Shovelhead Red -
Ridin Out By:
Mid-morning sun smiled down on a pair of leather-clad bikers motoring their way along the snaky Pacific Coast highway.
From the blue Pacific on their right blew a soft, early fall breeze. Above, a blue sky patched here and there with high fluffy white clouds. Sunbeams caught in the face of the younger of the riders creating a wildfire of burning copper in the fiery, red-orange colored mane that was his hair and beard. Redbeard's older riding partner turned his swarthy, pecan-colored face, framed by a snow-white beard into the balmy California wind. His long platinum colored hair was pulled back tightly from his forehead and bound by a series of elastic hair-ties. This bound cylinder of hair hung down his back between his shoulder blades swaying slightly, buffeted by the breeze. Neither bike was equipped with a windshield, hence long hair must be protected from the tangling effects of manufactured wind. He of the red tresses wore his hair similarly long but he chose to protect it from tangles by braiding it into a thick, red rope secured at the end with a rubber band.
Both riders wore top-end wind-proof sunglasses designed specifically for motorsickle pilots. Experience had long ago proven that for long-riders, bargain eye protection is a bad bargain. Each man had both their earlobes pierced, and from these dangled curious and unusual jewelry indeed. It was a single huge claw from the paw of a Grizzly bear, skillfully set in a silver clasp and hook. Were we able to see through leather and cotton, we would know that underneath their outer garments was a necklace consisting of a black leather bootlace, strung with six similar claws. A bearskin sheath on the silver haired man's belt cradled a razor-sharp hunting knife.
For Shovelhead Red, life had become a dream from which he hoped he would never awaken. He has more money than he would live long enough to spend and a body that looks like the result of a Michelangelo wet dream. Plus, he's a biker on a never-ending road-trip. I don't really need to say anymore do I? If you're a curious reader, and you just have to know how this itinerant scooter tramp came to acquire a barn-full of money, and the most fantastic high-tech motorsickle in the world, well you're just gonna have to find out for yourself. Go ahead, ask around. Put a little effort out; you'll thank me later. But I digress.
This day found Shovelhead Red mounted on his trusty Million-Dollar Dream Machine. The Dream Machine is a custom designed, hand made motorsickle. It is made almost completely from titanium, and built to Red's personal specifications. Every single component of this unbelievable scooter was hand drawn by Red and engineered to run trouble free forever, or something damn close to that.
Now he was happily gliding along, with the sun in his face, feeling justifiably smug and extremely self-satisfied. On his right the blue Pacific stretched away to a distant horizon. On his left the green rolling hills of coastal California rose up to meet an azure sky. The bikers rode two abreast, leaning smoothly into the banked curves. In matter of style both bikes were very similar in outward appearance, except for paint color. Each towed a small fiberglass cargo trailer painted to match their respective bikes.
Red looked over at his partner riding next to him. The two exchanged esoteric grins. Red reflected on how lucky he had been to hook up with Jason Twain, more commonly called Jake. This duo met improbably in the great wasteland of the Nevada desert, where they ended up at the same remote campsite by coincidence. They had traveled together for several weeks now and so had developed the sort of bond that such environment would naturally forge, or sunder; in which case Red would have been riding alone.
A very rare and unlikely event occurred shortly after they hooked up, and as a result each had saved the other from certain, violent death. You save a man's life, you got yourself a friend; none can gainsay that . Except for showering, shitting or sleeping, these two were rarely out of each other's sight. Of course most of each day was spent riding, so there was ample time for solitude, and reflection. At night they usually caught a buzz and talked about the day's putt, or life in general.
As he rode, Red noted for the millionth time how Jason sat his motorsickle as if it were an extension of his being. Jake assumed a sort of slight slump. His legs forward, but still bent slightly at the knee; his arms just shy of fully extended, tugged on the mini-apehanger bars, taking just the right amount of weight. His motorsickle being long ago customized and altered to accommodate his body, it was as comfortable as its rider could make it.
For nearly seven weeks these two bros had been loafing their way leisurely around the Northwest wilderness. They had roamed all the way up into Canada. Jake knew several points where they could cross into and out of the country without the inconvenience of pesky, and overly inquisitive border guards. Don't get me wrong, Canadian bikers are great folks, but the government up there is still pretty Stone Age when it comes to their opinions and attitudes toward bikers.
Most nights the nomads lived out of their trailers, tenting it in some little known campsite that Jake always seemed to know about. The older biker had nearly thirty years experience riding the back-roads of America. It might be helpful at this point to hip the reader about Jason Twain. He is quite simply a road-dog. For the un-initiated reader, I will take a moment to explain the term
—as it applies to the motorsickle culture. A road-dog is a person who lives only to ride his motorsickle, and adjusts his life, his actions, possessions, and fortunes to accommodate this obsession. I suppose there are female road dogs out there, though I never personally made one's acquaintance. Wouldn't they be ‘road- bitches' ? And how would it go over to call ‘em that ?
Jason Twain had never owned a car, never owned a home, never took out a loan, or the garbage; never mowed even ONE lawn—if you don't count his pre-adult life—never worried about making a payment on time, or missing his favorite TV show. He served a four-year stint in the Marine Corps so he has his official State assigned number like the rest of us. But after that, his association with ‘American Life', whatever the hell that is, has been minimal.
Red, at thirty years of age was twenty years younger than his partner. This is briefly what happened; Red became wildly, unbelievably, unimaginably, wealthy; through no fault of his own. Instead of running out and buying an island then stocking it with hot and cold running whores and a ten-acre dope patch, like any sane person would do; Red decides to build and ride the Dream Machine on a never-ending road-trip! Imagine, a man who could have all the toys; trophy homes, trophy women, cars, boats, and a million other generally coveted things, chooses to possess almost nothing. The muthafucker could buy one of several small countries ! Yet he could put almost everything in the world he owns into the back of a short-bed pickup! It's downright
UN-American! But, that's the way he likes it. Even though he and Jake were fast becoming better friends, Red hadn't discussed his financial situation as yet. Red was concerned the revelation would, or could affect his relationship with the older man, who he considered his mentor.
To Red, Jake had become a sort of ‘highway high priest'. He wanted to hang with Jake because the man had vast stores of knowledge essential for living the life Red had planned. Not to mention, he really liked the old dude. But Red need not have worried. Jake is a biker, steeped in the old code of conduct that developed as the motorcycle culture evolved. In the early days as Jake knew them, there was often reason to be circumspect about one's involvement in the scooter lifestyle. Consequently an unspoken set of rules evolved that declared a bro's privacy and history, to be his own. Unlike sit-izens who routinely and innocently inquire; ‘whadda you do?' ‘Where do you live?' ‘How much ya make?' ‘Got kids?' and the like, it would never occur to Jake to inquire about where or how Red got his money. Secondly, he likely just wouldn't give a shit.
Red was constantly amazed at the variety, and number of secluded campsites and rarely trafficked routes his new bro had stored in his head. The list seemed endless already, and they had only ridden in three or four states so far. Because they had no schedule, when the weather made camping out imprudent or uncomfortable, they laid up in a motel ogling the tube; catching up on what the real world was doing, drinking Cuervo Gold Tequila, and waiting for the sun's encore. Today, they were bound for the city of Mendocino, California, a pleasant burg mainly given over in summer to hordes of tourists who visit northern California each year. Fall was approaching, and the boys had to start thinking about heading south very soon now, or they stood a good chance of being caught on the wrong side of the Rockies. Snow or ice was really their only significant worry. Both men had quality cold weather gear, even electrically warmed riding suits. But the bikes couldn't be dressed to handle snow or ice, even if the riders could.
Jason Twain is a blues player; but that term is too generic to wash. The man can cause sounds to come from a guitar that would make a Mafia hit-man cry in his Chianti. Jake finds his living entertaining in popular tourist towns, in a million funky bars, and at certain biker gatherings. Red had been fortunate enough to hear Jake perform every night, or nearly so, as Jake was a fanatic about practicing. But he had never seen his friend in front of an audience. He was eagerly looking forward to the experience. Earlier that week Jake had booked a gig in Mendocino at a rustic little watering hole called; ‘Vick's Bar'. He set the whole thing up over Red's cellular phone. Red was impressed.
Mendocino is a lovely town situated on a projection of land, or ‘point', jutting into the Pacific. Vick's Bar fronts the lapping waves. From an observation deck on the roof you can usually see dolphins and seals, and once in a great while a whale in the blue water offshore. Vick's place is a major attraction for a veritable menagerie of people. On any given Friday or Saturday night, particularly during summer, the crowd is a ‘people potpourri' made up of yachtsmen, playboys, businessmen, ranchers, cowboys, and rich yuppie types from San Francisco; mixing with bikers, citizens, Cocaine Lords, and the occasional actor or actress up from La-La land. Local pot farmers do a good trade among Vick's patrons. Mendocino county weed is unbelievably righteous, and people know it. It's also damned expensive. The farmers know the customers have money to spend. It's your classic American arrangement wherein all participants get what they want. Now WHO can argue with THAT?
The partners rolled into town midday Saturday. The weather couldn't have been more perfect. Bright blue sky warred with the blue Pacific for one's attention. Gulls swept picturesquely over boat slips, masts, and wharves; darting, dipping, and periodically dropping to the water's surface to catch a snack. The ‘Birkenstock' types were everywhere in abundance. Strolling slowly and aimlessly along the sidewalk, window-shopping for shit only that crowd can afford. Zit-faces on roller blades cruised expertly along an asphalt bike path that followed the shoreline. A soft sea breeze stirred the lazy air. It was the kind of afternoon and setting that made one feel as if life is indeed a dream. Red putted slowly along, looking for a place to stay. Jake followed, idling along in first gear, checking out the street-front.
Flashes from his brake light indicated Red would stop. His partner slowed, and followed him into the entrance of an obviously upscale oceanfront lodging complex that pretentiously called itself; ‘ Shipwatch Inn' . Rather than a traditional hotel/motel style, Shipwatch Inn was actually a collection of individual private cabanas, set amongst a strategically placed grove of tall palm trees. The cabanas were hexagon shaped, with authentic thatched roofs, a glassed-in sunroom, and open deck on each unit. They were built on pilings, and connected by an elevated walkway made to look like one of those suspension bridges one might see in an old ‘Tarzan' or ‘Indiana Jones' film. Built in a semi-circular layout, all huts faced the ocean, and surrounded a gigantic kidney shaped swimming pool. An outside ‘Tiki' bar, complete with a tiny dance floor was built right on the private beach. Other amenities included shuffleboard, and tennis courts shaded by more tall palms. It didn't take a Sherlock Holmes to figure the place was a
high-roller hangout. Redhead came to a stop, Jake pulled alongside. “This where ya lookin' ta stay?” He asked dubiously.
“Why not? Looks good ta me. Right on the water ‘n shit. I like that. Watch th' bikes, I'm gonna sign us up for a coupla rooms. King size bed good for you?”
“ You are?”
“Yeah, this is Men..do..cino; we're at a Ho..tel. I'm Shovelhead Red. You playin' here tooo…night; earth ta Jaaake !”
“Oh yeah, you're a funny guy.” Jake said, patiently. “But why this motel, an' why two rooms?”
“Oh, I don't know; maybe I jis' don't trust myself in th' same room with yer musk-drenched, animal magnetism. Hellooo, you playin' a bar, there's women in bars. I like women; I'm aimin' ta cruise one. I don't need yer stanky ass in th' room when I'm treatin' some chick trick like a farm animal. Are ya getting any of this?”
“But this is a big bucks place here.”
“Hell Red, we could live a week on what they gon' hit us for one night bro.”
“I believe I said, I wuz signin' us up for a couple a rooms. They ain't gonna hit you up for shit my brother. This is on me.”
“Ya know I can't go for that. We ride together, we pay our own expenses. That was th' deal.”
“Jake, it's a room not a fuckin' Rolls Royce. Really, it doesn't matter. I wanna do it; let it go at that.”
Jason was ignorant of how ludicrous this conversation was. He was unaware that his road partner could stroll nonchalantly up to the check-in desk, make a phone call, and buy the whole operation, including the staff, if he chose. “But..th' town is fulla other rooms…I'm jis' sayin'…”.
Red drooped his big shoulders and looked exasperated. “Muthafucker. Ok lissen, whadda you do for a livin'? I mean when ya ain't settin' yer lazy white ass in that fuckin' scooter seat.”
“Oh, right, like ya don't know. Ah-ite, I'll go along; I'm, a blues player;
Jake sighed; “Right, I get paid. Say, is this goin' somewhere? Th' gig's at nine.”
“Well, I been gittin' the only thing you got to sell for free. Consider th' crib retroactive cover charges. Now, are ya fuckin' happy?”
“Yeah, I'm happy. Like ya said, it's nice here. Damn! I think I'm excited. Say Red, no picnic tables here huh homey?” Jake paused and looked up at the luxurious inn, thinking this would do just fine. A brown pelican drifted overhead. The homely critter looked smugly down on the two road dogs as if to say; “ya'll ain't shit! I got the wide reaches of the ocean, and the towering peaks of the Sierras at my disposal. Enjoy that room, land-slugs!” Which your humble scribbler, me, considers pretty damned impudent thoughts comin' from a fuckin' bird! But you know pelicans…
The men parked under the entrance shelter, crawled off the bikes and entered a very elaborate lobby that was made up to look like some tree-hugger designer's idea of a mini rain forest. Jake drew an audible breath at sight of his surroundings. “Fuck bro! Are ya sure we belong here?”
Red turned sharply to face his bro, his yellow eyes flashed impatience; “Muthafucker, you a Viet Nam combat vet! Yo' ass has been shot at for this fuckin' country! Don't belong here? What do you think the assholes who own this place were doin' back then? Assumin' they were even fuckin' born yet. We goddam Americans, ‘n this is goddam America! Trust me bro…we, and especially YOU, belong here !”
“Hey excuse the fuckin' shit outta me! Damn, I din' realize it wuz such a touchy subject.”
“I don't get excited by a stratified society. Not to mention, we got money. That shit is th' eternal equalizer.”
“Uh, actually, I don't have all that much money.”
“No problem, I got enough for both of us.”
From behind an immense alabaster counter that seemed somehow ludicrous when surrounded by a faux jungle, a snappily uniformed young man warily eyed the pair of burly bikers as they entered. A nametag above the left breast pocket of his shirt told anyone who might be interested that his name was ‘Charles'. This hotel was the haunt of the very wealthy, so Charles was used to some pretty far out types. But even in Mendocino, leather clad longhaired, bearded bikers, obviously riding on bikes instead of hauling them, and seemingly looking to check in here , was a rare event. The young attendant figured they were likely just needing directions. Red strode purposefully up to the gleaming desk. As a joke, he tapped the service bell, while grinning at the kid.
“You work here? Heh-heh-heh; jus' kiddin'.”
“May I…help you sir?”
“Ya sure can. Me an' this road tramp here with me are lookin' for a place ta crash for a coupla nights or whatever. Can ya he'p us out?”
“Oh, then you're looking for a motel? Of course, we have several here in Mendocino.”
“Hold on, don't ya'll rent rooms here? Yer sign says ‘Shipwatch Inn'. I hope I wasn't forward in presumin' ya rent those little huts out there.”
“Well yes sir, we do indeed rent the cabanas.”
“Oh, they're cabanas ?” Red looked at Jake; “Ya hear that Jake? I bet yo' ol' dawg ass ain't spent too many nights in no fuckin' cabana ! Am I right? Am I right?”
“Maybe not dude, but in ‘Nam, I wuz in some pretty cool ‘hooches'. That shit is like a cabana, only stankier.”
Turning back to the somewhat befuddled kid, Red said; “Ok, you rent cabanas ; we'll require a couple of ‘em. I know we're IN California; but we're not from California; wink wink, nudge nudge.” Red grinned at his own joke.
The pun was lost on the kid. Some people you just have to hit in the face with a wet mop. “Have you stayed with us before sir?” asked the clerk.
“Nope, this is our first time. Good lookin' digs from what I see so far. We want king-sized beds. What am I sayin'? This joint prolly don't have nothin' but king size!”
“Uh..sir, the..uh, cabanas, are quite expensive.”
“Good, that'll keep th' riff-raff out. So, ya got a form we fill out? Need
muh card or sompin'?”
The kid figured this would cool this biker's fever. He was surprised when Red evidenced no particular reaction. Instead Red took out his cell phone and punched in a series of numbers. “Wanna hear somethin' cool?” Red handed the phone to the kid. The kid held it to his ear. What else would he do? All color slowly drained from the attendant's face as he passed the phone back to Shovelhead Red. “I'm very sorry sir.” His voice was contrite now. Like a high-schooler addressing the principal. His demeanor completely reversed. “You said king sized beds I believe? No problem sir, no problem at all. And if there's anything at all you need sirs; please, don't hesitate to ask sirs. Please don't.”
The scooter tramps hadn't seen a town bigger than a popcorn fart, or slept in a bed, for eight nights. In all likelihood, it would get fairly drunk out tonight. They wouldn't chance riding, even though the distance from lodgings to bar was trivial. Hell, the place was almost in eyesight. Be that as it may, our heroes knew the predatory pigs would be out gathering revenue tonight. Saturday night is their prime collection time.
Now any fool knows driving drunk is dumb, and can lead to results that are downright disastrous. But the question of impairment has to figure somewhere in the equation. Our pontifical lawmakers blithely ignore this aspect, which really is the essence of the crime, even if no crime actually occurs. Our trusted, all-protective, all benevolent leaders, assign a ridiculously low limit of blood alcohol content for the express purpose of separating the citizen from more of his or her money.
Concern for our safety, or public safety is way down below the bottom of the government's list. Way down, like off the page; like somewhere close to the baseboard of the goddam floor! Doesn't everything they do every fuckin' day they do it prove I'm right?
Oh and did I mention they all have limos and flunkies to drive them around from one working-man sponsored party to another; while the scumbag parasites get juiced with our money? Sonofabitch! No, don't get me started.(U.R.)
After stashing their leathers and stuff they would need for the night in the rooms, the duo locked the bikes and trailers and went ambling along the boardwalk, looking for lunch. Jake was scheduled to go on at nine that night. The plan was to eat, lounge around the motel pool for a while, catch a mild buzz, then crash until early evening. Napping would clear their heads, leaving them both refreshed and rested; ready for some serious partying. Red was excited and eager. He had road-pussy on his mind.
‘For sure' he felt, ‘they gonna be some suitable California witch-wool hangin' at the bar. After that, well; Odin's will be done'.
Read Chapter 2
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