Barrelingaround 'Wall of Death' just kind of got into their bloodBy Chris Dixon

Saturday,April8, 2006

Edition:FINAL, Section: LOCAL & STATE, Page B1

Donand Ian Daniels didn't see their father much when they were kids. DonSr. was off somewhere criss-crossing America on the carnival circuitwith a low-budget, jaw-dropping motorcycle stunt show that he called"The Wall of Death."

But when summerrolled around, the brothers left Mom and the comfort of theirMassachusetts home to travel with Dad. By watching him roar around acylindrical vertical wall at 50 mph on a vintage Indian motorcycle,"it kind of got into our blood," said Don Jr.

For the nextweek, you're likely to find Ian, 23, Don Jr. 27, and his beautifulwife Sandra, 26, hugging the walls of their red, white and blue"terror dome" at the Heritage Motorcycle Rally in Ladson. This is thesmiling, tattooed family's first trip to Charleston, and their showand its 43-year-old mini-stadium are a rip-roaring slice of classicAmericana.

There are onlythree remaining "Walls of Death" in America. The Daniels'14-foot-tall, 24-foot-wide model was built in 1963 by Joe "Pappy"Boudreau of Swansea, Mass., and was featured in the 1964 ElvisPresley film, "Roustabout." Built of planks of Douglas fir, it's athree-dimensional barrel-shaped puzzle that must be taken apart andbolted back together each time it rolls from town to town on aflatbed trailer.

Riders begin onthe flat floor and accelerate onto a ramp that rises from 45 degreesto the completely vertical wall. By the time they reach vertical,riders need to be traveling at least 35 mph to stick. It's easy toreach 4 G's and 50 mph as speeds increase. "You ain't seen nothing'til you've seen it in your face," said Sandra, who holds thevertical on her 1957 Harley-Davidson.

And it is asloud, smoky and in-your-face a spectacle as you're likely to see.There is room for about 150 spectators to stand around the top of thewall within inches of the weaving riders. The show is free, but ifyou appreciate it, you're encouraged to hold out a dollar to see if arider can grab it from your hand.

Riding the trackis not for the faint of heart. Don and Ian said their father wouldnot even allow the boys to circle on a motorcycle until they were 18years old. "Once you get on the wall, there's no room for errorbecause you can't put your feet down if you have a problem," Iansaid.

A long gash inthe wooden wall proves his point. A while back, Don said he snappedthe frame on his motorcycle.

While hemiraculously escaped serious injury, his father has

suffered twobroken legs and

destroyed hisspleen in accidents.

That mightexplain why even today, he simply cannot watch his sons at work. TheDaniels admit that they are a rather unconventional family, and DonJr. says he did all he could to convince his wife not to ride thewalls.

Her first timeclimbing it on a

go-cart, Sandrasaid she flipped and wouldn't ride again for another year. But shewouldn't be denied. "It just sucks you in," she said.

"Mom used to say,'You don't wanna grow up to be like your Dad, do you?'" chuckled DonJr. "Now here we are."

Reach Chris Dixonat (843) 745-5855 or

If you go

What: TheCharleston Heritage

Motorcycle Rally

When: April 7-16.Rally events run from 10 a.m. to as late as 11 p.m.

Where: TheExchange Park in Ladson

Phone: 767-4258

In addition toThe Wall of Death, you won't want to miss Kid Rock at 9 tonight; theHeritage Old-School Bike Show from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; LynrdSkynrd at 2 p.m. April 15; the Shawn Ives Motorcycle Freestyle, Globeof Death and Motorcycle Car Jump (several shows during the rally).