This weekend saw the annual Republic of Texas biker rally. The ROT rally is the largest bike rally in Texas, and one of the biggest in the USA. Thousands of bikes start to arrive on Wednesday (or perhaps before, but we become aware of the drone round midweek).
My three experiences on a motorbike were many years apart. The first time I rode pillion, was on a moped. It was a Saturday evening and seven people were attempting get from one place to another. There was one car, and a bike. The car could comfortably carry four people, in addition to the driver, and the bike rider would be happy to carry a passenger. Problem number one was that no one wanted to go in the car. The driver was somewhat short sighted, and had taken his driving test several times, before eventually scraping a pass. Taking a seat in his car was normally preceded by making a will. Red lights were only for other drivers. However, seven people had to get to a destination, and I won the toss to ride on the back of the bike; at least on the way there! Travelling along at 20 mph was not particularly exhilarating, but it was very safe. The waving of arms, and screams of terror from the car, became a distant memory, as the car sped off and left us to dawdle. Upon arrival, the traumatised passengers alighted and I held on to the crash helmet, hoping to be able to keep it on when it was my turn to ride in the car.
The second experience was riding a 50cc two wheeler. Although the speedometer said it went faster than 10 mph, I could not allow my feet to lift of the ground, as I was convinced I would not be able to balance. Having been a push bike rider for many years gave me no confidence. I managed to wobble to the end of the road, and then wobbled back again. It was not a life changing experience and did not give me a hunger for taking to the open road on two wheels.
Being taken around the winding hills in Arkansas, on the other hand, opened my eyes as to how it can be advantageous riding without walls, or doors, to be more precise. Unfortunately, my pilot had a disastrous accident several months ago, and was severely injured. However by a miracle, he survived, and by another miracle, has almost fully recovered, and ready to ride again. Once a bike rider, it appears, always a bike rider.
The riders that come to Austin are 'die harders'. By Friday afternoon, the parking is for 'bi' or 'tri' wheeled vehicles only. It is rather amusing to watch a group of bikers ride along the road, pull into a narrow space, dismount, and stand on the edge of the road watching, in awe, as the next convoy arrives, almost as if they had never seen a motor bike before. However, I should not smirk, as the first year I experienced the rally we were driving behind a group, who were wearing leather waistcoats. On the back, in studs, was their name followed by the word 'Chapter'. Underneath were the letters, 'OK'. I snorted, and said to Dana; 'Look at that. Why don't they just say 'Our Chapter Rules, Okay'!' Dana advised me, somewhat amused, that the 'OK' stood for Oklahoma. How silly did I feel!
Samantha and I walked along Sixth Street around 3pm, and listened to the roar of the exhausts that belonged to the widest array of designs of bikes. Some would not look out of place in the TT Races, others should have been in the Louvre! There was even a tiny pink sample, but no sign of Barbie. I can only hope that those in charge of the motors were drinking non-alcoholic beverages, as all appeared to be sitting in the bars, with large glasses of amber fluid. It was too golden to be iced tea, and there did not appear to be any advertisements for Perrier!
By the time we left the office, the road had been reduced to two lanes for through traffic, however, there were a dozen bikes to every car. Traffic was crawling as the bikes were stopping to reverse into spaces that appeared periodically. The stationary vehicles were now two lanes deep, and there was little room to add more. Our way out of town was closed, although there was no apparent reason as to why. This, coupled with the fact that the routes used to accommodate the diversion were undergoing roadworks, made for a rather frustrating journey. The only saving grace was that the mail that we were holding in the car, to be dropped at the post office, would not be too late arriving, as the mail truck was in front of us, attempting to turn a tight corner, and failing miserably. We watched the traffic lights change half a dozen times, as the rather large truck went forward, and back, until it was able to straighten up, and continue along his way. It is an enigma as to why an official vehicles are not given a pass to go through the road blocks when the city is overtaken by events. Finally, after taking thirty minutes to drive ten blocks, we dropped our letters at the box, and made our way home, being very careful to 'share the road', as instructed by the many lighted signs along the way.
We continued on our way. All there was to see were bikes, bikes and more bikes. We did see rather a large, multi-pierced and tattooed biker with a very small dog. Proof that real men do love puppies. It was the only 'extra'. There were many who did not ride with a helmet, and many more who rode with their helmet strapped to the back of their vehicle, which presumably gave them some feeling of safety. It may have protected their legs if they fell, as it would form a barrier between them and the ground. Other than that, the helmet would be of little use. Few riders wore protective clothing. Many riders wore very little clothing. It was also apparent that many have never been given advice about the perils of the sun. Riding on the back of a bike in a bikini top, as the Texas temperature reaches a century, created many crimson bodies. Determined to get an even burn, former strap marks were exposed, and fresh white skin got a chance at matching the deep purple on the shoulders and back. Perhaps the excessive period in the bars were to dull the pain, or to provide enough stimuli to keep them awake so they did not have to lie down and go to sleep. The vast amount of ice that was being hauled into the buildings may have been for medical reasons, and not for margaritas.
Tomorrow, the road will belong to those vehicles with upwards of two axles, with the odd two wheeler keeping its distance, rather than weaving precariously in between the traffic. The bars will have made a reasonably big enough profit to have a holiday before the 4th July celebrations, and the hotels will be able to reduce their prices to the non-event rates. Parking will once again be metered and, despite the roadworks, all Austin roads will be open, until the next time the City decide to close them for reasons only known to themselves.
We are now well and truly into the summer, with temperatures reaching 100 most days. I spent a very pleasant afternoon lazing by the pool, chatting to my neighbour, listening to the last of the bikes roar into distance. Business as usual is tomorrow's order of the day and I shall be on the lookout for ..... another story.