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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

401K . . . Bikers

Sorry for the absence the past few weeks.  I thought I had made the following post, which I wrote a week or two ago.  I could blame it on adjusting to the new, much larger computer monitor—the first flat panel one I’ve ever owned.  Or I could blame it on the extended-wear contact lens I got the same day, which also took some getting used to.  Maybe I’ll blame it on being frazzled from having at least 401,000 bikers and others (conservative estimates put the figure much higher) riding around downtown and keeping me awake.  Yeah, that’s it.  I’ll go with that one.

Is it over yet?  Two weeks ago hundreds of thousands of bikers rode around for several days, all over town but mostly within blocks of my home.  I finally took a strong sleep aid and did a Rip Van Winkle.  It may have been overkill, but I slept under the bed to muffle the sound even more.  Now here I am, bleary-eyed and covered in dust bunnies, trying to remember my lost week.

Monday, September 26  The official start date of Bikes, Blues, and BBQ is still two days away, but there’s a noticeable increase in the number of motorcycles around town.  The perfect weather (75 degrees, cloudless blue sky) has no doubt lured them here early.  The significance of this doesn’t hit me until well after midnight, when the swarm of bees over on
Dickson Street
still buzzes.  Instead of sheep, I count Hogs.

Tuesday  It’s too nice to stay in.  I walk to
Dickson Street
to eat lunch outside on the patio at U.S. Pizza.  It’s rather peaceful back there and I can overhear people at other tables. 
     “After a few of these things, they all seem the same.”
     “Yeah.  If I was a big bike enthusiast, I might stick around for it, but I’m going to the (Razorback) game this weekend in Dallas.”
     “I’m stocking up on beer, DVDs, and food so I won’t have to leave the house.”
     It’s a pretty common sentiment among locals.  It’s like when there’s a Razorback football game at the stadium times ten.  Most of us hunker down and wait it out until all the out-of-towners are gone. 

From there, I attempt to run a couple more errands down the street.  The sidewalks are blocked with unassembled tents and canopies for the vendors.  After stumbling over a few, I give up and go home.  It can wait until next week.

Wednesday  The official beginning of Bikes, Blues, and BBQ—the third largest motorcycle event in the nation and the largest held for charity.  It’s the charity part that keeps me from complaining too much about it.  That, and the fact it pumps a gazillion dollars into the local economy every year.  That helps the city pay for stuff without raising my taxes.  I chant this to myself over and over like a mantra as I try to fall asleep.

Thursday:  Funnel cake.  I know they have funnel cake for sale over there.  Last year, I ventured as far as the funnel cake stand (after giving up on having bratwurst first because it was two blocks and 20,000 people away).  This time, not even the sweat, high-carb memory of my favorite carnival food is enough to draw me into the crowded, noisy streets.  I will go funnel cake-less until a smaller festival or street fair comes to town.

Friday:  The beehive has become a giant hornet’s nest.  The non-stop buzzing has caused a persistent headache.  After a hotter’n hell summer, the weather is flawless.  I want to sit outside on my patio, but it’s even louder out there.  I’m only a couple blocks from Ground Zero—
Dickson Street
—where Arkansas (and parts of surrounding states) comes to party and cut loose.

Of course, I knew about all of that before I moved here from another part of town.  I like the convenience of being able to walk to places where I can eat, drink, hear live music, send mail, get a prescription filled, shop at a farmers market, buy all kinds of other stuff, and people-watch (to the extent that I can still do that).  

I refuse to become one of those people who whine about the event.  Living in a fun, interesting place means sharing it from time to time.  I chant this to myself as I try once again to fall asleep.

Saturday:  The final day of the event.  Writing is impossible.  The noise and lack of sleep (caused by the noise) keep me from concentrating.  Like a fool, I scheduled a book signing this afternoon.  I actually left early.  The store was dead and I could hardly stay awake. 

Next year, I’ll go out of town.  It’s what thousands of New Orleanians do during Mardi Gras.  I have plenty of time to plan.  Wherever I go, there’s one thing I’m sure of—there won’t be any motorcycles there.  They’ll all be in Fayetteville.

Anybody want to take in a legally blind, middle-aged biker rally refugee?  You can offer now or feel guilty when you see the commercial I make with Sarah McLaughlin singing.


  1. I highly recommend it, Jim. I left town during the event this year and enjoyed piece and quiet.

  2. My sentiments exactly. Hell on Earth. And if several hundred thousand motorcycles weren't enough, the helicopter rides they started a few years ago make it sound like a war zone. Always tell myself I have to get out of town during it, but it never seems to happen, so I just endure it the best I can...which isn't very well.