Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The 2010 ROT Rally: An Epic Disappointment

I’ve ridden a ‘sickle for half a decade now and I’ve managed to miss every single rally that comes along for some odd reason or another. Seems there’s always some sort of extraneous impediment that prevents me from making a pilgrimage to one. Consequently, I’ve always believed a rally to be a gathering of hep cats who knew where it’s at; a celebration of two-wheeled internal combustion.

Tired of missing out on the gatherings in my head, I swapped a few days around at work and made things happen. I was bound for the coups de gras of Texas motorcycle gatherings, The ROT rally.

After nine straight days of work, I threw a couple of T-shirts in a plastic bag and gassed up my motor. From there it was a high-speed burn to San Marcos via Georgetown; a nostalgic trip down the black top I used to frequent at the ripe age of nineteen. I couldn’t help but reminisce of days gone by; days when I sat at the helm of a two-ton hairy-chested 1978 Cadillac Eldorado and the world stretched out beyond a five-foot length of hood.

More exciting times were those, indeed; back when a mid-summer’s day was filled with the anticipation of whatever awaited under the Austin midnight-skyline. As I recollected those nights, I couldn’t help but feel optimistic at the adventure awaiting a hundred miles up the road. This was the ROT rally; the fucking Sodom and Gomorrah of local motorcycle lore. There was sure to be plenty of beer, plenty of debauchery, and plenty of home-built death traps; all fenced in by razor wire and tended by jack-booted State Troopers wearing oily-black .357 magnums. I had absolutely no inkling of The Truth, but the next forty eight hours would take care of that.

I rolled into G-Spot around 1300 hours, the bike smattered in bug. I’m pretty sure an Albatross took a shit on my head somewhere on F.M. 908 because when I rolled into town, I had a large streak of crusted goo running across my left temple. The squares at the Texaco avoided eye-contact as I slugged some high test into my machine. I had originally planned on rolling down memory lane in old-town G-Spot, but I was running behind. I had an obligatory stop to make at the Round Rock H-D dealership and a lame-ass fuck around would leave me stranded in five-O’clock traffic; not an option when you’re piloting a nine-hundred pound bike down the tarmac in mid June. Sitting in a summer traffic jam on I-35 will turn an air-cooled V-twin into a sputtering derelict faster than you can say “Rainman.”

So it was straight to the dealership for me, a man on a mission. I was in the market for a few trinkets and I figured with so many riders in town, the bar and shield might be selling some of their wares at an uncustomary price. I also had hopes of catching a free burger or hotdog in the process. Wrong. The parking lot was chock full of shit-eaters riding bone-stock bikes and the dealership was full of its usual inventory of billet bullshit. To add insult to injury, they were charging money for the food in the parking lot; thus taking away the one consolation prize found at any Harley dealership on any given holiday weekend: free wieners.

Luckily, I was accosted in the usual manner upon walking in the door. I stopped to admire the lines of the only rolling canvas worth a shit in the 2010 line up- the Dyna Wide Glide- and no sooner did I pause than did a sales guy proceed to harangue me about “makin’ a deal.”.

“Why not,” thought I. Let the bugger run my numbers. I’ve got a little time to kill. By the time Harley got around to telling me my current bike was worth seventy eight dollars and I could buy their Dyna for thirty thousand over invoice, an hour had gone by and it was time to hang it back out on the road. I gave the sales manager a taste of the long knuckle and leapt through the storefront window; firing up my half-ton steed and blasting out onto the expressway, cackling like a two hundred and thirty pound bat-shit speed freak as I kicked over a row of “dark custons” on the way out.

Luckily, five O’clock traffic starts at two-thirty in the capital. I had a fine reunion with the I-35 lower deck to the tune of five, count ‘em FIVE miles per hour. Fortunately there were plenty of chances to take in the scenery when traffic came to a COMPLETE FUCKING STOP for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Two hours later, I’d made it to fabulous San Marcos. Despite the feeling I’d just spent three years drudging along the Oregon Trail, I remained optimistic. I planned on meeting up with Vernon at his estate around five-thirty, which left me just enough time to indulge my inner yuppie with an ice cold Frappe. As I sipped my over-priced cup of pretention, I realized I should probably purchase a more comfortable shirt for the evening’s festivities; thus I made my way to the outlet mall where I procured a ten-dollar Dickie’s pearl snap shirt.

Vernon wound up rendezvousing with me at the mall. After a quick inspection of the Van’s outlet (fuck you very much, Vernon), we were caravaning out to Casa Del Vern.

Why do I have a problem with Vans? Because their latest advertising campaign pisses me off. It’s a thirty minute song where the chorus is “I’ve got my Van’s on, but they look like sneakers.” That’s because they are sneakers, you asshat. It’s like saying “I’ve got my jeans on, but they look like pants.” Jeans ARE pants. Vans are fucking sneakers. Fuck Heysoos and his pack.

I digress. After receiving the Casa Del Vern tour, a half hour was spent ogling Vernon’s hot rod and inoperable motorcycle.

From there, it was on to South Congress where “the biggest party in Texas” was allegedly in full swing.

Again, utter disappointment. Congress was indeed lined with bikes; though most were nothing special. Luckily every asshole who popped a set of slip-on drags on his otherwise stock Harley was in attendance. The air was filled with the sound of these fuckers revving their motors with their kickstands down.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for noise pollution. I only ask that if I hear you rev your bike, you’d BETTER be showing a little class. I want to see you pulling a burn out at a red light while spewing beer from your mouth and pelvic thrusting at the car next to you. I don’t want to see you sipping a wine cooler and straddling your parked bike as you rev the throttle and high-five your asshole friends. Alas, there was no pelvic thrusting to be seen; nor was there any spewing of lager.

On the slow walk out, Vernon and I were actively lamenting the departure of originality from the custom motorcycle scene when we chanced upon a trio of finger-fucked crotch rockets. Their fairings had been removed and bits and pieces of their frames had been scrapped. We were just in the process of expressing some appreciation for an attempt at individuality when the owner of the bikes strolled over and fucked it up.

This guy walks over to us wearing a white dress shirt, jeans, and sandals; his carbon copies in tow. Grinning like a pederast he asks me “Do you like my bobber?”

For a split second, I contemplated punching him in his face. As I processed his attire and gross misuse of the term “bobber,” I could only assume he was a non-biker type who’d made the scene to get his rocks off. Logically, I surmised his inquiry was an attempt to set up a slew of wise ass-comments; thereby entertaining his frat-daddy date rapist fan club at our expense. I reasoned the only appropriate course of action would be to tell him I had “something he could bob;” at which point I'd punctuate the statement by dealing him a savage pistol whipping.

Fortunately Vernon was able to recognize the group for what they were- stupid. It soon thereafter became apparent this guy was indeed the builder of the bikes we’d been inspecting. Unfortunately, this discovery included a five minute long explanation of the building process; including his explaining that he had painted the black and red bike before us black and red. He also made sure to mention he painted the orange bike orange and the green bike green.

That pretty much capped the night for us. All in all we saw about four bikes that captured the essence of the garage-built death trap. The other four hundred bikes were either bone-stock garbage wagons or bloated billet-clad abortions with two-foot wide rear tires.

Congress certainly did not live up to my expectations. Still, I remained optimistic. We planned on hitting the fairgrounds the next day; and there was sure to be a righteous albeit small presence of riders and machines with true grit.

Up at six a.m., on the road by six thirty. After a delicious McDonald’s breakfast, it was off to the expo center.

The Thunderdome sat perched atop a hill; an island in a sea of trailers spanning for what seemed to be miles in every direction. The whole scene looked like some sort of medieval white trash kingdom; the castle walls towering in the distance amongst a bevy of plague-ridden hovels.

Trucks toting discovery channel-esque atrocities on trailers filled the highways leading to the epicenter of what was sure to be a fucking classic event. I held onto my dream that the counterculture would be present in spite of all the over-raked, over-blinged, fat tire trailer trash I’d seen being carted in the facility’s gates.

The gypsy camps along the outskirts were just starting to wake up as we arrived. The heavy early morning air was buzzing with the sound of muffler-less all-terrain golf carts piloted by obese women with bleached hair; their men sitting drunk in the passenger seat with characteristically squinty eyes, a souvenir courtesy of a long lineage of cousins fucking one another at family reunions.

Every so often one of these machines and its inbred cargo would come rocketing around a corner at high speed; and one would constantly have to be on guard for the tell-tale flatulent rattle of its approach. As we neared the epicenter, I observed one of these machines parked alongside a trailer. A naked inflatable woman was lashed to its stern; a small hole angled outward at the base of its vinyl buttocks. I chuckled at the sight of such degeneracy; but I should have taken the omen for what it was- foreshadowing.

In hindsight, that inflatable strumpet was a harbinger for the figurative and financial ass-raping myself and the studious Mr. Vernon were about to endure. We should have turned back at the sight of that vinyl augury, but we plodded right on in the gates instead; oblivious as a couple of hundred pound cheerleaders on their way to a frat party with bellies full of “X.”

I exchanged sixty dollars cash for entry at the gate; blissfully unawares of what a lame-ass fuckaround the day would be.

The first item of business upon entering was to price take-off fenders and the like. I reasoned that such an event with such a vast amount of vendors would certainly offer a fine selection of random-assed parts for the home builder. I was in the market for a rear fender (among other things); and I had no doubt I’d find one in the dirt streets of ROT city. Wrong again.

What we did find was about two hundred tents selling homemade T-Shirts with clichés and confederate flags printed on them in large graphic designs. These of course were accompanied by racks of cliché patches and cheap helmets. One vendor was selling tennis visors with scraps of shag carpet affixed to the top so as to give the illusion of one having a “wild” hairdo. “Who buys this shit,” I marveled. Sadly, I’d venture to say a third of the attendees were wearing these fucking hats later in the day.

A few builders had their machines on display; though it appeared the bro-rific fat tire craze was starting to gravitate towards the chop-cult-esque style. Narrow front tires, modest rake, stripped and skinny frames, dropped seats, frisco’d tanks- and BAM- a two foot wide billet wheel on the back. It’s like popping a peg leg and a dick on Joan Jett. I’ll let the reader figure that analogy out.

There were a few paint booths on scene; and being the impulsive sonuvabitch that I am, I figured I’d get some quotes for popping some art on my tank. Vern and I find this hillbilly’s booth which has some decent stuff on display, so I tell him what I’ve got and what I want. This amounts to a very simple graphic in the blank teardrop of my police-model Harley. I ask the guy “would that be easy to do?” What I’m really asking is “Are you going to fuck my bank account and leave it for dead in the desert?” Instead of giving me a price quote, this hillbilly says “Yeah, I’ve been waiting my whole life for a job like that. I’ll do it for free.” Sure you will, hillbilly.

I ask him if he’s going to be there on Sunday since I carpooled with Vernon that day. I see Vern about four times a year so caravaning seemed like a waste of quality conversation/bitching. Hillbilly asks me where my bike is and I tell ‘em it’s in San Marcos; to which he replies “Well what is it doing there? Tell ya what, why don’t you drive your golf cart over here and I’ll paint that for ya?” This elicited a baffled look on my part; at which point Hillbilly said “Come on, be honest, you know you’re here on your golf cart.” He was pegging me for a shit-eating weekend warrior.

For those not assimilated in the motor culture, this comment is about the same as this guy telling me he just fucked my wife. The unstated accusation hillbilly made implied I was some sort of moto “poser.” The irony is that I ride my shit nearly every day, weather be damned, unlike many of the mouth-breathing rally attendees who are fair-weather riders at best.

Bewildered, I essentially went into limbic shut down at hillbilly’s accusation. It was far too early in the morning to pistol whip someone; and besides, I’d let my guard down at the prospect of conducting some business. I muttered something with the word “fuck” in it, and Hillbilly got all religious on me and started diddling with something in the back corner of his booth. Apparently further conversation with him was out of the question. Vernon and I meandered away to brood over a ten-dollar chopped beef sandwich.

Things did not improve. Having established the fact I was not going to find any fenders on the premises, I decided to peruse the leather offered up by the vendors. Some of their stuff was reasonably priced and I’m a bit of a jacket whore (a useless obsession in Texas).

Vernon and I wander into a tent and suddenly these two guys come and corner us in the back and just stand there staring. I felt like it was my first shower in prison and was actively planning a firefight and subsequent escape in my head until one of them asked us if we needed any help finding anything. Turned out they were the goddamned vendors.

I told them we were just browsing; which is apparently vendor-speak for “please follow me around and hard-sell me on shit I don’t need.”

This concept was evidently the 2010 ROT rally theme. “Hard-sell me on shit I don’t need.” I eventually relented to the HST standby “nothing, I want nothing.” Every three feet, some asshole would try to sell us a welding machine or a danbanna. It was exhausting. A smattering of righteous builds made the endeavor bearable.

We eventually made our way to the famous Thunderdome. Evidently the dome had been packed to capacity in years prior with bikes from independent builders hailing from all over creation. This year there were four- count ‘em FOUR bikes on the floor at about 1300 hours. Two basic chops and two baggers.

The center of the arena had a makeshift bar in it tended by a pride of skanks. Vernon and I capitalized on the opportunity to sit down in the air-conditioned arena for a moment and take in what we hoped would be a redeeming spectacle. Beer was eight dollars a pop so that was out of the question, but maybe something awesome would happen and the day would be salvaged.

Awesome is subjective. Things happened, but I would scarcely say the happenings were awesome. Vernon and I apparently arrived just in time for the skank show. Several of the bartenders started gyrating their way around the arena floor; which drew a collection of fat white trash out of the stands like a snake charmer drawing cobras out of a wicker basket. Fat, white trash cobras.

The alpha male of the group was a three hundred pound squinty-eyed specimen wearing a Hart and Huntington T-Shirt, cargo shorts, and of course, Crocs.

A word on this- those of you who wear Crocs- unless you’re a diabetic or a toddler, you’re a part of the problem. Throw that ugly-assed shit away and breathe through your nose.

Alpha male was full of hot fist-pumping intensity. He would occasionally run over and gyrate next to a bar skank and fist pump at the people in the stands. His entourage of middle-aged pederast white folk only encouraged this behavior by taking gratuitous photographs of the metaphorical train wreck unfolding on the arena floor.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, the skanks started selling whipped-cream body shots to these degenerates. Ten dollar bills bought the chance to lick whipped cream out of a skank bartender’s naval. Keep in mind, people were lining up to do this. For twenty bucks, a skank bartender would take a mouth full of liquor and feed it to you as if you were a baby bird. I guess the Herpes would kind of take the place of a tiny umbrella or olive in your rocks glass.

After watching this atrocity for half an hour, it was decidedly time to leave. It was apparent things were not going to improve. It was more apparent the ROT rally was not so much a celebration of the motorcycle as it was a celebration of fat, inbred, croc-wearing assholes who also happen to own ugly bikes.

On our way out, we passed the Brett Michaels tour bus caravan as it made its way to the decadent and depraved kingdom on the hill. I wondered if he would purchase a tennis visor with shag carpet affixed to the top.

A contingency plan was put into motion which included red meat, video games, and Coors. The motorcycle mayhem I had envisioned was a complete wash; but red meat and cold beer is never disappointing.

What I’d like to see someday is a gathering of individualists who ride their shit for the joy of riding. A gathering with REAL fucking music (read Black Joe Lewis, Mitch Ryder, The Black Keys, The Reverend Horton Heat, The Meteors, Wolfmother) and REAL fucking bikes designed to blow minds and be ridden with wild abandon. I picture campfires and the presence of vendors like Low Brow Customs and Lick’s. I picture builders making the scene like Biltwell and Nash. And I picture at least one guy hocking a bunch of take-off parts including a goddamned rear fender. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

The only redeeming factor of the weekend was the chance to rack up some miles on the bike and do a little time-traveling along the way. I suppose I should be satisfied with that consolation, but what the hell. Like Pip, I've got great expectations; and I'll likely continue to have my dreams shat on by Miss Havisham in spite of myself.

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