Monday, July 6, 2009


I took a leisurely holiday ride on Miss Velvet on Saturday, the Fourth of July. Had her little American flag flapping in the wind, strapped to her sissy bar with electrical zip-ties, and had my stars and stripes dew rag on under my helmet. It was enjoyable as it always is on a holiday weekend, when most everyone else is out on the lakes, or up in the Smokies, having fun and grilling burgers and hot dogs. Their absence in town makes traffic light and sweet, for a change, and much less of a hassle and hazard than usual. Before I knew it, I was out in the woods, riding a section of twisties that seem to be made for a motorcycle.

Rode out to my aunt and uncle's place, had a nice visit with them, then left at the same time they did. They were headed to the lake, or somewhere like that, but I didn't ride along with them. I took a little detour through the sleepy and tiny little "wide place in the road" known as Powell, Tennessee (a Knoxville bedroom community, actually) and hit 25w, a major highway leading back into K-Town. Once on that route, I opened Velvet up a little, letting her run and get some "exercise." That's good for her, now and then. She zippped up to 60, then 65, effortlessly and as smoothly as silk, with her throttle less than halfway open. She never broke a sweat and would have to be pushed up toward that 120 mph maximum on her speedometer in order to do so.

I paid my "Harley Tax" last year, adding a pair of performance mufflers and a high-flow air cleaner kit to her. You have to do that nowadays, in order to make the stock engine perform and sound the way it should sound and perform when it leaves the factory. It doesn't, of course, because of our government, which is hell-bent on saving us from ourselves. So, most of us Harley owners are forced to spend extra money in order to make our machines run up to their true potential. The result is that it brings out the full torque and horsepower that the engine is capable of, as it ain't being strangled anymore by government regulations and red tape. I was told by the Harley shop that Velvet now has about 70 horses prancing around under her "hood," and I can feel the increased torque in the seat of my pants when I let out the clutch and twist that throttle. She'll do everything her speedometer says she will, and more, I know.

Not that I've had her up to that speed -- I haven't at all. That's just a bit too fast for me, on a public highway. It's dangerous enough on a bike out there at 30 mph, what with all the dumb car drivers on the road. 120 is pushing your luck a lot further than I'm willing to push mine. That kind of speed belongs on a drag strip or race track, not on a public roadway. I have ridden up to almost 80, one time, and believe me, that is FAST on two wheels. A 600 pound bike like Velvet feels like she weighs about 30 pounds at that speed. Things begin to happen very quickly; way too quickly to stop or swerve if some little old granny decides she wants in my lane and doesn't bother to look first. My daredevil days are long over with. I'm an old biker now, not a bold biker. There are no old, bold bikers because luck has a funny way of running out on you, sooner or later. There are two main types of motorcyclists -- those who have crashed and those who will. I'm in the "have crashed" category. Crashing sucks and I do what I can to avoid any repeats of a very bad experience.

Of course there are also the local law enforcement types to consider as well. Cops abound on major summer holidays, like the Fourth. I didn't see any, but that don't necessarily mean that they weren't seeing me. They like to hide in Tennessee and you won't see them until it's too late. I have better things to do with what money I have than to pay speeding fines with it, so with that in mind, I slowed back down to the double-nickel speed limit after just a brief "run" for Velvet. What's the rush? It's a holiday and I'm in no particular hurry to go anywhere. Just enjoying the ride. And I did, all the way back to town. I ended up, finally, where else?? At Coyote Joe's, naturally, my Number One hangout and a true biker bar and grill.

Now at this point a reader may wonder just what constitutes a real biker bar. Well, I'm gonna tell you all about that. No, it's not a wide-open, wild place, where there's a fistfight every ten minutes and you have to duck constantly, to avoid being clobbered by flying beer bottles. That's mostly Hollywood stuff. No, in fact the owner, Richard, or "Bubba" as he's affectionately known, doesn't tolerate any of that. You'll get tossed out on your ear and banned from the place for that sort of thing. And drug dealers aren't tolerated, either. Although some of the biker club members you see there still deal drugs now and then, they do it away from that premises. You might smell pot fumes now and then, from out on the outdoor deck, but that's about the extent of it. It can be noisy, with live bands playing and loud jukebox tunes now and again, but a biker bar ain't necessarily a bad place to visit at all.

Ever since bar owners discovered that middle-aged bikers like myself had new bikes and some disposable income, club after club began having a bike night. But if the place you go has maybe two bikes, tops, sitting out front and inside it's full of 21-year-olds listening and dancing to the newest alt or hip-hop hits and they serve only the trendiest brands of beer and other "lubricants," then forget it. Walk out and fire 'er up, cause that ain't a biker bar at all.

No, the best I can define a real biker bar is an establishment where bikes show up in droves in good weather, where three-fourths of the clientele and employees sport at least one tatoo, where the patrons are mostly in their 40's and up, where the beer is ice-cold and they offer all the familiar brands you've always drank, and where the food is good, quite reasonably priced, and the menu items are things that would give your docs hissy-fits if they knew about it.

A biker bar is also (at least around here) a place where there is a mix of country music, blues, and classic or southern rock blasting out of a set of monster speakers at all hours of the night and day, punctuated by the sound of predominant Harley-Davidson engines starting up and ripping down the driveway all the time. A place where you get a hug from one or more of the girls when you arrive, and sometimes another hug when you depart. "Friendly shadows," as Kris Kristofferson once sang in one of his songs. A place where friends with a common interest and passion can meet, eat, drink a few cold ones, play some pool, or just kick back and listen to the juke and chat with one another. A place to relax and cool your pipes after a long, hot ride in the summer sun. A place that feels like a home away from home, once you become well-known there. Coyote Joe's fits that description to a "T." Listen to the words of Toby Keith's I Love This Bar sometime. He's been there and done that, time and again, I'll wager.

Saturday was slow and my funds were limited, since I had neglected to stop at an ATM and reload my wallet with cash, so I only stayed a couple of hours. But I was back again on Sunday afternoon, this time with more money and in my four-wheeler, since it had been raining. Not many bikes out front in that weather, but that's normal. Most motorcyclists avoid bad weather and take the cage. It's safer and a lot drier than a bike. Getting caught out in an unexpected rainstorm is one thing -- we've all been there -- but only the truly hardest-core bikers will deliberately go out and ride in the rain. Stayed a little longer Sunday, since I wasn't on two wheels, and drank a little bit more.

We had one incident that demonstrates how well Richard's rules are obeyed by all of us. One younger guy whom I don't know had stopped in with an older friend who I've seen there a few times. The youngster sat at the bar while his friend was out on the front deck, talking to some other friends. I didn't see the actual incident, but the youngster had had a few too many and grabbed the shapely derriere of the cute little Coyote Girl who was serving both inside and out on that slower day. She immediately and quite understandably let him (and everyone else) know that she didn't appreciate it and that his actions were very inappropriate. Mario, the bartender on duty, quickly got the drunk kid's attention and began talking to him, not being nasty, but letting him know that he wasn't permitted to touch the girls in that manner. His older friend also came inside and talked to him. He was immediately cut off from further alcohol and seemed to calm down after that. Then, about twenty minutes later, he started bellyaching about the incident, trying to accuse her of slapping his butt first (which the girl hadn't done at all.) She defended herself and his friend quickly came back in again and told him to come on, they were leaving. He got the drunk kid out of there before Mario and two or three of the rest of us could gang up and physically toss him out ourselves. That kid had better learn to keep his hands to himself before he learns it the hard way. That girl is a real sweetie and none of us are going to let her be treated like a tramp. Look all you want to, but don't touch! That's the rule and I hope that kid learns it fast. That's the biggest single incident I've witnessed there in all the time I've hung out there and it was handled tastefully and peacefully.

Now, for the award I got. Well, it ain't an official award or anything. It was passed along to me by my friend Lori and it's an Honest Blogger Award. Informal honor, but I AM honored, Lori, and thank you!!! The award is displayed at the top of this entry. In return, I'm supposed to list ten honest facts about myself and then pass it on to another seven bloggers. I can and will do the first task, but I can't do the second one, because I really don't follow that many blogs nowadays. So I can't pass it on, but hopefully the other six she chose will do so and the award will continue to move along. So okay -- now here is my list of ten honest things:

1. I, like Lori, am also an only child. I got ALL the attention when I was growing up, with no siblings, so I'm definitely not starved for that. In fact I think that has made me tend to shy away from the limelight. I don't like being the center of attention -- don't like the pressure it puts on me. That's why I had to be half-lit before I would get up on the stage and perform my karaoke debut that night a month or so ago. A show-off I'm NOT!!

2. I love most all dogs, except the itty-bitty noisy ones that won't stop barking and have the sharpest teeth. Can't stand those breeds. They get on my nerves instantly. I won't mistreat any animal, though.

3. My basic food groups are burgers, pizza, chili, BBQ, peanut butter sandwiches, and ice cream. I'm a doctor's nightmare!!

4. I still smoke a little, though I've cut way down from the amount I used to smoke. I'm trying to quit, but it's HARD!! Those of you who have never smoked have no idea how hard it is -- especially when you're stressed out over health issues, no job, no health insurance, and incoming bills!!

5. I love good blues or blues/rock music best of all. Second-best is Southern Rock. Third-best is old-time classic country. Stuff I grew up listening to.

6. I'm having a hard time learning to sleep all night again, after being a night-owl trucker for eleven years. I'm up and down all night sometimes, like I am now, writing this entry at 4:12 A.M., EST, on Tuesday morning.

7. I have a lot of love inside me to give to some lucky woman. I'm a prize catch because I've never been married before and have *no* baggage from an ex-wife, kids, etc. I've made one good female friend since I moved back home to stay, but nothing serious yet. I need an income first!!!

8. I am a writer to the core, but it takes time to make money at it. I have to pay bills NOW, so I'm forced to put that off until I retire, or get my disability coming in.

9. I'm not a mean person at all, but I have buttons that you DON'T want to push!!!

10. I put my faith in God, not in human beings. You're never alone with God in your heart.

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