A Tale of Two Rallies

My life is sometimes filled with dichotomies.  Being a “Biker” “Lawyer” itself can sometimes be a contradiction in terms.  An Oxymoron if you will.  Lawyers are typically thought of as genteel aristocratic types with French cuffs and wingtip shoes in a Mercedes Benzes while Bikers are thought of as typically leather clad roughians donning tattoos and long hair on loud raucous motorbikes of the V-Twin variety.  It seems to me that these stereotypes have some truth although I’ve met many a bumbling disheveled lawyer in unkempt clothes and I’ve met many a finely mannered biker in custom Italian leathers complete with Gucci sunglasses.  I think back to two motorcycle rallies I attended last year, each a tale of opposing biker spectrums.  I travelled to them on different motorcycles with two very different groups of men.  While each rally was an exciting exercise in 2 wheeled adventure with likeminded bikers seeking camaraderie, with peers they could not have been any more different experiences.  The first was on my BMW 1200GS, the second was on my Harley Davidson Street Glide bagger.  The trips had a scant 2 weeks between them, yet were worlds apart in experience.

For the purpose of this exercise in comparative yet opposite sociological behavior of my biker peers, I will attempt to compartmentalize 4 similar events that invariably occurred at each rally, although they played out in very different ways.  These rallies happen to have both taken place in Georgia, one North to the Georgia mountains and one South to the sea.  The rally to the North was a BMW get together of older gentleman riders I know, all camping at a predetermined location to ride, eat, drink, tell stories and share fellowship with other BMW aficionados.  The rally to the South was a get together of a motorcycle ‘club’ I am friendly with all, camping at a predetermined location to also ride, eat, drink, tell stories, and share fellowship with other ‘club’ members.  Similarity of purpose executed most differently.  My first comparison, might I say dichotomy, went as follows:

  1. The Arrival

North/BMW:  I arrive at a KOA campground on my BMW dressed in a ‘First Gear’ road suit and I am stopped by a man with a clipboard at the front entrance.  He has a headset on, as if he just piloted a helicopter there.  He asks my name smiling broadly and I tell him smiling back.  He shakes my hand welcoming me and provides me a plastic wrist band, “good for a stack of pancakes and coffee next morning at the pavilion” he tells me.  He gives me a map and a few ‘activity’ flyers and tells me I’m camping in section “B” lot “41”.  I feel excited to have arrived and am rest assured by the apparent organization about me.  I roll past my greeter towards the flagman waving me to neatly popped tents all in rows with BMWs parked next to one another, all attended by men in a plethora of colored kevlar, mesh and nylon riding suits.  Most with beer in hands and I-Phones on belts.

South/Harley: I arrive South on my Harley, dressed in black leather and am stopped by a guy with a shotgun at the gate of what appears to be an abandoned farm.  He has a tattoo on his bald head down to his neck, that I think is a dragon but I try not to stare.  He asks me who I’m with, then spits in the dirt between us.  He means no harm but I trust he just had to spit?  I advise him my name and he eyes me skeptically.  “Oh, you’re the  __________’s Lawyer”, he both asks and states at the same time.  “Yes,” I tell him without smiling and he waves the barrel of his gun ominously low between us and signals me to pass through a break in the barbed wire.  “Don’t camp past the storm fencing, OFF LIMITS, and watch out for the cow shit” are his only directions.  No smile, no flyer, no wrist band.  I feel excited to have arrived and curious to find out what happens next as I roll past a mish mash of camps and a plethora of Harleys new and old, with black leathered comrades standing about, all with beers in hands and guns on belts.

  1. Sundown

North/BMW:  By now I’ve met up with my contacts and been introduced to a bunch of nice guys.  There’s a big fire going and men start to huddle around it.  Someone breaks out a bottle of Crown Royal Whisky and pours small plastic cups for his campmates.  Not to be outdone, another unveils his ‘McAllen 15’ Scotch from an oak box and metes out tastes of the aged liquid to his pals in small tumbler glasses previously wrapped in a towel.  The one-upmanship goes on and the sun sets, and small latched cases and velvet bags are opened, all containing pricey brown liquor consumed copiously and  chased by bottled ‘craft’ beer.  The empties are stacked back in boxes for recycling.  Many fine cigars are smoked along with a few hand crafted wooden pipes reminding me of my grandfather.  The party goes late into the evening and the stories get louder and longer, with only one reveler losing footing and stumbling headlong almost into the fire. Rescued by his pals, the poor fellow was put to bed after a few loud barfs.  Good times.  Good BMW biker times.

South/Harley:  By now I’ve met up with my contacts and been introduced to a bunch of nice guys.  There is likewise a big fire that draws a crowd and canned beer is passed out by a young man throwing them from a cooler to older men first in a clear pecking order indicative of respect.  Cans are drunk down and crushed hard before being tossing onto hissing embers.  Not to be outdone, someone whips out a ‘handle’ (gallon) of Jack Daniels and screams loudly before upending the brown liquid, sending bubbles upward through the glass and fine American Whisky downward through his gullet.  The jug gets passed around and is lipped by all present until exactly 1 gallon of air occupies the bottle where brown liquor used to be.  More ‘handles’ appear along with mason jars of clear white hooch which set in motion much whooping and hollering and even a few skyward gunshots.  Cigars too are smoked along with pipes yet smaller than the wooden ones my BMW friends had.  Pungent smoke not reminiscent of Grandpa but reminding me of my hippie(ish) sister, (Aunt Patti to my kids-LOL).  The party goes late into the evening and the stories get louder and longer with only one reveler stepping out of bounds and being punched squarely in the face 5 maybe 6 times by he whose duty it was.  Knocked unconscious, the ‘enforcer’ and two pals put him to bed after the bleeding subsides.  Good times.  Good Harley biker times.

  1. Sunup

North/BMW:  The sun invades my tent and I squint and look at my watch.  I hear hushed voices and look out and see several men brewing coffee in plaid pajamas.  I amble toward them and see an espresso machine powered by a 12 volt conversion cord wired to a BMW 1200 LT touring bike.  A fine rig.  They offer me a china cup.  The aroma is delicious.  So is the coffee.

South/Harley:  The sun invades my tent and I squint and look at my watch.  I hear yelling then laughter and look out and see several men in their boxer shorts brewing coffee.  A younger man with naked ladies tattooed on his forearms grinds fresh coffee beans in a hand grinder.  He’s set up an old school percolator coffee pot on the embers from the night before, cowboy style.  A fine rig.  They offer me a Styrofoam cup.  The aroma is delicious.  So is the coffee.

  1. Lunch

North/BMW:  I feast on dried Italian sausages and French cheese that someone brought along with loaves of homemade peasant bread.  We drink a fine Bordeaux that is wasted upon my pallet.  The overindulgent guest emerges from his tent embarrassed and sick and apologizes profusely for his antics to anyone who will listen.  The gentleman around wave off the indiscretion and politely refrain from embarrassing him further.  I doubt he’ll repeat his behavior.

South/Harley:  I feast on a large porterhouse steak the cook butchered from beef cows he raises on a nearby farm.  I’ve never tasted such a fine cut of beef in my life.  ‘Fabulous’ is the word.  We finish off the canned beer and coffee.  The loud reveler exits his tent with both eyes blackened and dried blood about his face and neck.  He walks about stumbling a bit and eventually finds the three men who “put him to sleep” and apologizes to them. All hug and laugh, slapping backs and smiling broadly.  The tough looking men all poke fun at him and remind him of his mistake, warning reprisal if repeated.  I doubt he’ll repeat his behavior.

Two very different groups of men.  Two very different collections of bikes.  Two very different experiences of four separate occurrences.  Dichotomies.  Aren’t the two, in their own strange ways, exactly the same?  Aren’t they diversely opposed?  Either way, the paradox of the biker world is as fascinating to me as its players.  Whichever you are, or wherever you land in between the two, please, never change.  I love this life. –Irish


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