Euro Roadtrip 2017: From Hospital to Holland

I sat down recently to speak with FTH founding member Chris Hatton and The Meathook’s Sami Graystone about their upcoming 2017 Euro roadtrip – the kind of perfect tour that has all of the elements in place to create a Shovelhead utopia.

Chris and Sami doing what they do.

Fate is one of my favourite concepts. I don’t know if I actually believe in a pre-determined future, but I definitely believe in the idea that if you look out for what one would consider being fate, then it will lead you in the right direction. If you’re open to fate then it’s open to you. Lead with both feet first.

This means that there’re moments when everything changes and takes you on a different path to the one that you were expecting.

Often you can point to life events when this happened when you thought you were going one way but ended up going the other. They don’t come along often, so to get two in quick succession like Sami Graystone did in the summer of 2016 is rare indeed.

Sami’s first such fated event was meeting my friend, Chris Hatton. Chris and Sami found each other in the way that all of history’s best romances do: by chance.

Chris and Sami travelled across the land, carried from opposite corners of the country on their choppers via a highway named Destiny. They’re a biker Bonnie and Clyde, living out on society’s fringes – Chris a chopper building tattooist, Sami an artist in the truest sense of the word.

“We got together in the summer just gone, after Chris invited me along to join the FTH team on their Sailor Jerry ride through Yorkshire,” Sami says.

FTH rolling on Sailor Jerry’s The Ride

Chris’ bike crew FTH were one of a handful of teams invited to take part in Sailor Jerry’s The Ride around Britain. A competition of sorts, The Ride saw teams having to build a wild custom bike from a stock Harley Davidson Sportster 48, then ride it and their own bikes between mapped checkpoints while competing in often outlandish challenges. The aim was primarily one of fun, but with the ultimate goal being not only to win the bike they built but also a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii.

FTH didn’t end up winning The Ride outright, but they had a blast and made some amazing memories. Plus Chris and Sami won each other.

“We were initially drawn together because we admired each others’ riding styles, and through our obsessive love of motorcycles in general!” she laughs. “So we spent the rest of the summer riding together when we could, just getting to know each other in a super relaxed way. It really was a biker fairytale!”

Chris’ sweet Shovel

When Chris wasn’t tattooing he’d strap a kit bag to his sissy bar and head up from Cardiff-to-Yorkshire to see Sami. They spent the summer riding beautiful roads, side-by-side, meeting up with other riders. There was no itinerary, nowhere to be and nowhere to go, apart from wherever they ended up.

Under warm summer skies they rode, stopping for food, staying in out of the way cottages, camping, boozing, and generally having the best time living the biker dream together.

“At the time I remember thinking, ‘this is too good to be true…'” Sami says wistfully.

A couple of days after Chris had gone back home following one of their weekend rides, the second huge event happened to Sami that summer which would change the course of her life: she had an awful accident.
Sami pictured here with no more tubes in her, finally able to leave her bed. Chris behind the camera.
“I was riding into Leeds one morning and a car pulled out on me. I sustained a shattered pelvis that had separated from my spine, a fractured skull and deep lacerations down my left side. The accident left me hospitalised in the Major trauma ward of the LGI, facing numerous surgical procedures and a six-month recovery period. I’d spend three of those months in a wheelchair, unable to walk.”
This isn’t Chris, this is Eric Bana in the wonderful movie Chopper

If you don’t know Chris, he carries an air that means you’d never consider looking at him funny in a pub. He’s got a bit of Mark ‘Chopper’ Read about him – which is apt considering his choice of ride. But conversely, he has a juxtaposed side that means he also has a heart of pure gold.

“Chris set up a Go Fund Me page as soon as he heard about the accident, to help financially get me through my recovery,” says Sami. “But more than that, he was by my bedside throughout my hospital stay, and it was there that we started planning our Euro trip.”

The Euro roadtrip has become something of a talisman for Sami’s recovery, a beautiful idea that shines from her future.

“I really can’t even begin to explain how much Chris helped me through this traumatic experience,” Sami says. “It’s times like these which put everything into perspective, and it made it very clear to me that Chris and I have a very rare, strong, loving, fun relationship – one that could get through anything. It’s the kind of relationship that makes other people want to puke!” she laughs.

The dates for their adventure are currently up in the air a little, depending on Sami’s recovery, but they’re about 90% sure she will be ready for early May – meaning that they can hit up Kustom Kulture Forever at the end of the month and then Flanders Chopper Bash in early-June.

KFK is calling!

“We’re planning to be away for a whole month, and to work the route out Chris just drew a loop on a map!” says Sami. “This will be loosely stuck to but we’re going to let the experience lead itself – if we meet up with someone who suggests a show we should go to, or a sweet road that’s not on our plan, then we’ll go with the flow and do that.”

Sami will be riding Chris’ current Shovel on the trip – he’s got an awesome suicide clutch and shifter set-up on that thing, it’s a beauty as you can see above.

Chris, on the other hand, is building a new Shovel right now, from the ground up. I’ve no idea how he’s doing this in-between working and riding back-and-forth to look after Sami, but it’s sure to be a sweet ass ride. He’s about finished the one-off frame and has a ’67 Shovel engine to go in it. I’ll see if I can get some sneak peek pictures of it soon for y’all to see!

“Anyway, enough of this serious shit!” Sami says. “We want to concentrate on having fun and riding side-by-side again like last summer – only bigger and better. Europe, get ready for us, here we come!”

I’ll keep you posted on the pairs’ progress, and if like me you need to live vicariously by other peoples’ roadtrips – or if you just need to gawp at some beautiful chop Shovel pictures – then they’re setting up an Instagram for their adventure, so be sure to follow it!


UPDATE: They’ve put the Insta live now, you can see it here: From Hospital to Holland.


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