Twenty Idiots on Motorcycles

This video is aptly named Twenty Idiots on Motorcycles. I’m embarrased that a member of a HOG chapter is prominently on this video and possibly the worst offender. I would much rather be poked fun at as the overly anal retentive safety police who chug along backroads in parade formation at five miles under the speed limit. That would be better than having any relation to this display of stupidity.

Motorcycle Club Primer

I wrote the below blog post years ago during my HOG Chapter Directorship. I wasn’t sure if the topic was appropriate for me to write about. I could be completely off base. It’s not like I am an expert on the subject of Motorcycle Clubs. I don’t belong to one so who am I to write about them. But on the other hand this is geared toward people who are not in a motorcycle club and I think that what I have written here is correct, at least for the local area in which I reside. So I am finally publishing it after years of it sitting in my draft folder. 

As the Director of a HOG Chapter and a person obsessed with motorcycles maybe I should write a primer for Riding Club members regarding Motorcycle Clubs. It has been suggested to me that I write such a document or give a presentation on the topic for my HOG Chapter. I decided against doing that. In most cases what people don’t know won’t hurt them. I do not want to scare off any new HOG members nor do I want to focus on anything other than the HOG mantra: Ride and Have Fun. I also feel it is not my responsibilty as Director to educate people who have entered into a sport without taking the time to learn about it’s history, protocol and culture. That’s on them. As Director I provide them with fun things to do. However this blog is a different story; this is an educational platform.

When you buy a motorcycle, ride a motorcycle, go to motorcycle events and join a motorcycle organization like HOG you cross over into a new world. In this world you will likely cross paths with members of Motorcycle Clubs and therefore you should be familiar with biker protocol. If this is new to you and you are learning this here then it is fair to say you are a newbie to motorcycling. Being that you are a newbie and club culture started years ago then it is also safe to say this is their world and you are entering their arena.  When entering the biker community it is important that you show everyone respect and that you be yourself. Do not try to act like a biker, a bad ass or someone you are not. Be real. Do not wear motorcycle attire to create a new persona or to create a false image. Motorcycling is about respect and integrity. Being honest and genuine is key to earning the respect of others.

“Motorcycle Club” is the term used to designate an exclusive organization that is a brotherhood that adheres to a special set of rules. Members have to earn the right to become a member. New members enter into a probationary period and are voted on. MC’s are not open to the public. You can not sign up or buy your way in. These clubs are territorial and have a special set of rules. The existence of the term “Motorcycle Club” in meaning a territorial club that adheres to special rules automatically excludes other clubs from also being a “motorcycle club”. Motorcycle riding organizations that are not MC’s are considered “Riding Clubs”. A HOG Chapter is a HOG Chapter and that is the best way to define a HOG Chapter. It is not a club. 

You can not sign up or buy your way into an MC. You simply can not sign a form and buy a patch like you can in a factory sponsored organization like an owners group. You have to be invited to enter into a probationary period during which time you would prove that you are worthy of joining the specific brotherhood (or sisterhood). The club members will have to vote on allowing new members into the brotherhood. Prospects who are found to be loyal, trustworthy, and can represent the club responsibly and be counted on when a brother is in need will become members or “patch holders.”

New members of an MC will receive a vest with the club’s three piece patch sewn on. It is usually a denim vest with the sleeves cut off and is called a “cut” and also called their “colors”. The cut is club property. Wearing a club’s colors is an honor and club members will defend that honor at all costs. The vest and patches symbolise everything the club stands for. Do not touch someone’s cut! Do not touch a club members patch! This is considered a sign of disrespect. It’s best just not to touch people you don’t know.

If you patronize a business establishment that has a “no colors” policy you should remove your riding vest even if it isn’t a club cut. To go ahead and wear your vest when they can’t wear theirs would be a show of disrespect.

Show all patch holders respect. They earned it through the probationary period and sacrifices they made in order to wear their patch. They represent their club and showing a patch holder respect or disrespect is the same as showing respect or disrespect to his entire club.

Do not call someone you do not know “Brother”. The term “brother” is reserved for members of the brotherhood. If you belong to the same club you are brothers. If you are not a member of the same club than you should be careful using that term. A patch holder could be offended if someone outside his club referred to him as brother.

Most traditional clubs do not allow women to be members. Their member’s wives and girlfriends may wear a special “Property Of” vest. This vest will have patches designating the women as “property of” that member. Modern day women might find this repulsive. You don’t have to take everything so literal and you don’t have to like their practices! These bikers are not cavemen. They do not own, trade and sell these women. Their relationships are the same as ours. The vest is a symbol of their relationship just like your wedding ring, engagement ring or other sentimental item you have that represents your partnership. You should respect their traditions and keep your opinion to yourself if you have an issue with it. You have nothing to gain by making any snide remarks about their cultural practices that you know little about.

Motorcycle Clubs are not gangs although the police and government may label them as such. Obviously not all clubs members are outlaws. There are both law abiding three piece patch holders and outlaw patch holders. Some MC’s are made up of just law enforcement officers, some are just for fire fighters and others are just for military. There are many “Outlaw” motorcycle clubs. Many clubs adopt the “lifestyle” and in doing so no longer live by the rules and laws that confine most citizens. Instead they make their own rules like they did back in the wild west. If they have a problem they don’t call the police. They handle it their way which in itself is against the law and thus “outlaw”. Are Motorcycle Clubs criminal? The only people who know the answer to this are members of the specific  clubs. For us to try to identify which are which would be futile. The police are having a tough time figuring it out so you probably will not be able to figure it out. As a biker you should assume all bikers are good decent people; but be aware patch holders are a special breed. They answer to a different set of standards, they usually keep to themselves and they will not wave back at you on the road. As bikers we travel in the same circles. We need to coexist. So respect everyone and take the time to learn about the biker culture if you are going to ride on two.

Oh, one more piece of advice… I don’t recommend wearing Sons of Anarchy clothing that makes it look like you think you are a member of a real MC if you are not. You might think the MC lifestyle ended in the 60’s and the violence depicted on television is pure fiction… but you could be wrong and someone might decide to educate you.

One final word on the topic. If you are a member of a one or two piece patch organization like HOG you do not add a bottom rocker to your vest. A bottom rocker patch violates the copyright law on how the HOG patch is to be displayed and having a bottom rocker can possibly put you in danger.

Reflections on Directorship

Here is another journal entry I wrote two years ago while reflecting on my service to First State HOG. It is similar to the recently published post on enthusiasm but includes some other toughts as well. 

I have served as the Director of the First State Chapter of the Harley Owners Group® since January 1st 2009. Having two months left before I turn over the chapter to a new Director I find myself in a state of reflection but not able to organize my thoughts. I guess that is the advantage of a journal as you can reflect freely. So consider this a journal entry.

In 2008 our HOG chapter was more of a social club than a riding club. The same six to ten people showed up for all the rides. It was a rebuilding year and low particpation could be expected. The owner of the Harley-Davidson dealership that sponsors us had fired the volunteer officers of the chapter in 2006. Many members left with those officers. Both 2007 and 2008 were rebuilding years. The dealership was sold to a new owner in the fall of 2008 and it seemed like we were off to a bad start with our new sponsor. About that time a large group of men and women left the chapter and joined a local MC and WMC. Those members included people in key positions: Director, Secretary, Treasurer, Activities Officer and a former Head Road Captain. As the Assistant Director I was the only primary officer left.

I met with the General Manager of Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson to discuss my being Director and we agreed on everything we talked about. The relationship was off to a good start. I made some calls and filled most if not all the available officer positions. At this time I was still rather new to riding and to HOG®. My enthusiasm was high and that enthusiasm was contageous. I was so excited to ride and to make new friends that liked to ride I was burning with a passion for this chapter. Being exposed to riding beyond what I thought riding was about got me fired up. I was excited! And that caused other people to get excited! They got behind me and supported me. It was a great thing! Maybe the second best thing that has ever happened to me!

I put together a great team of leaders and together we more than doubled participation. We developed an outstanding relationship with our sponsor. Our chapter rides grew to having roughly twenty riders on every ride. And they weren’t the same twenty riders! It seemed like each Road Captain had his/her own twenty riders! We won numerous awards for chapter particaption (10 in 2009 in honor of Karen Fortner). We took third place for particpation with 52 members at HOGs at the Beach last month (our first showing at this event in years). Most importantly this group of leaders fostered an atmasphere where everyone enjoyed each others company. Conversation came naturally and new members felt welcome from day one. No one felt left out, unwelcome or new. It was difficult to start meetings or end breaks because everyone was having such a good time socializing. The enthusiasm created excitement and excitement resulted in particaption! The chapter is a success!

A lot has changed since 2007. My enthusiasm isn’t what it was and I feel guilty about it (yes I am jewish so guilt is part of the territory). It is natural to experience spurts of motivation. We all experience spurts of motivation when we start new diets, exercise programs and even career changes. It’s also natural to want to move on to something new like the members who left First State to join the MC and WMC in 2008. They moved on to something they were excited about. Everyone is friends and we still appreciate the affect those leaders had in rebuilding the chapter. Even this year we had some members leave to start up a new riding organization and we wish them well as they undertake the excitement of starting a new group.

I try to remember the excitement I had back in 2007. I went on every chapter ride! I never checked the weather, where the ride was going, who was leading, who else was going or how early it was leaving. I didn’t care, I was excited to go on any ride with other like minded people. I was so excited I would wake up early like it was a big event no matter what! Now I can’t seem to drag myself out of bed on Saturday or Sunday morning for those same rides. I started finding myself picking and choosing which rides and events I would participate in based on the above mentioned criteria. Four years have passed since I joined the local HOG chapter. Two months left of Directorship and I hardly go on any rides other than the ones Diana organizes. What has changed? I have changed and so has the chapter. Maybe I just need a little break.

I am definitely not as excited to do the things I was excited about three or four years ago. I need new experiences to fire up my furnace. Doesn’t everyone? Maybe it’s just me because I do suffer from depression and it’s always been difficult for me to get excited about anything. It’s only fair that I step aside and pass on the Directorship to someone with fresh ideas and excitement. In fact that has always been the plan, it was a three year commitment based on the fact that someone can only have a passion for something like this for about three years. I feel strongly that the most important piece in this equation is enthusiasm. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

I feel a like a victim of our success. My vision was always for growth, prosperity and huge particpation for the chapter as well as that “one big happy family” feeling. We achieved that! But like many things I thought I wanted this might not be the best thing for me. I miss those 2007 rides with the same six to ten people every weekend. I swell up with pride every time I see new people at our events but I also feel strange about it. Sometimes I feel like a stranger at our own events with all the new people that have joined. I’m lucky to be part of an organization that offers the opportunity to meet new people that love Harleys. But I miss the tightness of the smaller group we had. I obviously have conflicted feelings.

It is definitely with conflicted feelings that pass the baton. Being the Director has somewhat defined who I am for the past three years. No matter where I go I carry that pride with me. I am the leader of a special group of people. The best people I have ever met. I have no children of my own but can only compare this feeling with what I think it feels like to be a proud parent. For me it is a little like the scene in the movie The Jerk when Steve Martin’s character saw his name in the phone book for the first time. “I am somebody now!” I fear I am really going to miss that feeling of being special. 

I still love HOG®. In fact I love HOG® beyond our local chapter. I love being a part of the Maryland/Delaware HOG® chapters who have a special kinship. I love being a leader in this international organization and I enjoy the company of being with other leaders in this organization. HOG Officer Training has been one of my favorite experiences. Thus it is natural that my next challenge involves the 2012 Maryland/ Delaware State HOG® Rally.

It was through writing articles for the chapter newsletter that I discovered a passion for writing. I like writing about riding almost as much as I like the riding. I have always loved motorcycles since before I could walk. I can’t explain that but I love everything about motorcycles. I love motorcycle: books, movies, tv shows, magazines, calendars, museums, dealerships, culture, parts, clothes, accessories, collectables, images, races, and competitions of every kind. I like tools but not maintenance or repairs. I like cleaning and polishing products but not the actual cleaning and polishing. It’s not logical to love a dangerous sport that is dependent on the weather. It’s not logical to love a form of transportation that is limited by night vision, ones visibility to others, the temperature, daylight savings time, the seasons, the movements of critters and ones ability to focus intently for hours. Logical or not I have a passion for traveling and for motorcycles and like to write about both. My involvement with HOG® has given birth to a new passion! I have to explore this and see where it leads. It could be our future. I don’t believe retirement will be an option for us, at least not in the sense of previous generations. I would like to think that our writing and photography could possibly provide a form of retirement income. Someday when we have no debt we might be able to live on the income from travel writing. For now we are busting our behinds doing what we are good at.

After providing four plus years of very rewarding service to the chapter in four different positions I shouldn’t have to have reasons for moving on but as I said before I feel guilty about it. To sum things up it is safe to say I don’t have the same spark for riding and socializing as I did a few years ago. I want to work on the 2012 State Rally and then work on my writing and see where that takes me. I also want to experience being an active member at large. I don’t want to have the pressure of setting the example. I want to do things because they fit my schedule and I truly want to do them… just like everybody else. At the very least maybe I just need a short break.

Enthusiasm Is The Key

I wrote the below post almost a year ago having only 2 months left in my Directorship of First State. Being Director of First State was one of the most important and rewarding experiences of my life. I am still confused about where to go from here in regards to being part of the group. The important thing is to recognize that Enthusiasm is the catalyst to achieving great things. 

I have served as the Director of the First State Chapter of the Harley Owners Group® since January 1st 2009. I joined the chapter in 2007 and have always been in a officer position. In two months I will turn over the chapter to a new Director I find myself in a state of reflection but not able to organize my thoughts.

A lot has changed since 2007. My enthusiasm for riding my motorcycle and for chapter events isn’t what it was and I feel guilty about it (yes I am jewish so guilt is part of the territory). It is natural to experience spurts of motivation. We all experience spurts of motivation when we start new diets, exercise programs and even career changes. It’s also natural to want to move on to something new. New is exciting!

I try to remember the excitement I had back in 2007. I went on every chapter ride! I never checked the weather, where the ride was going, who was leading, who else was going or how early it was leaving. I didn’t care; I was excited to go on any ride with other like minded people. I was so excited I would wake up early like it was a big event no matter what! Now I can’t seem to drag myself out of bed on Saturday or Sunday morning for those same rides. I started finding myself picking and choosing which rides and events I would participate in based on the above mentioned criteria. Four years have passed since I joined the local HOG chapter. Two months left of Directorship and I hardly go on any rides other than the ones my wife, Diana, organizes. What has changed? I have changed and so has the chapter. Maybe I just need a little break.

I am definitely not as excited to do the things I was excited about three or four years ago. I need new experiences to fire up my furnace. Doesn’t everyone? Maybe it’s just me because I do suffer from depression and it’s always been difficult for me to get excited about anything. It’s only fair that I step aside and pass on the Directorship to someone with fresh ideas and excitement. In fact that has always been the plan, it was a three year commitment based on the fact that someone can only have a passion for something like this for about three years. I feel strongly that the most important piece in this equation is enthusiasm. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

I feel like a victim of our success. My vision was always for growth, prosperity and huge particpation for the chapter as well as that “one big happy family” feeling. We achieved that! But like many things I thought I wanted this might not be the best thing for me. I miss those 2007 rides with the same six to ten people every weekend. I swell up with pride every time I see new people at our events but I also feel strange about it. Sometimes I feel like a stranger at our own events with all the new people that have joined. I’m lucky to be part of an organization that offers the opportunity to meet new people that love Harleys. But I miss the tightness of the smaller group we had. I obviously have conflicted feelings.

It is definitely with conflicted feelings that I pass the baton. Being the Director has somewhat defined who I am for the past three years. No matter where I go I carry that pride with me. I am the leader of a special group of people. The best people I have ever met! I have no children of my own but can only compare this feeling with what I think it feels like to be a proud parent. For me it is a little like the scene in the movie The Jerk when Steve Martin’s character saw his name in the phone book for the first time. “I am somebody now!” I fear I am really going to miss that feeling of being special.

After providing four plus years of very rewarding service to the chapter in four different positions I shouldn’t have to have reasons for moving on but as I said before I feel guilty about it. To sum things up it is safe to say I don’t have the same spark for riding and socializing as I did a few years ago. I want to experience being an active member at large. I don’t want to have the pressure of setting the example. I want to do things because they fit my schedule and I truly want to do them… just like everybody else. At the very least maybe I just need a short break.

What Is A HOG Rally?

A HOG® Rally is a lot of fun! It is a benefit of being a HOG® member and is exclusive to members and their guests. It is an event for members put on by members. It is a volunteer effort planned, organized and run by HOG® members under the supervision of a HOG® Regional manager from Harley-Davidson.

In 2010 I served as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Delaware/Maryland State HOG® Rally. I am currently serving as the 2012 Site Coordinator. As is the standard for HOG® events our goal is to “Ride and Have Fun” safely and legally while abiding by the rules of our insurance liability policy. Event activities and entertainment are paid for by registration fee’s and sponsorship/advertising. Collecting sponsorship and advertising money is not 100% reliable so the amount of people that pre-register for the event dictate the budget for the event. The event is geared toward HOG® members who plan to enjoy the entire event which is usually a three day affair.

These events are restricted to HOG® members and their guests. Riding under the influence is not allowed. I would venture to say this is not an event for locals to come for the day and check it out or spectate during the bike games. On site registration is discouraged because the event staff will plan the event based of the money collected in the form of pre-registration. If a small number of people pre-register there won’t be much money to hire bands and other quality entertainment. If a lot of people show up at the rally to register on site there is a good chance that money will not be spent on the rally. It will probably go into a savings account. The key to having a good budget to work with and offer quality entertainment is pre-registrations.

If you are a HOG® member then I say you really should be taking advantage of this special member benefit. It is a party being put on by your fellow HOG® members for you! A group of HOG® members worked for the better part of a year to create a unique and fun rally for you! Don’t expect the usual bike week crap! This is not a profit driven event with hundreds of vendor filled tents selling you everything from pink goggles to chrome cup holders! The event is not meant to generate income. We try to spend all the money we take in on making this the best event for you. There will be games, rides and entertainment. You’ll make new friends and have a good time. Go ahead and get involved or plan to attend a few rallies. I’m hoping to attend three this year!

Buddyfest Tilghman Island

Diana doing what she does best

Just past St. Michael’s on Maryland’s eastern shore is a gem of a destination known as Tilghman Island. Diana and I were introduced to Tilghman Island in 2008 when friends took us on a ride to Harrison’s Chesapeake House for crabs. Harrison’s Chesapeake House is awesome and we have always wanted to return and stay overnight. The chance to return arrived… Diana organized an overnight trip for our H.O.G. chapter this past Labor Day and we were happy to discover that Harrison’s has a special celebration called Buddyfest every Labor Day weekend. One week previous to our trip Hurricane Irene swept up the east coast damaging coastal properties from North Carolina up to New England. Although half the roof was taken off the deck bar and restaurant at Harrison’s, Buddyfest was still on! We were told that Buddyfest usually attracts a much bigger crowd but many people (not us) canceled their Buddyfest visit to the shore.

bikers at harrisons chesapeake house

our cottage like rooms

the main property at harrisons

onlyhalf the roof is missing

view atthe bay from our cottages

Diana led our trip with sixteen First State members on eleven Harley-Davidson motorcycles followed by one mini SUV. We arrived at Harrison’s mid afternoon on a warm sunny day. We parked our motorcycle in the unpaved lot in front of Harrison’s among pick ups, cars and other motorcycles. We checked into the friendly establishment who had set us up with a block of hotel rooms near the swimming pool with a spectacular view of the Chesapeake Bay.

Diana immediately set up shop at the deck bar and restaurant and ordered crabs with pitchers of Yuengling beer. We commadeered two picnic tables and placed them end to end. We ate and drank while another group of bikers wearing cuts featuring a one piece RC patch took over the dance floor and bar. There was a live band and everyone was having a good time including a native Indian man who looked as out of place among the bikers, tourists and locals as a black sheep. Some of our friends decided to enjoy the buffet inside at the more formal restaurant.

first state eating crabs

great dock bar at harrisons

Gordy always making new friends

live band at buddyfest

bikers, toursist and locals dancing at Buddyfest

After gorging ourselves with a seafood feast from the Chesapeake waters we put on our bathing suits and regrouped at the swimming pool. Summer was basically over and it was just warm enough to enjoy a sunset swim while sharing pitchers of Yuengling and chatting about riding. From the pool in front of our cottage like rooms we had a great view of the bay and the festivities at Harrison’s. It was a perfect evening but still early.

move the festivites to the swimming pool

justchill’n at Harrisons Chesapeake House

a perfect day!!!

We put on dry clothes and regrouped again at the inside bar where I made the mistake of getting involved with several shots of Jack. The bartender at Harrison’s was a nice women but what she considered a shot was more like a small drink in most bars. Definitely the biggest shots I have ever seen. We sang karaoke, danced and laughed for several hours before calling it a night. I do wish I called it a night before the shots.

taking the party inside

we be danc’n

If you like fancy motels on crowded touristy beaches then Tilghman Island is not for you. But if you like a low key laid back festive atmosphere where you can put on a bathing suit & sandals and hang out in a comfortable picnic-like setting then I highly recommend you stay the night at Harrison’s Chesapeake House. Make sure to say “Hi” to Captain Buddy Harrison and make plans to be at the next Buddyfest!

tilghman Lady a little under the water

Harrison’s dock at sunset

Captain Buddy Boat

boats docked for the evening

Click here to see all the pictures.