The title seems a little strange, I know, but this one is like the truism: “If I have to explain, you won’t understand.” The idea is going to be closer to your heart than you might think—that is, if you are a biker or a dog lover, or both, like me.
First, let’s lay out what I think is a fact of life. How can anyone live, I mean really live, without riding a motorcycle? Yes, you can exist, survive, be a consumer, go from cradle to grave without ever throwing a leg over a motorcycle. My personal experience has revealed that you will not experience life, freedom, and self-reliance with the same in-your-face reality as riding provides. You might be connected in a 4G LTE social-networking, four-bars virtual way, but when the LI-ON battery is drained, where have you been that you will remember in life’s rocking chair? Virtually nowhere, plugged in, connected and absent all at the same time. It is today’s version of “turned-on, tuned-in and dropped-out.” No thanks!
So what if motorcycles were dogs? To start, let’s understand how motorcycles are not dogs. Bikes will sleep in your garage virtually forever without ever needing to go out. They don’t need food or water. In a sense, they never die. Left unused they will just fade away. You can walk by your bike everyday and it will never acknowledge your existence. Yet if you choose to key it to life, they will growl and run, as long as you tend to the battery.
If you have had dogs in your life, you know they demand a lot more attention than a parked bike. When you return home, they will put on a show filled with love and expectation of love, and maybe cookies in return. They require regular feeding and if you don’t take them outside on a very regular basis, you will be reminded in an unpleasant way. While you may walk past your own dog with little more than a following glance or sniff, strangers will receive a growl or a bark or a warning worth noticing. Sadly, dogs do die; this is one of the more painful realities that teaches you to pay attention to them while God graces you with their companionship. If you don’t know the pain of laying a good dog to rest, consider that having your bike stolen from under you at highway speed won’t even come close. Loosing a good dog is road rash on your soul; it heals, with time, yet while the pain fades it is not ever forgotten. Yes, I love my dogs—two lay near me as I write this—and my bikes. If you asked me to choose between them, I would know for sure that you were either insane or from the government. In either case, you would not like my answer.
So what if motorcycles were dogs, or at least like them? Well, on rainy days, they would pester you nonstop: “Hey, I am here, bored silly and I want your attention!” They would communicate in no uncertain terms that they want you to pet them, pander to them, love them, and assure them that the storm will pass and tomorrow the sun will shine again. They would in return remind you that indeed these dark skies will pass and tomorrow will be a new day filled with the possibilities of new adventures. Dogs want you to walk them, take them out to explore the world, to see the sights and smell the scents of life beyond the front yard. When you head for the door, they follow you in anticipation and unending hope. Dogs live in the now, there is no tomorrow, no maybe next time, no fear. They just are in the here and now and want you with them, and want to be with you more than words can express; yet tails will tell.
So imagine for a moment that that motorcycle parked in your autumn garage was your good and faithful dog? What would it communicate to you? Yes, it is cooler outside and the skies are gray, but let’s go and play. It would gently nudge you to get up off your butt and live. It would drop its keys in your lap and pace back and forth from you to the door with a grin on its face and a twinkle in its eye. It would love you. So what are you waiting for? Don’t let that bike fade away—ride while God graces you with a bike for a companion and the ability to ride. That rocking chair is closer than you think!
Do you remember where it all started for you, this two-wheel passion thing? Of course you remember that first motorcycle ride, as surely as you remember your first carnal experience. Odds are that you remember your first bike as clearly as your first lover. While those memories of that first ride and first bike are certainly strong, clear, and close to the surface of our awareness, I believe that for most of us, those memories are not truly the primal ones, the ones that really inspired our moto-selves.
Somewhere, perhaps deeply buried or simply unrecognized by our conscious minds, there lays a deeper memory. An experience or happening in our lives that came first in the sequence, which programmed us into the bikers we have grown to be. It is the first line of moto-code in our two-wheeled DNA. This often simple, maybe even innocuous experience became the first turn in our learning curve of self that ultimately brought the bike/s into our garages and landed this blog on your screen today. Ponder it for a moment or two. Can you trace it back past the obvious?
I think I may have traced mine back, but the pathway to awareness that I took today came not from an intended introspection but rather from telling my wife the history of one of the objects from my past that lives in my garage. Let me explain. My garage is equal to the size of my house; it is home to my motorcycles and, like yours probably is, is also filled with all those things that as a packrat I cannot bear to discard. I spent today working in the garage clearing an area for a workbench and reorganizing my assorted packrat stuff. It was near the end of this process that the awareness of my primal memory arrived.
Mary, my sweetheart, brought me a cold beverage, and while I took a short break from my work to talk with her, she asked about an unusual piece of furniture sitting in the pile of stuff I was rearranging. My father, who was a carpenter, made the item in question; it was designed to custom-fit in an apartment my parents and I lived in long ago. My father passed away when I was six and my mother kept it when we moved because it was one of the things he had made. However, it did not fit in any place my mom lived since I was ten. When my mother passed in 1990, it came to my garage, and it hasn’t found a purpose in any place that I have lived, either—that is, until today. It carried a memory revealing a purpose so much deeper than its function as a piece of custom furniture.
During the process of relating the idea and the origin of this object to my sweetheart, I described my childhood home to her. I told her of the floor plan of this railroad-style flat and where it was located in the South Bronx. When I described my room, I came across that primal memory. My bedroom was the last room in the back and its windows faced towards the middle of the city block. About three blocks from my bedroom windows was the Cross Bronx Expressway, a fifties-style, sunken highway that cut across the Bronx, connecting the northeastern suburbs and states with New York City and the George Washington Bridge.
That major artery, while not as crowded then as it is today, was busy all day and night with traffic. The canyon-like structure of the road made the sounds of engines and spinning wheels echo through the local streets and alleyways and into my bedroom. When I was describing that room and the sounds that inhabited it, I had one of those moments of clarity that is often accompanied by an expression of: Aha! Those first years of my life I slept to the lullaby of the road as it played its constant, almost unnoticed drone over the slumbering city. I realized that the music of engines and the road was ingrained into me from way before I even saw my first motorcycle. For me, that was the first line of code that programmed the wanderlust and moto-mania into my soul. Till this day, whenever I sometimes hear a motor roaring in the distance or the chorus of singing tires and honking horns, I feel a sense of comfort in those sounds. I reconnect with my Primal Memories.
Copyright Bill Hufnagle 2014
On this uniquely American Holiday wherein we pause to reflect upon and say thanks to a gracious and kind God for all the blessing we enjoy, I wish to say thank you to all my friends and fiery food fans. Without you I would not have the joy of my work as Biker Billy and the pleasure of sharing fun, food and laughter together. Here is a family favorite recipe offered in the memory of those who will not be at our table this year. I encourage you to take the time to look around your life and enjoy the blessings of friends, family and everyone you love. God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving!
Kathie Capps’s Cranberry Apple Casserole
3 cups chopped apples
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
Butter-flavored cooking spray
3 (1 5 ⁄8 ounce) packages instant oatmeal (maple and brown sugar flavor or cinnamon roll)
3 ⁄4 cup chopped pecans
1 ⁄2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 ⁄2 cup melted butter
Pecan halves (optional garnish)
Preheat oven to 350º F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the apples, cranberries, and 2 tablespoons of the flour; toss well to coat. Add sugar and mix well. Transfer into a 2-quart casserole that has been lightly greased with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1 ⁄2 cup of flour, oatmeal, chopped pecans, brown sugar, and melted butter and stir well. Spoon the mixture on top of the fruit. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. If you want, you can garnish with pecan halves.
Makes 6–8 servings.
Recipe reprinted with permission from “Biker Billy’s Roadhouse Cookbook”, published by The Globe Pequot Press, P.O. Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437 Copyright © 2009 by Bill Hufnagle
I am proud to share with ya’ll that Biker Billy will be appearing at White Rose Thunder in York, PA. Yes, right in the great Pennsylvania city where Harley-Davidsons are assembled. This is a new event at a great location, which has a special place in the hearts of bikers and the proud folks of PA who make The American Motorcycle! With two shows on both Friday and Saturday there will be lots of good food, hot peppers and fun to share. I hope to see you there. Here is a link to the event page http://whiterosethunder.com/ or check it out on my site at www.bikerbilly.com
Deja Vu is not exactly the experience I had but in a very generalized way the term fits the feelings I had. What the &@$¥ is this about Biker Billy you may ask? The Crossroads Rally of course. Recently, I had the pleasure of bringing my show to the Crossroads Rally in Waterbury Vermont, actually outside of town, in a great field surrounded by mountains.
From the moment I arrived I just got a great vibe; I was at home among friends. In short order I felt like I was “back in the day.” A time before, when things were free and the living was sweet. When we were the people and we didn’t even know it. A quarter century of bigger, badder, better, louder, faster and less real was stripped away. This was as close as I have felt to being in the good old days, since, well too long ago.
Before going further I want to set out two facts (or opinions), this rally is an example of a growing trend in regional events (one I am happy to see), you can’t manufacture this experience – it only comes from being real.
So, where do I start? Well I arrived the day before the event, kinda early in the day at that. Heck, let’s face it, the only way I could be sure of being there, bouncing from event to event in one long multi-state weekend was by flying on the first flights of the day. Wake up too early (1:30AM), drive a few hours, fly west to then fly east, sleep on the planes, hope the equipment baggage makes it, yada, yada, yada. Roll into the event site, in the usual anonymous rental car wishing I had my bike to ride on these sweet country roads. Then wham that feeling hit – “it’s déjà Vu all over again” (thank you Yogi Berra).
From the folks at the gate, to meeting my client Tonya, who booked me for the event, I just had that feeling like I was at a run back in NJ in the 1980’s hanging with my riding buddies. If you have been around this two-wheeled thing for some time, then you will know that what I mean by “back in NJ in the 1980’s” as it will equally apply to the late 1960’s or 1970’s in NJ, LA, or Ohio; when or where your MC roots where. Those times and places before our lifestyle was mainstreamed and we were popular fodder for Cable Network TV Shows. No actors or TV stars, just those who ride. Left to ourselves we were family. It was good to be home again.
Then there was Chef Ed, my assistant for the event. Ed is the owner and grill master of Ed’s Barr-B-Q in Graniteville, Vermont. Chef Ed handled all the shopping, set up and clean up chores that are involved in presenting the shows. We had a great time shooting the breeze and working together. Ed made my day easier and more fun, which freed me up to explore the event scene. Thank you Ed!
Did I say we were in a field? It was 50 acres of land, which they used only about half, leaving room to grow for future years. Camping was at one end and a big beer tent at the other end with venders and room for biker games in the middle. Trees that concealed a river lined one side of the field where there was a sandy beach and a swimming hole. This is a great location to spend the weekend rallying, within a short ride of the crossroads of the two best roads in Vermont. Hey why do you think they call it the Crossroads Rally?
The beer tent featured a stage for bands, and my show, with plenty of chairs and tables to relax and enjoy the cool shade. At night they had both music and various forms of biker entertainment, yes they had a wet t-shirt contest, sorry no pictures. The bands that played while I was there were quite good; there was a blues band that I particularly enjoyed on Saturday afternoon. I forgot their name, but maybe someone who was there can post it in the comments. The rally had everything including a kitchen sink (more on that in an earlier post.)
During the day on Saturday they held classic biker field games including, the slow ride, tire toss, water balloon toss, keg races, plank rides, weenie bite, etc.; they even had Jello wrestling. I was able to video the wrestling, purely G rated, four brave ladies contended, after the eliminations in the first round the two winners faced off. The overall winner won a hundred bucks and the runner up got fifty, plus they got fresh new rally shirts. Yes that swimming hole was handy for a quick rinse off. To the politically correct it must sound horrible, but it was all good fun. Face it, bikers can entertain themselves with good old all American fun, they call it freedom!
It was a great event and the weather was perfect. If you can make it next year I highly recommend it; ride, party, camp, ride, play, party, camp, ride home – now that is an agenda!
Recently I presented my cooking show at The Crossroads Rally in Waterbury, Vermont. The event is held in a large field in the middle of gorgeous mountains. Even though it is in the mountains, that field is actually a flood plain, so nothing can be built there. If this sounds confusing, let me explain, there is a river next to the field and this is all in a valley. Heavy rain or rapidly melting snow or both together overflows the river. While it guarantees the site won’t become condos or a shopping plaza next year, it also prevents installing event support buildings.
Part of the behind the scenes stuff that a cooking show requires is refrigeration and sanitary cleanup facilities. Often when working out in a field like this we have to use coolers and transport the equipment to a remote kitchen for clean up. Hand washing can be accomplished with something as simple as one of those 2.5-gallon water jugs from any supermarket, but equipment cleaning needs sinks. Three to be precise: wash, rinse and sanitizer; so what do you do?
Yankee ingenuity to the rescue; one of the rally volunteers Jim Bransfield had us covered. Like a magician pulls a rabbit out of his hat, out of his truck he pulled everything we needed. While I unpacked my gear I watched as he assembled a double stainless steel sink along with supporting countertop and cabinets.
He then proceeded to plumb it into a long run of hose to a not so nearby well. Following that up with a drain setup and catch bucket for the grey water that handled two shows of clean up. In true biker style problem solving the main run of black hose used the sun’s heat to make continuous warm water. That beats Solyndra for solar power and was hundreds of millions cheaper too!
To finish it all off he the used extra PVC pipe to adjust the low rental table up to a perfect height for me to stand and cook. This seemingly small thing makes a huge difference in the show and for my back. Thank you Jim for hooking me up with everything including the kitchen sink!
Summer season motorcycle events by nature tend to be outdoors affairs. It only makes sense; why be indoors during the riding season? This is especially true in the northern climes where winters are long, dark, dreary periods punctuated by snowstorms and ice. Friends and clients of mine in Wisconsin tell me they get something like 62 good days each year in the warm season. So it makes perfect sense that they pack a lot of outdoors fun, riding and rallies into that opportunity. This compressed reality applies to the whole Great Lakes region.
Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to be part of one of the fastest growing regional rallies in America – Roar on the Shore – in Erie, Pennsylvania. I was engaged to do two shows on the opening day, Thursday, July 19, 2012. I was pretty pumped about it since I always have a great time doing shows in that region, lots of good folks in western PA, western NY and Ohio. They know how to play and have fun, besides there are a lot of fiery food fanatics in that oft frozen area.
About a week to ten days out I made the final review with the rally planners and checked the weather forecast. All looked good. Their team was very professional and organized. Once all the bases were covered I felt I could move on and focus on other work. When my travel day arrived I headed out looking forward to a Great Lakes rally adventure.
Did you know that Erie, Pennsylvania is the third largest city in that state? I didn’t. But when I called it a nice small town while checking into the hotel, I got corrected. Since I arrived early the day before my shows I had a chance to visit the venue in advance. While nothing was setup for my stage, I got a good feel for where I was performing. I must say that I also got to watch the crews setting up a multiple block event venue in what looked like the center city green space or park. No doubt that the city of Erie was doing it right.
Come show day, I arrived early and got to meet almost all the city inspectors, except the Fire Marshal. I have grown accustomed to meeting Fire Marshals since I “Cook with Fire“, I can only guess that since I was electrifying and UL rated. I was not a fire hazard; tell that to the folks who ate the hot peppers! All was good after some tweaking of the stage and PA. They even had a nice popup tent to cover the stage, always nice to keep the hot summer sun off of us hot heads that are cooking.
Just before the 12:30 show the fickle summer weather turned from comfortably cool and overcast into a solid drizzle. By the start of the show it was just plain rain. Fortunately a short distance in front of my stage was a tent setup for bikini girls, who as fate had it were off somewhere else being exposed to the weather. Before the show was finished everything under my tent from stage floor to tabletop, even under the table was soaked. Damn good electrical setup, as not a single electrical shock coursed through me. Ahhh how nice to not be electrocuted! What was really great was the packed crowd under that other tent. They made the show for me.
After the show the rain slacked off for a while, but by 3:00 PM when I started the second show is was drizzling again. However now I not only had a full house under the tent but there was also folks standing under the open sky. We had a blast! We even had a group of what I guess were a summer school class and their teachers join the growing crowd.
The weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of the bikers or even the little children. Remember splashing in rain puddles as a child? It is that spirit of playfulness that comes naturally to children that motorcycling restores in adults. That is why seasoned riders don’t see rain; they see “Liquid Sunshine!”