In 2009, I did a North Dakota Ghost Town Tour that started weird and continued for the whole 3,000 miles of that state coming and going. About mid-way I managed to fry a back tire (I know, not the first or, probably, the last time.) and ended up backtracking to Bismarck and stuck with nothing to do while the shop I’d lucked into shoe-horned me into their shop schedule. Luckily, I detailed this amazingly cool day in a blog entry, “Got Friday on My Mind,” back then. Otherwise, my floppy memory would probably make a total mess out of the events 12 years ago. From Lee Klapprodt’s recommendaton of the Cycle Hutt for the tire to Cycle Hutt’s owner, Justin Bohn, introducing me to Denny Delzer by telephone, the day went from a little depressing to downright amazing.
Recently, my old Mac Pro 3,1 died and a friend sent me a 5,1 replacement, which I have been setting up and enjoying for the last month or so. Today, I decided to clean up the picture history on my Mac so that the super-cool screen saver Photo Wall would be more . . . entertaining and less repetitive. Afterwards, while I worked on my Dell laptop at the Mac’s desk, a bunch of pictures from that North Dakota tour popped up with a lot of the pictures I took at Denny’s shop and home and some that he took of me looking terrified on his $150,000+ Egli-Vincent restoration. (That bike was worth more than my entire net worth at the time.)
Denny and I had kept up an intermittent email friendship over the years and when I tried to look up his company, B3Hammond.com, and discovered it . . . looked weird. So, I did a search on “Denny Delzer” and discovered he had been killed in a single vehicle motorcycle crash (on his Vincent, of course) in June, 2020. There isn’t much information about the crash from official sources, but there are some stories on the Vincent collector sites. Apparently, “The day of the accident he was on the big engine Shadow and according to his riding partner, they were on a straight and smooth piece of tarmac and he suddenly went down. It appears to have been a blowout of his front tire that took him down.” I rode one of those “big engine” Vincents and it was as bad a motorcycle as I have ever experienced, with a heavy steering damper to try and disguise the steering deficiencies. A front tire blowout on that bike would almost certainly result in a crash with almost any ride.
I have nothing but good memories of the day I spent with Denny. He was incredibly generous with his time (and motorcycles), brilliantly technical, funny as hell, a good musician, and one seriously busy guy. Saturday night, I saw him perform with his band, Powerhouse (I think), before I skipped out of Bismarck and headed back west for the rest of my ghost town hunt. The last email between us in my email history was 2017. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but I guess it was. Shame on me. I have known very few old guys who were more alive than Denny Delzer. I’m sure he is missed because I miss him and I barely knew him.
PS: While Denny practically forced me to ride his Egli-Vincent, he didn’t make the slightest motion toward the bike he and I both liked a lot, his Yamaha IT-175. There are limits to anyone’s generosity. I might have run away with the Yamaha, but he was safe in the knowledge that the Vincent would come back.