I’ve watched quietly, but with interest as our fearless leader has had her trials and tribulations, and fun... with the festivals in B.C. this year.
I’ve not attended, I can’t really speak to the quality of these events.. yes, I would have liked to go, but the fact is that I work in an industry that is heavily influenced by the weather, and I just can NOT, in good conscience, take time off right now.
So, I listen and read, I talk to folks, and I form my own opinion about things and I wonder if maybe next year I’ll decide to stretch a weekend and try out one of these events.
And I might.. but I have to say, really, as a guy who spent more than twenty years in the music biz.. I don’t enjoy concerts for the sake of concerts. I’m jaded, I’ve seen hundreds of shows, and I hate paying to see them now. I want to go to a bike rally for bike rally stuff.. the slow race, the tire drag, the keg push... I bet that we can’t even get “clearance” for that stuff these days without some eighty nine page waiver and three hundred lawsuits.
I miss the show and shine, watching teams of guys assemble, install, and run a bike engine in record time. I want to enjoy the vendors, too, but I don’t want to feel obligated to spend more money there if I don’t want to. I’d like to see a honest-to-goodness swap meet, not just a bunch of guys trying to flog chinese knockoff parts that wouldn’t sell for them on Ebay, and I’d like to see an honest-to-goodness wet-t-shirt contest. Ok, I’d like to see one in the morning and one in the evening. Each day. But that’s just me.
So it is with bittersweet fondness I recall the many lovely summers I worked at a Southern Alberta event that was truly a great time and truly a bike rally.. the Southern Tusker.
THAT was a rally.
THAT is how I would love to find one of these events to be. With a pig in the ground for real. On private land so private that if Law Enforcement decides to show up in force, they do so from over a mile away, across a river. (the morning moonrise... ahhh, that was TRADITION, baby). The Tusker was where you and your bike came in and stayed in for the weekend, but affiliations and colors and cuts were left at home out of respect for the organizers. Truces weren’t required... because disagreements were left outside.
Friendships and more were forged there. Respect for other riders flowed as freely as the beer. “Enforcement” was a community thing, and it wasn’t required much at all. Whereas I don’t think you can put fifty drunk people in a bar for five hours without a fight breaking out these days, back then we put fifteen hundred or more bikers in the same area for three days with a semi truck full of beer, and in five years I saw 3 fights... 2 of which were domestic... erm... creative differences. The other lasted about fifteen seconds, then both boys fell down, couldn’t get back up, and ended up laughing their asses off trying to help the other guy off the ground. I am sure there were a lot of tongues that were sore from being bitten after that weekend.. but the point is that the respect didn’t falter. Each and every participant kept the faith.
I worked my ass off for that event, year after year. I worked the stage/sound/audio/emcee side of things, and we stopped between eight am and noon for rest, then we got back at it. I did the math once... I think I worked for something around a dollar and a half an hour, if you averaged my flat rate out over hours worked, but I didn’t care. It was the most fun, insane, and wild weekend of the year, and it was what I waited for year after year. The feeling of family was what I loved, heightened by the fact that we were on family land, and those who know about that KNOW how solid that family was.
I haven’t seen anything yet that really tries to get that camaraderie going, that sense of unity and family, but I’d sure love to see it.. and I wouldn’t exactly complain if it happened in Alberta, or at least within a half day’s ride. I don’t know why we don’t have these kinds of events here.. I suspect it’s due to the fact that there are so many smaller events and charity rides all summer that we might not be able to pull together enough folks.. but it would be fun to try.
Anyhow, I was reminiscing those days recently, and realized that I haven’t done tribute to my old friend and even Mentor in a long time. We were not as close as brothers, not as close as some were with him, but he showed me a lot about being a “real” biker that I still live by today, and my respect for the man who led the charge for years will never fade. He handed me my very first Tusker shirt in 1990, and I never did thank him enough times... but I tried. I saw Matt Minglewood more times there than anywhere else.
I spent time with people I had to deny knowing afterwards, and hated it because they weren’t bad people.. but they asked me for that favor and I gave it to them. Out of respect... Denny wouldn’t have accepted less, and I wouldn’t offend his memory by giving less. I was pretty young and headstrong... that man (quite literally) knocked sense into me. He probably saved my life for the first time in person.. but a lot of times after that by his lessons. He wasn’t obvious about it, he wasn’t overt... but he was absolutely resolute that I would learn why the respect was important.
When I ride, I try to do so in a way that would make that guy proud.. and I wish on a regular basis he was still here to share the ride. So I’ll hoist one to the memory of a good friend, and a good teacher, Denny Lunde.
It’s summer, Den. Riding time. I wish we were getting the stage and grounds ready again. They just don’t throw parties like you did, man.
Cheers! Ride safe.
R. Jeff LeGrand
Calgary Motorcycle Ride for Dad
Reporter, Busted Knuckle Chronicles