Vacation wouldn't be complete without a party to go to, and one of those happened this past Friday and Saturday. Knoxville Harley-Davidson, the dealer where I bought Miss Velvet last year, held their 40th Anniversary celebration over the past two days and I was lucky enough to be able to attend both days.
I rode Velvet over there on Friday afternoon and drew for a chance to win a free Harley of my choice, out of four that were offered. I drew a yellow ticket, which qualified me as one of the 200 rollers who would compete Saturday. Great incentive to return for the second day, wouldn't you say? Not that I needed any such incentive. I intended to be there both days anyway, if for no other reason than to hear the live music, party with and get to know other bikers, and see the funny Sumo Wrestling match between the brothers Brown, who own both of K H-D's dealerships in K-Town, as well as enjoy the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) C.A.G.E. fights that were scheduled for Saturday night. The first bouts were for amusement, while the second ones would be the real deal.
After drawing my ticket and stopping to chat with some people I know, I went on out back to the tent area, where everything was set up. Food and beer was catered by Coyote Joe's, a local biker party spot, just up the street from the dealership. They had my favorite brand, Bud Light, on tap, as well as pork BBQ plates, complete with two sides for five bucks. The smell from the BBQ smoker grill they had set up was making my mouth water, so it wasn't long before I bought a plate, the first of two that night.
I was also trying to wait an hour (at least) between brewskies, as it takes that long for each glass to clear your system and I had to ride Velvet back home later that night. Been a long time since I rode a motorcycle half-drunk and I sure didn't want to crash Velvet on the two and a half mile ride back to the Dawg House. So, I took it as easy as I could, chasing the beer with an occasional soft drink and eating along with it. I listened to the band, which was called "Hanover Fist," for awhile, enjoying the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes they specialized in, and watched the C.A.G.E. people set up the fight ring.
Rolling Thunder arrived and set up theirbooth on the north side of the store. I talked to some of their members for awhile, and bought some windshield stickers from them, to support their cause. In case some of you don't know what Rolling Thunder is, they are formally known as the "Rolling Thunder Brigade." They are a national bike club, made up of military veterans, with chapters in almost every state. They sponser the POW/MIA charity, which is still searching for military personnel who are listed as Prisoners Of War, or Missing In Action in the Vietnam War. There are still several thousand of our troops unaccounted for, and POW/MIA is active in attempting to determine their whereabouts, so their families can at last know what became of them. To date, they have been successful in determining the final fate of some 2,000 soldiers and airmen and have brought the remains of many who are deceased home for their final burial. I fully support that cause, along with that of all the Vietnam veterans.
Rolling Thunder has also recently been in the news for their efforts at providing security for the families of soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some lunatic fringe anti-war types have tried to disrupt the funeral ceremonies and the Rolling Thunder members have been involved in several clashes with those over-the-top loonies. Unlike the enlisted military members who conduct the ceremonies, and aren't allowed to engage in altercations with civilians, the retired or discharged veterans in Rolling Thunder do take the overly zealous protestors to task, and sometimes severely so. They have assisted the police in keeping the crazies at bay and have been joined in some places by what's left of the old Hells Angels biker club, who have joined the cause. Wow! Hells Angels actually assisting the cops! My, how times have changed!
After hanging out with Rolling Thunder awhile, I went to one corner of the lot, where a local drag racing team had a "rail job" dragster and a stock-class bracket car on display. You'll find pictures of both above, as well as a close-up shot of that awesome alcohol-fueled engine. Chevrolet, of course -- the ONLY way to go racing (at least from my point of view)! Big block 454 mill, bored and stroked out to approx. 535 cubic inches. Estimated at 2500 horsepower (it's impossible to run one of those dragsters on a dyno, without destroying the dyno). Aluminum block and heads, full blower, fuel injected and enough computerized electronic bells and whistles to give Billy Gates a wet dream!! Nine-inch Ford "chunk" rear axle that started out life in some pickup truck and the most widely-used rear end in drag racing. Reason being that the old American iron is still the toughest stuff in the world, for racing purposes. You just can't tear one of them things up! I took one look inside that roll cage, at the driver's cockpit, and told the cute gal minding the display, "Uh -- I don't think I'd fit in there without a MAJOR diet!!" She laughed and so did I, but man, that cockpit is tight, let me tell you! Military fighter jets have more room in them!
Five o'clock came, then six, and people began getting off from work, putting on jeans, jackets, boots and helmets, and riding in to join the party. By the time the main events got underway, the parking lot on the north side was three-fourths filled with bikes of every description. Mostly Harleys, of course, but with some rice-burner cruisers and crotch rockets thrown in as well. Danged Yama-Hon-Zuki invaders!! A couple of half-lit Rolling Thunder members chased a couple of the Jap bikers around the parking lot, just for fun. Everyone got a kick out of that! Even the four county mounties posted there for crowd control purposes had grins on their faces. The cops are pretty lenient at events like this, too. As long as a biker doesn't get involved in a major brawl and isn't too drawnk to stay upright on two wheels, they pretty much leave you alone and let you go on home when it's all over. There was none of that stuff either night. Just people having a good time, which is what I'd gone over there for.
A little past seven, the band finished up its final set and the Sumo events got underway. Contestants were dressed up in huge plastic and rubber suits, which made them resemble the gigantic sumo wrestlers of reality. They required assistance getting in and out of the garb, so a couple of "suit techs" were standing by. Those suits were so heavily padded that they couldn't possibly really hurt each other or themselves. Also, many of them could barely move, which is what made it so hilarious. The best match of the night was between two lady volunteers (although it seemed that one of them was more or less "volunteered" by a few friends). The gals were lighter than the guys and they went at it all-out, doing full-tilt "belly bumps" and wrestling each other to the canvas floor of the ring. Once down, neither of them could get back up on their own, so they rolled around, grappling and repelling each other, until the assistants finally got them back on their feet again. I laughed until I nearly cried, then cheered when they declared the match to be a draw. Two winners and both deserved it!!
After that came the main event between D.J. and David Brown. Dave Brown, who runs the West Knoxville satellite store, won it handily in two falls, totally upsetting his brother. After those girls, though, it was almost anti-climatic. They stole the show. At that point, it was over for the night and I walked Velvet out of her parking spot out front, put on my helmet, and fired her up for the ride back home. I was just a little tipsy from the beer, but not so bad that I had problems going home. Leaning over in the curves was, well, interesting, but I made it in fine fashion.
Saturday dawned with rain showers on and off all day. I decided not to ride over, opting for my dry S-10. In earlier years, I rode my bike everywhere, in all kinds of weather, because it was the only transportation I had. I can tell you that motorcycles are rideable in the rain, using the proper amount of caution, but having been caught in rainstorms in the past on one, I still don't recall ever being wetter, outside the shower or a swimming pool. And then there's that wind chill you create when the bike is moving, blowing on your soaked clothes! Brrrrrrrr! I have raingear I carry with me, but problem is, you're still likely to get well-saturated before you can find a dry place to stop and put it on! Uh -- I'll pass on that one, thank you very much!! So, I drove over in my trusty Chevy.
The joint was already jumping when I arrived. The south parking lot was filled with 4-wheelers, so many people besides me had opted not to ride over. Many more people were there than the night before, and many more were to come later. I chatted with some friends again, then headed to the tent, where I promptly grabbed a brew and a plate of BBQ. The band was already at work, but this was a different group than the one Friday. More hard rock-oriented, and calling themselves "Kill Will." They were a trio -- guitar, bass and drums, and the guitarist was an Aussie (from Australia, that is) with tons of talent on display. As the sole guitarist, with no backup player, he had to carry rhythm and lead both, and did all the vocals as well. It takes a special talent to do that and this guy was excellent at it. He sounded more like Ozzy Osbourne on one number than Ozzy himself, and Tony Iommi, eat your heart out!! Great kick-ass band, if you like rock and roll. They lend credence to the knowlege I've had for years that the best musicians you ever heard are people you've never heard of. Nowhere near the superstar status of the big names, but with more pure talent in their little fingers than the superstars.
During the band's break, the dice-rolling for the free motorcycle got underway. I joined the line, checked off my name from the drawing sheet, signed on the dotted line and stepped up to the rolling table. Don't touch the table with your body. All dice must cross the line on the felt and yes, you can shake the dice around in the can and talk to them. Come to papa, baby!! I tossed the dice out of the cup and they all crossed the line and tumbled to a stop. The winner was whoever rolled the dice and had them spell out H-A-R-L-E-Y. I looked at mine. Close, but no cigar; they spelled out H-A-R-L-E-T. Crapped out by one lousy letter!! About the same luck I always have at Bingo -- get within one letter of having it and they'll NEVER call that letter, and someone else will win!! Never fails!! The "rollmeister" told me my roll was the closest of all, so far. "Does the closest one win, if nobody spells it out?" Uh, sorry, but no. If nobody rolls it, there is no winner at all. He told me to take a ticket. Everyone who rolls and don't win does get a raffle ticket, however. Prizes will be drawn later. I took my ticket and got another beer.
They had 200 shooters lined up from drawings at both stores. About fifty of them never showed up to roll, so it was over early. Nobody won the bike, that I heard about anyway. After the band played its final set, the raffle started. The prizes ranged from free parts, accessories, and service work, to chances to roll for the bike again. When they raffled off an expensive set of side plates, hardware, "sissy bar" and passenger backrest packages, they called my number. I stared at my ticket, unbelievingly, while the emcee was calling out, "Going once. Going twice. . .!" It's YOURS, you big dumbass! I told myself. Get your hand in the air, NOW!! I jumped up from the table, spilling my half-glass of beer all over the place, but not EVEN caring right then! "Right here!!" I yelled. "I GOT it!!" The emcee motioned me over and I walked up there, still not believing I'd won. My ticket checked out, of course, and he congratulated me. The store was closed by then, but he gave me a certificate that I'll take over there Monday and claim my prize. So, Miss Velvet is getting a sissy bar outfit free!! Wow!! I've never won anything in my life before and still am having a hard time believing it!!
I was on Cloud Nine the rest of the night. Got totally carried away with the beer and got completely wasted, for the first time in many years. What the hell?? I felt like it was MY party then and I didn't have to worry about riding my bike home. Let it ALL hang out, and I did!! Meanwhile, a second band began to perform. I never did get their name, but they went back to the Southern Rock I love so much and that made it complete! Pretty hot band as well, with a three-guitar attack. They performed the Lynyrd Skynyrd stuff even better than the band had on Friday. The beer was making my kidneys scream every ten minutes or so, it seemed, and the lines for the port-a-potties outside had grown longer, as many obviously had the same urges at the same time. Oh, what a blessing it would be to get home and have an entire toilet to myself!! But the main event hadn't even begun then, so I bucked the lines and hung around.
The crowd was huge by the time the C.A.G.E. fights began and I had lost my seat long ago, so I got as close as I could to watch, and get out of the light rain which had begun to fall again. Full-contact martial arts are illegal in Tennessee, but the fighters still managed to put on a good show, in spite of the restrictions put on them by my state. This wasn't some kung-fu movie, but the real thing, and until you've seen it live, you haven't really seen it at all. Even television can't do it justice. The speed is absolutely incredible, with lightning-fast kicks and punches. Hands and fists are a blur of motion and it's mind-boggling that the human body can be trained to move that fast. They block the kicks and jump out of the way as quick as you can blink your eyes. A lot of these guys are little and scrawny-looking, but they are incredibly tough and blindingly quick. I wouldn't want to make one of them mad at me, that's for sure!! A very enjoyable exhibition indeed!
It began to wind down after that. The band did a second set and I hung for a short time to listen to them some more. But soon enough, it was over and everyone was headed out. I joined them, stopping on the way home, to buy a burger. I hadn't eaten anything but the BBQ plate earlier, and I was hungry, to say the least. All good things must end, and so it did, but I have the memories of a fun weekend to look back on in the future.
I'm not so sorry now that I had to take both my vacation weeks off before I wanted to, because of some sleep center B.S.!! But that's another story, for another entry a little later on. Meantime, I can't wait to get that sissy bar on Velvet!!