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Waco Paints Us All With a Bad Brush

“Ever since Marlon Brando appeared in “The Wild One”, people in leather jackets scare the hell out of the rest of the populace.”

What is it about Waco, Texas, anyway? First there was the standoff between the feds and the Branch Davidians in 1993. Now it’s the standoff between “outlaw” motorcycle clubs. That town sure seems to attract more than its share of trouble.

Senseless loss of life is saddening. But the perpetuation of the biker “bad guy” image is also disheartening. The actions of the testosterone-and-alcohol fueled few make trouble for the rest of us who just want to ride our motorcycles, feel the wind in our faces and enjoy all the great rides and scenery America has to offer.

Ever since Marlon Brando appeared in “The Wild One” back in 1953, people in leather jackets seem to scare the hell out of the rest of the populace. People stand aside when my husband walks by in his patch-adorned leather jacket. I was refused service Durango, Colorado because of mine. If we’re traveling without hotel reservations (which we often do), we’ve learned to remove our biker gear before going inside to inquire about a room. Somehow, a gray-haired couple in T-shirts is less threatening than the same gray-haired couple in black leather jackets.

Unfortunately, the shootout at Waco just reinforces the bad biker stereotype. I’m going to keep on wearing my leathers, however. They’re the only thing between me and the hard, rough road.

Changing seasons, changing attitudes

The road to Mesa Verde, Colorado.

The road to Mesa Verde, Colorado.

Just when you think riding season can really begin, ol’ Mother Nature comes and gives you an unkind gesture once again. Who said it could be 20 degrees and snowing (tomorrow) this late in April? Spring is always an uphill battle in Minnesota. On the upside, the unseasonable cold has given me time to do a little more vacation planning.

I received a package of tourism info from Wisconsin yesterday. There’s a lot of unexplored motorcycle country in our neighbor to the east. And the Badger State is beginning to promote it. (C’mon, Minnesota, get your tourism act together!) In fact, many states are realizing that motorcycle tourism is a good thing.

According to the Rider Friendly Business Association (a Canadian group), there are more than 11 million potential motorcyclist/tourists in the U.S. and Canada, and  they spend an average of $3,100 per vacation trip. That’s roughly $34 billion spent in the form of gas, hotels, food, entertainment and stops at tourist attractions. Motorcycle tourists can be big economic stimulators!

Of course, we’ll have to get the non-motorcycling public to change its perception of bikers. A few years ago, Ralph and I stopped in Durango, Colorado, for the night. We pulled into the Holiday Inn, which had a Green Mill restaurant attached to it. I went to the front desk to inquire about the availablility of a room. I was still in my full leathers, my hair cropped super-short to avoid having to deal with helmet hair. The sole was coming off of my old steel-toed work boots and I probably looked pretty travel-worn since leaving Arizona that morning.  The young woman at the desk informed me that the hotel was full. “By the way,” she said as I thanked her and turned to leave, “for your future reference, rooms are $150 per night.”  As if I couldn’t afford it.  I felt as angry and misunderstood as Marlon Brando in “The Wild One.”

We drove down the street to the Travelodge, where the rooms were cheaper and ate at a fantastic Italian restaurant across the street. And had a far better time than we would have at the Green Mill.