Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Well, Old Man Winter has moved into my sunny California digs with fog, rain, an’ freezing temperatures, but just like the U.S. Mail, with rain, sleet, or snow, that inclement weather won’t stop me from gettin’ my knees in the breeze! I’m writin’ this on New Year’s Day, an’ Reggie and I just got home from a 160-mile New Year’s lunch ride with friends. If you follow my literary drivel… Uh, I mean literary genius, you know that I had to get a trike for longer rides due to my legs not working right at times. It’s working out better than I initially thought it would, and I’m getting rather fond of the shiny black beast that we dubbed The Raven. Not sure what’s been done to the engine besides a set of big cams, but it’s wicked quick! At 40 miles an hour, I roll the throttle on in second gear, and the front wheel comes off the ground smooth and effortless. It’s also more stable in wet weather, with 12-inch wide tires on the back. Hey, gimme a break here, will ya? I’m still trying to talk myself into this gig!

Anyway, we bundled up, sweatshirt, heavy coat, long johns, wranglers, and insulated snow pants, fuzzy socks an’ insulated boots, an’ the new electric gloves Reggie got me for Christmas because my hands are always cold, and off we went. I now can sympathize with my mom when she’d get us kids all bundled up to go outside, and suddenly we all had to pee at the same time.

When we left the house, the temperature was hovering at 28 degrees, with a 60 mile-per-hour wind chill factor of about 300 degrees below zero, I think. Colder’n a penguin’s ass on the shady side of an iceberg. Our usual winter overcast kept the sun at bay, but we were snug and warm, though we looked like a couple of teddy bears.

As usual, we took the back roads, shunning the freeway for better scenery and a more leisurely pace. Besides, there’s a better chance of avoiding drunks and crazies when you’re in farm country, and a lot of new sights to see. “Gunny” was leading the pack, and he knows all the back roads in a 500-mile radius, it seems like, because he never gets lost. There are tiny towns scattered all across the San Joaquin Valley, and thanks to Gunny, Tom, Jimmy Dean, and other pals, I’ve gotten to see a lot of them, and believe me, small towns look much more charming from a motorcycle than from the back of a cop car…

Speaking of cops, as of today, the California Highway Patrol will start actively pursuing and ticketing modified exhaust on motorcycles. Not their fault, orders are orders, but the move will put California riders in far more danger than ever before. The only time “Soccer Mom Sally” or “Starbucks Sam” will see us is if they hear us coming, and we annoy them sufficiently to make them actually look around at the world outside their cell phones. The politicians, who “mommy and daddy” us to death, force us to wear DOT helmets to “keep us safe,” then throw us out on the streets with rabid tigers in three-ton steel cages who don’t care who they kill, as long as they can just squeeze out one last text message before the accident. Please remind me again who votes for the idiots who sponsor and pass these moronic laws!

Speaking of idiots, coming back, we took Highway 152, one of the main east-west highways in the state, with two, and sometimes three lanes in each direction. We’re in the outside lane doing 70 miles an hour heading east, when two women in a little yellow Honda coupe appear, doing about the same speed, but in the wrong direction! They’re hauling ass westbound on the shoulder of the road next to the grass median, oblivious to honking horns and people trying to wave them down! Drunk? Crazy? Mentally impaired? Your guess is as good as mine, but I knew I could let my pipes roar with impunity, because if a cop was anywhere behind me, he’d be busy for a while writing that ticket!

In a couple of weeks, we have a ride coming up that we call “Freeze Your Buns.” We’ll meet up in Fresno, and ride to Pismo Beach, the home of the infamous Harry’s Bar. Time passing can be either good or bad, but in this case, it’s good, because they have a new bouncer, and I can once again invade that hallowed barroom after more than 30 years as a persona non grata. Yeah, I’ve settled down a lot since then, although it wasn’t me who started it. No, really! It wasn’t! There was a little altercation that the bouncer blew all out of proportion. One of our guys even caught him before he hit the ground. He just couldn’t stand being knocked flat by a woman who happened to be my first wife. That was on the first Freeze Your Buns ride back in 1988 or thereabouts, and it’s kinda become a legend. Actually, it was pretty funny, an’ if ya stop by for a beer sometime, I’ll tell ya the whole story.


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