He was laying on the blacktop in the scorching July sun, rivers of sweat rolling off his balding pate that created a growing puddle in the shadow of the bike he was working on. Oblivious to the commotion of the event surrounding him in the parking lot of Corbin’s, the scruffy road dawg hummed along to the tunes blaring through his ear buds and the “zing-zing” of the Dremel he held kept time with the music. I stood watching him etch the engine fins of an aging bike for a long while, and wondered if he might melt into asphalt before finally nudging him and handing over the ice water I’d brought as an offering.
“Yes, ma’am?” he asked, yanking the earphones from his head and sitting upright. As he drained the bottle, I explained that a mutual friend told me I needed to come check out his work and meet the guy who’d ridden out alone from Mississippi to experience the Hollister scene for himself. Eyeing his loaded-down bike, I asked if he had a place to stay. After a shrug and a, “No, ma’am. I don’t, I just got here,” I jotted down my number and told him to call when he finished his work. I was sure local friends would take him in.
He slept in a hammock out back that night, after partying into the wee hours with all the Hollister heathens, then stuck around town and worked on some bikes for a few days. He hung out with the local Top Hatters MC and appreciated their hospitality before he rode off to find the father he’d never met. We’d all shared grub and giggles and made a pact to find each other again somewhere over the summer and, true to his word, I got a call a few weeks later.
Next thing ya know, I found myself cruising the back roads near the Oregon coast trying to find the wide spot in the road where we’d agreed to meet up. We shared a few twisties before we rolled into the campgrounds at Run 21, an old-skool ABATE run with rocking music that was held in the middle of a farmer’s hayfield. Before we even set up camp, party animals had swarmed his bike and welcomed the guy with the Mississippi plates with open arms, local whiskey and Scooby snacks.
Somewhere along his travels, he’d bought a tent for 10 bucks from a guy on the side of the road, and I laughed my ass off when he propped up his lopsided abode with the only pole provided. The rest were missing. He just shrugged, tossed his gear inside and went back to telling road stories to his new pals. We partied the night away with the Fryed Brothers Band and then I bugged out, but Gypsy stayed behind to rock out with Molly Hatchet and hang with the new tribe of friends he’d acquired. It was another three years before we ran across each other again.
Since those days, the guy with the “have Dremel, will travel” attitude has found his father, met a whole raft of extended family he never knew he had and went back home to lay his mother to rest. He’s been broke, broke down, stranded and taken in by solid folk. He’s made some lifetime friends and has been shown love and respect. Along the way, he’s gathered a pretty good customer base as he earns his living etching “bling” on bikes while keeping his own aging motorcycle running as he scoots across the states. Several builders have started flying him in to their shops for the custom “Gnarly Cut” work he does on just about anything metal, and he’s enjoying making new friends while seeing the country.
“I am so blessed,” friend and fellow nomad, Brian “Gypsy” Jones, drawls as he fidgets with his air tools. “I get to ride my motorcycle, meet so many great people and go to so many cool places while doing a job I truly love. Who could have imagined? I mean, how many folks can say they really love their jobs? I truly live a blessed life. Just think; you met me when I was just starting out, drifting around, and look at where both our lives have led us now. I mean, c’mon, girl; look at all the places you’ve been and the fun you’re having. You feel like me, don’tcha? There just ain’t nothing to complain about these days, is there?” With that I watch the Mississippi man pull on his safety glasses and plug in his ear buds as he gets back to the task of turning motorcycles into works of art, one gnarly cut at a time.