Trips & Tales

The Old, Old Thing

(with no apologies to that sniveling tattletale, Michael Lewis)

by Rich Marin • May 17, 2000

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.  And He created something called the Firmament that I guess sort of keeps the two apart.  And that was good, because you don’t want those two things mixing if you can help it.  And sometime in the next few days (probably Saturday) He created the motorcycle.  And it was more than good, it was great.  Now you had the Heavens and the Earth and the waters and the land and the fishes of the sea and the birds of the air and animals and man and let’s not forget that stitch in man’s side, woman.  So what else could you possibly need?  Oh yeah, He also created asphalt, which is very valuable if you want to use that motorcycle and not drive 40 miles in a dirt ditch in Patagonia.

And then came Las Vegas.  Now some say God created Las Vegas and others say it was Bugsy Segal.  Personally, I’ve stayed in the Bugsy Suite at the Flamingo and without Annette Benning its not much to look at.  Therefore, I vote for God as the guy who gave us The Strip.  I mean, think about it.  Dancing fountains with music, Volcanic eruptions on the hour, no clocks, limos galore (if you hang with Russ and the Big Money), and all-you-can-eat buffets with prime rib for $3.99.  This was one of God’s special moments, like when Frank thought up the Silly Slammer.

Vegas caters to all manner of  eccentricity.  You can smoke, eat, gamble, see girly shows and rent motorcycles easily.  What could be bad about all this?  The self-proclaimed wide-eyed Lynds were indeed wide-eyed.  Even the snake-eyed Andy was surprised how much Vegas had changed since his days in the Navy.  Does anyone recall seeing any battleships harbored in Lake Mead?  Russ meanwhile was too busy working the count to notice anything but his big yellow chips.  Thank goodness Russ has kept track of all his accumulated losses at the tables so that his $216,000 of winnings (at last count….no pun intended) are not subject to scurrilous taxation.  On his next visit, the Bellagio plans to fly Russ to Vegas on the Concorde for a quick two hours of play in between business meetings.  I am told that Kirk Kerkorian is planning a significant closing adjustment on the sale of the Bellagio from Steve Wynn unless Russ commits to playing blindfolded for his next three visits.  Russ says he’ll consider it if he gets the VIP suite with hot and cold running sushi, six hour massages every day and a case of Pomerol, vintage to be named at a later date. 

And speaking of loose women ……oh, well anyway, thinking of loose women, God also created silicon.  And I don’t mean that wafer stuff from the valley.  I’m talking about big, big mounds of silicon.  Who knew that it was so plentiful that 98% of all women who visit Las Vegas have visited their enhancing, reconstructing plastic surgeons before squeezing into their finest Vegas slinky things.  In sympathy with the Lynds, Peter, Andy, Arthur, Rich, Bob, David, Frank, Bob, and Steve were equally wide-eyed….or is that bug-eyed?

So let’s review what’s new in Las Vegas.  Well, that would be everything.  Is there anything old there?  Mom and Irv are 84 years young and still on their prolonged honeymoon, so that’s hardly old.  The sushi and sashimi at Russ & Laura’s cocktail party (or rather, Steve Wynn’s cocktail party for friends of Russ) was fresh and not old.  It certainly was a new gastronomic delight for Sandy.  The dinner at Circo in the Saltimboca Room was neither old nor new.  The celebration of Frank’s birthday every year could get old, but he keeps it new by declaring a different, non-sequential age every year.  And the special, all-chocolate triple tiered layer cake festooned with a Harley chopper was certainly a new experience even if it was entirely overlooked by all of us (but, nevertheless, bundled up by Marti & Deb for subsequent display and consumption.)

It so happened that this particular week was Networld week in Vegas.  You see, Vegas is the only place big and brassy enough to host all the new, new hyped up things having to do with the Internet.  Naturally, Rich and Russ were there sniffing it all out for the benefit of the Club.  There were bits and bytes to beat the band.  There were more black mock tee shirts and cell phones in attendance than at the Sundance Film Festival.  There was absolutely nothing old at the convention center.

About the only thing old about Vegas is that the whole scene gets old if you hang around too long.   Too much of a new, new thing I suppose.  Luckily, the AFMC knows better than to overstay its welcome in any venue, so off we went on Wednesday morning, taking off into the sun.  First stop, Hoover Dam.  Now there’s a candidate for old.  632 feet thick at the base, 850 feet high and 6,000,000 tons of concrete to anchor it in place.  OK, we’ll give it one old, but not two.  What we also gave it was $60 of hard-earned Flyer bucks to go into the visitor center and take the elevator to where we could have walked to for free.  Now that’s a helluva a deal that makes Internet multiples look like a bargain.  We also took the opportunity of this stop to lose Deb and Marti to the wilds of Arizona.

Remember that song that goes, “I was standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona …..”  Well, turns out there is no slow wind in Arizona, but there is a very brisk cross wind no matter which direction you’re travelling.  The AFMC invented a new Olympic sport on the road south to Kingman.  Its called sailbiking.  What you do is set a course approximately 60 degrees starboard of the direction you want to go, unzip your leather jacket vents and then lean out over the edge of the road in hopes of staying out of oncoming traffic.  The challenge comes in basically staying upright while still making forward progress.

For relief from the wind, we decided to get our kicks on Historic Route 66.  And you thought the new, new things on the Internet were all hype!  Turns out the old, old stuff like the kicks available on Route 66 invented the concept of hype.  After you get past the tee shirts and the pins and the barn signs and all the other paraphernalia that says “Get your kicks on Rt. 66” and you get the concept of Gidget meets 77 Sunset Strip out of your head, you’re left with …… just a road.  I mean, it does go from LA to Chicago and that’s cool, but all roads start and end somewhere, right?  Hell, Rt.80 goes from San Francisco to New York City and you don’t see tee shirts about it …. And it has twice as many lanes to boot.

So, underwhelmed and windblown, we headed for Sedona.  On Rt.89A south from Flagstaff we suddenly encountered a big new, new thing.  They’re called turns or curves in the road.  Up until now, the roads across the Arizona desert were pretty straight.  But this road had major league turns all of a sudden.  It seems that if its not windy due to all the natural topography and vegetation, you can use that leaning thing to turn the bikes around the corners.  Imagine that!  What a great new invention, and what a pretty ride.  The first thing in Arizona since Hoover Dam that wasn’t dry and flat was the spectacular red rocks and lush green forests surrounding Sedona.  I found myself chanting as I rode. I felt my energy levels elevate.  My spirituality was vortexing.  I was one with the Universe.  I am you and you are me and we are all together.  Koo koo ka choo.  I am, after all, the Walrus, right?

The Sedona scenery is a blend of Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reefs and Canyonlands.  This pocket of beauty should have been a National Park, but was obviously overlooked by virtue of its compact presence.  A resort town in the middle of this natural perfection seems almost out of place, but how lucky for residents and wayfaring bikers.  The Arroyo Robles has rooms that stare at the red rock spires and townhouses that back onto a serene babbling brook.  We won’t discuss the fact that the townhouses have one bedroom with a fireplace, a TV, a phone, a big bathroom and a view of the brook, while the other bedroom has a bed, a washcloth and a view of the parking lot.

The cuisine of Sedona varied from Switza-deutsche (i.e. bratwurst und rosti) to Mehicano (jalepeno flautas) to elegant Continental fare.  What was new was Barbara’s pre-dinner lectures on the evils of contraband (at the Canadian border), the importance of consistent branding (the “winged wheel” of fortune) and the continued good wishes to Birthday Boy Frank.  What was familiar was the camaraderie of a disparate band of lost boys and girls who added Steve Larsen and Bob Novak to their roster.  Unfortunately, Barbara forgot the usual initiation rights of standing on your chair and singing your MC fight song.  But then again, both Steve and Bob have another ride before becoming official Flyers....time enough to practice the old song:

                (sung to the reverent tune of the Cornell Alma Mater)

               High above the busy highway
                With their bikes galore,
                Ride the Flyers off formation
                Walt is getting sore.

                Lose the trailer
                Pete speeds onward
                Proud our colors fly
                Hail, all hail our Flyer logo
                Dragon, Wing or Star

Thursday’s ride was another adventure in riding the mechanical bull to Show Low and back.  Billy Bob’s bull has nothing over an 800 pound, 100 horsepower beast in a heavy wind.  Thank God we made it all the way to Show Low and back in a scant 400 miles. Imagine if we hadn’t!  Peter would have made us do it all over again and ride the extra loop for punishment, only this time with only one hand on the bars.  It has been insisted by one accomplice to this ride (someone who makes it her business to know every detail of each and every Flyer’s life, hopes and dreams) that I recount a very not funny incident involving my helmet.  Now imagine you left your helmet securely positioned on your luggage rack, where the flanges of the helmet fit perfectly into the holes on the rack, thereby making a perfect helmet stand.  And you went in for lunch in Show Low’s best grease pit.  And you came out and the helmet was gone.  And you stomped around demanding that the joker who took it return it immediately, or else.  And then a lady inside  says she has it because it blew off the bike and was rolling around the parking lot.  Now I ask you, is that really funny.  If it was Bob, it would be cause for a new helmet.  If it was Walt it would be cause for a new tattoo.  If it was Karen it would be cause for wailing and gnashing of teeth.  But it was me and I handled it with elan and grace and just said “shut up” to all the snickering.  Huh!  Satisfied Ms. Smarty-pants?

Friday was a much better planned day altogether.  After being yelled at by Peter at dinner about the ride agenda, we all dutifully drove through Gerome and stopped in Prescott as we were instructed.  After a tactically planned wait of an hour and a half, watching the punk rock Prescott crowd say “Awesome, Dude!”  a few times, we raced into Skull Valley only to find ourselves hours away from our luncheon Dude Ranch (no relation to the Prescott Dudes).  The joy of the rollercoaster road was a high point.  Take a note to the Flyer handbook: do not enter David and Peter in any time trial rallies unless betting heavily on the opposing teams.  Gerome and the roads around it greeted us on the ride back.  San Giminiano in Tuscany is apparently modeled after Gerome and art galleries and biker bars are all the rage.

Our farewell to Sedona included a reception at Casa Brine.  It overlooks what seems to be a mini version of Monument Valley.  Peter’s gonna have a bitch of a time mowing that back yard.  We enjoyed fine wine and cheeses and pictures of Peter’s trip to the Southern Cone and Karen’s trip to Vatican City.  Let’s see, if you could choose going to meet the Pope or breaking both thumbs, which would it be……?

One more breakfast at the White Coffee Pot restaurant where they know the difference between hash browns and home fries.  We bid farewell to the Brines, the Kirbys, David and Bob Novak.  We then bee-lined it for Vegas, stopping only to get gas and water.  We made the 267 miles in five and a half hours or 48 mph (our standard Forced March pace). 

So, what is the old, old thing?  Well, it’s certainly not the economy, stupid!  And its not the Flying Elvis’s of Vegas.  The red rocks of Sedona come close.  But for this trip, the most memorable old, old thing was one of the basic elements identified by early man and worshiped accordingly.  And it weren’t no vortex, neither!   We ride on the earth, we guzzle the water, we rely on the fire (oh, well, the spark anyway), but the wind…..  we forgot about the wind!  We’ve never had to think about the wind before.  I mean, we had sunny weather that wasn’t too hot or too cold.  But the freakin’ wind!  We’re not talking winds of change or anything here.  It was just good, old-fashioned wind.  In our face (with a gust of dirt occasionally), at our backs and across our bows.  You can’t stop it, you can’t cheat it.  Bend like the willow or snap like the oak.  You gotta go with the wind flow.  So the next time a gust blows your hat off, think of my helmet rolling around a Show Low parking lot and remember how lucky we’ve been to be able to laugh about the hazards of being blown into oncoming traffic.

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