Loud Polkas Save Lives

by Bill Hufnagle

This year at Daytona Bike Week, I stopped in at one of my favorite little local places to have lunch. It’s a small Middle Eastern café and grocery store called Pasha’s where they serve some very yummy treats that you won’t find in the chain restaurants along International Speedway Boulevard, even though Pasha’s is also located on the Boulevard. If my memory serves me correctly, it is just east of Nova, but don’t hold me to the exact cross street. I am sure you can understand that, after all the years of spring and sometimes fall visits to Daytona Beach, I tend to navigate by gut, and when it comes to mealtime my gut is always a good autopilot.

Not only do I navigate by gut, but I also–when enjoying a delicious meal by myself–tend to ponder things. I call it theorizing by gut. Deep thought while eating alone is just like sharing a conversation with a friend over a meal, with one added bonus: there is no need to talk and interrupt the enjoyment of the food. So there I was, pondering the universe, all the while enjoying my falafel sandwich and some hummus and observing the traffic on the boulevard. Watching the parade of traffic during Bike Week is so interesting because there are so many unique bikes and people riding them. During this particular spring lunch break and parade review, I had a revelation.

My view of the boulevard was on the older, comparatively narrow, four-lane and two-way section, as opposed to the wider-than-interstate-highway part that runs in front of the Speedway. Here, traffic gets denser and moves slower, tending to advance in fits and stops as the lights change. You get to observe the parade almost as a series of still-life paintings. Many of these groupings of vehicles were completely composed of bikes, but every so often a pack of cars would fill my view. Somewhere about mid sandwich I began to wonder what the world would be like if there were no cars. In that world, the view of any busy boulevard would always be filled with bikes. Imagine that world–no cars, trucks, or SUVs; everyone would ride a motorcycle.

Sounds pretty nice, don’t it? All of our issues about rights, safety, and sharing the road would be gone. Fuel would be cheaper due to lower demand. Heck, you can just imagine all the benefits yourself. In the midst of my reverie of how good that world sounded to me, a pack of cars stopped outside the café, and I was struck by the change that occurred. All of a sudden, the constant roar of bikes was almost gone and I heard the strange sound (for Daytona Bike Week, that is) of near silence. That was when the revelation hit. (Or more precisely, it was when the next group of bikes replaced that pack of cars.) The cacophony returned, a symphony of exhaust notes complete with the whine of high-revving sport bikes and the deep bass roar of V-twins. I observed that almost all the bikes had loud exhaust systems and their riders revved their motors like musicians tuning instruments before a show.

As I finished my lunch and listened to the mechanical music, I returned to my thoughts of that perfect world of all motorcycles. I realized that living in that world would be very different. The expanded biker community would probably no longer accept loud pipes. We would all grow weary of the constant roar of traffic, and desire quiet bikes instead. Consider how it would be to live with the endless roar of Daytona Bike Week every single day! Conversations, phone calls, work, study, and sleep would all be negatively impacted by the noise. Yes, all motorcycles would be near silent, like many of the new cars on the road today. Within those few moments of thought, I achieved some small appreciation of the frustration and anger that non-bikers experience when they hear a rider laying into a set of straight pipes. One man’s music is another man’s noise.

Still musing on my revelation, I walked out of the restaurant into the unmuffled wall of sound and went to my bike. Putting in my earplugs first, I donned my gear, mounted the bike, and slipped down a few side streets to avoid the traffic on my way to my next Daytona destination. By the time I had navigated my way to the side entrance of the Speedway (on my mission to visit with some friends), my musing had been replaced with other thoughts.

Fast-forward a couple of months to a few nights ago. I was sitting on my deck at my mountain home, enjoying the late spring air and fading sunset. My humble abode is situated along a winding country lane, just the kind of nice riding road where a biker likes to be. Since I am mostly off the beaten track, I enjoy the quiet and peace of these mountains greatly. As I rocked and relaxed, letting the stress of the day dissolve, I heard a distinct and beloved sound approaching. Moments later, one of my neighbors rode by on his bike. Even if I was too exhausted to go for a ride this evening, I could still vicariously feel the wind within that sound. Then my peace was disrupted by some kid speeding down the road in one of those neo-sporty import cars with the silly rear spoiler and obnoxiously loud muffler that proclaims to all the world that he is beating the life out of an underpowered four-banger while dreaming he is in a NASCAR race. In the middle of my righteous indignation, I remembered my Daytona Bike Week Revelation. One man’s music is another man’s noise.

I spent a few hours in the rocker that evening, and observed from my porch-side perch the parade of vehicles with loud, modified exhausts. From pickup trucks to economy cars to brand-new sport cars to junkers years past due for a new muffler, most vehicles were loud, louder than the few obviously unmodified and well-maintained ones. While we bikers might receive the notoriety for our loud pipes because they are chromed and hanging out for the entire world to see, we are not the only loud ones. It just so happens that the folks who are making all the noise about our loud pipes generally don’t ride motorcycles themselves, and it is always easier to blame folks who are different than oneself.

Later that night, my thoughts kept drifting back to that perfect world. Then I had a funny thought. In a world where quiet motorcycles were the dominant vehicles, there would surely be some folks who would insist on driving dangerous four-wheel death machines and making some noise. Just imagine a renegade group of oldsters driving around with loud stereos blaring their classic dance music. Their rallying cry against the quiet two-wheel world could be LOUD POLKAS SAVES LIVES.

Mean 3-Bean Salad

This spicy yet sweet salad has a nice fire, thanks to the de Arbol peppers. Serve this on your favorite salad greens since there is enough dressing in this salad to make it both a salad and a dressing.

1 cup trimmed fresh green beans cut into 1-inch lengths
One 16-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
One 16-ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
3 de Arbol peppers, stemmed and crushed
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Salad greens

1. Steam the green beans until crispy tender, about 10 minutes, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and allow to cool. Combine the green beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and scallions in a large mixing bowl and toss together.

2. In a blender, combine the de Arbol peppers, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, dill, honey, salt, and white pepper and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the dressing over the beans and toss well to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3. Serve on a bed of salad greens.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire”, and has authored three cookbooks. Just released in 2003 is his latest book, “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”. The book includes 200 recipes from HOG members and Harley riders across America and an ample supply of Biker Billy’s own fiery recipes.

The book is endowed with Biker Billy’s unique biker banter. It is sure to bring the adventure and flavor of the open road to your table and family.

The illustrated book is published by Harvard Common Press and is available in bookstores everywhere for $19/95, or on Biker Billy’s web site where you can have it autographed. Check out www.bikerbilly.com where you can also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule.

Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003. Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.

M.M.M.

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