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GOING THE DISTANCE
"PATH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
KNOCKING ON HEAVEN'S DOOR: View from the pulpit.
My Harley, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on streets as it is on highways
Give us this day our daily ride.
And forgive us our tickets,
as we forgive them that ticket against us.
And lead us not into gaslessness,
but deliver us from breakdowns.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.
In case you haven't noticed it, or had never thought about it in exactly these terms, our relationships with our Harleys are a truly religious experience. The reverence is there, the devotion is there, and the longevity of these tributes to the brand are unquestionable. At least for some: True Believers. I'm not rappin' about the Biker Lites who latched onto Harley-Davidsons in the '90s as part of the Yuppie Tsunami that washed over America like an irresistibale wave of malaria-like febrility that left these dilletantes ultimately weak, unresolved and uncommitted at the end.
Leech-like, they fed until blood-engorged and then they fled.
Their fever subsided, as did their passion for their motorcycles.
These short-timers eventually moved on to other pursuits that littered eBay with used Harleys at inflated prices, and the biker subculture seemingly as watered down as the flooded plains alongside the Missouri River.
I'm talking about us, the True Believers who've held onto our Harleys come hell or high water.
We are the Survivors.
We survived the storm of master-builders. The rise and fall of master-builders, was highlighted by cresting business, marrying movie stars and ultimately, divorcing movie stars and the failure of bankrupt master-builder services. There was no TARP for these artificially-inflated concerns. They were not too big to fail.
We weathered the floods of credit card money, after they inundated our lands with the Artificiality of The Unrighteous. After the waters receded, we found our Harleys intact.
We came down to Earth after being swept up into the rarefied air of High Money and Tacky Taste, by tornadoes of The Shallow.
The short-lived passion of The Shallow for Harleys, brought us Celebrity Bike Builders who exploited The Shallow by selling them one hundred thousand dollar motorcycles.
It brought us television shows for Builder Evangelists, and leather vests at motorcycle rallies festooned with 20 pounds of tin badges, each. Meanwhile, we Joe Sixpacks of the biker subculture kept to ourselves, without getting caught up in the absurdness of the scene, happy to just have and ride our class Harleys. Outlaw Harleys, man---subdued and righteous at the same time.
The Invasion of The Biker Lites brought us flashy paintjobs, obese rear tires and customs with rounded backbones that made 'em look like glorified bicycles, Exhorbitantly-Priced Schwinns for Lance Armstrong Lites. Who'd thunk that any bikers worth their 60 weight, would wish that their Harleys would look like Ross bicycles from the 1950s? Even now, we see customs re-rigged to look like clunky bicycles of the past. All we need is a handlebar basket for carrying lunchboxes. The chintzy and moronic had for a while, a place at our table.
Yes, we are the Survivors. The Wheat of True Bikers has been separated from the Chaff of Chumps. The so-called cream of the crop, as they always thought of 'emselves, just because True Money is like that---has been skimmed off the top of the biker subculture. The High Money Rapture has vacuumed The Shallow off the Harley World, into some obscure paradise of convenience, and we dregs of the biker subculture have been left behind. But isn't that the way we've always perceived ourselves?
Dangerous greasers, hardcore bikers, tattooed menaces.
But we're not the dregs at the depths of the biker subculture, we are the foundation, and we are still here after the Rapture of The Rubes has swept 'em away like an ill wind that blows no good.
Yes, we've been left behind. Left behind to pick up the pieces of the biker subculture after rampaging yuppies ran rampant with their Gold Cards, raping, pillaging and generally causing Celebrity Havoc in our lands. Left behind with our 74s and Sportsters, guarding the gates against the next barbarian invaders that might take advantage of our pristine Harleys. Left behind to patrol the highways and byways of our mortal coil, where just we mere mortal bikers now stalk the earth on our faithful bikes. Outlaw 74s rule, man---and we once again rule the subculture. The pretenders are gone.
I've got news for the Biker Lites. We are the righteous ones, who've always kept the faith. We kept on worshipping at the altar of the Outlaw 74. We kept our bikes in God's true image as it was meant to be: Stripped, straightforward and honest. The Harley-Davidson experience is a true religious experience. Where else do you find disciples pledging their allegiance to the brand, by branding, on their skin with ink? We proudly label ourselves with our Harley Bar Codes, and wear these tattoos as indelible badges of honor, as a loyal Honor Guard for the biker subculture.
Disciples of the Outlaw 74 enter the life as young men, taking their vows to Going The Distance with their Partners of Steel.
We enter the life as young fledgeling keepers of the flame, maintaining that flame until the very flame of our lives, extinguishes.
No country for old men?
The biker subculture is now, and has always been a country for old men. Old men that are Harley loyalists to the end, undeterred and unrepentant. For a short while our country was invaded by rich middle-aged men, men who previously had zero interests in motorcycles---intent on co-opting our subculture. The Invasion of The Shallow lasted a few years, barely a blip in the 80 year history of the biker subculture. But no more. The subculture is now back into the control of young men, middle-aged men and old men who are True Bikers. The Day of The Dilletante is over, baby.
I began my journey in the culture as a young man of 21. Now 43 years later, the flame burns hot and bright in my Harley Heart. My Harley 74 Mabel at the ripe old age of forty, is better than when she rolled outta Milwaukee. Part of the Harley religion, is vowing to keep one's 74 or Sportster, as good or better than when new. I've kept my part of the bargain, and my reward is Everlasting Biker Life, highlighted by 80 mile per hour blasts down the highway, with the stroker crackle of my shovelhead motor reverberating off the tarmac. The loping idle of my Harley sustains me. The roar of her straight pipes restoreth my soul. Her righteous vibes lay me down in still waters, life-giving waters lubricated by Harley oil. Amen, and later.