Friends from out in the “middle”—that being the nickname residents call their state since Smith County, Kansas, is actually the center of these great United States—have been bugging me for some time to come out and visit their neck of the woods. And while the geographic description is accurate, the nickname also implies a mindset there. Laid back, middle-of-the-road and mellow, residents seem content to let the world turn as they live out their lives smack-dab in the middle of our nation.
The long, flat roads of Kansas seem to go on forever, emptying into vast, open spans of farmland. My riding friends here don’t tend to wander too far from their stomping
grounds with most folks living in close proximity to their birthplace and, with everyone seeming to know each other, families are close knit.
When plans started to take shape for my first trip to the “middle,” everyone knew full well that they’d need something bike-oriented to keep my attention deficit under control, so we arranged to meet up during the annual World of Wheels Car and Bike show that rolls into downtown Kansas City, Missouri, during February every year.
For confusion sake, it must be clarified that Kansas City, Kansas is about four miles, one big river and a huge bridge west of the Kansas City that is in the neighboring state of Missouri. Our clan met up in the middle of the convention center at Bartle Hall. The joint was filled to the rafters with families and folks from the surrounding areas that were looking for a way to blow off some stored up stink and escape the winter doldrums. Missouri is bordered by eight states and after spending the cold mid-America winter months fighting off a big dose of cabin fever, everyone is anxious for any excuse to socialize with like-minded friends.
Attendees come from all walks of life and include gearheads, pinheads, motorheads, bikerheads and every other culture that worships at the altar of the internal combustion engine. If it had wheels, this show had it displayed in full regalia. From the cream of the crop to the rustiest of the rust buckets, the World of Wheels draws an appreciative audience that was wound up and ready to rock. Avid art fan Jacquie Mann (David Mann’s widow) came with us to check out the kool kulture art. Our band of merriment spent the afternoon cruising the displayed bikes and discovered young artist Kyle Moody’s most recent builds.
Kyle readily admits that he’s no bike builder, just an artist with an active imagination, and the killer kool 1979 Yamaha 650 with the reworked fire extinguisher as a gas tank really caught our eye. The amazing work of art captured our attention as we checked out all the intricate details worked into the sculptured bike. Everyone tried to figure out how he managed to incorporate a functioning throttle into the piece of copper pipe he fashioned into handlebars. Kyle even hand tools the leather seats of his motorcycles and states that the owners of his creative bikes do ride them. His remarkable work has been showcased in bike magazines across the states.
The family-owned and operated Gail’s Harley-Davidson dealership from Grandview, Missouri, holds an invitational bike show within the World of
Wheels Show and was on hand with their staff to offer great deals on displayed bikes. Gail also judges the handpicked entrants of her bike show. Set up directly across from her booth was the homemade Keck’s Root Beer, which kept a steady stream of happy imbibers lined up in the aisle and had our tribe going back for seconds of the tasty treat.
The most popular part of the day’s activities catered to the kiddie crowd. Mommies and daddies lined up to race oversized slot cars with their little darlings and practically took over the joystick as they relived their childhood. Entire families had a great time shrieking and joking as they battled it out on the racetrack, while across the cavernous hall, the Pinstripers’ Auction was busily raising bucks for children whose lives are not as jovial. The Dream Factory works to grant the wishes of chronically or critically ill children, and for 10 years the Kansas City area ‘stripers have had a benefit auction during the World of Wheels Show. Led by painter Bob Bonds, local “pinheads” create masterpieces to be auctioned to the public with proceeds going to the charity. Items offered ranged from striped panel tins to cakes sculpted into the shape of a car that were donated by a local baker. Top score was the Ed Roth-styled painted toilet seat that went for $3,600 after some hot and heavy bidding. By auction’s end, this year’s event raised over $15,000 for the children, which brought the total to over $67,000 having been raised by the pinstripers. Now that’s how folks out in the middle look after each other.
Bike Show Results
First Place: Jon Roebuck, Belton, Missouri, ’79 Suzuki
Restored Custom Bike
First Place: George Lafal, Kansas City, Missouri, ’67 Harley-Davidson
First Place: Ellen Settles, Belton, Missouri, ’03 Custom 250 Softail
Outstanding: Buddy Schulz, Washington, Texas, ’04 South Central Chopper
Outstanding: Philip Fairchild, Scaly, Texas, ’04 South Central Chopper
Class Winner: Steve Collins, Independence, Missouri, ’04 American Ironhorse Lone Star Chopper
Sport Touring Bike
First Place: Travis Caw, St. Joseph, Missouri, ’03 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide
Outstanding: Danny Jones, Kansas City, Kansas, ’01 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail
Outstanding: Thomas Wilkerson, Lawrence, Kansas, ’95 Harley-Davidson Road King
First Place: Randy Hamilton, Overland Park, Kansas, ’85 Honda Gold Wing
First Place: Theo Bass, Independence, Missouri, ’01 Suzuki
Outstanding: William Wilkerson, Lawrence, Kansas, ’03 Suzuki GSXR
Outstanding: Shane Sherman, Leawood, Kansas, ’03 Suzuki GSXR
Class Winner: Bill Harper, Liberty, Missouri, ’02 Suzuki
Class Winner: Jamie Pater, Bates City, Missouri, ’02 Suzuki
Class Winner: Jon Roebuck, Belton, Missouri, ’04 Suzuki GSXR
Bike w/Side Car
First Place: Wallace LaFond, Grain Valley, Missouri, ’02 Stella Scooter
First Place: Ray Oulman, Excelsior Springs, Missouri, ’57 Cushman Eagle
Outstanding: Ray Oulman, Excelsior Springs, Missouri, ’56 Ford Mustang Cycle
First Place: Ron Harvey, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, ’04 Harley-Davidson
North American Mfg. Custom—Full
First Place: James Consolver, Union Star, Missouri, ’95 Harley-Davidson
North American Mfg. Conservative
First Place: Dale Overfelt, North Kansas City, Missouri, ’65 FLHT Panhead
Outstanding: Dale Overfelt, North Kansas City, Missouri, ’71 Harley-Davidson
North American Mfg. Radical
First Place: David Thayer, Merriam Kansas, ’96 Harley-Davidson
First Place: Randy Hamilton, Overland Park, Kansas, ’03 Honda Shadow Spirit