The fun (and hard work) of a major rally
Produced by Jeff “EZJ” Kraus
DVD documentary, $14.95
To truly feel and understand the impact of the new documentary film Ain’t No Sin to Ride: Shasta Salute to America, it’s necessary to get some background information on the run that nearly wasn’t, and the powerful—and determined—man behind it all: Jeff “EZJ” Kraus.
Jeff has been a filmmaker for a long time, focusing his creativity, passion and insight on the biker culture—the ins and outs of major events and rallies in particular. One of his standout works is the 2006 documentary Showdown in Durango, the story of Colorado’s troubled Four Corners Run and the crazed bureaucratic nightmare that has made this once-magnificent gathering into yet another us-versus-them mess.
That particular documentary proved to be eerily prophetic and depressingly ironic as Jeff and his partner, Debbie, expanded their business and biker passion to include the production of their own major rally: the Shasta Salute to America. The big Labor Day weekend shindig was originally set to go off in the shadow of California’s most beautiful mountain peak just north of Redding.
That didn’t happen.
Long after the bookings had been solidified, the flyers printed, and the logistics worked out, the local authorities—like those in Durango—pulled the rug out from under the rally. Furthermore, their back-peddling on promises and firm deals seemed bound to destroy the event completely—and Jeff and Debbie’s dream as well.
That didn’t happen, either.
Jeff and Debbie’s determination—and some serious last-minute scrambling—led them into friendlier territory, just under 100 miles to Shasta’s northeast. The town of Tulelake, California, eight miles below the Oregon border, heartily welcomed Jeff, his rally and the bikers who would attend.
The Shasta Salute to America was on. Again.
And that’s what Ain’t No Sin to Ride: Shasta Salute to America is about. It’s about this rally’s ultimate success. Unlike Showdown in Durango, this documentary is not about the constant battle that bikers and biker-oriented businesses face against the mainstream on a regular basis. This film is about the fun we have when all those conflicts stay on the other side of the gate.
Taking its name from a tune by the powerhouse biker band National Dust (one of the entertainment centerpieces of the rally), Ain’t No Sin to Ride is a film that also shows some of what goes on behind the scenes. And what it shows isn’t just the hard work and insane organizational stuff that the staff kills themselves with 24 hours a day during the course of something this big—it also shows the love and true caring that dedicated promoters like Jeff and Debbie bleed with as they lay everything on the line to provide some pure biker enjoyment.
And one of EZJ’s other passions is also spotlighted.
A major theme of this rally—and consequently this documentary—is Jeff’s love for America—the support for our troops and a sincere understanding of the sacrifices it takes to preserve freedom.
And again, that brings up some bitter irony. Even with the officious blows that nearly plowed his rally under, Jeff proved that he is one of the most optimistic “the glass is half full” guys around. Even though a bit of a localized stranglehold was initially placed on his freedom to do business in the Shasta area; it was ultimately the more powerful, overriding freedom of choice that we enjoy here in this country that allowed Jeff and the town of Tulelake to essentially thumb their noses at those to the south and prove them wrong in regard to their apprehension about what transpires when bikers get together.
The documentary was fittingly premiered on the big screens in the large bar at the venerable Mr. Pockets Billiards, a long-lived biker-friendly establishment just off of the SoCal beach, near where EZJ and Debbie live. It made for a fun evening and it was a fun film. Of course, anyone with a camera can cruise around a big motorcycle shebang and get plenty of footage of bikes and babes; but it takes someone who has this lifestyle genuinely entrenched in their soul to make the viewer understand just what it takes to make something like a major rally work and just how important this kind of fun—in the context of freedom—is.
Jeff Kraus and his film convey these points perfectly.
And sure, there are plenty of those obligatory—and always festive—bikes and babes shots. And there is the entertainment coverage—from the biker bands like National Dust and Charlie Brechtel to the country stars like Heidi Newfield. There are special segments like the wildly popular male and female arm wrestling competitions and a unique corset competition. But the entire film was done with a love and respect that is not even close to being seen in the colder, more objective documentaries of this type. And it is within that love and respect that the charm and power of what EZJ does is so clearly seen.
At the film’s end, Jeff announced to the crowd that this year, the Shasta Salute to America rally would once again be held in Tulelake. However, the rally date would change to the Fourth of July weekend, in hopes of filling the void left by the official cancellation of the Hollister run. Jeff also announced that joining his staff would be Hollister’s former promoter, Seth Doulton, president of Horse Power Promotions. Once again, Jeff will be striving—fighting—to preserve our freedom, to ensure we are allowed to exercise our constitutionally-endowed pursuit of happiness in our own way.
This film is far more than a documentary; it’s an intimate look into the heart and soul of people who care about this way of life regardless of the obstacles that the mainstream throws at us—people who definitely know that it “ain’t no sin to ride.”