VICTORY RIDER BLOG: NEW CROSS COUNTRY LETS ARTIST/RIDER ROB CAMPBELL STRETCH OUT & ENJOY THE RIDE
To students at San Benito High School in Hollister, California, he is Mr. Campbell, the friendly, tall, and respected multi-media teacher. To them, he’s a good guy who is always willing to offer some advice about school projects and artwork.
But he’s also – like their parents – an adult. He’s old, right? And probably kinda square, like their parents?
Not really. Are their parents hard-core motorcycle riders? Did they ride – and repair and rebuild – a no-frills Harley Shovelhead for 27 years – a bike that originally had a rigid frame and kick-start?
No, Rob Campbell isn’t your everyday parent. And he’s far from square. He’s like so many Victory riders you meet: A modern renaissance man. He is a father, husband, teacher, a Scout volunteer and little league baseball coach, he raises chickens, is an artist and professional cartoonist, and, most germane to this website, he is now an avid Victory Cross Country rider.
That’s right, after nearly three decades of riding, crashing, and fixing the Shovelhead, he sold it last summer and bought a 2015 Cross Country from Hollister Power Sports, the local Victory dealer. And now you would be hard-pressed to find a rider who’s happier than Rob is with his change of bikes.
“I went from the stone age to Buck Rogers overnight,” he laughed. “My wife [Tawnia] did insist that I go look at Harleys because she said, ‘you’ve been a Harley guy for a long time.’ I still like Harleys, and I sat on a couple, but the Road Glide didn’t have the same legroom as the Cross Country.
“It’s heaven. I have so any choices of where I can put my feet. A lot of times, if I’m riding in the twisties or around town, I have my feet tucked under me. It’s fantastic. And the balance of this bike is superb. I think about how much engineering went into getting this as balanced as it is.”
He took deliver of the Cross Country in June 2015, and “since then I have put five or six years worth of ‘Shovelhead miles’ on this thing.”
And there are plenty more to come.
Irresistible Victory Appeal
Rob grew up in Santa Rosa, California, and got his first motorcycle in his late teens. A couple bikes later, when he was college-aged, he traded his bike for a “basket case Shovelhead. It took me a couple years to put it together. It was originally a rigid frame, and was kick [start] only for a long time.”
He kept the bike running through three accidents and extensive rebuilds. “It was OK [to ride]. I put a Wide Glide on it, 16” ape hangers. It handled better than most Harleys, but it was a 4-speed, and at 80 mph, it’s breathing hard.”
In 2013, while selling ad space on maps for the annual Hollister rally, he called on Hollister Power Sports. “The Victorys caught my eye and I ended up taking a Vision for a test ride,” he recalled. “I couldn’t afford one at the time – but I had to have one. It was the first bike that ever fit me. I’m 6’, 5”, and I loved the ride, the 6-speed – the whole bike.”
Then, in May 2015, he discovered the Shovelhead’s frame was cracked. Its days in Rob’s garage were numbered.
“I went into the Victory dealership to sell some space on my map and it happened again,” Rob said. “This time it was the Cross bikes, especially the Cross Country. . . . I was getting ready to go into surgery for a cyst on my abdomen, but I was still obsessed with that bike. Tawnia said I couldn’t get a new bike until I recovered from surgery, so after having surgery in June, I asked doctor when could I ride again. He told me ‘six weeks,’ and I said, ‘OK, I’m going to ask you again next week.’”
Rob got clearance to ride within a few weeks, and even got a permission slip from his doctor.
“I went into the dealership and talked with Neal [Zook], the sales manager. He said, ‘Rob, you’re a bad boy,’ and I said no, I’ve got a note!”
Day Trips Become Art Trips
Rob lives only about 3 miles from the high school where he works, but like any Victory rider, those rides home can get extended by the need to let the bike stretch its legs on a gorgeous day in Northern California.
Ron and Tawnia have two young sons, and family comes first for him, but he takes day trips on his Victory whenever he can. Living where he does, even a quick ride can be incredibly rewarding considering that Big Sur and the scenic California coast are just an hour or two from home.
A lifelong artist, Rob entered some paintings in a show in Southern California in December. He commuted to and from the show on the Cross Country while a friend transported his artwork.
“I rode through cold, wet weather, but made it with no problem on this bike,” he said. But he began considering one accessory as the temperatures dropped: “I thought about heated grips on that Ventura trip,” he laughed.
When you combine Rob’s love of art with his Cross Country, the open road becomes his art studio. “Last summer I took a full set of water colors and a water color board and art supplies on the bike,” he said. “Wow, there is so much storage in those saddlebags that I used one bag for art supplies and had the other bag [free for other cargo]. I don’t worry about space any more.”
When he sees scenery, buildings, people – or bikes – that inspire him as he rides, he can pull over and capture the images in water color paintings.
“I mostly paint [pictures of] bikes. I know bikes,” he said. “I’m trying to improve my landscapes and use of color, too.” The renaissance man turned philosophical in describing the escape that art provides: “The painting and the art is a place where my imagination and eccentricities can thrive safely.”
Keeping Up With Jones
Rob has always been a doodler, and most of his sketches have been of motorcycles and the crazy scooter tramps that ride and love them.
“In 2009, I started thinking about trying to design a comic strip,” he said. “I drew a character [named Jones] that reminded me of the guy I could have turned into. He rode my Shovelhead, exactly, and he never took off his sunglasses.”
Rob showed samples of the strip, “Keeping Up With Jones,” to Terry Roorda, editor of Thunder Press magazine, who liked the work. “Terry told me, ‘I can’t make you rich, but I can make you famous,’ and they [Thunder Press] have run the strip for six years now. . . . I would say the strip is mildly amusing and sometimes well drawn,” Rob laughed in self-deprecating fashion.
You can see Rob’s work at www.cartoonthunder.net. “Jones” is also available on the Cartoon Thunder Facebook and Instagram pages.
So yes, “Mr. Campbell” is a teacher, a parent – an adult. But with his many varied passions, he’s anything but a regular guy, and he’s far from boring.
And if you see a tall man painting near a Cross Country parked alongside a scenic road, it might be Rob Campbell. He could be painting his alter ego “Jones” on some twisties, or his subject could be his Cross Country, with its massive saddlebags and – for a guy who is 6’, 5” – its glorious leg room.