Monday, August 27, 2007

Our Biker Camp Experience

About 20 years ago, Rene and I lived in San Diego, in North Park. Right Here:

At the time, I still owned a Harley -- my first one, the '79 Sportster I talk about in this previous post. I used to hang out at a little bar called "The Tapa Room", so named because of it's wallpaper: Tapa cloth, made from bark in south pacific islands. The Tapa Room wasn't a biker bar, as such, but there were a number of members of the Silver Eagle bike club who were regulars.

The Silver Eagles were not like the Hell's Angels, Satan's Disciples, the Bandidos, or other hard-core bike clubs. They weren't so much a gang as a group. They weren't so much evil as they were independent. Basically they were good guys who like Harleys, liked to ride as a group, and didn't take crap from other people.

One summer the Silver Eagles decided to hold a bike run, with overnight camping. I decided to go, and somehow I convinced Rene to come with me. We both like riding, a lot, and some friends were going along. We got out our tent, sleeping bags, and cooler. One of our friends wives hated riding, so she was driving a car up to the campsite. Otherwise I'm not sure how we would have strapped all that stuff on the bike.

The run was held at a campsite on the Pala Indian Reservation, in Pala, California. Ever seen tourmaline? Some of the best comes from Pala. Holding the run on an Indian reservation meant that the San Diego county sheriff's had no jurisdiction at the campsite. This meant that the sheriffs were swarming the roads approaching the campsite, and "randomly" inspecting vehicles. Randomly meant profiling -- long hair, no helmets, (this was before California passed a helmet law) wallet on a chain, leather jacket with a big colorful patch on the back -- all reasons for a "random" inspection. The sheriffs handed out a lot of tickets for not having mufflers that day.

The campsite was quite large, there was a building with commercial booths, including a tattoo parlor, a large stage with several bands, and an area for the slow race, hot-dog munch, and other cycle events. We set up camp, and walked around seeing the spectacle. And what a spectacle! There was nudity, drinking, whooping and hollering, and just a general real good time being had by lot's of dirty, hairy, leather-clad bikers (and that's just the women). The slow race was interesting. Basically you have to ride your bike 50 feet or so, with your feet on the pegs, and be last. The winner waited until everyone else had 'finished', waited a minute or two, then gunned his bike across the finish line for the win. He had been all but parked for most of the race. Really amazing balance.

We ended up watching the bands, but as it got dark, the bands got wilder, and then the wet t-shirt contest began. The contest soon devolved into a no t-shirt contest, but the judges did a good job, and I had to agree with their winner. A raffle drawing was then held. I had purchased 20 tickets, and won a few things, but without the band, and without the girls, the crowd started dispersing before everything was raffled off. They started saving up prizes and giving several at once to the next person who was present. Thats' how I won the tattoo.

I mentioned that there was a tattoo parlor right on site, well, I won a $50 tattoo. Back in 1986, that was a pretty good tattoo. So, I decided to go through with it. I was looking through the flash, and had almost decided on a simple dragon, something like this, Wormy, from Dragon Magazine:

Then someone started freaking out just around the corner from the tattoo parlor. Some chick was having a bad trip, and was really freaking out. It kind of freaked out me, and Rene drug me away from there. I was never drunk enough after that to actually get the tattoo, so I missed out on disfiguring my body.

The party continued long after Rene and I went to bed, and apparently some Hell's Angels tried to get into the campsite to settle a beef with some guy they thought was there, so there was a large fight at the gate in the wee hours. The sheriffs just watched, hoping that they would be called in by whatever Indian authority ran the campground, to "restore order", but the fracas was settled without serious injuries or weapons.

It was really interesting to hang out with some serious bikers -- 1% er's as they are known, from an old quote: It's just 1% of the people on motorcycles that are the problem. It's not a lifestyle we emulate, but it was good to experience it first-hand.

Hopefully Rene will add some of her thoughts -- she had a somewhat less enjoyable time, I think.


JerryD said...

I spent a LOT of time in the Tapa Room. Rode a 75 FXE back then - just lived a couple of blocks away - so we were probably neighbors. Got in and out of a lot of trouble and fun. Rode with some great people - was the prime of my mis-spent youth.

Thanks for bringing back memories.

Jerry Denton

AEC said...

Hey -- where exactly was the Tapa Room? Is it some other bar now?

Dan said...

The Tapa room was a couple blocks west of the post office in the North Park neighborhood.

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