Monday, June 27, 2011

Thunder in the Valley – Johnstown, PA - 2011

Although I missed it last year, I was able to attend the Thunder in the Valley motorcycle rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania last week.  I was there once again with the Neon rather than on a bike, but prudence and circumstances dictated that I do it that way.  Besides, I am not one of those guys who would park his bike on the street and then go off to find hands to shake and make new friends.  I'd probably park my bike, just stand by it for a few hours, grab a little food, and then leave wondering what all the hype was about.  Trust me, it's better for me to take the car, park it on the fourth deck of a garage, and enjoy the rally in my own way.

It's kind of funny, but the older I get the less bikers look like the stereotype of the biker that I carried around in my head for much of my life.  These guys look like me.  Fifty something in many cases and about as threatening looking as the CPAs they very well might be under the leather vests.

For those who are familiar with a church carnival or bazaar, the rally had the feel of one of them minus the wooden wheels with nails running along the circumference to make that distinct buzzing noise when they are spun as wheels of chance.  The greasy french fry smell is there, along with the scent of cotton candy and snow cone to complete the picture.

This is how a tourist to the rally might dress to distinguish himself from the guys who really belong there - i.e. the dudes who rode in on their hogs.  And while said tourist might have a very good time, he's not part of that great camaraderie that seems evident in the circles of bikers that gather together to compare biking stories, their bikes, and what ever else they typically talk about at such gatherings.  Their friendliness is infectious and even if one is not directly interacting with them their pleasant banter makes the event enjoyable for all who pass by.

Once again a few scooters were represented at the rally.  This little Honda…

… and a bit bigger Burgman.

Downtown Johnstown was festooned with decorations appropriate for the rally.  Even the portable toilets took on a more pleasant than usual appearance.  Unfortunately, the decorating did nothing for the smell.

There were some unusually awesome bikes along with the many, many usual ones adapted to give each its own personality.  

There is always something spectacular about seeing a row of bikes all together. The bright colors, the highly polished chrome, and the doodads which personalize each machine present a visual package no less spectacular than a great fireworks display.  With the bikes however, the visual joy is not fleeting and remains for as long as one stands at the curb eyeballing an entire street full of motorcycles.

Of course, the hucksters were out in all their glory.  Like if I were at a motorcycle rally on the bike myself I'd give a rat's diseased behind about taking the time to compare my insurance policy with some other company's offering.  Frankly if they offered shots from a BB gun at the huge inflatable gecko perched atop the van behind this bike, I might have spent the day gunning at the ugly little thing.

I can assure you that most of the biker babes, whether with bikes of their own, or riding pillion did not look like this honey who had sampled a ride on a three wheeler.  In general I was very surprised at the number of trikes represented at the rally – more people ride them than I would expect.

This guy cracked me up.  I think it took a big man, very secure about his masculinity, to ride this contraption down the middle of town.  Sort of like somebody on a scooter!

I could post many of the ridiculously large, 200 some pictures I took but none of them would convey the actual experience of being in downtown Johnstown for Thunder in the Valley.  It was fun to be a part of the event even though I rode to it in my jalopy and interacted mostly with my own party.

Maybe someday I will do the rally on a motorcycle.  I'll be the one leaning up against a telephone pole somewhere nibbling quietly on his french fries.

(I was window shopping at the electronics store a few weeks ago and found Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software for half price.  It was something I had drooled over for a number of years, so I jumped on it.  Many posts here from now on will be dictated rather than typed, so please look the other way at the occasional mistakes that my proofreading might  not catch.)


cpa3485 said...

Some of CPA's can be pretty menacing looking.
Just Sayin,
Looks like a good time,


Doug said...

Joe, There are certain bike events that I always attend by car just as a matter of convenience. I wear my usual Bultaco hat or "On Any Sunday" t-shirt that marks me as an old fart rider so that I don't get roughed up by da mean bikers.

And frankly, with your beard and uh, hint of gray, you could don a black t-shirt, a doo-rag, some fingerless gloves, and probably pass yourself off as pretty mean hombre. Might even be great fun when some asks "What ya ridin' bro?" and you answer "A Piaggio." Should make for good fun. You might even be surprised at how many tough looking people say "Hey, you ride, that's all that matters."

kz1000st said...

One day I took the scooter to the local Dollar store. In it a couple of local Sportster owners were having a loud conversation about being bikers. I said, "I guess that leaves me out." The loudest one said, "What? You think that just because you're on a scooter you're not a biker?? Let me tell you. You're a biker." So you see Joe, you can go undercover looking like a school teacher on vacation but you're still a biker. Next year take the Piaggio and stop this stealth visitor in a Neon. We know what you are.