Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! Well, boys an’ girls, Summer’s almost on us, an’ it’s time to get out where the deer an’ the antelope play, an’ if you seldom hear a discouragin’ word, you’re hangin’ out in better bars than I am! Speaking of discouragin’ words, have ya ever had one of those buddies that makes ya mumble under your breath? I went on a run last week with some of the ol’ degenerates I hang around with, an’ one of ’em is that kinda guy. We think the world of the ol’ boy, but it’s gettin’ to the point where we feel more like babysitters than ridin’ buddies. He’s the one who always has to go back to the house because he forgot something, shows up late, or hangs back so far that he holds the whole pack up. On Saturday, we were staying in a motel a block from a good chain restaurant, an’ we were going to stop for breakfast. When we got the bikes fired up, slowpoke decided to find something at the bottom of his saddlebag. We told him we’d meet him at the restaurant an’ rode off. He didn’t show up, so I went back to check on him. “You rode off without me!” he sniveled from his spot on the curb. I guess at some point, we’ll have to head out on runs without him, because it’s gettin’ just a bit too annoying. He has no concept of time, or responsibility. Why am I tellin’ you this? So you won’t be Ol’ Slowpoke, that’s why!

Thinkin’ back to some of the trips we’ve gone on over the years makes me glad I grew up in the times I did, when the innocence of the 50’s had yet to be corrupted by the mommy and daddy—protect me from myself—warning labels on everything in society we have now. We rode our bikes without helmets as kids, and our motorcycles without helmets as adults. People used to say, “Go ahead, it’s a free country!” but that’s just not true anymore. When my boys were teenagers, we used to take our dirt bikes out to Kettleman City, in the middle of nowhere, and spend the weekend camping, riding, hill climbing, and having a good time as a family. Then one day a girl flipped her quad while doing something she shouldn’t have been doing, sued the property owner, and it all came apart. Now the fence goes for miles, and the no trespassing signs are everywhere.

I remember a trip to Pismo Beach (Surf City, here we come…) back in ’68, when you could ride or drive onto the beach from the parking lot next to the pier, and me and some buddies spent a few days racing the dune buggies on the damp sand. They had the advantage, but we didn’t care; it was all entertainment. A campfire on the beach with a 12-pack of beer, some salami and cheese, and we were happy campers. Now there are no more campfires on the beach as far as I know, and the dunes are still open, but there are so many rules that it takes the fun out of it for old freedom lovin’ dogs like me. Besides, who wants to explain how their Harley got run over by a dune buggy in the middle of the night?

Back then, every trip was an adventure. I remember a camping trip that was supposed to last a week, and the bikes were loaded down with food and drinks as we headed into the mountains to our favorite campsite next to the river. The first night, an army of raccoons snuck into camp and stole everything but the beer. Fortunately, there was enough of that to last the next day, but as soon as we got home, I bought a coonskin cap just for revenge.

I really feel sorry for kids today. They’ll never know an America where you could go out and have fun without worrying about a million rules designed to control you from cradle to grave. They’re taught to stay away from anything that might be dangerous, and to obey all the rules and laws without question. How many of them do you think will follow in our footsteps (or tire tracks) and head out into the desert with a bedroll, a canteen, and a bag full of salami, cheese, and chips just to watch the stars mingle with the rising sparks from a camp fire? Yeah, probably not very many, but I’ll bet you’ve done that a time or two, haven’t ya?

I never thought I’d see the day when college age kids needed a “safe space” from free speech. My generation’s “safe space” was crouched behind the SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) in a rice paddy in Vietnam. And thank you, vets, for your service, and welcome home!

I remember ordering parts from the Jammer’s Handbook, and a couple of other catalogs that were our only choices back then. We modified the livin’ crap out of our bikes to make them lighter, faster, and cooler, and the only things that limited our modifications were our lack of money, and poor welding skills. Today in some states, if you modify anything on a new bike, you can face fines from the powers that be. Free country? Nawwwww… Not anymore.


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