2012 seemed like the perfect time to start a motorcycle club. Last year, I pushed myself in new directions by establishing this blog, taking to the airwaves as an underground radio DJ, and writing/directing/producing a new play. Repeating myself year after year was never very comfortable for me. As an explorer in the further reaches of experience, I demand more. You should, too.
The impetus for the club wasn't some hackneyed New Year's resolution. Not even close. The suggestion was made to me almost five years ago, by members of an international motorcycle club. I would never have thought of it myself. It was one Hell of a compliment. One I have spent the last four-plus years considering.
That's right: FOUR-PLUS YEARS. I've been a biker for nearly a decade. Japanese cruisers, mostly. The second of them gave me the privilege of a trip from San Francisco to Sturgis, S.D. and back, as a ride captain of four bikes (seven people total). Other accolades include Hollister, a full riding season with the San Francisco Motorcycle Club, and more trips over the Bay Bridge in sideways, .45 caliber rain than you really want to think about. My Pennsylvanian values prohibit me from disclosing other trips, affiliations, outrageous parties, and un-fucking-believable experiences, out of respect for less adventurous eyes and minds (San Franciscans tend to fry both with ludicrous ease).
Why not simply join a club that already exists? Already tried that. Holding my personality down to a modest 30% of normal, one of the oldest clubs in the country felt that I was too much for them, only to admit less than a year later that they'd badly misjudged me. I considered going back, running through the process again, and taking up their patch. There are several people there with whom I thoroughly enjoy riding, drinking, and carousing. But, in truth, I'd rather not compromise my expansive, life-sculpted, iconoclastic sense of liberty for any club. I've earned the right to be a total individual. Who wants the company of other total individuals, in a club that cuts its own standard.
Recruiting the second club member proved easier than I expected. The natural choice was an international traveler whose most recent passport stamps include Israel, Syria, Portugal, and India. She won't have her first bike much longer. A year on it has shown her the need for more power and capability. Connecting her innate spirituality, honed in temples and taverns alike, to the open road made perfect sense. After mentioning it to her some months ago, we formed up a plan to make an initial run up the coast, to Ft. Bragg, along Hwy. 1 only, just after New Year's Day. Like, the day after.
Full disclosure: the club's VP is no slouch in the affiliations/outrageous parties/un-fucking-believable experiences department, either. In fact, I arrived at the fourth party of my NYE/NYD schedule this year, around dawn, to find her already present and target shooting from the hot tub. We wound out that party out until 1:30p.m., then split our respective ways. Our stated departure time was 10:30a.m., the following morning. Hey—I said this was a motorcycle club, right?
Like fucking clockwork. I rolled up to her cottage, near Muir Woods, at 10:05a.m., and we were at Stinson Beach by 11:00. She got her first eval right then and there, which was 86%. Basic road skills and riding style. The score held until a couple hours later, when we climbed the side of a ridge, 200 vertical feet above the Pacific and ensconced in various coastal pines. A thick, cloudy mist turned the road into a slippery roller coaster composed of hairpin, switchback turns and 20ft visibility, not to mention the hindering accumulation on our helmet visors. Mist also gathered on our necks, resulting streams that found their way into the protective jackets we both wore. VP lacked insulated gloves and boots, exposing her hands and feet to a slow, thorough soaking made worse by wind chill. She never flinched or failed—even when we rode into a white-out. Thirty miles like this. Most people wouldn't have made it ten. Finally, we made a health-and-safety-inspired, unscheduled stop for the night. VP's final ride score for day: 99%.
Starting a motorcycle club brings a tremendous license for possibilities on the road. VP and I are both single, sexually dynamic, and unafraid to go for what we want. Believe me when I tell you, fellas, there are distinct advantages to having randy women as members of the club. Like inviting other women to join us for a night of unrestricted pleasures. Unfortunately, the story of what my VP and I accomplished on that first night is now a matter of club business, and not yours. All I will say is that another female was present, and each of us got exactly what we wanted. A surprise reward for our health-and-safety overnighter.
By morning, the weather had cleared. Sunny skies with 20-mile visibility were the order of the day. VP was already awake and engaged in her hour-long morning prayer, out on the oceanside balcony. Waves were rolling in at 12-15ft heights, thundering on the water and shore alike. Deeply respectful of all life, as well as the natural elements that sustain it, VP never fails to give thanks and request blessings in a language that I don't speak, yet completely understand. I am, after all, an ordained minister. Who knows enough to keep the prayers brief and the rides interesting.
Day two provided another set of appropriate challenges. VP's bike died a few miles outside Point Arena. A quick check of its systems revealed that it had little, if any, oil in the engine. So, we left it parked on an access road, buddied up on my bike, and rode to a hardware store I'd seen a ways back. Two quarts and a funnel made from a paper bag later, we were off and running again. Recovering the bike was a real mood-changer, and VP dove in with the requisite enthusiasm. “There is no lying on the Road: it will always bear you out,” I'd said to her before leaving her house the prior day. We were two-for-two on the Road.
And it paid us back mightily for our faith. The remainder of Hwy 1, to Ft. Bragg, treated us with a variety of swooping dives and turning rolls that would test any biker, at any level. Warm sunshine perpetuated the common myth of California's ubiquitously mild winters. Our arrival in Ft. Bragg was full of giggles, satisfaction, and grins. The previous few days' rock-n-rolling caught up with VP as soon as we booked an inn for the night. Already riding a down wave to an extended sleep, she opted for the expressway to dreamtime known as “Mexican for dinner” and collapsed in bed, done for the night. So, I took off on my own, to see what Ft. Bragg's got to offer after dark.
Ft. Bragg is an old logging and railroad town, and has the requisite eccentricities that one would expect as such. It's Old Town section boasts the best drinking, and the liveliest taverns are all within walking distance of one another (and your bed, if you plan correctly). On the Tuesday night I was out and about, the pickins for a single fella were a little slim. Little, slim, young blonde and brunette, who were still young enough to keep cutesie stuffed animal minis clipped to their purses. Or a pert, tough-n-tender bartender. Or the late 20s businessgrrrl cruising for action with a stranger in town. Rough choices, fellas. Damn rough. Saturday nights are even worse.
Day three involved blazing through California's coastal mountain ridges, with their vaulting canyons of trees and ferns. Absolutely no one else was on the roads. Inland zig-zags cut through wine country and redwoods, allowing for illegal indulgences of a potentially fatal nature. The hills alone could kill you., never mind the mile-long flats and 16% downgrades. Out there on your own, out of sight between riders, out of help's immediate range, you find out who and what you really are. Some of you know exactly what I mean. We want riders like you.
Back in SF, I wasted no time researching what the next move for a budding MC. Answer: more research. Like all other forms of existence, motorcycle clubs have their nuances. Patch designs and the number of rockers speak volumes to other MCs. You'd rather not be sending the wrong signals through ignorance. Or misconduct by your members. The latter can be ameliorated with the proper set of bylaws, to which every member must agree to abide (if not sign). Bylaws are, essentially, a constitution for a club—governance, conduct, membership criteria. They should be carefully considered and fully enabled before the first full-patch club ride. I've ordered a set from a MC that's over a hundred years old, and will use theirs as a foundation for ours. The goal is to have our first nine riders patched, signed to the bylaws, and on the road for an Independence Day run.
Recruiting has, so far, been pretty easy. We're a selective club, and the first nine memberships are by invitation only. After that, any applicant to the club will have to go through a six-month prospect period, followed by a vote of all members. The piece you are reading now is not meant to promote the club, and I won't disclose its name. We'd prefer to meet you, go on a road trip, and see if you have what we want in our ranks. Motorcycle clubs, like every other aspect of culture, need an update every so often. New manifestations of classic principles alloyed with modern framework and unleashed at will. I'm going to take this privilege and run as far and hard with it as I can. Why the fuck not? Everyone has their version of Legacy Desire. This one's mine.
A desire to reclaim and expand the dwindling liberties we too readily sacrifice in the name of whatever excuse is offered. This motorcycle club is not a substitute for my other passions. Global affairs, the spirit of radio, energy exchange between stage and audience, and connecting with people via this medium will all remain integral to my personality. They're simply being taken to another level, on the highways and byways that are the central nervous system of this country. Out on the Road, we are true and free. See you there.