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Free Range: Adieu Arizona

By Felicia Morgan

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Oh how I’ve love ye, Arizona. Your cheerful outlook, consistent blue skies and reliable warmth. It’s been a joy to witness your radiant sunrises and brilliant, silent sunsets lo these winter months. You accepted me as a sister and welcomed me with open arms. I have languished in your warm embrace and known comfort in your repose. But I must go. Spring has sprung and splashed its color across the mountainsides and with it has come the blaze of oppressive heat and I am wilted. Besides, I’m bored to hell with being in one place for so long. I’ve appreciated the dry skies and the great hospitality but I’m packing my duds and hitting the road with a roar. It’s been fun, but I’m outta here!

By the time this column hits the bricks I’ll be kicking up dust in Cave Creek down at the Hideaway, waltzing through the aisles of vendors at West World during Arizona Bike Week, and working my way through West Gate complex at the Phoenix Bikefest before I wander off to Laughlin for the River Run. Immediately after, I’ll hit the horizon for all points between Washington and New Jersey. And I am glad for it all. The time spent sitting in one spot these last few months has been a good thing. There’s been a lot of reflecting, recounting and appreciating all the blessings in my life. Even the not so good have had their lessons and I’m learning to appreciate those too, but I’ve recharged and am ready for the summer of fun and frivolity.

It really has been a great winter and I’ve met a lot of new friends. Merle was a particularly cool guy to meet on his ruby red Panhead. Discovering that back in the day he rode with David Mann and his friend Squirrel, knows Jacquie and some of the same folks I do was pretty cool. Local guy Lynn has turned into a great friend and I’ve enjoyed our shared time. It’s been a new experience to share a lane with a guy with a gun strapped to his hip 24/7, all part of the Wild West charm. Discovering the River Bottom Grill in Florence was an experience, too. As was getting to meet Fred and Ellen and their doxie darlings, Harley Bob and Softail Sally. Bob was sweet and gave me a little kiss on the nose while Sally loudly voiced her disgust with the whole thing and diligently stood her ground as the family guard dog. Both had custom-made leather vests with club patches declaring their commitment to the Mongrels MC, which cracked me up.

I spent the better part of an afternoon hanging out with Fred and Ellen and found their hospitality to be both gracious and an excellent example of what the biker brotherhood is really about. Fred had sent a letter of invite last year and there was no way I could drift through his home turf and not meet the charming clan. When I asked Ellen if she rides, she chuckled. Without skipping a beat she exhaled the drag from the skinny cigarette and told me, “Why yes, I do. I ride a 1945 Knucklehead named Fred.” With that, the tone for the day was set. We spent the rest of our visit cracking one-liners and grubbing down on the great food at the River Bottom while enjoying the dappled shade on the picnic tables out back. Fred is a NorCal transplant and I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to leave the beauty of Lake Tahoe to eke out a hardscrabble existence as a desert rat. “Because I got tired of freezing my ass off,” he explained. Fred retired as a fire chief a few years back and decided he wasn’t going to shovel snow ever again. Instead he spends summers protecting his dogs by killing snakes in his backyard. Seven of them in just one season. These days he loves his part-time job at the local hardware store and the time he gets to spend helping at the joint-effort business the couple owns called Bitch’n Stitch’n. Ellen is an accomplished seamstress who can whip up a wedding dress in the bat of an eye but these days spends her time behind the machine stitching on patches for bikers. Two weekends a month the pair can be found at the Superstition Harley-Davidson shop. From all accounts, it sounds like Fred’s main job is to entertain customers as a standup comic. “He lays out the patches for customers and really does help me a lot. He’s the frontman,” she explains. Together, they make a great team and judging from all the laughter, seem happy as hogs in shit. Swing by the dealership and ask for an autograph.

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