Outlaw Reflections: Honoring Karen LeQuey

Outlaw Reflections: Honoring Karen LeQuey

TIO regular contributor Oleh Lysiak sent this story in honor of the memory of Karen LeQuey, who just died. Oleh wrote the story for Karen and husband Keith Le Quey to honor the couple’s infamous annual biker bash in Norwood. It was originally published in The San Miguel County Post. Of note: Karen’s grandson, Chris Anderson, whom she and Keith raised, is a celebrated Pinhead Institute intern, who wound up getting a full ride to (and graduating from) Harvard. The Le Queys proudly waved their freak/geek flag on high.

McQueen, 1931-Harley-Davidson, a classic like Karen

McQueen, 1931-Harley-Davidson, a classic like Karen


15 Years Of Friendship

Five bikers rode 2,300 miles from North Carolina to be at Keith and Karen LaQuey’s fifteenth annual gathering in Norwood. They’re riding 2,300 miles to get back home.

Bruce Cook, one of the cycle enthusiasts from North Carolina, has been a regular at the party for 14 years. This year he brought his 9-year-old son Cody to the cycle clan gathering on the back of his big, shiny black Harley-Davidson.

“When Cody heard I was coming to Keith’s party in Colorado, there was no way he’d let me go without him,” say Cook.

Bruce met Keith at a bike rally in Daytona, Florida. LaQuey invited Bruce to Norwood. Bruce has been cooking North Carolina style barbeque at LaQuey’s party for the past few years.

“The reason we all come,” Cook testifies, “because Keith is a hell of a nice guy, not at all phony. He’s a real sincere, honest man.”

The three riders who accompanied Bruce and Cody, Frank Locke, Pete Efird and Elbert Efird all agree with Bruce. Frank Locke is 67.

“People here have treated us like we’re family,” both Pete and Elbert attest.

Frank Locke has been coming here for years and brought his wife April so she could experience the extraordinary feeling and atmosphere of this part of Colorado.

The annual LaQuey motorcycle brotherhood gathering began 15 years ago when Keith was building his ’48 panhead with Dave McDonald of McDonald Harley-Davidson of Grand Junction. The boys at the shop were going to make a run and wanted to know if they could stop by. That was 15 years ago. The rest is history.

It got so big at one point Keith had to move the rally to the county fairgrounds.

“The neighbors were all cooperative,” says county commissioner candidate LaQuey, “but they were curious for the first few years. It was funny.  There was a steady chain of cars around the block with rubberneckers checking us out.”

“When we moved it to the fairgrounds, we did the whole shot with motorcycle rodeo events. It wasn’t the same as having it in the yard. It just got too big. We had it at the fairgrounds only one year. At that point we made it invitation only,” Keith explains.

“In the early days it was pretty much an open party. We had guys coming from Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, from all over. This year we’ve got guys from Belgium. We’ve got a good cross-section of the scooter community,” Keith continues.

“In the last few years the tents have gotten bigger, more comfortable. Some people come in motor homes now. It seems we’ve gone from wild to wide,” Karen LaQuey interjects.

“We’ve never had any problems. The important thing about these people is the respect that everybody gives one another. We did have an incident a few years back. A girl wandered off from the yard and the cops found her on the steps of the old drugstore. She told them she was waiting for the bus to Salt Lake City. They brought her back to the yard,” Keith recalls.

When there were dances at the local bars the guys would push their cycles back to the yard rather than take a chance on getting involved with the local constabulary.

“It just a matter of respect, that’s what these people are about. They’re basically working-class people. We have people from all walks of life, all ages. We have guys who own their own companies, construction supervisors, lawyers, welders, prize-winning car builders and designers. Most of these guys have known each other for 15 – 20 years. It’s not only respect. It’s also love and brotherhood.

“We have a yard boss and a fire chief. After this many years the party runs itself. A couple of the old timers aren’t going to be here for health reasons or whatever. We’ll miss them.

“What tied these people together is the love of motors and the lifestyle, the freedom that it represents and the respect. Most of the guys build and work on their own bikes It takes a certain tenacity, a certain toughness. It’s just a breed.

“The main thing is we all love one another. We don’t have an exclusive on that. I’ve been riding motorcycles of one kind or another for decades. An old pal of mine says that Harley-Davidsons keep a lot of people from going insane. That’s especially true if you build an old bike and it lives with you in your house. You look for old parts or get custom parts fabricated. You establish relationships with people all over the country.

“There’s characters, everybody’s got a story, an individual persona. It’s a lot of fun. There are names, nicknames and handles. These are a funny bunch of guys. We’ve gone through the hardcore period but now have guys in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. You ride what you bring. It’s not just all Harley-Davidsons. One year we had a guy show up on a Honda 90. We’ve had Suzuki’s, Moto Guzzi’s, BMW’s and probably every kind of bike made. But we also have some very distinctive, beautiful Harley-Davidsons. Another year we had at least five show bikes that had been in Easy Rider magazine.

“We don’t see each other but once a year but I know that if I ever need anything all I have to do is push a button and these guys are there in force. This is definitely family. There’s an amazing level of honesty and integrity in this family. And it’s also a lot of fun to ride with these men and women. There’s a long tradition of scooter women from the motor maids of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

“It takes courage to set out on two wheels with your little bag of tools and a few bucks for gas, not knowing where you’ll wind up. It takes a certain kind of person.

In ’65 I broke my leg real bad in a motorcycle wreck. While Karen was visiting me in the hospital she went into labor with Kirsten. They whisked her upstairs and Kirsten was born. Then they wheeled me upstairs and we all went home together. I didn’t get another bike until the late 60’s.

“The relationship you develop with a machine is really indescribable, especially if you build that machine yourself. I started building my ’48 panhead here in Norwood. It lived with us in the dining room. I don’t know what it is about the things but it’s obviously something in the genetic chain.

“There’s love, romance and poetry involved plus it’s way cool. The sound, profile, craftsmanship, art all have something to do with it. Some of the creations special builders are coming up with now are really outstanding art, a means of esthetic expression: audio, visual, sculptural, kinetic.

“This is the social event of the season. A lot of local guys show up. There’s guys in their 20’s now who used to remember this as kids. They used to hang around the fence. The local people have always supported us here. In fact one of the reasons we started Karen’s restaurant in ’84 is that we didn’t have a place to eat. Nobody really felt like scrambling eggs the morning after the party. We needed a place to feed all these people.

“There’s nobody more American than a guy on a Harley-Davidson. It’s a lot more than a motorcycle. It’s the Great American Highway, a kind of freedom you can’t find anywhere else, a true blue way of life. We’re emulated all over the world.

“The Harley-Davison has transcended the outlaw image. Senator Campbell does it. It’s the great American symbol. And it’s such an individual statement. It’s a curious thing. Long skinny guys ride’em stretched out. Fatboys are built for fat boys, rat bikes are ridden by guys who are rats, guys with long noses. What it comes down to is lack of b.s.”


Editor’s note about Oleh:

I am reminded of the man every day. A talented sculptor, one of his mobiles sits on the coffee table in our living room. But I had not seen or heard from Oleh Lysiak for over 20 years. Ah, the wonders of social media. We rediscovered each other a few months ago, which was when I also discovered the artist is also a writer – at least nowadays – though making marks on paper is only one among a very long list of talents, some slightly sketchy.

O. Z. Lysiak winking

 O.Z. Lysiak has from time to time worked as a reporter, editor, columnist, photographer, public affairs officer, restaurateur, festival booth owner-operator, ski technician, carpenter, sailor, smuggler, tree planter, fishing guide, truck driver, river guide, cook, wood-cutter, trash collector, marine gravity operator, reclaimed wood broker and sculptor. He has written for The Ukrainian Weekly, The Oregonian, and closer to home, The Aspen Daily News, The Aspen Times, The Crested Butte Pilot, The San Miguel Basin Forum – and The Telluride Daily Planet. Oleh’s poetry has been widely published and his is author of several books, including “Neighborhood of Strangers” and “Art, Crime & Lithium,” also available locally at Between the Covers Bookstore.

Outdoor mobile, Oleh Lysiak

Outdoor mobile, Oleh Lysiak

Given his street cred and the fact he wrote extensively locally in the bad old days, I asked Oleh if he would mine his files for past columns that might be of interest to our readers. I am thankful the man said “yes.”

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