: Yep, next summer/fall I want to explore the Pacific Northwest, I want to head up there and fly fish, hit up some new breweries and visit friends.

I’ve ridden cross country from the East Coast to Colorado and back but never any further north or west.

Here are photos from that trip.

Wo2: Thanks for you time! Anything you want to add in?

W: Yep sure. I see too many people playing dress up or having a dick measuring contest about who’s got the best bike. Riding needs to be about getting you to where you need to be, be that a state of mind or a remote location in the Rockies. Say fuck it and go ride somewhere.

Dammit I just typed a shit load. Blame it on the gin.

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