Rediscovering the ride
Cross country on a ’38 Chief
Imagine if you had the chance to buy a ’38 Indian Chief that had been ridden to the first Sturgis Black Hills Rally and Races. And what if there were an entire portfolio of black-and-white photos to document that ride? You’d probably be eager to check out that bike, wouldn’t you? Now, what if that bike had been your dad’s? Well, Warren, Ohio’s Eddie Kriner was actually reunited with the ’38Indian Chiefthat his dad rode to the first Sturgis and beyond in 1938, and the images you see are from that trip.
Harold Kriner, Eddie’s dad, set out on the run to end all runs in the summer of ’38 on his brand new Indian Chief. Harold and his brothers Bill and Chuck, along with friends Wib Jenkins and Cotton Lyons were going on the first AMA Black Hills Gypsy Tour in the summer of ’38. The Alliance, Ohio-area group had plans to go on to California and would take in other sights along the way.
In a few short years, World War II would change everything. Kriner, valedictorian at Bergholtz High School near Alliance and a recent graduate from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, would find himself working on the Manhattan Project, but this summer he would ride with his brothers and friends, seeing what there was to see. From the photos and from what he’d been told, Eddie says the trip included a stop in Davenport, Iowa, to watch motorcycle racing; the races at Sturgis; Yellowstone National Park and on to Carmel, California, before returning home to Alliance, Ohio.
Unfortunately, the summer of ’38 nearly became a lost chapter in Harold Kriner’s life. His past of riding and travel was seldom spoken of when Eddie was growing up, and the photos were locked away. Eddie heard bits and pieces about his dad’s wilder days from his uncles every now and then; and one day, after his dad had passed, he came across these photos. Eddie had heard enough to know that there was a more exciting side to his father than the work-a-day world of the engineer who raised him. Years later when his Uncle Bill’s estate was to be settled in nearby Salineville, Ohio, Kriner stopped by to look around. That’s when he discovered his dad’s Chief! With no regrets, Kriner’s cousin helped him load up the old Indian and it was never subjected to the estate auction. It was home again.
Having seen the pictures and heard the stories of his Dad’s Sturgis trip, Eddie had the whole package now. Boots, hat, ’38 AMA Gypsy Tour belt buckle and now the bike. Eddie would be the first one to tell you he’d trade it all if he could have his dad back to tell him the stories.
Today the bike has been restored mechanically by Bob Bancroft, who did the motor and transmission. “If it needed it, he did it,” Eddie said, including boring, pistons, rings and valves. It’s now an 80″ Chief with new cams. The frame was powder coated and the tins treated to a lustrous, gloss-black finish, hand-painted striping and hand-painted Indian head on the tank by “Gorgo” to really set it off. Other upgrades included stainless spokes laced to black rims shod with Coker tires. It’s in better-than-new condition, including the 1938-only, gray-faced speedo and amp meter.
There was the expected struggle in titling the bike, including court appearances and inspections, but the paperwork is in order and the bike is legally Eddie’s. It was recently displayed at the Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio, as part of their “On the Road Again” motorcycle exhibit in conjunction with the AMCA.
Plans are in the works for an exhibit at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame featuring the complete set of images from the trip. Kriner is taking orders for copies of the images at email@example.com, or you can call him at 330.544.0838.
Eddie realizes how special his Chief is, and he was eager to share what he knew of his Dad’s cross country ride with you, our readers. The pictures truly tell the story, and as you make your way to Sturgis this year, take a minute to reflect on how much different that would have been in ’38. No super-slab or the amenities that go with it, including hot showers, telephone, public restrooms, or easy-on, easy-off gas exits. No cell phones, no trailers, no “toy haulers,” no GPS, no roadside assistances plans; hell, in some cases, no road, let alone roadside.
Thanks to Harold and the boys for taking a camera back then and leading the way. And thanks to Eddie for sharing the story and giving a significant old bike the home it deserves.