Monday, June 14, 2004

2004 R.O.T. Rally Report

This is actually a report from two weeks ago, but I thought I'd post it here for your amusement... H/C

After staying up 'till nearly 1am Thursday night finalizing everything and making sure the bike was packed, we got up at 5am Friday morning for a 6am departure time. This would be a new experience for Keli, having never been on the bike for more than an hour's trip at any given time. It was a new experience for me as well - having to operate a fully-loaded down bike with a passenger and cargo in Dallas rush-hour traffic.

Nevertheless, we got under way only a few minutes behind schedule and managed to get to the south side of Dallas before traffic started to thicken up and the nut-jobs talking on their cell-phones while applying makeup or shaving began to trickle into the morning commute. Keli was sure to let me know when she thought her comfort-level had been exceeded by clutching at me with both hands and knees until I thought I couldn't breathe. Fortunately, we quickly left Dallas behind and found ourselves on the open highway with little to do but watch the scenery blur past.
With each passing mile, we were joined by more and more like-minded folks on motorcycles loaded-down with luggage and dressed in their rally-going regalia, until we reached our first scheduled stop on the way down to Austin - The Czech Stop in West, Texas. The parking lot was full of bikes, and the line at the counter for fresh kolaches and the other treats that the bakery is famous for was nearly wrapped around the entirety of the inside waiting area. Along the tops of all the walls are hundreds of autographed publicity shots of the famous and not-so-famous celebrities who have frequented the store over the years, including Brave Combo, Shakira, Alice in Chains, Kiss (!), Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., and just about every other celebrity who has ever taken a tour bus down to Austin. While there, we discovered that Keli's sunblock doesn't do anything to protect against wind-burn, because she looked like a negative from a photograph of a raccoon.

There were a few more "comfort-stops" along the way to relieve the pressure that too-large fountain drinks can cause before we pulled into Round Rock and looked for the Dell Computers campus to drop off our luggage with Craig. Soon we found ourselves victims of my usual lousy orienteering skills, and despite what seemed like simple directions over the phone, we were touring the local neighborhood instead of pulling into the parking lot of our host's workplace. Fortunately, Keli managed to make out the blue tops of the Dell buildings and steered me in the right direction, where we found Craig waiting for us with a bemused expression on his face, wondering how it was that we came in from the direction that we did. We made our hellos and talked bike-stuff while unloading our tour-pack and stripping off the quick-release windshield, before heading back out to ride the rest of the way to the Rally site.

Checking in at the R.O.T. Rally was much simpler than last year, and considerably more streamlined, as the tickets were all imprinted with unique bar-codes that the staff simply scanned before sending you to pick up your Rally shirt and wristband. All in all, it took less than five minutes from the time we parked among the sea of bikes before we were official rally attendees.

Problem was, we were already exhausted. Lack of sleep combined with road-fatigue from the ride and the already-hot sun had us both making our way to the nearest drink-vendor where we given the choice of $5 cans of beer, $3.50 bottles of water or $3.75 bottles of Gatorade or Pepsi. Ouch! Fortunately for us, Dan and Becky of Quick-Shade fame had their booth at the rally again this year, and welcomed Keli and I to use them as a home-base to rest and recuperate when we weren't stumbling around the fairgrounds. I parked my bike out in front of their booth to serve as a product model for their indispensible bike-cover that shades the saddle and saves me from a roasted rump on sunny days.

After resting long enough for the road-buzz to wear off, Keli and I set out to wander the grounds and take in all that the R.O.T. Rally had to offer - which, as usual, was an overload for the senses. For many of the attendees, the Rally is an opportunity to let down your hair and "play biker" for a long weekend of escapism and fantasy - not unlike attending a Renaissance festival - and those people were plenty obvious in their shiny new leather, spotless bikes and gawking stares. However, the hard-core types were in attendance as well, double-rocker colors on their vests and grizzled road-burned looks setting them apart from the weekend warriors. Both types of rally-goers, as well as the myriad folks that fit somewhere in-between managed to mix just fine for the duration of the festivities.

Late Friday afternoon, I got a call from Craig saying that he and Debbie were off from work and were going to go ahead and try to register before the biker-parade was to leave for downtown and the party on Congress and 6th Streets. It was a calculated risk, because if you didn't get back out on the roads ahead of the parade, you could easily be snarled up in traffic for over an hour just waiting to exit the grounds before discovering that many of the downtown streets were completely barricaded against traffic, as well. As it was, they managed to get in, got banded like endangered species and even look around a little bit, before we all hit the road ahead of the parade. Craig and Debbie had less trouble finding parking for their truck than Keli and I did for the bike downtown, but we eventually met up at the stage area where the Georgia Satellites were set to perform around 9pm. We swam against the sea of humanity that the gathered downtown to try to forage for something to eat, and managed to get inside the Chipotlé restaurant several blocks away before it got crowded. The staffers looked like deer caught in the headlights at the prospect of such a crowd pushing in through the front door, and the manager explained to us by way of apology that the evening crew was completely unaccustomed to the incredible rush of hungry patrons. After gorging ourselves on the melon-sized burritos, we waddled out in search of a margarita or daquiri ($10 each!!) and a spot to watch the concert. The Georgia Satellites certainly didn't disappoint, and after we'd heard a few songs we took note of the increasingly frequent lightning flashes to our north that signaled the frontal edge of the storm that was headed our way. It was quickly decided that a hasty exit was in order, and I didn't relish the prospect of getting caught in a downpour without the windshield on my bike to protect me from the rain. At highway speeds, raindrops feel like hailstones, and I knew my rainsuit wouldn't be much help. Despite my suggestion that she ride back in the truck with Craig and Debbie, Keli insisted on riding back with me (what a trouper!) and in our hurry to get on and get out, we neglected to put in our earplugs. We literally raced back the entire route, and while sitting at the light waiting to turn into Craig and Debbie subdivision, we could see the rain blurring out the traffic light one block ahead us of. Still dry, but nearly deaf from the wind-noise we pulled into the garage, grateful and exhausted from the day. We stayed up and chatted until around 1am or so and Keli and I collapsed on the hide-a-bed.

Bleary-eyed and feeling hung-over from lack of sleep, I woke to find a too-chipper Craig and Debbie already dressed and ready to go back to the Rally. Keli and I hadn't really made a concerted effort to see and do everything at the Rally on Friday, knowing we'd be back again all-day Saturday, so we managed to muster up enough excitement to overcome our bodies desire to shut back down again. Since the forecast suggested that we weren't done with the rain yet, we decided to put the windsheild back on the bike for the day's riding. Better safe than sorry, I suppose. We got back to the fairground and were waved past the gate upon displaying our wristbands. Today, the crowd of people queing up to get registered for the day was starting to overflow the entryway parking lot, and we were grateful for our wristbands which earned us a straight shot right into the fairgrounds. We rode past the aftermath of the previous evening's storms, which were reported to have dropped over 3 inches of rain on the hapless campers. Once again, we parked the bike in front of the Quick-Shade booth and set up the bike to display the product (and earn our "rent") before meeting up with Craig and Debbie who had to park in the very-remote car parking area. After seeing some "photo-ops" walking around, I quickly discovered that my digital camera had a broken battery door and had to switch to Keli's for the duration. Unfortunately, her camera doesn't take nearly as nice a picture as mine and so most of the shots taken this weekend are blurry. We looked at motorcycles at the Chop-Shop Tour by Rooke, Billy Lane of Choppers, Inc. and Martin Brothers and I managed to get a couple of shots of misters Rooke and Lane, but I managed to miss the Martins. Keli shopped for do-rags for the boys, and managed to find one for herself, as well, and Debbie got a leather do-rag to wear when Craig finally gets around to buying a bike sometime in July by his reckoning. We went inside the arena to cool off and watch the motocross races - but mostly to cool off. The race classes ranged from 4-5 year olds to the "over-30 class," which frankly embarrassed us to watch. I'm hoping the guys in that race were a LOT over 30, because they rode their bikes like the 4-5 year-olds did, but with a sense of their own mortality that dampened any enthusiasm for leaving the ground.

Since Craig and Debbie brought two coolers filled with drinks and snacks, we made several pilgrimages to the truck to restock (two hands - two drinks!) and refuel. Debbie nodded off for a bit, and Keli and I headed back to help man the Quick-Shade booth with Dan and Becky. Keli caught a quick nap in a chair out in front of the booth, where several people asked if she was working on commission or paid hourly. My reply was that she was on a "union break." After everybody rested up we wandered around some more and eventually went to go check on the "parade" that was starting up early. There's a main road that runs along the perimeter of the grounds and is the primary means of getting in and out of the Rally site. Around 4 pm each day, thousands of bikers start cruising back and forth along the roadway with passengers on the back, while people line up in chairs and in the back of trucks backed up to the road to watch the procession. The atmosphere is very much like a parade during Mardi-Gras where the viewers try to entice the women on the backs of bikes or walking by to show off their "mommy-glands" for some beads or a beer, and quite a few do so. As the day wears on and the blood-alcohol levels increase, so do the willing participants - some of whom really should've quit doing that sort of thing 30 or so years ago. There were two trucks backed up next to each other with plastic liners in the beds that were filled with water and naked women dancing for the passers-by. One of the women was a true amazon with hooters the size of large cantelopes, and she could get those things dancing independently of each other. I have some short video of this trick just to prove it wasn't just wishful-thinking or the beer fooling me. I'm guessing she's a professional ...

Keli and I got seperated from Craig and Debbie right about the time that the Hank Williams Jr. concert was to begin, and we sent each other voice mails in a vain attempt to reconnect somewhere in the massive crowd. Eventually, Keli and I decided that we were tired and wanted to get something to eat off-grounds and rode out to a Taco Cabana along the highway, where we left yet another message on Craig's phone to let him know where we were and that we'd just meet them back at the house.

Sunday morning, Craig got a call from his folks telling him that he needed to come pick up his daughters, because Shelby (his oldest) was feeling homesick and missing them too much to wait for a late afternoon reunion with her parents. Despite the offer to stay as long as we wanted at the house, Keli and I loaded up as quickly as we could so everyone could leave at the same time. We knew that we had a long day ahead of us, as well. We rode the 4+ hours back to the house with great speed and few stops, only to hop in the station wagon and drive another two hours east to pick up our own children who'd been spending the weekend with their grandparents. Needless to say, we were both completely exhausted by the time we got home and collapsed in bed just as soon as we could get the boys into theirs.

Keli was smart and took the following day off to recuperate. I'm an idiot and am sitting here at my desk feeling like a zombie ...


Post a Comment

<< Home

Online Training
Site Meter