Honoring The men and women who serve or have served our country.
Reprinted with permission:
"Thunder Roads Magazine of Louisiana" April, 2005
Written by: Dewayne "Nappy" Chauvin - Editor/Owner
Waking your wife up at 3am in the morning with the revelation "we need to buy another motorcycle" is about as smart as lying naked over a red ant pile. Not a very good idea at the time but it still didn't stop Gary Towers of Granbury, TX from interrupting wife, Brenda from a good nights rest. You see at the time, Gary had been stewing on this idea that a tribute bike has been long overdue for America's Veterans. Gary's bike of choice has always been Harley-Davidson and through the years, the Motor Company has produced many special edition models for various deserving groups but never anything for Vets. But Gary knew that a tribute bike of this theme wasn't an easy task.
But still the thought held merit.
Getting over her missed resting hours, Brenda indulged Gary's ideas through heavy eyelids. And knowing Gary as well as she did, it was inevitable the concept would turn out to be reality.
Gary's search for a new bike to become his dream ended with the purchase of a 2004 FLHTPI Ultra-Glide Police Special. and within a couple of months and contact with his appointed artist, Gary found his paint slinger. Scott "Shark" Draper of Shark Performance Art spent time with Gary listening to his concepts, ideas, and of course slim budget. During their 3-hour consultation, Shark knew deep in his heart that this was a bike that he had to be involved in. Gary was specific about the certain look he had in mind for his project and a red, white and blue "flag" style paint job was not on his list of ideas. Shark, of course, thought otherwise. But with a slight twist of course. Shark's famous words "Trust Me" worried Gary because as he'd spit out ideas, Shark would smile and just say those two words. Despite Gary's concerns the project began.
Shark, the airbrush artist, with the help of Jerry Bowman, the graphics guru, started on the paint processes. What does the project start with? Why, a red, white and blue flag-style paint job. Gary was floored. This is not what he had in mind nor wanted. But those words to make one worry were spoken again and again, "Trust Me". What else was Gary to do? And rightly so, because Shark incorporated his experiment. With the flag colors prepped, a coat of black was dusted over to give the flag a ghost look, and laid out as the base for the murals. From there, the tributes began. All five branches of America's Military Service are represented on this bike. There is no tribute to any particular theater from wartime, and, no identifications to any particular vehicle featured either. This bike had to pay tribute to every veteran of every war or conflict. The recognized branches of the US Military featured are the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Also featured atop the saddlebags are honor tributes to the founding dates of each branch of service with the 6th dog tag honoring America's Birthday. The bike goes further by incorporating sun-up to sundown themes throughout the murals found on the right hand side of the bike. Close attention was paid in honoring those fallen as well. This subtle tribute shows the bayoneted weapon barrel down with helmet on top. Shark normally signs his work but this bike couldn't be violated with the standard artist's signature so instead, he placed his signature in a unique way. It's up to the admirer to find the 4 sharks located throughout this beautiful steel canvas. As the author is not giving any hints either.
With deep clear coated sheet metal, the bike was assembled with accessories galore relating to the military. From the grenades on the highway pegs, bayonet shift rod, perforated gun barrel exhaust, eagle wing mirrors to the beautifully hand stitched seat with 3-color Ostrich skin eagle by Carmen Allen, professional saddle maker of Moto Saddles in Ft. Worth. These are just drops in the bucket to all the items found on this ride. and those dreadful words "Trust Me" spoken by Shark, became words of comfort as you see the subtle ghost flag in red, white and blue under the base coat in direct sunlight. All murals and branch crests were airbrushed and/or hand painted. You will not find any decals on this bike.
This bike has won 9 trophies in 8 bike shows. It was also featured by invitation only during Harley-Davidson's Private Collection showing at the 21st National HOG Rally in Richmond, VA. Affectionately named "Joe" by wife Brenda, this bike even received an audience by Willie G. himself.
There is not an event or showing that goes by that Gary doesn't become teary-eyed. Someone always finds "Joe" speaking to them in the form of "Thanks". This became wife Brenda's revelation one day when Gary displayed his bike at an American Legion gathering. While disassembling his bike display, adorned with rifles as barrier stands connecting chains and his display of trophies and plaques, the Veterans encouraged Gary to start the bike up. They were adamant despite Gary's concern for the loud exhaust. But these Vets wouldn't have it. They just had to hear the sound. A flick of the switch and twist of the throttle and suddenly the hall was filled with cheers and shouts that well overcame the sounds emitted from the pipes of Gary's concern. As Gary drove the bike out of the building one Vet walked over to Brenda a told her this was the first "Thank You" he ever received since he returned from service during the war. It was then Brenda understood completely why this bike was so important to Gary.
When one approaches this bike knowing what it represents, it becomes an emotional experience. Customized bikes and choppers may get lots of attention during shows, but rarely do they hold the honor of being a bike who's legacy is passed on through praise for it's ability to touch the heart and awaken the pride one has for this country and for those who fought in the name of freedom, or have paid the ultimate sacrifice for same. On the fairing, the message is clear "Never have so few, given so much, to so many" along with the reminder that "Freedom is Not Free". To every one of America's Veterans of past, present and future; Gary and Brenda Towers would like for you to know that you are truly honored and praised for your unselfish dedication to the United States of America. This bike was built in you Honor. Thank You. Nappy
JOE has attended many, many events from coast to coast; border to border since Nappy's article and has won awards and trophies far exceeding any expectation Gary had when he conceived this tribute. Our thanks goes out to those who "get it", like Nappy.