Monday, August 11, 2008

Have no bike, but will travel (to Sturgis)

Blogger adrift in a sea of motorcycles

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is a big fat target for Liberals like me. Main reason? John McCain addressed the biking multitudes last week. He urged them to vote for him lest the Democrats get in and take away their motorcycles and guns, raise gas taxes, and make them all wear helmets, even when they're not riding.

McCain didn't say that. But you can be sure he inferred it.

But I steered clear of politics when I was in Sturgis, S.D., over the weekend. My brother Dan from Daytona and our mutual friend Blake were in town for the rally after spending two weeks exploring the Rocky Mountain West. They "trailered" their Harleys behind an RV, opening them up to criticism from the purists who ride their bikes from Daytona and Detroit and Seattle. I saw variations of this theme on a T-shirt: NICE TRAILER, PUSSY." But I saw a lot of RVs and a lot of trailers. One biker friend of mine from Florida sent his Harley out with friends and he flew to Rapid City. I didn't see any T-shirts that read NICE AIRPLANE, PUSSY."

Dan and Blake had parked the RV and ridden their bikes through Glacier National Park -- and other Montana scenery -- Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming, the Big Horns and, finally, the Black Hills of South Dakota. For the Black Hills leg, they hooked up with a friend of a friend who lives in Custer and he became their guide for rides in the Hills. When driving a car in the Hills this time of year, you're outnumbered substantially by bikers. It's kind of like being a Democrat in Wyoming -- always outnumbered.

I had a fine time over the weekend. It was great to see Dan and Blake. My brother's less than two years younger. My mother used to joke that she didn't know Dan could speak until I shipped off to kindergarten. I was his mouthpiece in those early years. But he's spoken for himself since then. Now a retired air traffic controller, he has a business, Daytona Gear, selling leather tank bags to bikers. Kind of a natural fit for a biker from Daytona, considering there are now two big rallies there each year, one in February/March with the annual bikes races and the other called "Biketoberfest."

Dan knew Blake first, but we also became friends when I rented a house next to his in the little burg of Holly Hill north of Daytona. He runs a successful construction company and decided to take a few weeks off because business is not exactly booming in these harsh times.

What does a civilian like me do during Sturgis? The same things that bikers do. Wander the Sturgis streets, looking at all the fancy bikes. Shop, too, at one of the hundreds of stores and vendors. These are some serious shoppers, snatching up T-shirts, bandannas, helmets, and various bike accessories, such as kickstands in the shape of a skeletal arm flipping a bird. Skulls are a favorite design, as are skeletons, wolves, buffalo and eagles. As I looked around for souvenir T-shirts, I was disappointed to find that most of them were cheaply made overseas. The only "Made in the U.S.A." labels I found were on Harley T-shirts. Those weren't selling as fast as the "5 for $25" shirts out on the street. But I wondered how bikers, a subculture that prides itself in its blue-collar and military-veteran roots, could be happy with buying "Made in Vietnam" T-shirts. Also, these bikes aren't cheap. Why would you ride a $25,000 official Harley motorcycle (at least $10,000 more than any car I've bought) and not want to buy a $25 Harley U.S.A. T-shirt?

We all need a bargain, what with rising gas prices and inflation and unemployment and housing foreclosures. A lot of the jobs of working men and women have been shipped overseas by our corporate overlords. Many of those were union jobs at places that make motorcycles and cars and steel beams and beer and even T-shirts. Many of those jobs were shipped overseas by buddies of Bush and Cheney and McCain. Still, McCain has the effrontery to drop into Sturgis and tell the gathered bikers to be very very afraid of the Democrats (especially the "swarthy elitist" Sen. Obama) because they will refuse to extend tax cuts for the fat cats who moved your jobs to our stalwart ally Pakistan which shelters the Muslim extremists who have killed and maimed your sons and daughters serving in Afghanistan.

(More about my weekend in Sturgis in upcoming posts)


jhwygirl said...

Were you there for the shootout between the Iron Pigs and the Hell's Angels?

Michael Shay said...

I missed that one. But I did see a poetry slam between the Iron Angels and the Hell's Pigs. The Angels won with a bitchin' sonnet.

jhwygirl said...