Friday, April 16, 2010

Donnie Smith Show

The Donnie Smith Motorcycle Show, a staple in the Upper Midwest, is held in St. Paul every March and gives winter-weary bikers the chance to see what’s new, what’s now vintage, and what hasn’t changed. It’s also a chance to reconnect with old friends and make a few new ones.

The dates coincide with what I’d call the Hamsters’ early season get-together.
Dave invited me to St. Paul and I jumped at the chance. He recommended staying at the St. Paul Hotel, a beautiful old structure near the St. Paul RiverCentre where the show was being held.

My cabbie was from Ethiopia (I always ask) and was the leader of his Lutheran Church. We talked about my and Streets’ sons serving in the Army and that they were all deployed last year, but now back, safe. He let out a few “Halleluiah’s” and raised both hands. Given that he was driving at the time, I was going to ask him to hold onto the wheel, but we were driving straight and he was well intentioned, so I thanked him.

Check-in was a snap and I met up with Dave and we went across the park in front of the hotel to a very nice building…I think it was previously a private club…to the Hamsters’ Dinner. Great people, great food, a few laughs and a birthday cake for Donnie.

The next morning, I went for a walk in downtown St. Paul. I hadn’t been there for a while and forgot how many buildings are connected by skyways so you don’t have to go outside during the winter. Really makes commerce easy when the snow flies and the temperatures are below zero.

The show was packed. The upstairs area was lined with vendors and the huge show area was split into the regular show and the swap meet. I spent a bit of time at the swap meet, but really didn’t know what I was looking for. I saw a lot of take-off parts and couldn’t think of anything else I needed.

As usual, Dave was swamped as soon as he arrived. The local FOX affiliate interviewed Donnie and him. I spent time looking for styles I liked that would be incorporated into my ‘50s chopper Dave’s building. I gave up on copper pieces…they just look too “new”, and liked brass much more. I’ll go with a 7” headlight, reminiscent of the headlight on my and Steets’ father’s ‘37 BSA, which Dave is restoring. A “king and queen” seat is out, too…lacking the appropriate amount of posterior support (does this seat make my butt look big???).

There were tons of great bikes there…including many as part of a completion for high schoolers. Donnie was there to hand out the prizes.

I met Bob “Rocket Bob” Gullickson ( , a paraplegic, who will be trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records on September 5, 2010 at the Brainerd International Raceway by having the fastest wheel chair. I think it has some sort of jet/rocket engine on it. Fuel is $100/gal so he was selling memorabilia and raising funds. I got a t-shirt and helped with the fuel.

I saw two bikes, one are rad prostreet and the other a Road Glide with..I think....a 31” front wheel. They looked cool, but I wondered about the handling characteristics. I think the sensation with a 31” front is like riding a gyroscope, although I’ll confess to having never actually ridden a gyroscope.

Later Saturday, we went to Don Nolan’s Acme Tattoo ( and hung out with, Nolan, T, Beth, Gabe and Margo. It’s a really cool shop and they are great people. Kory Dave and Ted got some work done. I got a chance to look at the bikes Dave built for Nolan over the years as well as a ton of motorcycle and tattoo memorabilia I think I know what I want my first piece to be, so, at the risk of being viewed as a dilettante, I’ll probably stop on my way out to Sturgis in August to have it done.

It was Nolan’s birthday, too, so we all went out to celebrate and I was treated to a great dinner.

Another great day with really great people.

Sunday was a quiet day as we had a leisurely breakfast and made our way over to the show. I had an early flight out (heading to Chicago for a meeting), so I bought a cool commemorative shirt, (a steal at $7!), said goodbye and headed back to the hotel for my bag.

My cabbie was again from Ethiopia, and got me to the airport in plenty of time.

So, a great way to spend a weekend and a welcome break from the winter doldrums.



Anonymous said...


What a great piece and I am glad that you met Nolan. All of my work has been done by this master of tattooing and I hope that you do get some work done by him. Hope to see you in Sturgis.


Doug R said...


Thanks. I'll be at the Holiday Inn in Spearfish.

Looks like I'll pay Nolan a visit on the way. It's only a few hours out of my way.