August 09, 2008

Aura of sprightliness

Maps and tourist guides are freely available in the States, and I emphasize the word "freely": every state has visitor centers where you can cover yourself in maps if you so desire, and various hotels/campsites/motels will give you more. All free. And the maps are invariably very good. Driving through South Dakota to Sturgis, I had three maps to help me: a Mapquest Atlas, a AAA foldout, and an "Official South Dakota Highway Map" with a message from Governor Michael Rounds on the back.

This last is actually the clearest of the three, so I ended up using it on my travels. And that meant I got to reading some of the other stuff printed on the map (not yet the Governor's message, though, and yes, I did stop driving when I was reading). There are four faux-diaries of trips through the state, and one has these lines:

"Day 3: The Wildlife Loop was so great. The kids were fascinated that the burros would come right up to the window, and they were able to see a baby buffalo only a few feet from the car. Now that's the way to experience wildlife.

Day 4: [A]ttended an amazing Native American pow-wow. I know the kids ... learned a lot about a culture they'd never experienced.

What you can see from inside your car, and what's staged for tourists: that's the way to show your kids. I'm happy for the maps, but I'm wondering if I'm too cynical for my own good.


The Sturgis rally has plenty of bikes, but they all quickly start looking the same. What might make a bike stand out in the crowd? There were extremely low-slung "choppers" with long front forks, there were bikes encased in fur, there were some with discreetly placed blue lights that lit them up at night, and one with spikes everywhere.

But among all the fancy metal on display, perhaps the largest crowd I saw gaping at a bike was gathered around a light pink Harley with Betty Boop painted on the tank. By the shape of the wheelguards, even I knew this was a bike going back decades, and the licence plate confirmed ithis -- it said "Ohio Historical".

Old remains gold, in the end. And pink is gold too, it seems.


A store had a whole wall of photographs from the 2006 rally, an alarming number featuring expanses of bare skin. A huge printed sign at the top said "WE'RE YOU HERE?"

Days later, I'm trying to figure that one.

Elsewhere in the same store was a poster of a smirking and bald young man on a sleek bike, with these words: "You Drink. You Drive. You Crash. You Die. Your brother-in-law gets your bike. Bummer."

It's going to change the way I look at my various brothers-in-law, I'll tell you that.


If not by the Bullet, Royal Enfield was represented in Sturgis by another model whose name escapes me now, in the museum with several dozen other bikes. It looked a lot like the Bullet, at any rate. But made in England soon after the war.

Another label in the museum was Ariel. The little blurb described Ariel as a "curious company", and their bikes "had an aura of sprightliness combined with purpose, which others seldom achieved."

Sounds like those blurbs on the back of shampoos. You know, the ones that promise you hair that's manageable yet free-spirited.

Or like Glaceau's "Smart Water", available everywhere, which urges buyers to "Hydrate Responsibly".

Yeah, so everytime I drink water, I'm going to be sure I have my seat belt on. Can I get one of those auras of purposefulness combined with spright, please?


Young lady at a desk was signing postcards of herself standing stiffly beside a bright red bike. The promotion was for a "Motorcycle Clothing Company" called Renegade Classics. I'd like to know exactly how the most prominently worn item of clothing on that particular web page qualifies as "motorcycle clothing for the biker community", the line at the top of that page. If you have ideas, please do let me know.

That said, more such thoroughly appropriate clothing for the biker community can be found in the ten-page photo gallery you'll find here.


My refusal to pay $63 to get into the Buffalo Chip Campground to listen to John McCain means I also forfeited my chance to witness the Pickle Lickin' and Fake Orgasm contests.

My apologies to all who had counted on me to provide reportage on these events.

I did, though, see two whooping ladies in bikinis who stood on the side of the road holding signs that said "Bikini Wash" and "Oil Change". But a friend whom I informed about this put the troubling thought in my mind: why were they offering to wash their bikinis?


Pareshaan said...

Pickle Lickin' and Fake Orgasms - how could've you passed up on those!! Very very dissappointing.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Well, Pareshaan -- what can I say. $63 burned a metaphorical hole in my pocket. But I stood there for a long time debating it, very attracted by the contests...