Well, if the trucking business has been slow this summer, motorcycling sure hasn't. Here it is, Labor Day weekend already! Where did the summer go?? Seems like only a day or two ago, I was helping kick off the season at KH-D's 40th Birthday Bash and partying half the night away at Coyote Joe's Big Twin Blowout rally back in June. Now the muggy, humid days of early fall are upon us -- the in-between season that my granny used to call "dog days."
Still a lot of riding to be done in the next couple of months, to be sure, but late October gets weird down here. One day it's sunny and up near 90 and a day later, you're shivering, wondering if it will snow before nightfall. Coyote Joe's will end it with another blowout the weekend of Sept. 25th and that will about do it on the local scene. They'll be open all winter, of course, but many bikers, including myself, will cruise over there on 4 wheels, instead of two, when the cold weather sets in. There are almost always some mild days, even in January, when we'll dare to venture out, but not that many and only the hard-core types will get out and around when it drops much below 40 degrees.
Winter will, perhaps, give me a chance to scope out the location of Joe's sister bar, the Chrome Pony Lounge. It's on Alcoa Highway, a dangerous, curve-laden thoroughfare known locally as "I'll Kill Ya Highway," due to the number of wrecks that occur on it each year. Four "suicide lanes," with no median until you get all the way out of the K-Town metro area, and the local Powers That Be have never bothered to build a Jersey barrier in the middle of it. It AIN'T the kinda road you want to go looking for something on, while on two wheels, trust me on that. While you're distracted, looking, it gives somebody in a cage an excuse to nail your ass. I'll scope it out in my 4-wheeler, see just where the place is, then I'll know where I'm going if I ride out there later on. That is a relatively unfamiliar area of town to me, as I've never lived out there, nor run around in that area very much.
I'm thinking now that maybe there's something to this notion many bikers have that "loud pipes save lives." I used to poo-poo that idea, alternatively thinking that "loud pipes draw cops," or "loud pipes anger the neighbors." Well, they'll surely do both of those latter two things, if one isn't cautious about how frisky he/she gets with the right twist-grip. But, I've seen the light now -- seen, in fact how they can save lives. They just *might* have saved my own last weekend.
I recently got a set of performance pipes I had been saving up for, put them on, then paid the Harley shop to recalibrate the bike's ECU, to compensate for the changes. Now Miss Velvet sounds like a REAL Harley; the way God intended for a Harley to sound! Loud?? Well, they vibrate the whole house when I fire it up in my garage! Sounds like I just pulled off a dragstrip when I'm sitting at a light. WAY cool, let me tell you!! If you're a Harley freak, like me, you love that unique sound, can't get enough of it, and want to hear the thunder when you open it up on the highway. That's part of the Harley mystique and if you have to ask why, then you'll never understand. That's just the way it is: Birds fly, fish swim, and Harleys roar down the road with authority. Not only that, but the pipes, in conjunction with the low-restriction air cleaner I put on awhile back, allow Miss Velvet to realize the full power of her factory-stock engine -- a gain of about 7-8 horsepower and, more importantly, about 10 lb./ft. of torque. Torque is what puts the power of an engine to the pavement and the more of it you have, the better!
Loud pipes will also teach you handy little things like superior throttle control, especially when you want to take that traditional Sunday morning ride and your neighbors may not be awake yet. You fire it up, and roll on just enough throttle to ease it down the driveway, then let it idle down the alley. Once in the street, you accelerate slowly through the neighborhood until you hit the main road, keeping the rpm's to a minimum. That's how you stay a good neighbor and avoid getting the cops called on you! That's a good practice to use anywhere in town, actually, unless you enjoy paying fines for noise ordinance violations. Want to open her up? Hit the interstate, or a major highway. That's the place to do that.
I learned about "loud pipes save lives" when I was riding over to see my mom. I was motoring down a street when a senior citizen in a cage started to pull smack out in front of me. I laid on the brakes, hit my horn and got a puny "myeeeeep!" for that effort. So much for that. I pulled the clutch lever in and opened the throttle wide. He heard that and slammed on his own brakes, finally stopping halfway out in the street. I downshifted and wobbled a little, balancing Velvet until an oncoming car got by, then swerved smoothly around the geezer and went on my way.
The theory goes like this: If they don't see you coming, then by God, make them HEAR you coming!! On a motorcycle, you have to use everything you have to get the attention of the cagers, 75% of whom are only looking out for cars, and not bikes. Eye contact don't work all the time. I've looked straight at them and still had them pull out, like I wasn't even there at all. You wear bright-colored clothes as much as you can, keep your headlight on high beam during the day, don't be shy about using the horn, and use those pipes if you have to, also. Works for me.
Finally, I've been wondering why Hollywood can't produce a film which shows the biker community like it really is. Most all of the flicks and TV shows portray bikers as the villians, which few of us are at all. The only things I've seen which relect us in a positive light were the old late-60's movie and TV series, Then Came Bronson, which was about the adventures of a biker loner, traveling the highways in search of himself. Easy Rider was another one that, apart from the drug sequences, showed how misunderstood we so often are by society. It had an unforgettable, tragic ending -- the senseless deaths of the two main characters, blown away by two liquored-up rednecks in a pickup truck. As I wrote about in an earlier entry, the 50's flim, The Wild One had the potential to tell the truth, but the film's producer wasn't allowed to, by the film board of that day. He was forced to portray the bikers as villians, even though he knew the true story of the Hollister incident.
All the others I've seen are biker gang movies, showing the gangs terrorizing entire towns and young teen girls. They glamorize the hoodlum image of the so-called 1%ers among us; the biker outlaws. Yeah, they're still around, but they're not out to kill, rape and pillage, as Hollywood leads you to believe. Few, if any, wantthat sort of trouble, or actively seek it out. Most of them, in fact are just social groups for the most part. Yeah, they do some drugs, and they party harder than most others, but the worst they amount to is nuisance level stuff at best.
Hollywood never shows the many good things that bikers do, year around. Things that helpother people. Things like the charity rides and poker runs which are most often organized to help children who need a lifesaving operation and whose parents can't afford it. Things like the local ride that took place a week or so ago, which benefitted a Knoxville police officer who was shot in the line of duty. Or how about the annual Christmas rides for the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys For Tots campaign? I may participate this year, if I'm lucky enough to be here at the right time. Hollywood is silent on biker groups like Rolling Thunder, which is one of the most active groups in the country when it comes to the rights and benefits of our military veterans. And they never show organizations like the Patriot Guard Riders, which I belong to, and which provides security for the families of our fallen heroes, so that protestors can't disrupt the funeral ceremonies. No Hollywood fame ever comes our way, nor is it ever likely to.
If the only image one has of bikers is through Hollywood, then they'll keep getting the wrong impression of us. You see, the truth about the biker community isn't nearly dramatic enough for the Hollywood types. It's also a sort of secret lifestyle, one that you have to LIVE in order to understand. Standing on the outside and looking in won't cut it at all. How would you portray a biker character accurately unless you were a biker filmmaker yourself? You couldn't do it at all. That's why Hollywood will never be able to make a true-to-life film about bikers.
Want to get a real taste of what bikers are all about? Then step out to a biker club some evening. Party with us and talk to us. We won't bite you -- honest!! Attend some of the rallies that are held all over the country all summer. You don't have to ride; you can volunteer to drive your car as a support vehicle on organized rides. We need those, too. You'll see some different-looking people, to be sure, but you'll find out that they're not bad people at all. In addition, you'll likely have a lot of fun for a few hours. Andwhat's wrong with that??