Monday, March 28, 2005

Beverly Hillbilly Bikers - In The Beginning

There are things you always remember. Things that you look back on and laugh about, even if they didn’t seem all that funny at the time that it happened. Tonight, after a full day of visiting with the family, my brother and I were talking about our crazy family stuff and one thing led to another. Next thing I know we are laughing our asses off about “THE TRIP”. The one that we will never forget.

We were into bikes. Motorcycles. My whole family. Well, we had nine between us. I had my own, but the others all rode double. Husbands with their wives. That made about 17 of us on bikes. We had an assortment of bikes. Mostly Jap Cruisers. My uncle owned an 1100 Honda Shadow. My cousin Mikey had a Kawasaki 750 that my middle bro had cut up and made to look like a Harley. My cousin Candy and her husband had a 650 Honda Shadow (w/six gears). My youngest bro had a 750 Suzuki Intruder. My other cousin Lou had a 750 Suzuki Intruder, too. I have an 850 Suzuki GSL. There were a few others in our group.

My uncle and his wife had done many bike trips where they just jumped on the bikes, threw a few clothes, strapped a sleeping bag on the back and went down the road. They had told us all about how great it was. The rest of us had just done day trips. My uncle and aunt started talking about taking a big trip. We were all psyched about it. It sounded so damn cool. It was May and we were talking about going to Sturgis in August.

We started planning that early. We talked about how much money we would need per couple or single (only single being me of course). $1500 per couple and $750 for me. We were planning on camping several nights and alternating staying in hotels. We had several meetings over the summer where we sat down with maps and talked about where we would go. My uncle, having been on trips before, decided to designate himself the unofficial “leader”. Since we were all the “kids”, we naturally looked to him for that leadership.

Except me. Sort of. I didn’t mind if he was the “lead” rider or planned the stops for the nigh, but I did have some ideas about stopping and seeing a few things along the way. Like, Independence Rock; the Black Hills; Mt. Rushmore. There were also a couple of places that had museums and things. Like the Mammoth Dig where they were digging a whole Mammoth out of the ground up in South Dakota. I was also hoping to see Deadwood and a few other historical areas.

I tried to mention these at some of the meetings, but they were insistent that I was making it “too” organized and I should leave more of it up to fate. Personally, the bike trip itself was cool, but I didn’t know if I’d ever have the chance again to be up that way and see some of these things. My uncle assured me that we would take a trip to Mt Rushmore and drive over to Deadwood if nothing else. Those were great rides.

Let me pause and just say that one of the hardest things you could do is plan a trip with 10 people or more. EVERYONE has their own ideas. And, when they are my family, they are all hard-headed Irish-American Indian-Germans. In other words, we are always right and we won’t change our minds even if God himself appeared to us and told us a better way.

At the beginning of August, big fires were tearing through the Black Hills and surrounding forests near Sturgis. Many of the campgrounds had to cancel reservations and we were having problems finding replacement accommodations. On top of that, the hot winds were stirring up tornadoes and other windstorms making the ride up there dangerous. Once we got a few things figured out, we were going to end up staying over 100 miles away from Sturgis.

We called an emergency meeting of the “group”. My cousin Lou decided he had to back out completely. His wife did not want to go if she couldn’t ride with him. You see, he only had a 750 Intruder. Lou was about 250 lbs and his wife almost 200 lbs. A 750 Intruder was not going to pull both of them up some of these mountains. Not to mention that the bike’s suspension was not made to take that kind of weight on a grueling ride.

I had offered to take my brand new Ford F150 as a chase vehicle with a trailer, just in case, as long as there was someone to drive it. I explained that I was planning to ride the whole way and it would have to be the “passengers” taking turns to drive it. My cousin Mikey said he had a problem because his wife had never driven before and had no driver’s license (the reality was, they wouldn’t give her one because she had seizures; I found this out later). That left my bro’s wife, my aunt and my cousin Candy to drive. They all offered to do so. A chase vehicle with more tools and space to carry bags and camping gear would be cool. My Cousin Lou’s wife still refused. If she had to drive, it wasn’t the same. In which case, Lou dropped out.

Further complicating the matter, Mikey and his wife were having a hard time finding a babysitter for their three kids. They weren’t bad kids, it’s just that he was having contretemps with his mom and sister at the time and didn’t have anyone to watch them. Finally, though, his sister relented and volunteered to keep his kids (she loved them anyway, she was just being a pigheaded Henry). My mom was keeping my nephews (niece was not born yet).

Lastly, the fires and the lack of accommodations up in Sturgis had thrown our plans for a loop.

You know, there are times when everything is really going wrong and something in your gut tells you that you should abandon your plans and just stay home. It would be safer that way. I could go camping locally. Maybe I should just stay at work? There was so much to do there.

But…Noooo. The wild and adventurous side kicks in and tells you to stop being a panty-waist. When’s the next time you’re ever going to do something like this? Don’t be a chicken sh*t.

At the emergency meeting a suggestion was made that we should go in the opposite direction. Go down to Gulf Port, Mississippi down on the Gulf of Mexico. It would be a long, hard trip, but, if we pushed it, we could get down there and have two days on the shore. My brother and my cousin Mikey wanted to go on to Pensacola, Florida. I was the math whiz, time table, money guru for the trip and it was not feasible. We’d have to travel over 600 miles every day and we wouldn’t be able to stay anywhere, just turn around and come back.

Now, 600 miles is about 10 hours of driving in a car and pretty easy for some folks. On a bike, in August, the hottest time of the year with the winds blowing around 20 to 30 miles an hour, you’re fighting your bike the whole way. Especially if you have a windshield on the front; but, even if you don’t, the wind is blowing against you so hard, by the 8th hour of driving, you just want to get off and sit down somewhere quiet that doesn’t vibrate or feel like a brick is being shoved up your ass every time you hit a pot hole.

So, it ended up being five of us against four. No Pensacola. Mikey and my bro seemed a little pissed and made noises about not going. It seemed like the trip was going to fall apart by a difference of a city. My uncle told them not to be assholes. A trip was a trip and it would be fun regardless.

It was still on.

As it came closer and closer, I was torn between excitement and just saying, “no.”

I had a two week vacation and was worried about what work would look like when I came back.

We were still arguing about the “plans”. We had made extensive plans for Sturgis, but barely any for Gulf Port. We were flying by the seat of their pants.

Plans? We don’t need no stinking plans!

The day came for the trip. The night before I had taken the truck over to my uncle’s house so everyone could throw the camping stuff in the back. My brother was having problems with his bike. The new pipes he’d put on were causing his carburetors to act up. He kept fouling spark plugs. He told us he didn’t think he could go.

That left me, my aunt and uncle, my cousin Mikey and his wife and my cousin Candy and her husband. At that point, I was going, no matter what. I had saved money, changed plans, packed, fixed the bike and done a huge number of things to be able to leave work.

I was going.


The next morning I got up at 6:30 AM, took a shower, through a few things on the bike (the main stuff was already in the truck) and drove over to my uncles. We waited thirty more minutes to take off, just in case my bro had gotten his bike fixed. He didn’t show and he didn’t call. We took off down the road.

It was exciting. It was exhilarating. We were down near Harrisonville, Missouri when a bike came zooming out of no where, flying past us. It was my bro and his wife. The bike looked like a hobo’s cart. Sleeping bag, tent, duffle bags and an assortment of other things were strapped on the bike with bungee cords. His wife and he were sharing a piece of the seat that was normally reserved for one person. Even the front of his bike had a duffle bag strapped to the forks.

As he flew by us, his bike backfired and a big puff of black smoke came out. We all yelled the biker yell, “Wooooohoooooo!!!” He pulled off the side of the road and we followed him.

“Dude, what’s up? Did you get your bike fixed?” Everybody was asking him at the same time.

He just jumped off the bike and started whipping out some tools, barking orders at his wife to dig out some spark plugs.

Guess not.

We stood around watching. “What’re you doin’?” Like we didn’t know. “Are we gonna have to do this every other hour?”

“No,” he answered. “We’ll be fine.”

“Dude,” I said, “You must have been flyin’ to catch up with us.”

My sister in law was looking extremely wind blown and hassled. Maybe even a little shaky. “We were doin’ about a hundred all the way from your mom’s place.”

Bro was wrenching on the spark plugs as quick as he could. “Yeah. We were hoping this was the route you took.”

About that time, bro had wrenched one of the spark plugs out of the bike and grabbed it with his fingers out of the slot on the engine. Like a moron. He started tossing it between his hands like a hot potato. “Mer! Take this thing!” And he tossed her the spark plug.

Mer, being taken by surprise by the flying object, grabbed the plug with her left hand and immediately began to toss it back and forth, “Oh, ow, ahh!” Finally, she tossed it into the ditch by the side of the ride.

“Dude!” She was looking annoyed.

We were all smothering a laugh.

“Well,” he laughed, “it was hot.”


He changed the other spark plug, but this time he just grabbed it quickly and tossed it over his shoulder.

“Mer, start grabbing our stuff and put it in the truck.”

I went over and helped Merstart un-strapping stuff off the bike and putting it into the truck. Within 10 minutes we were going down the road again.

After that, it was kind of nice. Just going down the highway, playing a little leap frog (that’s where we change positions in the staggered line of bikes, each of us switching lanes and speeding ahead of another in the line, forcing everyone to reshuffle and reconfigure the staggered bikes; it was good practice for later).

The other reason the trip was going to be just a little longer was that my bike only had a three gallon tank. Worse, it had racing jets in the carbs that only allowed it to get about 30 miles to the gallon. We had to stop every 90 miles so I could get gas. One of the draw backs of my modified bike.

The day became very hot and humid. The wind was blowing about 25 miles an hour. We were headed down to Arkansas for our first stop. One of my other cousins lived down that way and we were planning to haul ass all the way down to Arkansas before we stopped for the night.

As we drove along some scenic mountains in Northern Arkansas, I drove with one hand and took pictures with my other. As we drove along, a car came up the entrance ramp with two women. It was a Dodge Aries K. The two women were talking and not looking to the side; just straight ahead. I watched because I could see that they weren’t looking. As they entered the highway, Mikey was right beside them. His wife had gotten in my truck earlier. As I saw the car merging, I yelled at Mikey even though I knew he couldn’t hear me. It was reflex. Mikey saw them, but he was being a bit of an ass. Instead of moving over as we had done, he reaches out and knocks on their window.

I thought the two girls were going to have a heart attack. They swerved to the right, almost driving off the road, and Mikey swerved into our lane on the left. I had my full face helmet on so it was kind of hard for him to hear, but I yelled at him anyway, “Dude! What the hell is wrong with you?!”

He just laughed and twisted the throttle.

The day was getting hotter. It was about 99* at noon time and getting hotter. At one of the stops I bought some water in bottles and threw it in the cooler in the back of the truck.

My bro and I were at the back of the pack. Bro was made to ride back there because his pipes had no baffles and his bike was so damned loud, no one could even hear their own bikes, much less any cars behind or beside us. Also, it stank. Bad. The carbs were still running rich and the exhaust was nearly choking. I had the same problem. Rich carbs that is, and a smelly exhaust. Plus, I had the next biggest bike engine. My job was to ride herd and, if anyone dropped back or had problems, I was to zoom ahead and catch the lead bike to stop.

About 1pm, my bro suddenly hits the throttle and runs up ahead of everyone. Suddenly he pulls off the side of the road, kills the engine, jumps off the bike and falls to his knees, retching. Everyone else cranked their throttles down, kicking the bikes into low gear and jumping off our bikes. Bro was suffering from heat exhaustion. The truck had stopped too. Everyone got went to the back of the truck to get something to drink. I got water. I offered some to the others. The only one that took it was my brother. The rest were insistent on drinking the coke. “I don’t need water. Water tastes like crap,” my uncle said.

“Yeah. I’ll drink coke.” My cousin Candy said, chugging down another one.

“Whatever,” I replied. I grabbed my kerchief from around my neck and wet it down from the ice cold water in the cooler. I placed the kerchief around my neck after ringing it out over my head. We were ready to go again. We were planning to stop at a gas station about an hour down the road. When we got there, many of the others were showing signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion. It was now 104* F according to the bank.

Everyone seemed to be dragging ass some more.

We got back on the road. It was now an hour and a half to my cousin’s place where we planned to stop for the night. We were now in the backwoods of Arkansas and it was going towards dusk. The roads were windy coming out of the hills without any guardrails. My uncle was still in the lead.

As we came down the first set of hills, there was a little town. It boasted a convenience store/gas station, a small hospital about two miles away, a garage and a little post office. As we approached the town, my uncle’s bike, with my aunt on the back, started weaving back and forth. At first I thought he was doing it on purpose. Then, as we approached the railroad tracks just before the little convenience store, he slowed down and came to a wobbly stop. We all rode up and stopped around them asking what was wrong.

My aunt said my uncle was feeling a little woozy and needed to stop. The convenience store was half a block up the road. We slowly edged our way up to the convenience store and parked. My uncle was very week and could hardly swing his leg up over the bike.

Mikey and Candy’s husband ran over and helped him off, walking slowly into the convenience store, finally sitting him down at one of the little tables and chairs near the front. Just as he sat down he passed out. His chin was leaning down on his chest. I was standing outside looking in the window taking my gear off. I saw everyone standing around acting confused. My aunt was gently slapping my uncle’s cheeks.

I put down my gear and walked quickly inside.

“Hey! What’s goin’ on?” I walked over where they were standing around. I noticed that my uncle’s eyes were at half mast and he seemed very pale. The clerk asked us if we wanted an ambulance. I started to say “yes”, but my aunt cut me off and told them he’d done this before, much to my surprise, and he’d come around in a second. She directed Robert to get some orange juice as she continued to slap his cheeks.

“Louis, wake up, now. You need to wake up.” Robert came over with some orange juice and a little Styrofoam cup. She poured a little in the cup and pressed it to his lips. “Come on. Drink a little.”

He continued to be unresponsive.

“What’s up? Does he have heat exhaustion?” It had now been long enough to make me worried.

“No. He didn’t take his insulin this afternoon.”

“What?” What the hell was that about?

“He left in the refrigerator this morning and we didn’t realize it until we stopped earlier.”

“But, if he needs insulin, why are you giving him orange juice?” Me scratching my head.

“Excuse me,” the clerk again, “should I call an ambulance?”

“Yeah!” Me, bro and Mikey. At the same time, “No!” Aunt and cousin (her daughter).

“What the hell? He’s been unconscious for at least 5 minutes now.” I was getting a little agitated. Mikey walked away throwing his hands around.

“It’s his decision whether he wants to go to the hospital or not.” My aunt. Illogical, I know.

“His decisions?” I was incredulous. “He’s fucking unconscious! He can’t MAKE a decision.”

“He and I made a pact a long time ago that neither of us would make the other go to the hospital unless we said we wanted to go.” My aunt, explaining it as if it was perfectly logical at this moment. She began patting him on the cheek again, a little more forceful this time, “Louis, come on, now. You need to wake up.”

“Which part is confusing here? He’s unconscious. He can’t MAKE a decision. You have to make it for him. He’s been out now for about 7 minutes. Anything more than three is dangerous. We need to go NOW!”

My cousin Candy jumps in at this moment, “Your not the boss!”

“What the…? This isn’t about being the boss, dammit! This is about being and adult and making a freaking decision!” I wanted to add, “you moron” but I didn’t think it would help the situation.

There we were, in a convenience store in the middle of nowhere Arkansas, arguing about whether we should take an unconscious man to the hospital or not. The clerk was getting more and more concerned. I’m sure they were thinking a man was going to die in the convenience store, right there, on their shift. “I’ll call an ambulance.”

“Never mind. They’ll take to long. Mer, run out and pull the truck up to the door. Mikey, Robert. Get ready to carry him out.” I decided I was done arguing and it was time to take charge.

Meanwhile, Candy has joined her mom, “Dad, dad! Do you want to go to the hospital?”

I rolled my eyes. Robert brought up a good question, “What do we do with his bike?”

“We don’t have time to load it on the trailer.” Mikey was being sane and thinking logically.

“Robert can drive it. Aunt Jeanie can get in the truck with uncle Louis.” I replied.

“NO! That’s dad’s bike! No one can ride it without his permission. We should stick it on the trailer.” Candy again.

“What part of, ‘he’s fucking unconscious’ don’t you understand? He can’t give anybody permission for anything. He doesn’t even know where the hell he is!” I was getting really pissed.

“Dad,” she insisted, “what do you want us to do with your bike?” She was down close to his face. “You want us to trailer it? Or, can Robert take it? Dad, you really need to answer me!” Now I could see they were realizing he was not in any condition to answer them.

Mer had brought the truck around. The clerk had their finger on the phone to dial. The freaking hospital was two miles away according to the last sign we’d seen before town and he’d been out for at least ten minutes. “Mikey, Robert! Grab him up and let’s go!”

Candy was wringing her hands, still complaining I was bossy. Aunt Jeanie seemed resigned to it. Mikey, Robert and bro grabbed up my uncle and started carrying him out. I held the door open. Mer had the air conditioning on high. I jumped in the driver side and reached over the consol to drag him in from the other side. Aunt Jeanie jumped in the driver’s side and threw Robert the keys to the Honda. Everyone jumped on their bikes and we took off.

A mile up the road was a little blue sign with a white “H” on it indicating hospital was a left turn and a mile up the road.

My truck didn’t take the turn, but kept on going straight. We all raced up to the truck, waving our hands and pointing back towards the turn. My aunt rolled down the window and yelled, “He woke up and said he doesn’t want to go!”

I pulled back along with Mikey, bro and Robert. We were all gesturing to each other, pretty much saying, “What the Fuck!?”

The truck had now slowed down to about 60 mph and Mikey pulled up beside the truck. He pulled back and shouted something about uncle Lou wanted to make it to his other daughter’s that night.

I was royally pissed. The guy had just been unconscious forever and, with a little revival from the air condition, can make his wife decide NOT to take him to the hospital? That was just bullshit.

We drove about 15 more minutes on the two lane windy black top through the second set of hills without any guardrails. A 4x4 truck tries to pass us. With a truck and trailer in the lead and 5 bikes behind, there was no way to do it safely. Twice he had to squeeze in between our bikes, forcing us to take evasive action. Mikey and bro started pushing him back by slowing down and forcing him to back down.

Finally, the traffic was slow enough and the road not as windy, he was able to pass us. Suddenly, the truck veers off the side of the road and stops.

I thought, “Shit! Here we go again!” Everyone slammed on their breaks and stopped as well. We jumped off and ran towards the truck.

“He was doing fine and then he just passed out again!” My aunt had jumped out of the truck and was running around to the other side. “I’m so sorry, Kat. He dropped his soda inside your truck. We’ll pay to have it cleaned.”

As if that was my chief concern. My main concern was that this man might die in my truck. Then, the truck I’d only owned for two weeks would have to be sold. No way in hell I would keep driving it. I ran up to the truck. His lips were turning blue.

“Fuck! Where the hell are we?” I started looking around. We were in the middle of nowhere. There was nowhere to land a life flight, even if our cell phone signal could have reached out of there. “Why the hell didn’t you go to that other hospital?”

My aunt just had a stunned look on her face and kept saying she was sorry for the coke on the floor. “Okay. It’s no big deal. Let’s just get the hell out of here. Where’s the next hospital?”

Mikey had lived down there for a year, “It’s another 15 minutes the way we were going.”

So, stuck in the middle with no way to get a life flight, no way to get a cell phone out and nobody but me with the basics of CPR.

“Okay. Let’s go, let’s go. Jump in the truck and drive.”

Everybody jumped on the bikes and into the truck and started driving. Now we were doing 75 and 80 down the mountains of Arkansas. Mikey and my bro suddenly jumped ahead of the truck and raced away. Robert and Candy and I were on the other bikes. We were signaling to each other and yelling. Finally, Candy said that they were going ahead to tell the hospital we were coming.

We continued to race towards the hospital.

What kept going through my mind was, “Please God, don’t let him die in my truck. Don’t let him die on this trip. I’ll never hear the end of it.” My dad had been warning me about taking the trip with these yahoos. Of course, he was not imagining this I think.

When we got into Mena, Mikey and my bro were blocking the road that passed the hospital. They weren’t taking any chances that they would pull that crap again. They turned into the hospital, thank the lord, and two guys with a wheelchair ran out to the truck. These guys were bean poles. My uncle was about 260lbs on a light day.

“Dudes, you need help?” My cousin Mikey was worried.

“No, we got it.” One of them replied.

“Are you sure? I mean, he’s kind of heavy.” Mikey again.

“No really, we got…” About that time they were lifting him from the truck. And nearly dropped him.

Mikey and Robert ran over and them get him out of the tall truck and into the wheelchair. They were quickly wheeling him into the hospital with my aunt Jeanie close behind. By then it was about 7 pm and we were exhausted.

Mer moved the truck since it was an emergency entrance. We all sat down on the curb and wiped our faces with out kerchiefs. I looked down and saw that I my white shirt was now tan looking from the dust and the wind. We sat there for about 30 minutes before anyone came out to tell us he was revived and they were giving him an IV. Candy was arguing with my bro about calling her brother we’d left in KC. She didn’t want to. Bro insisted that she should.

Finally, my bro called and, of course, Lou Jr insisted that his mom or sister tell him what was going on. They barely convinced him to wait until we had other news before jumping on his bike and riding down like a mad man.

The rest of us were starving since we’d missed dinner. It was almost 8pm and we hadn’t stopped to eat since noon time. We had cans of beanie-weenies, potato chips and soda. We sat on the curb chowing down. An ambulance came and went. A group of people, an older man in over alls, his wife, very heavy set and wearing spandex shorts and a big flowery shirt and someone who looked like their son, equally badly dressed with a mullet for his hair.

My cousin Candy watched them walk in. “Look at these people. Freaky, huh?”

I looked at her and then looked down the line of 8 people sitting on the curb, sweaty, smelly, dirty, big dirt rings around our eyes where the sunglasses were, hair matted down from the helmets, also sweaty and nasty, we were eating beanie weenies and drinking coke on the curb of the hospital emergency room entrance.

I started laughing. “Babe, we ARE the freaky people!”

Everybody stopped chewing for a moment, then they laughed. We needed that laugh.

And, this was just the first day.


Krista said...

Hilarious! And it is such a relief to finally find an American who openly supports Bush. Good stuff, keep it up! I'll be back.

Kat said...


Glad you enjoyed it. It wasn't nearly as funny at the time as it is three years later. LOL

Yes, President Bush. Voted for him,I agree with several of his ideas and philosophies. Had no idea I was a neo-con until then. LOL