Gold Hill memorial rally attracts hundreds of bike lovers, enthusiasts

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 25, 2012

By Hugh Fisher
GOLD HILL — It takes a special eye to appreciate the beauty of a vintage motorcycle.
And there were plenty of aficionados on hand at the sixth annual exhibition around the historic Gold Hill mining village and park.
The annual event was organized in memory of Tyler Poole, who died in 2004 at the age of 19.
Proceeds benefit a scholarship fund in memory of Poole.
His father, Gary Poole, organizer of the daylong event, said close to 800 people either brought their bikes to the rally or attended throughout the day.
The evening featured a concert in the park by The Carolina Breakers, with beach music, classic R&B band and pop hits.
But Poole said the crowd was off for this year’s event.
“Our standard is about 150 bikes on display, and the crowd ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 throughout the day,” Poole said.
But the crowd waned later in the day, due to what Poole called one of the challenges of organizing a motorcycle event.
Many of those who restore vintage bikes, he said, are older. “They want to get on home,” Poole said.
Not to mention, there were other events competing for attendees in Faith and elsewhere.
And Saturday’s high temperature of 87 degrees probably also kept people away, Poole said.
But for the riders, bike-lovers and curiosity-seekers, it was a chance to swap stories and see classics up close.
Take Kenneth “Shorty” Hatley, of Locust, for example.
He brought three motorcycles to Gold Hill — a ’65 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide “panhead,” a seventies-vintage chopper he built from parts and his favorite, a ’76 Harley-Davidson Super Glide.
“That’s pretty much all original,” he said of the Super Glide
The chopper looks like something out of a 1950s biker gang movie: rough and worn. There’s rust on the tailpipes, no bright chrome to speak of.
And the flat black paint on the tank features a worn and scuffed drawing of what could look like a cat, if you used some imagination.
“I like the way it looks,” said Hatley’s son-in-law, Scott Honeycutt, also of Locust.
It took Shorty about a year to build it, and he said he’s proud of his handiwork.
“Times change, fads come and go,” he said. “Choppers got real popular again about five years ago. They’re exotic.”
Shorty is one of the born-to-ride bikers who make events like this fun. He said he’s owned about 10 motorcycles in his life.
The Super Glide is a favorite, he said, because it’s “a survivor.”
And those are also the bikes Hatley said he likes to see at rallies.
“One that’s tattered, maybe needs some work but is still in good condition,” he said.
“Maybe I can see a vision of it being restored. I’m about wore out too. It sort of fits me!”
A little further away, Carl Dinga of Asheboro had a motorcycle that’s almost the opposite of Hatley’s favorites.
It was a Harley, but not worn and frayed.
Dinga’s fully-restored, bright-red ’42 Harley-Davidson Model U, one of the last made before the World War II supply crunch, looks brand-new.
Saturday was the first time Dinga has shown the bike, which he said took about two years to fully restore.
A fact sheet next to it lists its 1942 retail price: $399.50 … about $5,700 in today’s dollars.
A bargain, considering that some 2012 Harleys cost about as much as a new car.
Dinga said he found the Model U in a garage in Gastonia, abandoned after a previous restoration attempt decades back.
“They assembled the motor incorrectly and it had locked up,” he said.
“I think it was just kind of good luck that I stumbled upon it. I kind of liked the old flatheads, they’re very dependable bikes.”
For Dinga, a motorcycle rally is a place to explore a love of riding, and to hear the stories behind old and new cycles.
“It’s just a good time to talk to people who have similar interests, who are engineering-inclined,” Dinga said. “You learn new places to buy parts and to find parts.”
In the shady spots around the field, groups stood around clusters of every kind of motorcycle imaginable, from Indians to Kawasakis, Ducatis and more.
Poole said the rally is a success because bikes — not parts or t-shirt vendors — are the focus.
“These guys are really knowledgeable,” he said. “It’s really interesting to hear them talk.”
Those riders also tend to have an eye for value.
While other investments have dropped in price, many out at Gold Hill on Saturday said their motorcycles have held value.
“The southeast was never overpopulated with motorcycles — the older stuff, I’m talking about,” Poole said. “So there’s a hunger in this area for it.”
The rally netted about $800 for the scholarship fund, he said.
And Poole hopes those who visited will come back to eat or shop in the restored Gold Hill mill village.
“We’re just trying to stimulate the economy down here,” he said.
That’s why, no matter the crowd, Poole said the rally will go on, not just as a memorial to his son but as a chance to bring people together in his town.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.