Viva Las Vegas… Almost

by bj max

If you’re a motorcyclist (and if you’re not you have a real knack for subscribing to the wrong publications) I’m sure you remember the now famous Guggenheim exhibit, “The Art of the Motorcycle.” This panoply of two wheeled pomp boasted over a hundred motorcycles that included such noble iron as the very first, an 1885 Daimler Einspur to what is probably the world’s most famous motorcycle, the star of “Easy Rider”, Captain America.

The snoots that normally haunt such places as the Guggenheim could not believe the curators of that most prestigious gallery would scandalize the sanctity of its hallowed halls by displaying (gasp) machines. Smutty, smoke belching, rachitic machines and worst of all, having the unmitigated gall to present them as art. Motorcycles in the Guggenheim? Why that’s like hanging Lil’ Abner next to Van Gogh. The critics were appalled.

But while the critics wrung their hands and gnashed their teeth the, “Art of the Motorcycle” took off. Motorcyclists from all points of the compass were drawn to the Guggenheim like rednecks to a truck pull. From BMW riding executive types decked out in Gore-Tex, to leather clad rubbies bestraddle Harley-Davidsons, they swarmed into Manhattan, bought tickets in record numbers and made “The Art of the Motorcycle” the most popular exhibit in the history of the Guggenheim.

Now I’m not a connoisseur of the fine arts and I wouldn’t know Renoir from Grandma Moses if I met ’em on the street. Ahhh, but motorcycles. Now there’s an art form that speaks to my soul. I had half a notion to ride up to New York and see the exhibition for myself. Even discussed a trip with a few of my friends. But, in the end, I didn’t make it. Mainly because of the location. Nothing personal New York, but I wouldn’t ride a motorcycle into downtown Manhattan for the second coming of Elvis. Past experience in the Big Apple at the wheel of a semi left me somewhat discombobulated and I made a solemn vow never to return.

So, without my ever having seen it the show closed in New York and moved on to Chicago where it spent the winter. From Chicago it was scheduled to travel overseas to the Guggenheim’s new facility in Balboa, Spain and “other possible venues yet to be announced.” Well, I knew I wouldn’t be in Balboa anytime soon and a visit to the Chicago version would have been a nice ride but it was in the dead of winter and me being a native Southerner, my blood at anything below sixty degrees has the consistency of black strap molasses. So a journey into the wilds of the great frozen north was, quite simply, out of the question.

Then why not drive, my wife asked. Well, for the same reason geese don’t walk south in the wintertime. They’re geese and geese fly. I’m a motorcyclist and I ride. And if I’m going to a motorcycle event then I’m either gonna ride or I’m not going at all. That’s a self-imposed rule I live by and even though it may sound silly, it’s the way I am.

So, that was that and I pretty much resigned myself to reading about the Art of the Motorcycle and looking at the pretty pictures. A dilemma I wasn’t happy with, but one I accepted. Then, just when I had all but forgotten the exhibit, one of those “other possible venues” mentioned earlier became a reality. The Guggenheim trustees decided to build a new museum and they plopped it smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert. That seems an odd place to stick a museum until you consider that the Mojave also contains sin city. Las Vegas. Yeah.

The Guggenheim Foundation, to the great fortune of motorcyclists everywhere, launched their Las Vegas venture with “The Art of the Motorcycle”. The exhibit opened in the summer of 200I and was scheduled to run through the summer of this year. Well happy days. I immediately began formulating plans to make the trek out west. Way way out west where the buffalo roam and the lizards and the horny toads play.

First, I needed two things, time and money, of which I had neither. So I started skimming cash off the top of the grocery budget. I explained to my wife that we could both stand to lose a few pounds anyway and now was as good a time as any to start. That settled, I could now concentrate on finding the time and when you bid your vacation by seniority as I do, that can be a problem. But after some clever diplomacy I managed to wangle two weeks in August.

With the trip eight months away we fine-tuned our plans. We set aside three days for Las Vegas. Hoover Dam was also on our itinerary as well as the Grand Canyon. Everything was really startin’ to jell. Then last week, while researching our trip on the net, I logged onto the Guggenheim’s web site and was stunned by the sudden realization of what a monumentally stupid man I really am.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. In one paragraph it was written as plain as day that the Art of the Motorcycle was to run through the summer of 2002…I emphasize, “through” not “to”. But, again as plain as day in another paragraph it stated that the exhibit was to end June first. That can’t be. Summer still ends in September don’t it? But it was true. The “Art of the Motorcycle” would close June 1, 2002, almost two months before my vacation even begins. Just change vacation dates you say? No dice. Where I work, once you’ve picked your vacation, it’s chiseled in stone. Jack Jack Jack, no trade back…Well, I guess that’s that. Like Al Gore’s bid for the presidency in 2000, some things just aren’t meant to be.

But all is not lost. I recently read an article about a motorcycle junkyard in the Arizona desert that has been billed as the most extensive collection of two wheeled artifacts in the southwest. Granted, its not the Guggenheim but I understand that “All Bikes Antique Museum” located near Rye is a motorcyclist treasure-trove with acres and acres of bikes all neatly arranged by manufacturer. I spin up my AAA Map-n-Go software and type in Rye, Arizona… 1,349 miles. But wait, how will the ladies react to an itinerary change that cancels Las Vegas in favor of a junkyard in the middle of nowhere? Let’s face it, as exciting as it may sound to us guys, the womenfolk might not think riding in 100-degree temps to visit a junkyard is such a hot idea. You know, now that I think about it, it might be in everybody’s best interest if we just don’t tell ’em. You know, just kinda’ let ’em discover it for themselves. Won’t they be surprised.

Happy Motoring.


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