My first “date” with my wife Lori was on a motorcycle… I had gone riding with some friends and Lori was the passenger of my friend’s and her brother-in-law’s Ultra Classic. As we approached a stop sign at a nondescript intersection in Oceanside, California, I wondered how I could get her to ride on my bike. The problem was I was riding my “soloed out” Road King Classic. As I pulled alongside, looking at this beautiful woman. I looked over and saw an opportunity; I simply asked my friend to swap bikes! Knowing full well that Lori would have to remain on his Ultra Classic; my friend agreed and I began a beautiful relationship with the love of my life!
I took Lori back to that exact intersection months later and asked her to marry me, this time on my Road King with the back seat attached. The Road King is also in our engagement photos, so yeah… motorcycles are part of our life.
I loved that bike. I loved the way it looked when I “soloed it out”, removing the windshield, removing the rear seat and even the rear running boards… It reminded me of how my father’s 1936 Indian looked in a photograph when he was just 19 years old. In a way, it brought me closer to him since he passed away in 2002. It also brought me closer to Jesus as it gave me a chance to unwind, pray and consider my life and what He wanted for me. Whenever Lori wasn’t riding on the back, the Road King was in this “soloed out” configuration.
Later on, we decided to move up to an Ultra Limited – more comfort for Lori who had numerous neck surgeries over the years. Shortly after purchasing the Limited, Lori exclaimed:
“You can’t solo out this bike, can you?”
To my surprise I replied: “No, not really, but that’s OK.”
“You need another bike,” she said to me.
I did not need another bike, I thought to my self. I’m the only one who rides; Lori rides as a passenger, so the need for two motorcycles wasn’t there. But Lori wasn’t willing for me to give up a way of riding that I loved, so she pushed me to look for another bike.
After looking at a few used Harleys and finding nothing that suited me, I ran into Jeff Hemm owner of Tazmo Customs. I had met Hemm through Black Sheep Harley-Davidson’s for Christ, a Christian motorcycle ministry where Hemm was the president of the Temecula CA chapter at the time. Hemm had built a custom motorcycle and the buyer had backed out of the deal, so he offered to sell it to me.
After riding it and much contemplating, I decided it wasn’t really my style and would reluctantly continue the search for something more my style, to which he asked: “So what is your style?” I explained to him and to Shawn Hill also of Tazmo Customs, that I wanted a bike that resembled “Old School meets Mad Max” to which Hemm stated, “let’s build it, we’ll have fun.”
I had never built a motorcycle before, nor am I mechanically inclined. I had been a woodworker but never a metal fabricator or motorcycle mechanic and builder. Hemm assured me that he would walk me through the process. As we discussed the possibilities, the smile on Lori’s face let me know that she was more than willing to support this endeavor and wasn’t going to let me say no!
As the build began, I couldn’t believe the opportunity that God had given me. Not only had He given me a beautiful loving wife willing to sacrifice for me to build this bike, but some incredible new friends. Our involvement with Black Sheep HDFC grew – and after completing a mentoring class over a period of time, we became full members of an awesome ministry.
As the completion got closer and we began to mock up the antique cast iron tractor seat – which we found in a local antique shop – I realized that even though my wife had sacrificed so much (time spent
alone while I worked on the build and not to mention, the money) she would never get to ride this bike. It was strictly a solo seat bike and that began to break my heart. I began to think of a way to show her how much her sacrifice meant to me, so on the day that we were to start the bike for the first time, I stepped aside and told her: since she started this process almost a year earlier, she would be the one who started it the bike for the first time! With a tear in her eye and a surprised smile, she pushed the starter button bringing Celtic Thunder to life (named due to my father’s Irish heritage).
She was the one who was willing to sacrifice and give so much just to make me happy… But she knew what riding “soloed out” meant to me; she knew it was my time with the Lord and my time to reflect on life. I have gotten back a way of riding, that I thought I could live without, but every time I ride this bike it brings me closer to my wife, closer to my friends, my dad and my Lord – Jesus Christ. We have shown this bike at various shows and I love how I can use it to talk about the One who has given me everything!
Officer Steve Rhea
California Highway Patrol
- Owner: Steve and Lori Rhea
- Shop: Tazmo Customs
- Shop Phone: (909) 815-3333
- Website: tazmocustoms.com
- Year/Model: 2013 Custom
- Build Time: approx. 1 yr
- Engine: 2013 Ultima 120ci
- Bore: 4.250”
- Stroke: 4.250”
- Compression: 9.8:1
- Rated power: 130hp/135tq
- Exhaust: Covington “Hot Rod”
- Transmission: Ultima 6 speed
- Primary Drive: Ultima 3” open
- Frame: 2013 DNA SOFTTAIL
- Rake: 35 degrees
- Front: DNA Springer
- Rear: DNA Softtail
- Shocks: AirBagit Air Ride
- Front: DNA 80 spoke 21 X 3.5
- Rear: DNA 80 spoke 18 X 5.5
- Hand Controls: Arlen Ness
- Mirrors/Gauges: Badlands
- Tail lamp: Badlands
- Turn signals: Arlen Ness
- Seat: Antique Tractor
- Foot Controls: Elite Forward +2
- Custom LED lights: Shawn Hill
- Paint: Paintworx, Lake Elisnore