Iron Horse Nights: An American Residuum

You gotta understand about biker bars. Well, maybe you don’t, but you ought to want to at least. They are the last redoubt of American civilization in an age of Snowflakes, Cupcakes, milquetoasts, mollycoddles, and  fizzing herds of witless mall rats.

My biker bar is the Iron Horse, just across the carretera from our house. If popular wisdom holds, it was started by a guy in the nuclear-construction business who, I suppose, wanted a biker bar. Vi and I often wander over of a weekend when forty or so big-bore bikes show up and you hear Harleys starting with that explosive cough, WapAhappotatopotatopotatopotato, a sound the which there ain’t no other like. Nor better.

Usually there’s a good crowd. The Mexican bikers come in from Guad, and the gringo club, Los Gueros, appears along with wives and girlfriends. The bands are hard rock, La Maquina del Tiempo for ample, and by dark the joint thumps and roars  and and nobody can hear anybody else but they’re dancing like maniacs and don’t care. The dance floor is a concrete slab because the place used to be a warehouse I think until Chris decided it needed to be a biker bar.

Biker bars are not always well understood. Some are in truth dens of psychopaths with several teeth and witless grins auguring bodily damage. One such was the Sons of Silence, headquartered in the Berkeley Bar in Denver when I was working at Soldier of Fortune in Boulder. The Berk was not where you wanted to take your mother on her birthday. I spent time there with Craig Nunn, SOF‘s artist who later died when, drunk one night, he drove his motorcycle into a tree. The SOF staff agreed that he died as he would have wished: horribly. Working as we did for a mercenary magazine, Craig and I were thought acceptably sordid. There were some memorable nights, but I don’t recommend it.

The Iron Horse is altogether different. These guys like to ride and they wear colors but if you accidentally left your three-year-old daughter there  all Saturday night, on your return you would find her in working order and well cared for by the wives and girlfriends. They bikers of the Horse are a mixed bag but you find for example a guy who invented something about ATMs, made a bundle, and didn’t want to dress up in office drag like some sorry metrosexual. So he moved to Mexico, got a monster Harley, and actually enjoys living.

The local expat club is Los Gueros, gringos and Canadians. The name translates loosely as The Pale Ones. In the US this would have priss spigots wetting themselves about racism and inclusiveness, but Mexico doesn’t do that racial gotcha routine so they’re just the Gueros and everybody’s happy.

A degenerate in the Iron Horse. A shocking display of grotesque machismo, toxic masculinity, Jack on the rocks–self-medication, likely for feelings of inadequacy–and intransigent deplorability. Hell, he probably even like girls, though that’s pushing it.

Probably you either like bikes or you don’t. I have never had a power bike but once rode a Honda 350, which I think was the old 305 Dream bored out. It was geared low and actually pretty quick, certainly enough bike to provide a Motorcycle Experience. At night on the winding forested roads of rural Virginia the wind was chill and traffic nonexistent and you could lean through the curves and there came a wild sense of freedom and being part of the night, as if you belonged there. To stop in the darkness and just sit there astride, motor ticking over, bugs keening in the trees and trying to get laid–it was a trip.

Which I think is why guys like bikes. It is a guy thing. If a gal showed up on a bike, she would be welcome but it doesn’t much happen.  A lot of  people who are not bikers show up at the Horse and, as  mentioned, wives and girlfriends and the guys behave as gentlemen, or at least not as jerks, but it remains masculine at heart, very much so. This is refreshing in an age in which Bruce Jenner would be regarded as dangerously masculine.

Oh my god. Oh my god. Hide the children.

Bikers are a certain kind of men, as evidenced by their still being alive. Motorcycles are not for the dreamy. Bad things develop too quickly. Some psychologist did a study that divided athletes into two categories, Thinkers and Reactors. Intelligence had nothing to do with it. A baseball pitcher is a Thinker. He sizes the batter up, consults with the catcher on the type of pitch, thinks about  it and, when he is ready, pitches. By contrast, a shortstop just reacts.

This very much applies to bikers. If an eighteen-wheeler suddenly pulls across the road in front of him, a Thinker will, well, think, “Hmmm. Eighteen wheeler. Not good. I probably ought to BLAP!” A Reactor might lay the bike down and try to slide under the truck. Might work, might not, but BLAP definitely will not work. Potholes, cars that don’t see the bike, hunks of truck tire in the road–these require instant reflexes that some, including me, don’t have.

Odd things happen on bikes. A buddy of mine who later killed himself by swimming out into the Rappahannock River at night in mid-winter told me of riding–he had a 450 something-or-other–along a desert highway in maybe it was New Mexico. A terrific steady tailwind came up at the speed he was making, maybe sixty. There was thus no relative wind.  Weird. The engine started to overheat.

You gotta wonder what is happening in America. In any country there are the adventurous and the less so, the rock climbers and cavers and divers, and those who would rather spend their time in the library. Fine. I t takes all kinds. But today a guy who goes to a gym is held by much of society to be in need of counseling, or maybe estrogen supplements. If this isn’t your style, drop by the Horse some night. Bring party paraphernalia, such as a date. If you can, arrive on two wheels. Better than four.

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