The Gypsy Run is one of the gnarliest runs I have ever been on. With this being only my second year, I wanted to learn a little more about the history of the Run, since it has been going on for 8 years. I had a chance to have a one on one phone interview with my friend Walter Gemeinhardt, the organizer of The Gypsy Run. Enjoy!
Who is Walter Gemeinhardt? I have no idea what that question even means, that is a horrible, horrible question. I defy definition, that's my answer, hahah. Although, some guy once described me as "the world's nicest tough guy.” I don’t know what that means exactly, but I like the sound of it.
How long have you been a part of the motorcycle industry? Industry? I am still not a part of the "motorcycle industry." Hahaha. I don't know, as a kid I always would work on bikes and help my friends out. I think around 2006 I moved out of my garage, rented a shop space, acquired more tools and started selling shit.
Do you still find motorcycles as a passion or work or a bit of both? Definitely both, there's some days I don't want to be in my shop, and then there's other days I get excited and I can’t get there quick enough. On the plus side, I work for myself and I don't have to answer to anybody. I get to do exactly what I want to do and when I want to do it and that's worth a lot to me.
How did the idea for The Gypsy Run come about? It wasn't MY idea.
What you mean it wasn't your idea? It wasn't MY idea. There were a couple of guys writing on the Jockey Journal that came up with the Run. Back then, I was so excited about the Jockey Journal because there wasn't a "chopper scene" like there is now. Back then, there was absolutely nothing. We were surrounded by Orange County Choppers shit and Street Glides; there wasn't much to really be stoked on until Jockey Journal came around. It was like "Oh, hey!! There's my people!!" Long story short, my friend Darren said, ”Hey, let's go on this run." At the time, they called it the "Love to Hate Run" at first and then they changed it to The Gypsy Run. We were supposed to meet in Hoboken, NJ at the Holland Tunnel and leave from there early on a Friday Morning, and.... no one showed up! These guys were supposed to all be coming from Brooklyn and not one of them came. So, it was just my friends, Bill, McGoo, Greaser Mike, Fritz, Darren, Duane, Charlie the Nomad, a few of the Choppahead guys and myself - a real weird crew. We were all waiting outside this restaurant in Hoboken right by the Holland tunnel exit. A few Brooklyn kids show up and say, "Hey, those guys never showed up at the place we were supposed to meet in Brooklyn." So, no one really knew what the fuck was going on. Fritz stands up and says, "I know where we are going, follow me." We had absolutely one of the most epic rides you could ever ask for. We even met up with a few people at the first campsite. It was just an amazing weekend. At the end of the weekend, I started saying how much it was going to suck that this wasn't going to happen again and how I was going to miss it. McGoo piped up and said "You should do it." I was really hammered and said "Fuck yeah I am going to do it” A few weeks later people were talking on the Jockey Journal about the run and telling stories and someone asked "Who is going to take care of the run next year" McGoo pipes up "Well Walter's going to do it." I had completely forgotten I even said yes because I was so hammered and now that it was on the internet, I had to do it. So, in all actuality, I inherited The Gypsy Run and it is all McGoo's fault.
Who created the "Runs Not Rallies" slogan and can you elaborate on its meaning to you? I don’t know about it being a “slogan.” Bill from Biltwell said it one day and it just kinda stuck. We were talking about huge rallies like Sturgis and Daytona and how it's turned into "trailer your bike, ride it twenty minutes, and then stand by your bike and try and look fucking cool." I'm not trying to shit on anyone's good time or say you are not a real biker. I really don't care what people do, as long as you’re not a dick. I don't care how much you ride or don't ride. You do what you can do within your means. Just don't be a fucking poser. If your thing is to go to a rally for the weekend and party your face off and only ride 10 miles then that's your thing. Just don't be a poser and act like you are some big, bad, chopper dude. I want to do the fun stuff and ride my bike. I like to go places and meet new people. To me, that's being a biker; to ride your fucking bike, not stand by it.
What are some of the hardest challenges you face organizing The Gypsy Run? Initially, it was finding places to camp. It took us forever to find a place that would welcome us. As soon as you would say, "Oh we have a couple hundred guys on bikes looking to stay the night or two." They would come back at me "Oh sorry, just checked we are booked!" Well, they weren't 5 minutes ago! It raised a big challenge. The last couple years though, we have been really grateful and lucky to be able to stay at the same couple of places. They are people that definitely support us and I am thankful for it.
What is your all-time favorite memory from any of the 8 Gypsy Runs? The first few years, I would never ride in the front of the pack. I don't know why really, I just wouldn't do it. One year, I can't recall what year it was, but for some reason I decided to work my way up to the front of the pack and lead for a minute. As I got to the front of the pack, I remember looking in my rearview mirror and as far as the eye could see there was this massive group of motorcycles following behind me. It looked like it went on forever. There had to have been around 200 bikes. That's a huge pack, and it feels like you are on top of the world to be a part of it. I have never ridden in a pack that large, let alone lead it. I remember being proud that we pulled this together. All my friends that busted their asses to make this happen and it felt good to see all that hard work in its glory. Just an amazing feeling.
What was the worst moment for you on any of The Gypsy Runs? The absolute worst moment, by far, was when Joe Scraper crashed. Joe was in the front of the group and he and Fritz were moving right along. They took this descending right hand turn and Joe kind a ran out of room, he turned a little too tight and his peg caught the asphalt sending him straight into the ditch. By the time I got around the corner I had just seen him settling into the ditch. We all stopped, pulled him out of the ditch, and pulled the bike out. Then, I told someone to call the ambulance and a few others to scrub the scene before the cops got there. Hahah. His bike was under a tarp in the chase truck before the first cop even showed up. Joe actually went over the handle bars when going into the ditch, and his clutch lever had broken off and gouged his gut open very deep. He had about a 6 inch cut on his stomach and it was really, really, deep. It was not good at all. We did what we could to keep him together before the medics showed up. Everyone was kind of standing around and worrying, not knowing what to do. I thought this would be a perfect time for some jokes. Joe has a tattoo that says "Carpe Diem” (Latin for “Seize the day”). So, I said, "Hey Joe, what's that tattoo stand for? Seize the Ditch?" Everyone starting laughing and in that exact moment someone took a picture that would end up on the Jockey Journal. There were so many comments of "you guys are such dicks for laughing at him." But, that was absolutely the worst moment for sure. He could’ve got hurt really bad and was lucky it wasn't worse. Everyone pitched in and helped fix up his bike, though. I think the bike was actually fixed up before Joe even got out of the hospital. To this day, one of the awards is called The Joe Scraper Almost Memorial Best British Bike Award.
This year was extremely different, having no maps for the run. The feeling of being in control of your own adventure and the possibility of anything happening was the overall feeling of the riders. What was your thought process behind this and do you feel it went over well? The thought process behind it was everyone always bitched about the maps so I thought “Fuck it, I'm not going to make ‘em.” Hahaha. Fritz does make it a very complicated route and it can be hard to follow. There are so many turns and it's hard to write it all out. It's really not the easiest thing to make a map. So, I talked about making it super easy for people and a couple said you are making it too easy. I said, "Oh, you want to make it a little harder? NO MAPS!" In the grand scheme of things, everyone has Google and they had the main address. It isn't like 20 years ago where we didn't have smart phones. God forbid your phone was dead and you actually had to ask someone for directions. It was a bit of a smart-assy thing to do, but I feel like everyone handled it great and it turned out to be a really good time. Some got really lost, but that happens every year even with the maps. That's a real-life kind of situation though. No trip goes perfect. If it did, it wouldn't be interesting at all. "Yeah I went cross country, my bike ran great, gas was on sale, I made great time." That shit doesn't make for good stories. Getting lost, breaking down, meeting interesting and weird people are the kinds of things you tell your buddies at the bar. So, I guess that was the idea.
What's something you would have wanted to change that happened on this year's run? Less rain. More beer. Less crashing.
Do you have anyone that inspired you or motivated you to be the best at what you do? Ummm, I am mediocre at what I do, thank you. My friends and family are my biggest motivators. I have such great friends, they make me want to do more events, try new things, and work harder. I love my friends and my family and they are my motivation.
If you could have one bike and one bike only what would it be or do you already own it? There is one bike I have been lusting over for years. Brad Richards' 1939 ULH. It's so well designed, simple, It's so pretty, so classy. It's the perfect bike for me. I would sell everything I got, every bike I have…almost every bike I have…ahaha, and throw in my pickup truck to get that bike. That's the bike. I have always loved it. I could literally ride that bike for the rest of my life and really be happy.
I don't know if you were drunk or not but you stated there is only going to be 2 more Gypsy Runs! "10 years is a good time for something like this and then it's time to move on" is what you said. Can you elaborate on this decision? Yes, yes I was drunk. Ahahahaha. It's an ongoing theme / joke that I tell everyone it's the last one, and people ask are you serious and I am always kidding. This year it came out as a joke at first but you know something? I mean it this time. 10 years, 10 YEARS is a great place to stop. A decade is awesome. It was never meant to be a huge thing and appeal to everybody. It's always been about ride your bike a ton, have some fun, ride your bike some more, have some more fun and go home. It's something simple. I couldn't stop at 8 or even 9 but 10 that's a good number. Plus it gives people plenty of notice, anyone that's ever wanted to come, you got two more years. After that, we are going to do something completely different, something new, and something exciting.
Do you have stuff in the works already for what you will do after Gypsy Run is over and done with or is that too far ahead / top secret type shit? 2 years is a long time away. By time the last one comes around, Gypsy Run 10, I will know exactly what the plan for the next big thing is. It's too far in advance to say right now. My guys have come up with some really good ideas and people will be amped about it. I definitely want it to be tough, challenging and fun, I know that much. It's just way too far away to set anything in concrete right at this moment in time.
What's next for you as a person? Any big plans? I've been male modeling lately, soooo. My career as a plus sized model has been really taking off! Ahahahaha. In all seriousness, we are working on a big East Coast swap meet. It will be in New Jersey, near the Meadowlands. We are going to do one in April and one in October of 2015. Beginning and end of season type thing. There are no good local good swap meets in our area, so we are going to try and take care of that.
What's one place you would love to just jump on your bike and ride to? Home, ahaha! Cape Spear, on the Avalon Peninsula near St. John's, Newfoundland, is the easternmost point in Canada, it's the farthest east one can go in North America. I have been dying to go there. It's 1,700 miles from my front door. I mean who the fuck goes to Newfoundland? No one, that's why I want to go and say I went to Newfoundland. "Where the hell is Newfoundland?" that's what I want people to ask me. It's different and you can ride all the way there. I don't know when I am going but I am definitely doing it.
Beer or liquor? Or both, preferences Bourbon, I really love Bourbon. Sometimes I love it too much.
Anyone you want to thank? Everybody, Honestly, everybody. I want to thank all my friends. Every single person that’s ever come on the Gypsy Run, thank you! I want to thank all of the sponsors we have ever had over the years. I want to thank my wife for putting up with all my bullshit. All the people that make up this thing we call a scene, I am so grateful to be a part of it and accepted by it. It wouldn't be what it is without the people that make it up so again thank you to everybody!
For more info on The gypsy run visit www.gypsyrun.com and www.kickstartcycle.com.
Follow on Walter’s Instagram @kickstartcycle and @gypsy_run for all news updates on what's going on.