The last time we mentioned Dave Zien, on October 24th last year, he was broke down on Interstate 8, at Mile Marker 48, a short ride and a long walk from Yuma.
His 1991 FXRT Sport Glide with 987,000 miles on it had a perforated piston and Zien was determined to prove to you, me, Satan, God, Harley-Davidson and all them weird ghosts that haunt the abandoned jojoba plantations along that stretch of Americana that he was crazier than anybody. And, the short version, if you don’t feel like reading all the way to the end is that Dave Zien won. Don’t even try to keep up. You will never catch Dave.
Dave Zien is the craziest longrider there ever was or there ever will be. He is our champion.
Just in case you think you still think you might want to try to catch him someday, the first thing you should know is that Zien keeps a journal. You know, like the Unabomber. Just so you will know what you are up against, this is what Dave’s life was like before he blew up his engine last year.
“October 14th: I’m in Pensacola, Florida, continuing on my…Iron Butt ride. I’m going to ride from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, back again to the Atlantic and back again to the Pacific. I started in Jacksonville, went to San Diego, and I’m back in Florida heading for the coast. Then, it’s back to San Diego again. No time to check into a motel, I slept in the ditch last night.
“October 15th: Six hundred miles so far today. I’m in Fort Stockton, Texas. I’m trying for another 600 before resting tonight, on my way back to San Diego. Waved at a lot of cops. One pulled me over with a warning for speeding. This bike will top end at 105 mph Just thought I’d share that with you, not that I’m going that fast…. Ran out of gas and a Viet Nam Vet helped me out. Raining all day today…. One road rage incident. He yelled, I just blessed him and kept riding. Day before last I completed a 24 hour Bun Burner. Fifteen hundred forty-two miles in 24 hours. I’m hoping to let Jay Leno ride the bike when I get up to LA, possibly on the 22nd or 23rd of October. I need a new tire. Seems like I just put that one on about 20 or 30,000 miles ago. Time flies.”
It goes on like that day after day, month after month. Zien blew up his engine on October 16th.
Who Is This Lunatic
Zien served in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1989-93 and in the State Senate from 1993-2006. He is 59. He was a Sergeant in Vietnam. He quit shaving after he lost his last election and by his own account he has put 45,000 miles a year on one or another motorcycle every year for 45 years. And, every word of his capsule biography suggests so many cheap jokes that we are not even going to try to write them here. You can make them up for yourself.
Zien finally returned the bike to Harley-Davidson’s corporate headquarters on Juneau Avenue on April 4th. The bike had roughly 1,017,000 miles on it. He was described at the time as looking like “a combination of Mad Max and Moses.” He came carrying his gas receipts and his repair records to prove that he had ridden the bike all those miles.
The company traded him a brand new FLHXR for his old bike. Zien’s old FXRT is the only known Harley with more than a million miles on it.
See The Bike
At the time he traded it in, Zien said that he hoped his worn out bike would stay in Wisconsin. Now a slight controversy is simmering because Harley has donated the old bike to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Sturgis. Harley’s new museum in Milwaukee does feature a tribute to Zien but the Sport Glide is in Sturgis.
Which strikes some of Zien’s friends as disrespectful to the state that voted him out of office.
Dan Stephans, a long time riding partner of Zien’s, recently called it “an insult to Wisconsin to have the historic Harley tucked away in the Black Hills.”
The State Historical Society in Madison has also been reported to be “disappointed.”
Let’s Meet Dave
Okay, then. What would you do?
Look, Dave Zien looks like “a combination of Mad Max and Moses” and he put a million miles on a ’91 Sport Glide. Okay? He once rode from coast to coast three times in 150 hours. Anybody who is reading this can imagine what that feels like and sounds like.
“WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY? ME? I SAID I WANT A BATHROOM AND BEER! LOTS AND LOTS OF BEER! AND A WOMAN! WHAT! SPEAK UP, DAMNIT! I CAN’T HEAR YOU! WHATSA MATTER?! ARE YOU DEAF?! I SAID A WOMAN! NOT BEER NUTS! WHAT STATE AM I IN? IS THIS MEXICO? YOU DON’T LOOK MEXICAN!”
How can Harley-Davidson not understand that this guy is…what is a nice way to put it…nuts. Why doesn’t America’s preeminent motorcycle company just ask Zien what he wants and then do that.