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Chewin the Fat Boy: July, 2016

By Susan Swan

Chewing
In the two decades since Chewin’ the Fat Boy got its start, it’s been and continues to be my pleasure to shine a light on riders, their scoots, and the flavor or fiber of the events that benefit from their dime. I’ve come away with my own take on our culture, on why we ride, why we return to it time after time. But I’m curious of reader-conclusions. What do you think? What makes the riding community tick? What kind of hook is nostalgia (barbed, rusty, etc.)? What emblematic images seem time-lodged within our DNA? I tell ya, aprons mess me up. What could be deservedly attributed to the inherent risk in relying on a bit of skill, luck, but only two-wheels? Do we reside more in-the-moment due to that risk? Do we own our moments more by being out-of-touch when riding? Or is it the opposite? Do we lose ourselves in the landscape after time in the saddle? And what is it that’s revealed about us by how we customize, or don’t; by our preference for the vintage look improved by technology vs. vintage? What it’s all about? Lumberjack (a.k.a. caveman) husband would say “I just like to f’ing ride, Susan.”(Personal note: He is trying to say “f’’ing” less often)… I’ve come to believe that what draws motorcyclists to one another is an affinity for, and need of, something real, something authentic. Sure, it’s a boot laced with a love of heritage, remembering with pride the America of our collective youth. But as much as riding is about self-actualization, it may also be about being recognized as authentic ourselves. Beyond the denim and leather—could it be we want to be seen as individuals (who all dress alike—kidding)? Channel surfing suggests some measure of our patience, our unwillingness to suffer fools (ads, falseness). We bore in a flash should what we’re experiencing prove less interesting than reading the ingredients of a bag of chips. Motorcycle enthusiasts fancy themselves embodying some version of the X-factor, walking a little taller when off the saddle, and looking a little edgier out on the road. It’s an extra layer we wear, and we don’t betray the vibe with motorcycle license frames that say, “My other ride is a Subaru/Prius/other.” We may be older now, but getting out in the wind seems to fill our sails, remind us of other times, friends we’ve lost, or lost touch with. As we navigate maturity, we each have our bucket lists. Our oath to rebuild that [fill-in-blank], see that place we promised we would, master that long-fought-skill, etc., while it’s still possible, and before the convergence of system shutdown (one organ, limb or vertebrate at a time) and apathy ready us for the big sleep. So at some point we stick our neck out and go for it. And if we’re bold, we do it unapologetically, and in-the-doing, perhaps embolden others to do the same. I think it becomes clearer with some tenure, that we’re supposed to do what we know we’re capable of, the things we haven’t gotten to just yet. What is it that would make your heart sing? What are you willing to risk? What have you got to lose? So, why the introspection? I’ve been inviting people to come to our ranch on the Pend Oreille River in the remote northeast corner of Washington State for over 15 years. One of those who took us up on the offer was George Romagno, 1932–2016. We became acquainted when he entered the Where am I? game; the mystery location being his birthplace of Thermopolis, Wyoming, also the birthplace of his wife Mary Lou. George’s parents had emigrated from Italy to Wyoming and when George served in the military, his National Guard unit, the 300th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, was among the most highly decorated and respected in the Korean War. The approximately 300 servicemen from Wyoming were joined by other young men and they collectively became known as “The Cowboy Cannoneers.” It was one year ago September that George rode solo from Bakersfield, California, to our ranch near Ione, Washington, following the death of his wife. The trip was roughly 1,200 miles one way, and George, 72 at the time, was on a Harley dresser. We enjoyed several days here, he showed me the proper way to make spaghetti sauce; he sang to us, then praised the voice of Dean Martin (born Dino Crocetti). And we became friends, staying in touch regularly for all the years since his visit. His e-mail sign-off included the phrase “Semper Fi”—always faithful. A man such as George makes me want to stick my own (long swan) neck out more, to be bold. Thanks for that, friend. Adieu George.

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