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“A Biker Is A Biker, A Brother, A Friend” a Road Story

Betsy and friends visit Choppertown Camparound, 2012

By Bikernet Betsy Huelskamp
5/21/2012


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The Angel of the open road, Bikernet Betsy.
The Angel of the open road, Bikernet Betsy.

 
Lately I’ve had cause to ponder the question, “What makes a Biker a Biker?” Are you a “biker” just because you own a bike? Are you a lifestyle biker, or the occasional motorcycle weekend warrior? I even had a guy comment under a photo of me on Facebook, that he just didn’t understand “people who would desecrate their bike just to make it look ridden,” as if I hadn’t put my time in, or paid my dues. I actually defended myself, my 25 years of riding, and my 20-year-old rusted chopper that has seen every back road between here and the Mississippi.
 
I realized as I was defending myself, that not only do I not know the guy who wrote it, but that I don’t really NEED to defend myself to anyone anymore. My lifetime of travels and experience speaks for itself. BUT, I DO feel the need to defend this:
 
Wasn’t there a time when every one of us on any motorcycle took our first ride? Even the coolest of the cool had to start somewhere. When I first started riding on my little white Honda 400ELH back in the ‘80s, I remember feeling very grateful that the Hells Angels over at Rick’s Drive-In were nice to me. I knew I was a beginner, and I DID feel the need to prove something, to myself more so than anything.
I DID want to teach myself how to ride harder and faster, and I DID put in the time. I did hang out with the bad boys who I admired for the way they rode and the freedom of the lifestyle they had chosen. I wished that I could afford a cool Harley-Davidson, but at the time, I thought that dream might not ever be my reality. So I set out to have the coolest bike I could afford. My Honda was green when I bought it, and I painted it flat black, and later white. I reupholstered my bench seat with REAL leather instead of pleather! I flat-blacked every chrome and aluminum part. I was actually really proud of my work. And I had little white go-go boots that matched my tank…just like Nancy Sinatra.

Those Hells Angels who I was afraid might smash my little bike with baseball bats said, “At least you’re ridin' sister.” When I did move up from that Honda, it was to a bigger Honda 1100, and I was equally proud of that bike, and changed every part of the bike a dozen or so times, with shiny, flamed Arlen Ness accessories. So I did try the shiny thing…

Sturgis with Rod on my Honda Shadow 1100.
Sturgis with Rod on my Honda Shadow 1100.



Looking back, I don’t feel the least bit embarrassed by those years. It took those years to get to where I am now. I know I am stronger for every mistake and bad choice I ever made. I DID set out to ride faster and crazier than any man in town. I DID feel the need to test my own limits of physical endurance, and I proved to myself that I CAN withstand ridiculous amounts of physical torture, and endure prolonged periods of absolute misery. In search of myself and the woman I wanted to be, I put myself through HELL! But is being able to withstand misery the true test, in the journey to be able to call yourself a true Biker?

Is a young girl on a little white Honda, a “BIKER” in your mind? Or do REAL bikers only ride Harleys? Am I any less of a “BIKER” if I trailer my chopper from California to Sturgis? When the rally is over I continue on to Minnesota to pick up my Pa with Parkinson’s disease to enjoy our now annual road trip back to Wyoming where we visit my deputy sheriff, brother Joe. Oh no, I won’t be able to buy the sticker this year that says, “I rode mine.” Oh well, the dozen or so times I DID ride, and I didn’t buy that sticker.

I used to ride my Pa down Main Street on my bike. Now he opts for the comfort of my SUV on our cross-country trips together.
I used to ride my Pa down Main Street on my bike. Now he opts for the comfort of my SUV on our cross-country trips together.




I feel the need to defend my brothers, my sisters and my friends who ride Hondas, Kawasakis, or any bike other than a Harley-Davidson. I even feel the need to defend those who have chosen Sportsters. I feel the need to defend the weekend warrior, and any friend who trailers their bike to any event. Because I feel like EVERY person who has taken that first step to learn to ride is a part of this family. They share the original feeling we ALL had to step out of the box, and go looking for ourselves…looking for adventure, and whatever comes our way.

Everyday I see a world divided by war and hatred. We segregate ourselves in the name of religion, politics, nationality, skin color, age, sex, education, economic status, even beauty…the list is endless! When I first became a biker (which Webster’s dictionary defines as any person on a motorcycle), I felt like I became a part of one of the most unique families on the planet!

I always KNEW I was slightly different than most of the people around me. I had a wild streak. Not wild in the sense of drinking, smoking, doing drugs and partying all night. I felt wild, like a wild Mustang. Like I did not want to be controlled, told what to do, or forced to live a certain lifestyle, just because it is what you are expected to do. Feeling “accepted” by the biker culture gave me a base to explore my individuality. Going to Sturgis for the first time and seeing all of the eccentric individuals on Main Street was a memorable and liberating moment.

This was a culture that ACCEPTED you for EVERYTHING that was NOT like the others. In fact, they celebrated it! I was drawn into the world of motorcycles because you could be exactly who you are, no matter how weird, or ugly, or imperfect that was. I have gone to Sturgis completely alone many years and never felt lonely or afraid, because I felt like I was among family. I have always felt like every person on any road on anything from a moped to a Boss Hoss shares my fundamental love of the road. I could talk to any person on a bike about their favorite road, their experience of learning to ride, the wildlife they’ve seen, the people they’ve met, the mistakes they’ve made, the best sunrise, the best sunset…

I am GRATEFUL for the thousands of people who embraced me when I was a goofy girl on a Honda in go-go boots. I will forever consider any person on any bike, my BIKER friend. After so many years of riding, it seems odd to me to come up against an attitude. If I trailer my bike, or if I am with someone on a bike who doesn’t “fit in”, or if I haven’t been riding as often as I used to, I am not living the “BIKER” lifestyle every single day anymore, so does that make me a poser?

Aren’t we Bikers all a bunch of misfits on some level, and shouldn’t we all continue to celebrate our common bond, rather than segregate. We are all facing different stages of our lives, and levels of available time, money and strength to do what we love doing?

Most recently some friends and I set out to attend a gathering of some of the coolest cats out there on some of the coolest bikes in the country. The third annual Choppertown Campground in Black Canyon City of Arizona is a weekend event held by Pinky Pancake and Long John just 45 miles north of Phoenix. Our hosts with the most, the infamous Jack Schit & his beautiful wife, Lady Diane, encouraged us to deviate from attending Arizona Bike Week again, and check out a smaller venue of friends who gather at Kid Chilleen’s Bad Ass BBQ Steakhouse.

The gang at the Schit house: Milwaukee Mike, Masyn, Qian & Diane Schit with the Schit dogs.
The gang at the Schit house: Milwaukee Mike, Masyn, Qian & Diane Schit with the Schit dogs.



My friend Masyn came out from Boulder Colorado, and my friend Qian rode out from Los Angeles, California. My boyfriend Mark and I came from western Colorado, and all met up the day before at the Schit compound in Mesa, Arizona.

Our generous hosts and good friends, Jack & Diane Schit.
Our generous hosts and good friends, Jack & Diane Schit.





We had this steel art made for Pinky & John…
We had this steel art made for Pinky & John…



You’d think Arizona in mid April would be nothing less than long days in the blazing sun. But in 2011 riding through Monument Valley to get to Arizona Bike Week, we rode in 30-degree weather and wore down jackets and Ugg boots! This year, we anticipated the possibility of less than perfect weather, and packed and prepared for the worst. But once we were at Jack and Diane’s comfortable pad and realized that rain was in the forecast for the bulk of the weekend, we had wishy-washy feelings about camping in the rain, when we had such cushy accommodations just down the road.

Me, Masyn & Qian riding through Monument Valley in 30 degree weather, en route to Arizona Bike Week, 2011.
Me, Masyn & Qian riding through Monument Valley in 30 degree weather, en route to Arizona Bike Week, 2011.



It was hard to believe that it could or would be dismal just up the hill when we woke up to yet another perfect Mesa day. We struggled with what to bring to the extent that Jack’s driveway looked like a massive garage sale.

Masyn laboring over what to bring!
Masyn laboring over what to bring!





We had stayed up to the middle of the night gabbing with our hosts, who we see all too little of. Hence, we got off to a late start, and missed hooking up with Pinky & John’s group, and were forced to try to find them along the route up to Prescott, Arizona. Our host Jack injured his back wresting alligators, or something crazy like that, so he was unable to serve as tour guide.

Mark in the middle of our garage sale!
Mark in the middle of our garage sale!



We rode off in the direction of Prescott, knowing we couldn’t miss this group of vintage riders. But within minutes of climbing up Hwy 17, our sunshine disappeared, and every piece of clothing came out. By the time Pinky and John’s group passed us at a gas station just leaving Prescott, we were all so cold and hungry we needed to hunker down, thaw out, and eat.

Mark & Qian adding warmth.
Mark & Qian adding warmth.



In search of Qian’s daily requirement of fried rice, we made a few wrong turns, and illegal change of directions, and Qian paid the price for this one! Woooooooooo that made her mad! By the time we got done eating, the sun slipped behind the hills, the weather was still ornery, and we were off to hook up with our friend Milwaukee Mike back at the Schit compound, and we hadn’t even seen Choppertown Camparound yet, other than passing it on the freeway. We decided to ride up with Mike & friends the next day, and just enjoy the hospitality of our friends for the evening.

Qian dishing up attitude to the MAN!
Qian dishing up attitude to the MAN!



Riding home in the Desert Mountains at night is COLD!
Riding home in the Desert Mountains at night is COLD!



We collected at our new pal Kevin’s place the next day, and rode up with a group of Arizona riders who traveled at warp speed thru the super windy city. A badass boy on a badass chopper riding in front of me literally had pieces flying off of his bike. He rode with one hand at 90 miles-an-hour, while the other hand was trying to stop the pieces from flying off of his bike. I am not sure exactly what golf ball sized part almost hit my head, but he did eventually make it to the campground, with a little help from some friends!

Friends gathering at Keith’s pad.
Friends gathering at Keith’s pad.



Keith at Choppertown Camparound.
Keith at Choppertown Camparound.



We stopped at a local bike hang halfway up the mountain, and finally made it to Choppertown Camparound just before the sunset! Yes, it took us all weekend to get from Mesa, to Black Canyon City, just a few miles up the hill! Whatever…don’t be hatin' us!

Bad Ass guy and Chopper that were riding in front of me with pieces a flyin'!
Bad Ass guy and Chopper that were riding in front of me with pieces a flyin'!



A cute couple kissing at the halfway bar stop.
A cute couple kissing at the halfway bar stop.

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Reader Comments


Reading the line, "Qian's daily fried rice," just made Jack Daniels fly out of my nose! To answer the question that you tried to elaborate on here is like trying to answer "the chicken or the egg".

We celebrate the individual for that very reason, individuality. For that very reason, no one person will ever define "what a biker is". I've known men who have ridden for most of their lives and no longer own a bike, and I defy someone to tell them they are not bikers. In my mind, heart, and soul, I believe it is a frame of mind and the "code" by which we live. L,L,H & R! Love, Loyalty, Honor and Respect.

It is always a pleasure to open up the Shit Family Resort, Spa and Daycare Center for Wayward Bikers to anyone who lives their lives by those four letters. We love you guys and our doors are always open! You have once again written a thought provoking piece as only you can. You were certainly right about one thing though, we don't see each other enough, that must change!

SEE YOU IN STURGIS MY FRIEND!

Jack Shit
Mesa , AZ
Monday, June 4, 2012
Great story Betsy... You really are a free spirit . Cheers Glenn.

Glenn Priddle
Noosa Heads. Queensland, Australia
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
As always great article, Betsy. I've been riding for 46 years. Riders are exactly the same, only different. I ride a Harley, no bags or windshield. It's not as important what you ride just as long as you ride and enjoy it.

Mark Zimmerman
New River, AZ
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Betsy, You got it right. You owe no explanation. Know this, if someones got a comment to rip you down, they don't know. Not knowing is like not being prepared for the journey.

You know how that goes. We just are what we are. Enjoy the trip, each one of us passes this way one time. The next time if there is one is different.

Keep it fresh

Mike Rapp
Clinton, NJ
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
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