When I met Zeke’s brother Carlos a year ago, he invited me to ride his Harley Softail. I managed to loop around the block several times without dropping the heavy machine. After that little test, Carlos invited me and several of his friends from the Panhandle towns of Earth, Lazibuddie, and Muleshoe to ride to regional motorcycle runs. Last Labor Day weekend was our second trip together. We rode to Ignacio Colorado, a town like Wagon Mound, but placed high in the foothills of the San Juan mountain range. A seven hour ride for me, nearly 12 for them.
An energetic and gregarious man, Carlos is stranger to no one. Agressivley flirtatious around women, I have sometimes thought of the rest of us as his abiding retinue of Leporellos. All of us have escorted him at one time or another, trailing after the iron horse of Don Giovanni. Carlos has dressed his bike up. Conchos shine on fringed saddlebags and studded luggage. Carlos’ big black bike is always in tune, and starts readily. Carlos speaks a drawl “sweet as Tuppelo Honey,” and a rich and rythmic pulse rolls from his mount.
Chad and his Harley Sporty 880 – Stripped of turn signals and guages, two large cylinder stacks bursting from a narrow frame, Chad’s ride is a minimalist study. He is the only professional mechanic among the seven men. Hidden somewhere on his small, powerful bike are his tools. When something needs unbolting, tightening, or straightening Chad produces the right implement–metric or standard. He sits upright on his bike as if it were a tractor, twisting short straight handlebars like a spoked steering wheel. A young Navajo neighbor at the campground happily absorbs Chad’s explanation of a dual-cable throttle system. A tool appears, the right tension is found and tested. A sixpack appears outside Chad’s tent later that evening.
Uncle Jack and General Yamaguchi – Jack is Chad’s uncle. Jack is also a former Gypsy Joker; one of the Southern California motorcycle gangs consumed by Hell’s Angels in the late 60s. A powerfully built man, Jack is a pleasurer of unbalanced women. His bike is a battered Yamaha Virago with a dented black gas tank, and valve caps of tiny skulls which look like netsuke. Chad refers to and addresses Jack as “My Uncle;” and Jack’s bike as “The General.” “Good morning, My Uncle.” With a mock but respectful bow, hands at prayer; the young blond kamikaze blesses his senior officer’s mount. “My Uncle is a righteous man,” Chad will say. Or, “Vaya con Díos por siempre, My Uncle.”
Roger and the Sporty 1200 – Like a charro suit of black wool and silver chamois trim, Roger’s motorcycle is discrete and dressy. And quiet, like Roger. Ever trying to get his friend to make some noise, Chad removes the mufflers from Roger’ bike, and the two of them ride double around the lumpy turf of the campground, Roger’s subdued bike farting loudly. The two laugh, the noisy double ride clearly a recollection of their childhood together.
Steve and the Yamaha Roadstar – Flames of short orange hair ring his head. A big pushrod twin runs rich at the high altitudes and orange flames shoot from drag pipes in the evening gloaming. Orange enamel flames dart across the fenders and tank of his bike. No longer a flatland farmer and young elder at the First Assembly of God, Steve threads his fiery machine through a winding path high in the Rockies–blessedly free to enjoy drunks, potheads and Indians for a few days.
Brian and the Suzuki Intruder – With its arcing waxed lines, and rhombus of buffed chrome at it’s center, Brian’s ride is made luminous with his intensive care. Missing his family, he tearfully describes how his wife bungees her polio braced legs to the bike and they ride together as they have since Junior year. Spinal surgery looms ahead for his wife. Brian is miserable in his longing to care for her.
Frank and the Honda Shadow – My young friend Chicho stopped by my place while I was washing my motorcycle. I started it up, and he said he’d like to name the bike “Selena” after the Tejana singer. He thought the voice of my bike was creamy. Well-proportioned and small, the color scheme is dark pearl red over black. The distinctive air-filter cover perches above my knee, a large chrome egg.
Roger and Chad shoulder me high in the crowd packed before the bandstand. One hundred feet away, “The Best Chest in the West” finalists smile, their breasts free and radiant and varied. I click away as man after man hands up his camera for pictures.
© Tasso 2000