The police officer looked at the motorcycle and its rider that he’d just pulled over in southern Colorado and stated in no uncertain terms, “I keep seeing this bike everywhere around town. You don’t have paperwork for it. There’s no license plate. I know this is illegal. I don’t even know what the HELL it is.”
The rider could not disagree with Johnny Law.
The bike in question was a “rat bike” in motorcycle circles, meaning it was home-made…a virtual Frankenstein ride. The owner had it running on diesel and then would switch it over to the more environmentally-friendly vegetable oil, which would get him 300 miles on a tank.
The bike’s creator also put a bullet hole in the back fender courtesy of his .357 because, “It’s a ‘rat bike’ and a ‘rat bike’ needs a bullet hole.”
Who are we to argue?
The owner of the bike knows his way around the motorcycle world, having become entrenched in the culture at the age of 12.
So who’s this motorcycle mystery man?
He’s Rob Dietrich, the Master Distiller for the renowned Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey in Denver, and we’ll put him up against Dos Equis’ idea of the most interesting man in the world any day, and we’d win.
“Motorcycles came first,” Dietrich passionately remembers. “When I was a kid, I grew up out in the country in southern Colorado and there wasn’t any other way to see your friends unless you rode your bicycle or dirt bike five miles. So that’s when I started learning how to ride a 50cc Honda without a throttle cable (because it had snapped) that was wrapped around a stick. I’d ride around with one hand and pulling the throttle off the side.”
When Dietrich’s dad saw his son riding a bike with one hand and no throttle cable, he ordered his son to fix the bike. “That’s when I started working on bikes and became a motorhead,” Dietrich reveals. “My dad taught me how to work on machines and explained to me that if I was going to be owning vehicles, I’d need to get a job that earns enough money to pay a mechanic or learn how to work on it myself.”
Through the years, motorcycles became such a passion for Dietrich that trips all over the world were familiar chapters, “The best freedom for me is hitting the road with two sets of clothes, tools, camp gear and some spare bike parts,” he explains.
One memorable trip found Dietrich on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico several years ago. He had bought four eggs to cook breakfast burritos for him and his buddy, and placed the eggs in a carton wrapped in plastic in a tank bag along with his passport, money and maps. The tank bag logically went in the gas tank. His buddy noticed where the eggs were going and commented, “Those eggs are not going to survive.” The ride down the Pacific Ocean coastline was materializing into an epic trip…until Dietrich’s bike crashed and the gas tank caught fire. Quick-thinking Dietrich immediately grabbed the tank bag and threw it to safety. Somehow the eggs survived and the breakfast burrito menu wasn’t scrapped. However, now Rob found himself in The Middle-of-Nowhere, Mexico, stranded with a melted throttle cable to contend with.
“It’s dark and I’m taking the bike apart with light from my headlamp and I’m trying to find a way to put the throttle cable together,” Dietrich begins. “I find a sardine can lid on the beach and I use that to form a connector between the cables. I’m able to connect the cables and I rode back to Los Angeles that way with the sardine can fix.”
Let’s see the Dos Equis guy do that.
Other adventures have seen Dietrich in Argentina, Chile, across America and an unforgettable ride through California’s Death Valley with the help from a souvenir shop, “I did a ride from Joshua Tree, California, to Las Vegas and across Death Valley and back to Vegas with riding pants, a jacket, gloves, helmet and knee pads and I was still freezing,” he starts. “We stopped in at this trading post and I see these rabbit furs that weren’t for sale, but I got them for $10 and shoved them down my pants to cover and warm my knees!”
As Rob Dietrich continues to prove, improvisations involving sardine can lids and rabbit furs can make all the difference on a ride.
Now there’s talk of an around-the-world motorcycle trek on an Enduro (on-road/off-road) with a sidecar to tour Central America, South America, perhaps a stop in Cuba, the United Kingdom, Europe, Mongolia, Russia and back on American soil through Alaska.
By now, you’ve realized that Rob Dietrich is a perfectionist with his passions. He’s all in and can get out of a jam better than most.
Not a bad leader to be overseeing Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey.
In fact, it was a chance meeting with the Stranahan’s former Master Distiller, Jake Norris, at a bar in Denver where the shared interest was…motorcycles. Norris invited Dietrich to come by the distillery to work on bikes together. When Dietrich showed up, he immediately fell in love with the place.
The rest is whiskey history.
Stay tuned for our next installment from tales of Rob Dietrich in October.