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GOING THE DISTANCE
Photo by Genghis
REDNECK IN THE CITY: That's what my Harley makes me.
HANGMAN AT THE SEEDY-X BAR:
"I've been reading your stuff for about 20 years now between Iron Horse magazine and here. I know the story of your wreck and remember reading about it (and agonizing for your and Patty's recovery), as well as reading your account of your ride home on "Sally The Bitch" the day you bought her. You've shared a lot of personal memories over the years. My experiences are very different. Where you learned to ride at first "on the fly" I grew up with mini bikes and dirt bikes. My first car was a '67 Chevelle, not a Vette. It was my grandfather's car and was wrecked. My dad told me I could have it if I did the work. The body was crumpled, the interior shot, and it kinda ran. My grandfather had been dead for 8 years when I got the car. My dad and I worked on it together and I had one of the coolest cars in high school in the '80's. I learned to turn a wrench out of necessity. I only recently entered the Corvette world with my '75, Gina.
Where I live vehicles are necessary to do anything from picking up a bottle of milk to commuting to work, There are no stores within walking distance. Okay, there are, but I'm talking hiking distances where the milk will spoil before you get home. And no public transportation. Our vehicles become necessities, even our beloved toys. You have the luxury of keeping your vehicles simply as toys. But you personally value them as part of your being. Many of us in my neck of the woods do the same even if we use them every day as transportation. They call us rednecks. We accept the label.
Man, nothing sounds better than a H-D V-twin winding up, or an American V-8 pushing the red line. The import stuff, even the high end performance stuff just doesn't do it for me. Seems it doesn't work for you either. Again, a lotta shared values. Maybe you were really meant to live with us rednecks. John Travolta did a really bad movie on that shit with the whole city hillbilly thing. Don't see ya ever in that light. But maybe we ain't as different as we appear.
The code of the motorhead continues. My 6 year old grandson loves everything mechanical. I put modern seatbelts in Gina so I can put in a booster seat for him. He'll also ride with me on the same Harley his mom rode on. And I've started a tool chest for him when he's ready. Just gotta teach him to shoot, hunt, fish, and trap and my job is done. Gotta love it, man. You leave your mark for following generations with words, I leave mine with a kid learning wrenching and sporting skills. You couldn't buy this shit. Still the best country on the planet. America will survive."
You said it, brother.
I think Hangman is right on the money. As I've stated in previous writing, my parents came from southern China, so that accounts for my preference for southern fried chicken and the pedal steel guitar. Never mind that to a niece of mine, I'm her "Hawaiian uncle." Sorry---that's a family joke. You know you're a redneck, if you've ridden a Harley all your life, and you can't begin to explain to the citizens of your egghead, liberal-leaning city---why. Let the weenies figure it our for 'emselves. Who cares? What's more---you don't want to explain why. It's ye olde adage again---if I have to explain, then you wouldn't understand. Great t-shirt logo, but true, man. It's hard to beat a t-shirt platitude that tolls the ring of truth. And if the bell tolls for thee and you don't get it--forget it---you're clueless. And probably bike-less, and car-less.
Yup. I do think that bikers (and other types of motorheads) are a different breed apart, and it doesn't matter where you live. If wherever you live, everybody doesn't love and ride Harleys---then you as a biker sure aren't part of the norm. The "mainstream" in such environs, is what your swimming against---as in "swimming against the grain." Hangman is also right about something else: In cities like NYC, 40 plus year old Harleys and Vettes are not a necessity of transportation. They're just not. In cities, destinations are near, and they're accessible by beating yer feet, buses or subways. What does that effectively make bikes like my Harley 74?
Lemme tell ya about what happened in Iron Horse magazine, when I wrote a column calling motorcycles "recreational vehicles" for some of us---a sentiment expressed quite accurately by Hangman, by the way. I got roasted and toasted by readers who took umbrage with my characterization. Yet, what else would they be, if bikes aren't needed for basic transportation in a city? Do you think I'm going to fire my Shovel up to buy some Table Talk pies from a store a block away? What are ya, nuts? However, some of those irate Iron Horse readers who got ticked off, and thought of my characterization of their beloved Harleys as "too trivial," entirely missed my main point:
My Harley motorcycle is a necessity for my soul.
When something you love and emotionally need, as much as bikers need their Harleys, is expendable in your environment, and you keep it anyway---that places more value on the item than if it is merely needed to fulfill an everyday function. You might be a redneck, if you don't need a Harley, but you've never been without one for forty-five years, anyway. I guess that does make me a redneck---but I'll bet that this qualification for redneck membership, applies to 100% of the biker subculture, regardless of whether they need their bikes to get to work. That, is what I have in common with guys like Hangman. We get it. Got it?
I remember the uproar when I wrote that "Harley-as-recreational-vehicle" Iron Horse piece. Hey---guess where Snow, the editor of Iron Horse was from? That's right, he's a redneck from Little Rock, Arkansas. Hey! Guess how Snow traveled from his home in Brooklyn to the Iron Horse Office in Manhattan every day? Yeah, he took the venerable F-Train subway. There ya go. His Harleys---in the environment of New York City---weren't transportative necessities. Guess what that made 'em? I won't say "toys," but I will call 'em necessities for his soul. The soul of bikers, have to be nourished. The only way to nourish 'em, is with a steady diet of Harley Horsepower, and for some us---Chevy Power as well.
In my day job, I come across a fairly typical cross section of the New York City populace. That is to say, liberal-leaning, city-folk who are entirely disengaged from Motor Culture. Most of 'em believe that motorcycles and guns belong in a different time zone. In my office that these people come to , I have pictures hanging on the walls, of my wife, Patty, my Harley, Mabel, and my '72 Corvette Stingray, Mary. When people come to my office and find out that these machines are mine, a typical question that arises is, "Why do you own a motorcycle here?" or "Why do you own a Corvette here? Hey man, if I have to explain....
It is not only one's body that needs to be nourished and maintained. So too, does one's brain and soul have to be sustained with the right kind of food. The right kind of food for me, is being able to blast down the highway on my righteous stroker Shovelhead, pipes singing their cacophonous song---or steering my V-8 driven Vette, pipes a-burbling down the same roads---just not necessarily, on the way to work, or the supermarket. These roads, wherever we live, provide the nourishment that motorheads need---to stay alive spiritually. I might be a redneck, if I need this. Thanks, Hangman. You've given me something to think about. Later.