Thursday, June 09, 2011

ROT—Day 1

I successfully packed my bike with everything I needed for the ROT Rally. Needless to say, I know there are some things I didn’t need to pack and they will be coming home with me later today so I have less to carry back home on Sunday. But the bike made the trip to Austin just fine—and I did everything I could to miss all the bumps in the road for fear that the weight of the pack would break the sissy bar (I’ve heard stories about things like this happening).

I took the 6-person tent with me on this trip to test it out. Once I set it up, I was glad that I did. It has more room inside than imaginable, and with Susan coming down on Friday we will have lots of room to spread out. I feel like I’m in a cabin, and if I had a portable table it would very much feel like home. I can store everything inside and still have room to stand in and sleep in. It’s very nice—I’m glad we bought this last year.

Once set up and with all the initial “hellos” to fellow SOBer’s (that’s what this group I’m with is called), I set out for Austin. It’s a real easy ride from the Event Center to East Austin—about 8 miles. East Austin is changing almost everytime I travel through there. It reminds me the most of New Orleans, and it is getting a real “Marigny/Bywater” funkyness about it. Probably my favorite place in Austin now, and if we were to move to Austin it definitely would be in the East. Lots of small local restaurants and shops, I also passed a place advertising “free” comedy during the week. I’m going to eat at a few of the local joints in East Austin during the Rally—I’d rather do that than pay high prices to corporate chains at the Rally.

There is a certain “block” in East Austin that catches my fancy—East 6th between Onion and Comal. That’s where the Volstead and the Gypsy bars are located. I didn’t go to the Gypsy last night because I was trying to get back to the campground in time to hand with the other SOBer’s. But I did get a chance to hang at the Volstead, and honestly this is my favorite bar in Austin.

Not many folks in the Volstead when I got there, but the jukebox was playing some great music and they’ve got Abita Amber in bottles! The bartender (Mark?) even conjured up an excellent Sazerac for me, and you know I’ll be back there every night this weekend ;) I put on a few tunes from the Treme soundtrack on the jukebox (now how many jukeboxes in Austin has the Treme soundtrack?) and got a chance to spend some time with the owner Sarah. I felt like I was truly home, and it’s good to hang with folks who actually speak and understand YAT! For those in Austin who are New Orleans exiles, THIS is the place to be every night!

As I hit my two drink limit, I headed back to the ROT Rally. For all the moaning and groaning we all have about prices going up this year for ROT, once I got there and began mingling with friends, I knew it was worth every penny. I met the folks I camp with for the first time last year. New stories, new adventures, broken relationships—all the things that go on over a year were talked about at the campsite. The social area is just outside my tent’s front opening, so I’m right in the middle of the action. Around 10:30 we all headed over to Bebop’s Bus to get ready for the nightly “midnight toast”.

Bebop’s Bus makes ROT for me. Good people, drinks galore, jokes and loud talking, and some stuff that only happens behind closed bus doors! On this Wednesday night, the bus was moderately packed, making us all wonder what it will look like by Saturday (last year, there was a line going out the door). Bebop is a great host, and his brothers and dad are a hoot. My signature was still on the roof, as were many of our signatures and various paintings of female body parts. Hey, it’s a biker rally—what were you expecting? We stayed into the early morning hours, and then it was time for me to catch some sleep prior to coming to work.

I will head back down to the Rally later today. Until then, I’ve got good memories of the first day at ROT. It’s all good :)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Motorcycle Diaries—Prelude II

Susan just made the commitment to go to ROT again this year. This time she'll be spending two nights with me (not just one night like last year). It will be nice to have my best friend with me down there—we always have lots of fun together, and there are a few things in Austin that I want to introduce to her. We couldn't do this without the great support of our friends Kat and Cheryl. They know Susan and I need a weekend out alone every once in a blue-moon. This will be a special weekend now.

Getting ready for the Rally is like getting ready for Jazzfest. In many ways, you're scoping out the food, music and entertainment taking place within the Event Center, but you're also looking at what is taking place around the city as well. Ironically, this year seems to be full of “New Orleans” food vendors. Not that they will be any good, but I find it interesting. Also, there will be a “street-car” roaming the Event grounds from Community Coffee. They'll be handing out free coffee (so they say) and THAT will make my mornings even better. Of course, you can always find free coffee at the Motorcycle Church area....

The checklist includes things to make the camping experience a bit more enjoyable. Ear-plugs are necessary, since I'll be drinking and thus that means I'll be snoring loudly. They will also help for the noise generated near the campground by the bikers riding the parade route into the wee-hours of the morning. We also have our gel-filled neck wraps. They are essential for this hot weather. Basically, you let them sit in water overnight and they fill up into an all-day cool neck wrap. I've survived many a Jazzfest with these things. I had to get Susan an inflatable mattress, though I can sleep on the ground just fine (even with my bad back). Tent, tarp, chairs, and ice chest, and we're ready to go. Imagine all of this, and our clothes for three days, on one Harley. I'll take pictures of the packed bike once I hit the road :)

Friday is the only evening we'll be heading out of the Event area to Austin. Not only will we see the largest bike parade in the world—but I'll be taking Susan to her first East Austin experience. Two bars are my favorites—and they are right next door to each other. The Volstead, and the Gypsy are on East 6th Street between Onion and Comal. I hear the Volstead is hosting music these days, as is the Gypsy. I'm looking forward to spending a few hours and having a few Abitas here with Susan on Friday.

On Saturday, there are a few things that caught my eye: The Working Man's Motorcycle and Art Show is taking place at the Mexitas Event Center. This looks very interesting. And later in the evening, there are two events that might be worth going to. The first is something at the Gypsy called "Arabian Nights" that looks pretty cool. The other is a CD release party at ND 501 Studios that begins at 8. All in all, lots to do on Saturday, and we still need to be back at the ROT rally before midnight for the final midnight toast.

It will be nice to rumble into Austin this weekend with thousands of other bikers. It's all looking good :)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Motorcycle Diaries, The Prelude

This marks the second year that I will ride down to Austin and spend three days at the Republic of Texas bike rally. Last year was an enjoyable experience (at least what I remember from it), and I met many wonderful people. This year, I'm staying with the group I met last year, and I am sure there will be much drinking and chatting into the early morning hours. I wanted to chronicle this year's event as a way of “kickstarting” (pardon the pun) this blog back up again

I learned a few things last year that help with my preparation for this year's event:
1). Don't drink liquor
It's too damn hot, and it's too damn easy to get drunk really quick. Now, I'm not one to “not” like a few cocktails that put me over the top, but I didn't get much of a chance to enjoy as much of the music and the rally last year because I had either passed out or was hung-over. This year, I'm sticking with beer and water, and though I might imbibe on a toddy every now and then, it won't be my primary choice of adult beverage.

2). Get OUT of the Expo Area
OK, so the Rally is supposed to be all inclusive. You've got friends, music, bikes, vendors, free coffee, food, and all the comforts of a campground. But, seriously, Austin is just 8 miles down the road. I will take an excursion or two down to some of my favorite music and drinking spots in East Austin and enjoy some Live Local Music.

3). Walk around the Parade Route
I learned last year that riding the bike around the Parade Route can be a bit “hazardous.” It really depends on the time, and the amount the other riders have been drinking. No doubt, it will be very hot during the day, but walking around the area gives you a chance to catch up with friends who are not staying in your camp area. This year, I plan on visiting the folks who are setting up their RV sites or tent sites along the parade route—Joker's Icehouse, the local American Legion Post, and anyone else who I see that I know. I also need to find the OK Boys Bus so that we can all enjoy the midnight toast every night.

4). Enjoy the local musicians who are playing at the Expo
The “Headliners” for bike rallies tend to be the artists one might hear on a “classic vinyl” show. This year is no different—Eddie Money on Friday night, and the Doobie Brothers on Saturday. There's nothing wrong with this, and the Rally managers know their market pretty well, but what I really enjoyed last year was hearing some of the local and regional bands playing in the smaller venues within the rally grounds. There are fewer people at these venues (which I am sure the bands do not enjoy), but the music is good and at times played with incredible passion. Seeing these local artists perform will satisfy my continuing need to hear good local music in the area. It's not jazz, but it isn't country either, and I'll take most of what I can get given that we live here now.

I've started to pack for the ride down on Wednesday and I'll be logging in daily once I settle in there to update my thoughts on the event. I'll try to post some “PG” pics from the Rally too. It should be a good time! Yeah you right!