As told by Fleet Admiral Skunk
As a shy little kid in Portland Maine, I played with broomstick lightsabers, enjoyed making forts, and read books about secret codes and secret clubs. When I was seven I discovered a partially built bike hidden in the middle of the wood pile in the garage. I later found out it was to be my surprise birthday present. I got to pick out the banana seat and handlebars. It was a Huffy Thunder Road.
I learned to ride it without any help. Once I got past the painful part of slamming my crotch into the top tube, I was free to explore the local neighborhood. I still think the wind that rushes past your ears when riding sounds like rocketship engines.
I started a secret club, which didn't have a name. Even though I was the only member, I had a uniform that I would wear: brown pants, white shirt, brown knit vest, and a Golden Eagle pin that my dad gave me from the Navy. I called myself Golden Eagle, and devised oil slick mods to the Thunder Road that didn't work out as expected.
The years passed, I forgot about secret clubs and bikes and playing, and decided to become an artist. I was in some bands, which is fun to do in Maine. When I moved to the Boston area, I ditched the car and rode a bike my brother gave me. I found playing in clubs wasn't the same for me - the audience didn't seem to want to enjoy themselves. I was looking for another activity.
One thing that blew my mind in Allston was the tons of things people threw out. I would patrol the streets every Thursday night, searching for bikes to collect. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, but I collected them hoping to cobble together a better collection. We started calling trash picking 'Skunking', since we saw so many of them nosing around in the trash with us.
I got a job scooping ice cream for Herrell's. I got the dreaded Saturday night slot, and worked until midnight. Saturday nights were also the night the local bike gang Hell's Bells would ride. It was basically a huge group ride that went to parties. I saw them ride by work one night. I was so jealous, but there was no way to ride with them since it was impossible to get people to cover for me.
One winter evening in Allston, my brother and I decided to put some road forks on some kids bikes and skid them around in the snowstorm. It was amazingly fun and taxi drivers would roll down their windows to give thumbs up. Later that night we rammed them into the massive snowbanks of the supermarket parking lot. We flipped over the bars about half a dozen times before the bike flipped with me and hit me hard enough to never do that again.
Not long afterwards was the time when personal computers started using dial-up modems to access the World Wide Web. I 'surfed the net' and discovered a website run by some folks in Portland Oregon that went by the name of CHUNK. They had created an entire culture centered around modified bicycles. Since the Internet loaded pages as fast as molasses in February, I printed every page of their site and studied every detail.
Not too long later, I landed a job at Merlin Metalworks, making titanium bicycle frames. I was very excited to learn as much as I could.
Aside from learning manufacturing and how to use tools, I also learned of a time at Merlin referred to as the GOD, or the 'good ole days', back when Merlin was part of Fat City. I heard crazy stories of indoor bicycle demolition derbies and donut eating contests. I wished I had been around then because it sounded like a lot of fun, but they had stopped. But there was one more event that happened, and I was ready.
By the time 'the great donut race of 1996' happened, I had built a few choppers, mainly Abandon All Hope, Puck, and BonzBike. It was Fuel Injector's last day as production manager and he was planning on celebrating his last day in style. He put the Sex Pistols album on the shop stereo and off we went.
There were a few organized events but it didn't take long for things to devolve into racing around the shop with whatever bike you could find, skidding around corners and crashing into the machines. We would constantly bump into each other, put furniture polish on the floor and throw boxes at each other as we raced by. I would become completely our of breath, take as short as a break as I could, then ride back into the fray. It lasted a couple of hours. Amazingly no one was injured more seriously than a few scrapes and bruises.
The next morning I woke up feeling like I had fallen down a long set of stairs. I recall asking myself "what the heck did I do to myself?", and then a moment later I remembered the night before and smiled a huge smile: "Oh, yeah!"
The donut race changed me. I wanted that kind of excitement in my life, but it wasn't feasible to crash into things regularly, and it certainly wasn't cool to do it at work. I needed another outlet.
All theses moments began to coalesce in my mind, everything began to fit together. There a couple of moments in my life that are pivotal but didn't seem like a big deal at the time. I vividly remember saying to myself "I think I want to start a chopper gang."
I decided to call the gang "Flying Donut", after that epiphanic party. I convinced a few people to ride up and down Memorial Drive a few times, kids would say "Mommy, look at the funny bikes!".
After a couple of rides my friend told me "this is lame". And he was right: Flying Donut lacked that adrenaline-pumping edge.
I changed the name to SCUL and started some night rides. At the beginning, SCUL was just me and a couple people - Crack, Waltor, Nails, and some folks that came and went. Since I was making a website about SCUL, I needed a lot of padding since there wasn't a big group, nor many bikes to show. I added as much stats as I could to make the site more complex. While CHUNK had a post-apocalyptic theme, I wanted something to do something new. I briefly considered a D&D themed club, with knights on horses, but it didn't quite fit. I decided to make SCUL a sci-fi gang - pilots flying ships on missions in space.
In the beginning we didn't have call signs, we used our 'civi names'. Nails had a partner that owned Allston Video, and she would bring over B-rate biker movies to watch. I decided that we too should have 'gang names'. It took a bit of convincing and even giving out gang names to members, but eventually people got into it and started coming up with call signs of their own.
One day we hosted the first SCULimpics. CaveDave invited a bunch of messengers and things got rowdy. One of the events was called 'Dogfight Derby', which is still regularly played today.
One night SCUL decided to meet up with Hell's Bells. We met a Nemo's pizza in Kenmore Square. We waited for people to show up. All of a sudden there was a guy with a boombox in his front basket blasting Invisible Scratch Picklz. It sounded like this. My mind was blown. We needed music on our missions. Years later we dubbed it 'life support' as we now won't fly without it.
In the beginning we used 'Radiobag', which was a messenger bag with a car stereo built into it. It had a sealed lead acid battery and a car horn. It was heavy and therefore brutal to wear, especially on a chopper. Eventually we made radioboxes that bolted to handlebars.
For a few seasons we rode to very hard rock. It had a big impact on our behavior and we played rough. We had two levels of aggressive music: 'Yellow Alert' which was fast and hard, and 'Brown Alert' which was a non-stop wall of rock with no blank spaces in between the songs. We only rode to brown alert once and we nearly destroyed each other's ships.
One day SCUL was attending the pedal-in outdoor movie, Megaseth was running late and rendez-voused with the fleet. He was flying a recumbent with beige computer speakers hanging off the back. The song was Pusher Man by Curtis Mayfield. It was the coolest thing I had seen in a long time. We dropped the rock and embraced the funk. It had a tremendously positive effect on SCUL, inside and out. We smiled a lot more, no longer caring if people didn't think we were tough.
The ships evolved over time, we added more electronics to them - car horns and halogen lights, and huge batteries to power them. Ships became heavy. Eventually LED technology got good enough for us to have a lot more fun with lights, using a lot smaller batteries.
The gang has grown to epic proportions, and so has our website. Pilots have grown too. We are fortunate to have such excellent record keeping systems, and I enjoy reminiscing about the Good Ole Days of my own, which for SCUL, is still happening to this day.Fleet Admiral Skunk