Ride to Live
Local motorcycle clubs share the secrets of the open road
"Bikers come in all stripes. There is a misconception that they're a bunch of thugs, tattooed, and run around with gangs. ... If I had a choice between a biker and a corporate lawyer and it was the end of the world, I'd take the biker because he'd survive." So says state Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso.
We are inclined to agree.
We spoke to five groups of bikers from our own turf, motorcycle maniacs willing to talk about why they ride, what they love about the road, and how they got there. What do thunder, sign language, split panty hose, and riding bitch have in common? Brown Sugar, South Central Deaf Bikers, the family at Booger's Place, Sun City Cruisers, and L.O.W. Riders explain their lives and tell us what they're all about.
La Dolce Vita
Brown Sugar is a group of female riders who ride sport bikes – the low, sleek, brightly colored rides made primarily in Asia. The majority of Brown Sugar members are women of color, and they're also mostly employees of the state of Texas.
Austin Chronicle: Does being a woman make riding different?
Spice: We like the adrenaline, the speed, and the freedom of the road. But we are all mothers, and we like our lives. We have kids to come home to. We don't have the liberty to be risk-taking and ride on the edge. We have to schedule babysitters; we can't just get up and go. That's why men respect us: They see us putting out effort. I have never had a man be rude to me about being on a motorcycle. All men have been supportive.
AC: Do your children ride with you?
Spice: My children matter too much to me to put them on a back of a bike. As an adult, I take my own risks on the road. But I won't put my kids on it. I recommend riding for other mothers, other women. I say, "Do it!" Your mind will focus, and you'll get that me time that can be so hard for women to find. When you are out on the road, you have an alter ego. When you're at home, you're Mom, and at work, you're Ms. So-and-so. On the road, you are who you want to be. We'd love to get more women out there on bikes.
South Central Deaf Bikers are a group for people who know American Sign Language and like to ride motorcycles. The club, currently counting 30 members, has been around Central Texas since 2004. We spoke to them on the phone through an interpreter.
AC: Who is in your group?
Ricky Taylor and Wendy Green: SCDB was established by a small group of special bikers and wannabes. Our club is designed for deaf and hard of hearing bikers of the Southwest U.S. SCDB also includes Children of Deaf Adults and interpreters and those who know ASL.
We are proud of being deaf without any barrier. Our group is wonderful, and we work together as an energetic team. SCDB owns a large barbecue grill on wheels, a 20-by-40 canopy, and lots of big-hearted members!
AC: Why do you ride?
Taylor and Green: Two words: Why not? We enjoy having the freedom to be able to ride a motorcycle in our country. SCDB members love riding bikes because it gives out a lot of vibrations and the wind on our faces and the opportunity to admire the scenery out in the Hill Country.
AC: Where can folks meet the South Central Deaf Bikers?
Taylor and Green: We have fundraising events: a booth at Texas School for the Deaf Homecoming, donating some money to DAWCAS [Deaf Abused Women and Children Advocacy Services], and we use our barbecue grill to cook hot dogs at Kidfish [a children's fishing fundraiser held by Austin Bass Club of the Deaf, www.littleanglers.org]. Most importantly, we care about children, and we are currently working on joining Bikers Against Child Abuse. We support and donate money for the women and children in SafePlace.
Home of the Booger-Mobile
Here's an East Austin group that's not officially a club at all. Booger's Place is a corner yard in the 78702 ZIP code. The curb is cut so motorcycles can rocket into the yard from the street. The mailbox has Harley flames painted on it, and smoke billows out of the barbecue pit through a tailpipe. It's not a bar, a gang, a chop shop – it's just a neighborhood hangout. Booger happens to live there. Bikers show up day or night to say hey or toot their horn driving by.
This crew has been friends for 30 or 40 or 50 years – mostly from Mexican-American families in the neighborhood. They keep the street safe, scare off real estate investors, weld and rev up in the yard, drink Budweiser night and day, and give backbreaking hugs.
Austin Chronicle: How did you get into riding?
Booger: I started riding when I was 10, 11 years old.
T.E.: Booger builds bikes. You can't ask what kind of bike he rides. Booger's bike is totally a Booger-mobile. It's made out of a little bit of everything.
Snake: I've been riding for 38 years. I started riding on dirt bikes. I ride a Harley now. It's not what you ride; it's how you ride, little darlin'.
AC: What's the best thing about being on a bike?
Cowboy: The best thing about riding is the thunder.
T.E.: I love the wind and the spread-eagled position. I rode with Booger once in panty hose, and when I got off, they were split up the middle. You can't get more spread-eagled than that.
Cowboy: Live to ride, and ride to live; that's the meaning of life.
Snake: I rode 154 miles today. I was in Flatonia. A lady says, "Are you lost?" I said, "How can I be lost? I don't even know where I'm going!"
David: It's not where you're going; it's how you get there. The little country stores, the feed stores ... the bars in the back. I love to just go look at the places.
AC: What's the best thing you've ever done on a bike?
Booger: Sex. You're riding the bike, and she's facing you. You only do that on a country road.
Snake: I second that opinion. You have to figure out different ways to do it without falling off or falling over. You've only got one little seat.
Cowboy: Some men can maintain control of the bike. And you don't need a vibrator – the bike's vibrating already.
Fly: If you come over here, you'll always find a mechanic. Somebody will fix you up.
AC: How did you get your nicknames?
Snake: Me and Booger grew up together. His dad gave me the nickname. I did electrical work, and certain people couldn't fit under the house. I was a skinny little white boy, and I could scoot under there. That's how I got the name Snake. Everybody names their bikes, too – that there's the Black Widow.
David: My bike's the Fat Mexican.
Booger: I've got Leana Cochina – she always leans to one side. Fly got named because his name is Oscar, it rhymes with mosca, fly.
AC: What keeps you all coming back here?
Esther: It's about family. Bikers are family. And it's not just bikers – everybody is family here.
David: I've been knowing Booger since I was 6 years old.
Esther: You don't have to be blood-related to be family. Family is having people surround you who love you and watch your back.
Booger: Good people. We like good people. Bikers are like everybody – you got some good ones and some low-down dirty ones.
T.E.: That's what I love about these bikers. They're big boys, and they're silly at heart.
Ride Into the Sun
Sun City Cruisers are a group of bikers age 55 and older, based in Sun City, the first Del Webb retirement community in Texas, located north of Austin, in Georgetown.
AC: Who can join your club?
Wayne Ware: We chose our name to be Sun City Cruisers versus Sun City Geezers! You don't have to live in Sun City. There are male and female riders and some wives who ride on the back. We have several trikes. A lot of older people like them because you don't have to pay as much attention as you ride them. We are all senior citizens. We try to ride away from traffic. We typically don't go to the motorcycle bars and such. Our oldest rider is probably 75. After a certain age, you have a hard time paying attention with the attention span.
AC: What distinguishes Sun City from other planned communities?
WW: One of the household members has to be [at least] 55. We have 3,000 homes out here. We have several grocery stores, several dentists, a post office, a church, a fire station, a police station ... everything you need is pretty close. It's a city in itself, politically speaking. Old people vote – they come out in droves – so politicians Downtown make sure they come out to us.
AC: What got you into motorcycle riding?
WW: When we moved to Sun City, we thought about getting a golf cart – a lot of the folks drive those here. You'll also see a whole lot more older people riding scooters now, with the gas prices. I have a little Lhasa apso, and she rides in the basket up front on the little scooter with me. We ride to the 7-Eleven down there and go for a ride for the fun of it. In Sun City you can't go over 35 miles an hour, anyway. I've also got a Honda Saber for riding on the roads.
AC: What do you love about riding?
WW: It's a whole lot more fun than cars. You see a whole lot; you're out in the atmosphere. Cutting the corners is a lot of fun. I don't want to drive straight down 35 for 50 miles. We're all pretty cautious. Most of us have been riding for years. We don't speed, and we don't push the limits. Quite a few of the accidents you see are at intersections, because people are just not watching. When I get into traffic, I want to see everybody's eyeballs. Most everybody out here goes slower; much more cautious. When you are on two wheels, there's always a chance.
We're not hellraisers. We don't speed, and we don't do crazy things. We're just a bunch of old guys that love to go out and ride.
Ladies on Wheels, or L.O.W. Riders, started in Austin in 2001. With about 100 members from Dallas to El Paso, they say, "We are sisters by choice, bound by respect and tolerance." Tammy Malone, road captain and VP of Ladies on Wheels, explains.
AC: Who can join L.O.W. Riders?
Tammy Malone: Our mantra: "It's about the ride – no chick shit." We welcome all women who love to ride ... the only prerequisites are that you are at least 25 years old, have a CM license, insurance, and you love to ride.
AC: Are there other requirements for membership?
TM: Be a woman, have a motorcycle, and be willing to have a lot of fun! We welcome all women who love to ride. They can complete a prospect application via our website: www.ladiesonwheels.com.
We have created a place/group for women who have ridden all their lives, women who are just learning, and women who want to learn have a place they feel safe and comfortable. They can ride their own ride and not feel compelled to keep up with their male counterparts or stay on the back and be a passenger.
AC: Why do you ride?
TM: Riding a motorcycle is the next best thing to flying without leaving the ground. Riding a motorcycle is great therapy. It's a chance to challenge your skills, to take to the open road and experience everything. All of your senses are touched – not like riding in a car. You can have a bad day at the office, and once you throw your leg over the seat and start the engine, all the stresses of the day melt away. It's just you and your machine in perfect harmony. It's a powerful, freeing experience. No more riding "bitch" for today's strong independent women. We empower women to take "the reins" of their own "iron horse" and feel the joy, freedom, and liberty of riding. This does not mean we don't ride with men or do not enjoy the company of men. It simply means we have a place we can call our own, just as men have in so many arenas for ages. When we ride, it's "ladies night baby!" If you get my drift ...
AC: What else do y'all do together?
TM: Everything from riding to camping, dinner, lunches, the occasional bar-hopping, happy hours, etc. We do fundraising for different charities/causes such as breast cancer and lupus charities, Rotary clubs, homeless families, etc. We are there for each other when something happens in life, good or bad. We have had members lose family, friends, et cetera. We go to funerals, weddings, and births. We do it all. We are a family of sisters, and the bond is deep. We have each other's back, and we are loyal, dedicated, and respectful of each other.
AC: What about the risks of riding?
TM: We all know the risks involved and gladly accept them. We are not naive or foolish to believe we are invincible. True die-hard riders respect the machine, the danger involved, and educate themselves as much as possible so that the risks are as few as possible. You can die in a car wreck, crossing the street, or taking a bath.