Springtime in Tucson

Springtime in Tucson, Arizona, a time when the desert briefly bursts into bloom and the wild life begins to stir. Snakes, spiders, scorpions, horny toads, fire ants, killer bees and Bikers all come out to play and there are events every weekend till the harsh summer sun drives us back under our rocks to seek a little shade. One thing I have learned is that all kinds of people ride motorcycles for all kinds of reasons and the events I attend reflect this in the crowds they attract and the causes they support. There may be important issues and worthy charities involved and sometimes it ain’t nothing but a party but big or small, straightlaced or spicey, the Bikers always show up.

Back on March 9th, I showed up myself at Gilligan’s Pub on West Glenn for the Bro’s and Ho’s Bike Wash and Sex Worker Party. Whether driven by a dirty mind or a dirty ride is hard to say, but while getting the bike cleaned up I learned that proceeds were to benefit the Sex Workers Outreach Project (www.swopusa.org) which seeks to de-stigmatize and decriminalize the lucrative, thriving, and illegal (except in parts of Nevada) commercial sex trade. I got a chance to speak with several SWOP members about what they do and how they feel about it. While some were direct in their answers and others more reticent – it’s still against the law after all – they all loved what they do and felt empowered as women by their profession, flatly rejecting any suggestion that they were victimized by it. They see this as a matter of personal liberty versus government control of individual behavior – think abortion or gun control. Not your problem? Ok, what about helmet laws and restrictions on modified motorcycles? It’s all about who gets to decide what you do and citizens across a broad political spectrum (who mostly distrust each other) agree that the government should find something useful to do like fix the roads and guard the borders and let them go about their private business. SWOP wants to keep the police out of their underwear and raise the level of dignity and safety in their work. Most people would want the same for themselves. As I often say: we’re all whores selling different body parts for different purposes. Some parts just pay better than others.

ABATE stands for American Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education which supports the rights, safety and freedom of all motorcyclists through education and not legislation. Something else I think we can agree is a good thing. A chapter was recently started in Tucson and they have been working hard to get the word out and help protect YOUR rights. For more info call Ron Kool at 520 207 0791 or koolron@hotmail.com. They held a Bike Shop Hop poker run on March 29 which logged over one hundred miles to stops in Tucson, Tombstone and Benson before ending at Buddy’s Bar in Whetstone where a special barbecue lunch was laid on and one man band Jeff Valdez rocked the house. The perfect weather and primo backroads of Cochise county gave us all a chance to remember why we love this stuff and don’t want it taken away by well meaning but misinformed beuaracrats who just don’t understand. Even the loss of a brother doesn’t diminish the dedication to the lifestyle. On April 3rd Dickson Smith was killed in a one bike pile up while riding alone, his wife Susan has requested donations to ABATE in lieu of flowers. Our regrets on this tragedy.

On April 19th the International Order of Old Bastards, Sober Riders, and Yaqui Warriors motorcycle clubs threw in together to hold the 5th Annual Fire and Thunder Chili Cook Off where riders were invited to hear the thunder and feel the burn. There was a poker ride starting and ending at the Casino del Sol on Valencia Rd. where the main festivities were also held. There were vendors, a bike show, five bands battling it out, and a play area where some of these Arizona kids may have been seeing green grass for the first time. Around here yards grow gravel, the dirt is mostly blowing in the wind, and most of the grass comes up from Mexico. A number of local clubs, in addition to the organizers, take this as an opportunity to gather the tribes and all told about 1200 riders turned out. Proceeds benefit Tee Up For Tots, which seeks to aid those families dealing with pediatric cancer through the Steel Foundation of University Medical Center. Edge, president of the IOOB, proudly informed me that as of this year their contributions will exceed $50,000 dollars and that 94 cents of every dollar goes to the charity. I think the rest is spent on cold beer and having personally sampled about twelve kinds of chili – all in the name of journalistic integrity, of course – I had my own cook off going and consider it six cents well spent.

On April 27th The Old Pueblo Riders held their fifth annual Ride for the Kids. Not just any kids mind you, but attendees of the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind where the ride originates and some of the kids were treated to bike rides around the parking lot (with borrowed helmets). It’s a pleasant ride through the Tucson Mountains and through town out to Montgomery’s in Vail for food and drinks, music, and biker style carrying on. Titus, Old Pueblo Spiritual Advisor and unofficial head whipcracker informed me that the students had organized a poker walk around the expansive campus and suggested I avail myself. I’m glad I did as this turned out to be one of the highlights for me as it gave the students and staff a chance to show us some of the facilities and student projects and to point out specific amenities paid for with biker cash. Ever wonder if all this charity stuff really does any good?

Well, it makes a real difference for these children and the generosity of the biker community does not go unrecognized or unappreciated by the recipients. School attendees receive basic education and special training in life skills. Recently, I had to have a conversation with a sighted but stupid motorist who blew through a marked crosswalk while a blind woman with a guide dog was crossing the street. I did all of the talking while she showed her first good sense by keeping quiet and showing contrition. I was wishing she could have been there to see the pride the kids take in their school and all that they accomplish there.

With the temperature rising – they’d call it hot in other parts of the country – Arizona HOG hit town for the second annual Tucson Thunder State Rally held in Tucson the first weekend of May. Living here, it’s easy to forget that it’s still full on winter in those other parts of the country I mentioned and I noted HOG members from as far away as Ohio came to party with us in sunny Tucson and expect even more would too, if word was getting out about all this event has going for it. The city sets aside designated bike parking areas on downtown streets, provides a police escort for the parade on Saturday, extends hours on the free downtown shuttle to help people get around and generally supports and encourages the rally. The Arizona Hotel becomes HOG Central and there are bands and barbecue on the roof in the evening. Tucson HOG does a credible job of scheduling escorted rides to some of the areas scenic splendors, has lined up a full plate of vendors, nonstop music, a bike show, bike games, a police riding demonstration – all free and open to all except a few activities inside the Tucson Convention Center reserved for HOG members. All the elements are in place for a kicking bike party and mostly it is, but …last year I passed on feedback I picked up on the street from locals who hadn’t heard much about this beforehand, from vendors who felt their presence and location were not well advertised, and out of town visitors who wondered where all the vendors were – not realizing they were anxiously waiting just down the street. Well, last year represented a first effort on the part of a volunteer work force and it wasn’t a bad one but it would seem that many of those mistakes were repeated this year as I heard similar comments from many of those I spoke with. OK, I write for an independent motorcycle magazine and have an obvious bias but I like this party and would like to see a better effort made to advertise and promote this fun and generally well organized event locally and around the region to non HOG riders.

While Wild Bill and I try hard to know all and do all, there’s still lots we miss, no doubt. I have tried to give a sampling of the way we like to play in my backyard but it’s getting late in the day and I think I may go grab some shade down at the Cowpony or maybe take the back way out to Montgomery’s and ride home after the sun goes down. Later.