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Archive for December, 2009

For years, my boyfriend tried to get me to ride a motorcycle–not just ride behind him on the sissy seat, but actually grab the handle-bars and work out a way to make it go forward and, when necessary, from side to side. My own car seems to move from one place to another pretty well, although I don’t always remember how it got there. It took four years of observing my particularly inattentive driving style for him to admit, if a little sadly, “Well, maybe it’s for the best.”

That being said, what I know about biker culture I learned from watching Sons of Anarchy on FX. Members of the fictitious motorcycle club hold lit cigarettes while rumbling down the road, deliver guns from one ethnic group to another, and gruffly testify their conviction to some cock-eyed code of honor their fathers formulated, presumably, in prison. Stereotypes aside, I have to admit, I just don’t get it–and unlike Mr. Thompson, I’d rather preserve my ignorance in this instance (see video below).

In Billings, summers resound with the rumblings of its area clubs–The B.A.S.T.A.R.D.S., The Horde, the Bandidos, Road Dogs, Galloping Goose, and Riders for Christ. Most represent local chapters of nation-wide–even world-wide–organizations. Members of each group usually hold their church at least once a month in bars that they’ve marked as their exclusive hang-outs, and while they don’t exactly go out of their way to avoid each other’s territory, pushing these boundaries is usually an act considered disrespectful enough to warrant a word or two, and in rare cases, a perfunctory fist-fight.

Most confrontations between members of rival clubs usually echo a spat between supporters of opposing football teams rather than anything bordering on the violent turf wars of California.  Still, these displays only reinforce their image as desperate ego-maniacs intent on ruining everyone’s evening.

Aside from the wind, which regularly produces gusts around 50 mph in Livingston, Montana is a biker’s paradise. With its clear skies and scenic highways, as well as increasingly prevalent events like the Iron Horse Rodeo in Red Lodge, more bikers than ever seem to be taking to the road in the state’s milder seasons.  Then there’s the outlaw thing, the prevailing notion that Western states like Montana hold a rare, lawless quality, which seems to resound loudest with rugged bad-asses the world over.

Looking deeper–beyond the inevitable facial hair and patches declaring, in ominous blood drops, that “anything worth having is worth killing for”–are these men, like many of them claim to be, just ordinary guys who like to ride motorcycles?

In the end, it’s not the “weenie bite” contest at the Beartooth Rally (a female sport involving a hot dog suspended on a string), the endless posturing, or the misguided patriotism that repels me–it’s the idea of belonging to any organization that promotes unquestioning allegiance to something, if only for the sake of loudly defending it, even killing for it, when challenged. But then, the concept of motorcycle clubs is as alien to me as the hope chests (also known as dowry chests) some little girls still assemble in preparation for marriage, and though I think I’m being fair, I’m probably not.

This month, motorcycle clubs are gearing up for the Toys for Tots run, one of the many charities that the bikers support each year. Though you won’t see me among their ranks, I am, in this instance, with them in spirit–and my spirit does not ride bitch.

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