|Old World Charm
siebkins of elkhart lake
by dean adams (1997)
Siebkens, if you don't know anything about it, sounds like a Greek word for purgatory. Or, like some sort of German dish with cow brains as the main ingredient.
It is neither; Siebkens Resort is a small hotel and restaurant in downtown Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and is pretty much the hang-out of everyone who works in AMA Superbike racing, while at the Road America national. Though structurally very old-world Wisconsin, the predominant atmospheric theme of Siebkens is racing. Racing decals nearly cover the bar area, and during the race weekend the courtyard outside is a littered with cool street bikes of every variety. A Moto Guzzi LeManns sits next to a Harris Honda CB900F, a Laverda, then a Ducati 916, and an RZ500.
The Siebkens family has owned the resort for four generations, now two sisters, Lisa and Laurie Lueck, and their respective husbands, operate the resort.
The mix of people who frequent Siebkens are as eclectic as the bikes: Terry Vance stands and talks with a local farmer in bib overalls, die-hard fans crowd around Miguel DuHamel as their respective crews belly up to the bar inside. In addition to the above bunch, a hoard of the "artistic" crowd from Minneapolis stand around (possibly contemplating Prince Albert piercings), and a fleet of Gen Xers from Milwaukee ride by on their CBR600s and GSX-R750s.
Siebkens has become the true meeting place of anyone and everyone who likes to see or be seen while attending the Superbike race at Road America. The action and interaction starts late in Friday afternoon, heats up after final qualifying on Saturday night, and goes all night. Inside there's a live band, but most of the sportbike and racing enthusiast sect stand outside braving a possible Wisconsin chill, as they swill local beers or coffee.
Just like the Ocean Deck in Daytona, and Main Street in downtown Monterey when the AMA crowd comes in to town, Siebkens is a place of lore. The Superbike races began life in Wisconsin in 1980, and the Siebkens stories started almost immediately. Stories like a former AMA Superbike champion fornicating with a new friend on a second-floor outdoor balcony, in full view of his crew out on the street. Or the one about a drunken Fred Merkel passed out on either the floor or the Siebkens' bar (depending on which version you hear) after a win in the mid-1980s. This is not mentioned to give the impression that frat house antics are the norm. For the most part it's just friendly communication between persons who share your passion. But, it doesn't help matters when the streaking begins.
I thought it might be interesting to scrounge up a few more stories. The following is a compilation of the best of the Siebkens anecdotes, straight from the people who attend the Road America Superbike races each June. Here they are:
"Well, one time we went to Siebkens and noticed there was like four really good looking waitresses working there. All the riders and team guys were hitting on them, but they were smart girls with good taste. We took them away from those brutes and they became our umbrella girls for the weekend. It was fun. The first time I went there I was really astounded by all the naked people running through the place."
Head of AMA Pro Racing, former Team Roberts mechanic
"I always liked the fact that the guy behind the desk always remembered your name, year after year. They're a real friendly bunch at Siebkens."
Muzzy's Superbike Racing
"I have not stayed there since 1993, the noise and the people are a little too loud. I've seen some different things there over the years; it seems that streaking has never went out of style there, has it? I guess what really stands out in my mind is Wayne's (Rainey) mom pulling him out of the Siebkens bar by his ear one year after he celebrated a little too much."
Dunlop Tire Engineer
"It's a great place to stay, Siebkens. I've stayed there almost every year I've been coming to Road America for the AMA race; I missed the first year (1980) but I've been staying at Siebkens since like 1982 or so. It can get kind of noisy. I usually get a room as far away from the bar as possible so I can get some sleep. I can remember coming there the first few times and there were-like a lot of the rooms are now-no phones and no television. For somebody who is on the road as much as I am that's a blessing, really. I like to sit back and read a book without the phone ringing. They're not fancy rooms, nice but rustic, which if you've stayed in hundreds of Holiday Inns, is a pleasant change. There's more modern hotels to stay in now, in Elkhart Lake or you can drive to Kohler, but there's nothing like Siebkens.
It's got two bars, not a lot of people know that, there's the main bar with all the stickers then there's a smaller one in the main building that only seats four or five people. The people who run Siebkens are good people, but that isn't an exception in rural Wisconsin. I think anywhere in Wisconsin people have a really good grasp of what's real in the world.
Up until last year, Siebkens didn't take credit cards. You'd come down to settle up your bill on Monday and hand them a credit card, and they'd say, 'We'll bill you' and about a week later you'd get a bill in the mail.
What I like is the camaraderie in the motorcycle fraternity that is shown at Siebkens every year. On Friday and Saturday night it's the racers and the fans all hanging out, talking. I like to go there because it's an interesting mix of people; a few years ago I met Peter Eagan there. Then on Sunday night, all the teams go there and everybody lets their hair down; that's the only place that happens on the tour. It makes you feel good, because the action on the track is pretty intense, but when everybody gets to Siebkens, we're all a big family.
There's a million stories from those nights, but you ain't getting a one of them from me."
Former AMA 250 GP front-runner
The 1988 Road America 250 race was a pretty pivotal race. John Kocinski's bike broke for the first time ever in the race, and it just became this huge battle between the guys who were behind him. Rich Oliver nipped Thomas Stevens at the line, then Doug Braunick finished third just ahead of me, and Robbie Peterson finished fifth. It was incredibly intense. Everybody went to Siebkens with the idea of blowing off some steam. We did. After some beers, some tire guy, Randy Renfrow and Kork Ballington came running through the main bar area completely naked. They were all moving pretty fast and heading for the door on the other side of the room where their clothes were. They got across the room, pushed the door open, but it was pull-open door. The tire guy hit the door first, stopped dead, then Renfrow and Ballington totally slammed into him, and they all stacked up like pancakes against the closed door. Everybody was crying they were laughing so hard. Whenever I think of Siebkens, I think of that night and seeing those three naked men stacked up against the door. What a great place."
Former Daytona 200 winner, Television color analyst ("don't you say retired rider")
"After Jamie James got disqualified in 1994, I ended up finishing third on my Ducati. We were pretty pumped. Tom Kipp, Dean's sister Carole, Kevin Magee and I went to Siebkens and started partying. Then, much later, we decided to go swimming in the lake out back, at least I think it was out back, it's a little fuzzy for me now. Kevin and Tom got undressed on the bank of the lake, looked at each other and dove in. They both did beautiful swan dives head first into what ended up being water that was two feet deep. They got up laughing and just stood there, buck naked, in two feet of water. They got dressed and we went back inside."
(Editor's note: several sources refused to state on the record several "Ski stories" from Siebkens, most of which included rental cars, policemen, woods and tow trucks)
Four time world champion, former two-time AMA Superbike champion.
"David Aldana and I were driving a car out on the backroads behind the Siebkens that were gravel back then. David could get the car going about eighty, sliding around this corner. I got behind the wheel and said no matter what, I wasn't going to let off. I was going at least a hundred when the car swapped ends and went off the road, down a bank and into some trees. I thought we were going to get the car caught in the tree-tops but it finally touched down on the ground, and didn't even roll. The car was bad, the whole back end was torn off, almost. We did drive it back, almost missed practice."
Former Suzuka eight hours winner, former Grand National Dirt track winner, former factory Kawasaki, Suuzki, Honda, Ossa, and Norton rider, former just about everything. Played a bit part in film On Any Sunday.
"Kawasaki hired me at a thousand dollars a race to teach Eddie some things. He didn't need much teaching. I taught him how to properly treat rental cars, though. I remember at Elkhart one time we were out on this gravel road ... "
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