Nalani goes to Sturgis


It started as a vacation for wild parties and having a good time and ended as a trip that will soon change my life and gave me more strength and motivation then any one person’s encouraging words could ever give me.

It was a 2 day journey across just about half of the U.S. from Sunny California to the vast red pavement and rolling hills of Sturgis South Dakota. We arrived late Friday night, quickly unpacking and getting ready for our first night out on the town. We combed through main str. looking at shops, admiring motorcycles, and the expo that was slowly unfolding for a long two weeks, for the biggest bike show in the world. Eventually we found ourselves at a quaint little bar on the strip called One Eyed Jacks. It was a fun place, laid back atmosphere as was most everything in the town. There I met Katy an AFT girl who was currently living in Montana and had just blown in maybe an hour prior. We had dinner a few cocktails and headed back to the hotel for a long nights rest for our first real day in Sturgis.

I awoke to Cyndi blasting her hair dryer next to my head, and Jims pleasant nick name of he had bestowed on me. “Ready for your first big day Pig Pen?” He said. I guess you could say I was, I had just about packed up my entire room in those suitcases and was ready for anything at this point. Luckily it was nothing crazy just a calm day of unloading the bikes, seeing the AMD tent for the first time, and of course scoping out the competition. It was huge to say the least. People from everywhere, and personalities of every sort. Not to mention the bikes, oh my gosh the bikes. Some seemed too beautiful and artfully crafted to even think of riding, while others looked like they belonged in some kind of futuristic movie. I myself was drawn to a classic beauty. It was a gorgeous rich brown and cream colored 1950 chief Indian. It was simple compared to the others, no unnecessary extras or crazy paint jobs. It was just a flawless restoration of an already beautiful bike. Designed for Billy Joel himself, and crafted by Mike Tomas of the Kiwi Indian Company. Towards the end of our day we headed out to the booths on back on main str. looking for the Italian Moto Bike Expo, where we would be briefed for our first day of work early the next morning.

The following day I was excited to see what was on the agenda. It was the first day of many that we would be shot with the bikes Sentoh and Asumati. I couldn’t wait; we got all dolled up, put on our bright pink AFT suits, and headed to the show. We were shot by a German photographer by the name of Onno who was super polite and fun to work with. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for long because I was starting my first day of work for the Moto Bike Expo Company of Verona Italy. There I met a funny man named Jim. He was high energy and made work super fun. When my couple hours were up Cyndi came over and walked me back to the AMD building where we found Jim and drove home to get ready for another night out on the town. This time going to the buffalo chip a huge bar a little ways down the hwy. It was awesome, and absolutely huge. From the elegant art work and motorcycle gallery to people screaming their heads off riding a zip line over the outdoor amp theater. It was a sight to see, and experience to have. We headed back late but got a good night sleep because the next day was the day we had been waiting for. Judgment day.

We woke up early as always making our way back for our big day. The day we’d all been patiently awaiting ever since we disassemble the first piece of Asumati, and laced the last wheel of Sentoh. The AMD World Championships of bike building. We were entered in the freestyle and the performance custom class. They had asked us all to be trophy girls so we got on stage and did our best handing out awards and trying to contain the excitement as the announcer neared our class. “The next category is the Performance Custom,” he said aloud as the microphone boomed throughout the small tent. We stood there as the end of our rope, as they called out 3rd place, then 2nd, and finally 1st. “From Jackson, California AFT Customs!” It was a proud moment as we looked out on all our new found friends cheering and clapping for our victory. All I could think about was sitting in Jim’s shop going over parts. Learning how to put everything together piece by piece. Beating on the same piece of metal for 30 minutes just to get it to curve a hair or two. Wondering when and how great the payoff would be when it came. Well it was finally here and it was well worth the work we had put in. That night we celebrated our victory. This time at the Full Throttle Saloon. My personal favorite of all the bars we had seen. It was amazing. It was the only place I had been to where one minute you could be watching girls dancing to Lil Jon on the bar and walk a few feet to see a women playing down home country music off of a washboard. Then turn the corner and Tedd Nugget would be sitting at the bar next to you getting ready to jump up on stage and play Cat Scratch Fever. It was incredible, but amongst all of the cheers to our victory and congratulations ladies. There was only one congratulation that I was wanting to hear, and it was the only one I knew I wouldn’t. It was my dad’s. He’d passed away about a 3 weeks before the trip. I had told him all about it, how we would be going as a group competing in the biggest show in the world. He was so proud, the only person in my family and friends for that matter who really appreciated what Sturgis was. I could still hear his voice on the phone, “Sturgis?” He’d say in a sort of high pitch excitement with a hint of concern. “You better be careful Na Na, I want to hear all about it when you get back.” Just replaying it makes me miss him more than anyone reading these words could know.

We started talking first about the victory but then slowly got into the subject of the future and what we would be building for the next Sturgis completion. We had discussed it prior to the trip, not just Sturgis but of how I was really excited to see and maybe race at Bonneville. I had talked to my dad about that as well. He was definitely concerned about that one but being a former racer himself he was excited for me to have the opportunity. Once again I was back in his room, “I’ve got a Kevlar jacket you can have and these gloves…” Rummaging around in a big plastic chest under his closet. I sat there on the floor messing with the carpet, asking questions, and listening to his stories of the glory days, and the famous people he’d ridden with. When I was done with my day dream, I was in reality right back at the saloon on a wooden barstool discussing plans for next year. I had an idea. I had been doing some random research online for Hawaiian names and meanings looking for something that might be good for a tattoo, future child, or even a bike…the name was Halia. Which was Hawaiian for “In loving memory or in remembrance.” I was wanting to save it for my own custom build when I could eventually afford one, but the more I thought about it the more appropriate it seemed. Not only was Halia for my father and his memory, but for all the souls that had been left on the race track all those years at Bonneville, what about all the people that had given their own lives just too improve the industry of racing by just a little. What about in their memory? It seemed like the perfect name, and Jim agreed.

That morning we made our way back home to California, thinking over everything we’d talked about the other night combined with catching up on all the sleep that I had missed out on in the past week. It was a great first experience, and I felt honored to share it with such talented people. I can only hope to see what a bright future and fun adventures I will have with AFT, and soon have the privilege of racing on the historic salt flats in my dad’s Hali’a.