Shovelhead Red - The Drifter's WayBy: Roy Yelverton
At five-thirty AM, the alarm clock wouldn’t take no for an answer. It never did. As inexorably as the hand of doom, it taunted the man, whom it woke, with his servitude. That innocent looking little plastic box has power. To it is entrusted the most important task in all the land; in that it interrupts the sleep of the working class; calling them forth from their boxes to renew, and re-affirm their bargain of bondage. Is there another power so great that it moves millions to do the very last thing they wish to do at the time? Death maybe, but certainly nothing less. Death, and the alarm clock; certainly an odd pair around which to frame a society.
An arm dangled over the nightstand and banged the snooze switch, silencing the odious racket. Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, Red sat for a few moments in the dove-gray light of pre-dawn, envisioning the long dreary march of such mornings in his future, and once again, he felt caught. There was really no better word or phrase; simply; caught. It occurred to him that at precisely this same moment, millions of tax-slaves were doing exactly what he was doing, and feeling exactly like he felt. Such is the lot of the wage-slave the world over.
Red didn’t actually hate working for a living; in fact he sort of enjoyed his job. It was the entrapment aspect that pissed him off and left him feeling helpless. The fact of having to go to work, every day from now until his life was essentially spent. These were the realities that chapped his ass. And fifty fucking week’s outta FIFTY-TWO? Who came up with this idea? Red couldn’t understand a system that requires a person to work until they are too old to care about quitting, then paying them to quit. Why don’t the government pay people retirement benefits from say age twenty-one until fifty-five. That’s the part of life when its FUN to be retired.
THEN put ‘em to work, when they won’t be distracted by things like fun, sex, partying and so forth. Now you have a focused work force, and quite naturally, the quality of their work and products would doubtlessly be much higher. Speed and quality; are acknowledged as fundamental to success, so it follows that the country would rapidly regain it’s pre-eminence in terms of world status and respect for America, and it’s goods. Red has a logical mind, so he doesn’t think like most people. Besides, can anyone out there produce one instance in all the sad, sordid, shameful history of government, when ANYTHING logical was ever implemented, or even tried?
Pulling the curtain aside, Red peered through the dripping pane, at a steel-colored sky and light but steady rain. He glanced over at his wife Jennifer. She was curled up under the blanket, in a semi-fetal position, enjoying the kind of sleep only married women and housecats know; with no five mile run, or ten-hour shift in her future. Red mechanically pulled on his running gear. Even though it was July fourth weekend it would be chilly this early in the morning. The pernicious thought of blowing off the run tried to sneak into his mind like it tried every day, but it wasn’t allowed to take form. Red jogged off into the misty rain like a robot. Turning his mind off to the adverse conditions, he simply put one foot in front of the other for the next forty-five minutes.
Back at home in the shower, Red soaped and scrubbed his body, enjoying the combined satisfaction that comes from doing something you really hate to do, and loving the fact that it’s over. A running nut thinks about nothing else. They buy the magazine, wear the cool gear, and plan their lives around running. One gets the feeling they actually LIKE it. Where is the challenge in that? Where is the sacrifice? I can’t respect these people, they’re out there running, sure, but they’re having fun. Red is a fitness runner; he runs because it needs to be done; he never thinks about tomorrow’s run. One day at a time is depressing enough.
Returning from his jog, he left his now soaked T-shirt, socks, and shoes on the front porch and walked quietly through the house in his nylon running shorts, looking forward to a hot shower.
Toweling himself dry, Red studied his body in the full-length mirror. At thirty years of age, he was truly in his prime. Six feet tall, and a fairly consistent one hundred ninety pounds, with almost no body fat. His legs and torso are lean, with thick, ropy, highly defined muscles that ripple and roll beneath a curly, red-gold fleece that starts at the neck and covers his entire body. I call him the “orange orangutan.” He loves that. His hair and thick beard are the color of burning copper; so unusually red that he got his nickname while he was still inside his mamma. His complexion comes down somewhere between olive and swarthy. Eyes as yellow as a hawk’s, and as piercing, look out on his world from under substantial red brows.
Red pulled on fresh socks and jeans, and went into the kitchen. He put the bagel he’d left on the counter to thaw into the toaster, then poured a cup of coffee, added creamer, and took his first grateful sip of the world’s common elixir. Even though he’d been up for an hour, and had run five miles already, like so many of us, life for Red begins with the day’s first cup of coffee.
When the bagel popped up from the toaster, he smeared a quantity of Jiffy brand, extra crunchy peanut butter on each half. He then poured a bead of honey over the peanut butter on one half, and topped the other half with Smuckers strawberry preserves. He wasn’t worried about fat and sugar content; when you run twenty-five miles a week, and pull ten hours a day at work, mostly on your feet, you can be very cavalier about what you eat. As he munched his simple breakfast, washed down with more coffee, Red pondered the weather, and the best plan to con his wife into giving him a ride to work in the family cage.
He recalled she and her mother had a major mall crawl planned for today, and Jennifer was keeping the car. Like any husband, Red was reluctant to do anything that might be regarded as threatening to a mall crawl. It’s very important to women to spend an entire day looking at every single item in every single store, all the while having no intention of buying a goddamn thing. This is an honored and cherished ritual for women. For some incomprehensible reason, they need to do it.
Of course Red normally rode his motorsickle to work. It was a guarantee that at least twice a day, he would feel great. But the rain changed all that. He owned a rain-suit so he wouldn’t necessarily get wet, but he’d cleaned the bike thoroughly the previous day, including waxing the paint-work, and polishing the chrome. He shuddered as he thought of the soupy road grime that would cancel two hours work in a matter of minutes. ‘What the hell,’ he decided. ‘I paid for th’ damn cage.’
Jennifer was slumbering peacefully when Red pulled on his boots, T-shirt, and a denim jacket. “Jenny.” He shook her lightly. “Jen you awake?” He knew his wife’s mood on being awakened might range from petulant to histrionic, but the scooter was just too clean.
Jennifer isn’t what you’d call a ‘morning person’. She took to early rising like a cat takes to a bubble bath. Shrugging away from the intrusive touch, she rolled over and grunted something unintelligible. Red shook her again.” Jenny, honey, I need ya to gimme a ride to work. It’s rainin out.”
Squinting up at him through half-closed eyes, her tousled blonde hair, and flawless face momentarily distracted Red from his mission. Even when just waking up, she was still a turn on. Red felt an involuntary thickening in his crotch.
Jennifer didn’t share Red’s erotic mood. She sat half way up, leaning on one elbow, rubbed her blue eyes and said irritably; “Jeez..what th’ hell are ya doin’? I was asleep.”
“Baby, I was hopin’ you’d run me down ta the shop. I’ll get a ride home with Julio. Whatta ya say kid? It’s shit for weather out there.”
“Goddamit Red, ya woke me up for this? I got shit to do all day, an’ you know it; an’ you know the traffic sucks. Honestly, you never think of anyone but yourself. Ride your precious motorcycle to work. Ain’t that why ya bought it?”
“Hey, I don’t ask ya often, but this rain is gonna destroy my cleanup from yesterday.”
“Well, then you’ll have an excuse to do it again. I think you enjoy your bike more than ya do being with me anyway. Ya spend so much time out there in that damn shed, I’m beginning to think you found a way to fuck your almighty Harley.” With this, she flopped over, pulling the covers over her head indicating the conversation was ended.
Red was pissed off, but he knew it was pointless to pursue the argument. Jennifer was an only child, with very little experience in the discipline of self-denial. Plus, she is a beautiful woman, so in fact she’d been denied nothing from birth to present. Like it or not, it’s a fact that life is different for beautiful women. And we really shouldn’t hold this against them. Hell, if I had been born a beautiful woman, I’d probably be an exploitative bitch too. The point is, gorgeous women take certain things in life for granted, and they don’t usually handle the word ‘No’ very well. Think about that if you’re determined to have a trophy chick. You WILL have to deal with certain drawbacks. It ain’t right, but it’s real. This is one of my little ‘life-pointers’ that I may be moved to share with the reader as this tale goes along. Be advised, I make no claims or promises as to the value of these questionable jewels of wisdom, so don't get any ideas about suing me…OK? We dumb-ass men are really to blame, for the ‘gorgeous woman syndrome’ but even that ain’t our fault. Sad to say, we mainly just follow our dicks around from age twelve, or thereabouts, till the day the dirt lands on our box. Alack and alas, we’re just doing the only thing we can; being the single-minded, lecherous, ego-driven idiots that is our lot in life.
Red gave up with a resigned sigh, and stomped out of the house, not trying to be quiet. As he trudged to the shed, he looked up at the pissing sky disgustedly. He flipped a hidden switch that turned off an alarm wired to a speaker in the bedroom, then opened the two huge padlocks, removed the steel bar from across the doors, and swung them open. As the meager light from the overcast sky flooded the shed’s interior, Red stopped, as he always did, to catch his breath. One look at his bike and all negative thoughts were replaced by anticipation. Like when you realize that the honey who rode off with ya is actually gonna give it up.
To say Red merely loved his motorsickle would be like sayin’ that Hitler wasn’t fond of Jews; a major league understatement is what we’re talking here. His affection for the machine bordered on worship, no it was worship. The object of this adoration was limited edition Harley-Davidson motorsickle. A 1984 dual-belt Wide Glide, and the last year for the so-called, ‘Shovelhead’ engine. Red had owned her for two years. The bike was complete and essentially sound at purchase, however, it ran tentatively, and cosmetically, it would gag a maggot. He had taken every single piece and part, bolt, nut, clamp and screw off this monster, and put it all back together again. Now to a lot of y’all reading this that’s a big ‘so what’? But to the reader who hasn’t done it, suffice it to say that doing so WILL change the way you feel about your motorsickle. Trust me on this one.
He ran his hand semi-erotically over the smooth paint of the tank. He admired the flash and accent of just the right amount of chrome. At times he would sit and contemplate the scooter simply for itself. Leaning placidly on the stand, it looked like nothing so much as a beast at rest. Sometimes, to Red, the bike seemed like a spirited hunting dog, or a high-strung thoroughbred, eager for the chance to do what it does best’; hungry for the highway, like a pointer for the field, or a race horse for the track.
Intellectually he understood that in the end, the bike was a conglomeration of parts and pieces, but his heart knew it was infinitely more. The overpowering emotion the machine inspired never failed to amaze him. It was after all, just some wheels, some chrome, and steel. And yet, merely knowing it was his, to ride, to handle, to OWN, made his life brighter.
Pulling on his rain-suit and trying not to think about how his scooter would look by the time he got to his job, Red threw a leg over the bike. As a concession to the neighbors, he rolled it out to the street to give them some slack on the noise. He twisted the throttle sharply a couple times, injecting the day’s first drink of fuel into the combustion chamber. He pulled up the choke lever, paused, and touched the starter button. The engine jumped to life. At that moment there was no rain for Red; the morning was not gray, the IRS didn’t take forty cents of every dollar he worked for; he wasn’t married to a lazy, pampered, practicing Pollyanna. There was only the throb and the music that captivates and fascinates millions of otherwise sane people, in ways they themselves are hard pressed to explain.
Red allowed the bike to warm for a couple of minutes, not wanting to hurry the engine. When he was satisfied that everything was oiled, he clunked the gear shift lever down into first, and rolled off into the rain. By the time he reached the corner of his block, he was smiling, and thinking; ‘life is good.’
On the freeway he enjoyed a few miles of top-gear running before encountering the inevitable backup of morning traffic. This part of his day was especially odious. The only positive side was the smug feeling he always experienced, checking out the glaring
sit-i-zens’ faces as he cruised between their cars while they sat frustrated and envious in the choking traffic. Joe Sixpack, trapped like so many galley slaves in steel and glass cages, hurrying to a boring, pointless job in a steel and glass cocoon. The sky was obscured by spewing fumes, from eighty million or so cars, most containing only a single driver. This is America, the country that happily and blithely trades the very air we breathe for the mobility of the personal automobile. Red mentally shrugged off the thought. He knew he might as well get used to it cause it’s only gonna get worse. I mean, is the population of this country gonna go DOWN? I don’t think so, and neither do you.
Legal lane splitting is one of the few advantages of living in California. This law is an example, no an epitome, a bright and shining manifestation of the postulate that no government knows it’s ass from a hole in the ground. Fifty goddamn states, an’ only ONE with enough brains to pass this obviously beneficial law! The most sensible traffic law ever concocted, and only one state has it. Why would ANY state NOT allow lane splitting for bikes? Motorsickles pollute much less than cages, use a fraction of the gasoline, take up a tenth of the room to park, contribute 99% less to global warming; and every big city has rush hour traffic problems. So why is NO state encouraging increased motorcycle use by making legal lane splitting a nationally recognized law?!
How many people would trade an hour or more of road rage and frustration every morning and afternoon for a twenty-minute putt? And fun minutes in the bargain. Yet a simple, logical law that would TAKE a zillion cars off the road and PUT more commuters on motorsickles, is ignored and even scoffed at in FORTY-NINE states? How can this BE!? Did ya ever notice that ANYTHING that makes sense is ALWAYS against the law!? Is it just me, or is there something wrong with our rights? But I digress.
Arriving at the small machine shop where he worked, Red parked the Harley in its customary spot, locked the fork and went inside to pay his life-dues.
Read Chapter 2
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