Suited up for the salt, Andy Pickett before a return run.
The salt turned to slush. This is bad. More so than dirt, sand or any other surface, the salt hangs onto the moisture. The air is heavy and the track surface is dangerously slushy and unstable. Real bad.
Speed and relativity
Southern California Timing Association officials are telling people to rethink whether they want to run today. Riders have gone down. But Andy’s not having it. He’s travelled over 1,500 miles in a 1973 Dodge van to be here. Hundreds of fellow Milwaukeeans chipped in gas money, spare parts and sweat equity for this land-speed record run. Andy’s fought jetting issues all day long. Whatever’s going to happen, happens today.
Small displacement, big dreams.
No one has unlimited time to make magic happen, but Andy’s got less than most. The Milwaukee County vehicle fleet doesn’t care about land speed records happening 1,500 miles away. As fleet mechanic for Milwaukee County, he’s got to be back at work in three days.
So he suits up and pairs educated guess with gut feeling, and swaps jets. This is the run, meaning the all-important return run. His first run beat the record, but it’s meaningless unless he can replicate it. So it’s time to go fast, but slowly. That’s what’s written on the tank, anyway. Time to turn goal into glory.
The goal? 46.418mph. On a naturally aspirated, stock 1965 Honda CA110 motorcycle burning 110 octane race fuel.
A land-speed record goal of less than 50mph makes perfect sense, if you know the players involved. The idea was birthed between the ears of Milwaukee’s finest force of nature, Joe Haupt. Joey, Captain Snappy, Mr. Excitable, Fiddy, there’s more — a loved man has many names.
He returned the love tenfold to anyone willing to throw a leg over a bike for fun and chance. His love of motorcycles had nothing to do with make, model or miles per hour. He just loved riding with friends and beating them on a track whenever possible. And he especially loved doing big things on small bikes.
Message from the tower: racers get updates on track conditions.
Joey’s maniacal laugh was half mirth, half madness. But the land-speed record attempt was serious business. His ever-present laugh hid the mental illness he’d fought for years. Tragically, Joey took his own life in October 2018. For many, the sadness was matched only by the embarrassment of not knowing how much he’d been hurting. Andy knew his struggles and took it particularly hard, as he was living with Joey at the time. It was a gut punch to the Milwaukee motorcycle community.
“Do the thing” was Joey’s simple answer to anyone’s excuses. Whatever that thing was, there had to be a partner. That’s the other part of “the thing.” Joey didn’t exist without other people. Like a tree falling in the forest, he needed a forest floor to crash against within earshot of as many people as possible.
Joey had recently ridden his 1959 BMW R60/2 to Bonneville to see Stacy “Triple Nickel” London attempt her own land-speed record. The dizzying number of classes gave him an idea. What about the smallest one? Wouldn’t that be fun?
Hopefuls were here. Race stickers mark their territory.
Andy recounts, “After Joey’s funeral, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it anymore.”
But the idea persisted. He eventually asked Joey’s daughter, Haley Haupt, if she‘d agree to take her father’s place as Crew Chief. Whether she thought it was a good idea or not, she was game to help fulfill a dream her father and Andy had.
Shielded from the sun, Andy sews the bike back together after carb surgery.
Who’s Andy? The Other Guy.
The only thing more unlikely than Joey’s approach to life, was finding another soul to play henchman. Andy Pickett was born to play the part.
A 2-stroke savant of sorts, Andy’s obsession with small-displacement smokers has made him well known in Milwaukee County. From Allstates to Sears, from Suzukis to Puchs, Kawasakis to Yamahas, Andy’s obsession with simple and small line the walls of his shop.
He became fast friends with Joey, sharing a sense for the bold and Quixotic. When the Bonneville bug bit him hard, Joey knew who his partner would be. Andy explains.
Dyno runs helped diagnose, if not fix horsepower issues.
“Joey said, ‘I want to be part of a crew, but I don’t want to race.’ Well, I was up for racing. It was a dream just to go, so why don’t we race, too? We went to a bar and went through the rule book and found a record we felt we could beat.”
The record? 46.418mph, for a 50cc pushrod stock motorcycle.
“Most of the records were over 100mph, but speed doesn’t excite me.”
There are hundreds of exotic records asking you to endanger life and livelihood. But here was a record with Joe Six-Pack in mind.
The 1963 Honda CA110 Sport 50
The “what” was simple, but “how” presented challenges. A 1963 Honda CA110 Sport 50, 50cc pushrod-powered motorcycle was a no-brainer. It fit perfectly in the P-PP class, meaning “Production Production-Pushrod.” Internal modifications are allowed, though stock appearance must be kept. Doing it on a budget would take charisma, guilt and favors owed.
Sealed by race officials, the tank still speaks volumes.
The bike in question already existed. Andrew Mauk of Moto-Scoot had already donated one. But a spare bike was needed.
“We found one two towns over. Then Chris Dietz donated the bike that became the pit bike, which held the spare engine!”
Half-assed ideas are one thing. But halfway execution is unacceptable. The most common motor on earth needed uncommon love and upgrades. The life of a simple Honda 50 was taking a strange turn.
“It was supposed to be a $1,000 budget. But I didn’t want to go all the way out there to just get close. I wanted to beat the record.”
What seemed simple became expensive and hard. The growing market for small vintage bikes was working against them.
“It was $450 for a cam, $500 for an ignition and then another $600 for head work. It just kept adding up.”
The fulfillment of a promise between friends needed the help of friends. It was time to enlist Milwaukee’s motorcycle community, no small resource.
“I have the hardest time asking for help, especially money. But friends started a GoFundMe, which kept getting bigger and bigger. And then my friend Ed Makowski wrote an article for On Milwaukee magazine, which really helped.”
Andy perfects his racing yoga atop the CA110.
Community and mission came together to finish the bike. Barely.
“We didn’t finish everything until the week we left.”
The setup and tuning of the CA110 was another big question mark. The jetting in Milwaukee was for 400 to 600 feet above sea level. Bonneville’s elevation is 4,236 feet. But moisture and heat meant atmospheric conditions could mirror anything from 3,000 to 8,400 feet above sea level.
Still, with the bike coming together mechanically, it was time for fun stuff like paint and personal livery. But Andy’s not a man for paint schemes. Or paint at all.
“I like rust. But this guy said it was disrespectful to bring a rusty bike. It needs to be in “neat appearance.” It’s a real rule. And you need a contrasting color to set it apart from the salt. So I used pink. The paint is standard issue for crews marking utility lines. It’s an ‘eff-you’ color.”
With bike colors decided, there was the issue of leathers and personalization.
“The track suit was a super cheap eBay score. It was from 1996. A guy bought them but never picked them up or used them. Funny enough, the pink leathers matched the bike.”
Machine, man and leathers were all set. But nothing happens without a crew. Enter Ellie Dennis. The daughter of best friend and shop mate, Chad, she was down for high adventure.
“Haley couldn’t ride out there with me. But Ellie graduated high school and just quit her job to join the pit crew. You just can’t do it by yourself.”
Among the easier bikes to Dyno, the CA110 gets its turn.
Much midnight oil was burned days before departure. Gearing up for an AHRMA weekend was easy. But preparing for a week on the salt flats was different.
“The night before we left, we had boxes of spares, canopies, everything. But I realized we brought too much. We brought water sprayers to clean the bike off, but we just used those to keep us cool!”
Everything would travel in a 1973 Dodge B200, Joey’s old van. Featuring a canopy vent lid made from old license plates, it was a genuine survivor. Literally. It‘d been totaled, then fixed up. It wasn’t a sure bet to make it to Bonneville. Andy’s day job came in handy.
“Somewhere in Wyoming the oil filter disintegrated and we lost all oil pressure. The van died in a gas station 200 miles from anywhere. Lusk, Wyoming, I think. Bless the MOPAR Gods.”
Shortly thereafter, they hit something similar to a monsoon. Then they stopped to help a fellow rider who’d gone down in the rain. Then the driver’s side windshield wiper fell off during said monsoon. Then they actually, finally, Mother-Mary-of-God, made it to Bonneville.
Team Fiddy: Kevin McIntosh, Ellie Dennis, Haley Haupt and Andy.
On a searing hot Friday, on August 9, Andy and Ellie arrived at the SCTA car impound lot, not far from the Flats. Naturally, the caretaker of the lot was a friend of Joey’s. So they slept at his hotel since the salt itself is off-limits for sleeping.
46.418 damned mph
Some 1,544 miles separate Milwaukee from the Bonneville Salt Flats. But it’s nothing like the brown dreariness of an overcast Midwest spring. Jagged mountains surround a harsh white horizon line of nothingness. Regardless of temperature, the white salt reflects the UV rays of the sun everywhere, regardless of tent or shade.
Speaking of sun, it’s rained. The salt is soaked and unstable. Time to set up, with the help of Haley Haupt, Joey’s daughter. She’s arrived in time to wait four days until conditions allow for runs. Welcome to Bonneville. Time to tune.
Salt, salt, everywhere.
“The bike made 4.5 horsepower on the dyno in Milwaukee, but ended up only getting 3.5 horsepower at Bonneville.”
Four days is a long time to fix issues. Or create new ones. Only an actual run can distinguish between them. But the conditions created a backlog. Usually, racers head to the pits after runs to tweak and tune. The number of entrants made that impossible. So Andy improvised.
“Instead of going the mile or two back to the pits, we kept the jets in the van and changed them during the hours we waited for the next run.”
Trial, error and patience. Years of making barn finds run helped, but only to a point. Remember the rain? Four days later, the track surface was still less than ideal.
“They told people to not run because it was slushy. But screw that, I’m only going 50mph.”
An official first run netted 47.460 mph. The record was broken, but only halfway. Only a second run would render the first a real event. This didn’t stop celebrations in any way, shape or form. They were finally doing The Thing.
Time to rest and finally enjoy the clear, moonlit sky.
To really do “The Thing”
A movie script would put the first run at the beginning of a story arc that peaked with the final one. But things got harder. Power was elusive. Initial runs were not encouraging. The salt was drying out, thanks to sun and wind. Damned wind.
Packing it in, but not giving up. 2020 awaits.
In place of humidity and unstable salt surfaces, there was now a 15mph headwind. Salt Flats aren’t supposed to be this unpredictable, weather-wise. What was 47mph now became 41mph. To put that in perspective, Andy lost around 13 percent of his top speed fighting head-wind that equaled a third of his total speed. Take that, Craig Breedlove.
Meanwhile, the pit crew was growing. Joining Co-Crew Chiefs Ellie and Haley was Kevin McIntosh, the newly minted editor for AHRMA Magazine. Adding to the capable pit crew, he manned the DSLR to shoot runs for a growing social media fan base.
It was August 15. They’d been in the desert for almost a week. Time was short. A return run to back up the best run clocked was the only thing that mattered.
“The first few runs, it ran great at idle without load. But on the last day it went, ‘Br-ah-blah-blah.’ So I went leaner, but only got 36mph for the initial run.”
Not good enough. And Andy wasn’t alone in his efforts.
“Thursday, they canceled Friday racing, except for those that made it into impound on Thursday. When folks heard this, they practically stormed the track to get their runs in before end of day.”
There had to be more left in the little Honda’s tank. The last run of the day was coming up. Normally, six tracks are available for use, but all week only two tracks were available, one record track and a short one for rookies. Andy suited up. Time to do The Thing.
“I jetted it for thin air, at altitude. But the rain thickened the air, which I didn’t think about. I’m just a novice. Then the full moon pulled all the moisture out of the salt. I ran 82 jets, up from 72. Then I went with 74’s.”
Final result: 44mph and change. The end, for this year. Damn.
Andy has the time slip somewhere, but can’t remember the figure off the top of his head. Doesn’t really matter. It’s not 46.418 mph and that’s that.
But think about this: The CA110 has a claimed top speed of 39mph. You try adding 20% to any bike’s top speed with tiny jets and dusty wrenches in the desert.
The return trip was as beautiful as it was uneventful. The water pump died, but Andy had a spare.
Does this desert make my bike look small? Andy aboard the Honda, flying past run markers.
The goal was to get to Bonneville and make a go of everything. Check. Making dreams happen? That’s just icing on the cake. Achieving a dream is a pain in the ass, anyway. You’ve got to find a whole new dream. What does the dog do once it’s caught the car?
The homecoming was big. Dinner with family and friends, dozens of well-wishers giving call and more than a few well-deserved beers. And just like the beginning, it took time to wrap brains around what hearts started.
The support and energy Andy, Ellie, Haley and Kevin garnered from the greater Milwaukee area is second to none. People didn’t help to simply break a record. They helped out to give a dream a chance. The dream is still alive for next year. Andy is sanguine about the end result.
“Next year, if I beat the production record, I’ll bump up to modified.”
People who’d never been west of the Mississippi gave money to see Milwaukee’s own make 50cc’s worth of magic and glory happen in the salt and desert. Chad Dennis, Ellie’s father, raised $3,000 with a secret bike raffle. Nobody out-hustles Brewtown when adventure is at stake.
The city took notice. On Milwaukee magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel chronicled the effort of doing special and amazing things with next to nothing.
Most of all, it was something Joey would have cackled at. He knew the noble intent behind quixotic quests. It was his idea, after all. Do the most with the least. Most importantly, just do The Thing.
Joey did make it to Bonneville a second time, in a sense. Minus the laugh, misplaced tools and supportive yelling, he really was there. God and speed willing, he’ll be there next year too. MC
An ecstatic Joey after having just broken his right hand.
In Memory of Fiddy
Explaining Joey Haupt isn’t easy. Where to start?
In 2015, he rode 160 miles on a Honda NX125 to the annual TWALD Run in Boscobel, Wisconsin, with his faithful dog Bella riding in a basket behind a windscreen made from a Frisbee.
He once bicycled from Milwaukee to Chicago for a friend’s going away party. Just seemed more fun than motorcycles at the time.
Victory was relative. “I don’t care about 12th, 13th or 14th place, there’s no trophy for that!” Joey would say. Winning meant beating someone you knew and loved and having a damned good time, then sharing a beer afterward.
At the risk of breaking editorial boundaries, this author knew Joey well. Thousands of miles were shared in dubious vans going to racetracks for minor track days. And major ones, like the annual Barber AHRMA date. Without ever having met me, he showed up in Chicago to haul my bike 200 miles to Michigan for my first track day. This is how the sport grows — one act of selflessness at a time.
Andy’s quest to get to Bonneville and break a record is no different. It’s as much about honoring a friend’s memory as perpetuating the beautiful lunacy of motorcycle stunts and accomplishments. There’s no need for a plaque or a memorial fund. Just a reminder to do The Thing that keeps us kicking against the barbs of life’s measured setbacks.
Joey and Trish Damon getting competitive at Road America.
A common joke in certain corners of the AHRMA pits is “Winning is for losers.” Joey knew first place well from his younger days racing bicycles. But anyone who shared a pit with him knew that he considered first place a technicality. Being at the track, beating times and watching novices take their first laps were better metrics of winning.
Andy misses his friend something fierce. Joey’s indifference to trophies masked a profound competitiveness.
Andy recounts, “On track days there’s a 6-foot rule, but Joey would clip you with his elbow in a full-lean turn, while passing, then pull away. It was just him showing you that you can be faster and better. But it really freaked me out!”
“I told him, ‘I’m not ready for that!’ He’d just laugh that infectious laugh and said, ‘Well, apparently you are ‘cuz you didn’t crash!’”
Preparation only gets you so far. Joey’s toolboxes usually contained the barest assortment of tools. But someone always pitched in. Tires would get changed, bad wiring got sorted, always just in time to make it to hot pit lane. He gave his time endlessly, and gave whatever tools he had, whether they were his to give or not. There were only needs, and eventually needs met.
Joey left a huge hole in the tri-state area. There’s no other way to put it. But there’s a faster way than time to heal wounds. Get your ass in your garage, invite some friends over, crack a beer and start prepping a bike for next season.