by Bill Hufnagle
aka Biker Billy
As I sat down to write this column, I intended to share some thoughts on the arrival of spring and the new riding season. Then my e-mail chimed, indicating new messages, and a quick peek at the subject lines revealed one of burning interest. It was from the advocacy list at an antique car insurance company, and it was the four-wheeled equivalent of an alert from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), Motorcycle Rights Foundation (MRF), or a States Rights Organization (SRO). Thoughts of spring just flew out the window after I read that e-mail, and I thought you should know about this latest legislative assault on your rights. These kind of legislative ideas are like viruses, and they spread fast among elected officials.
The e-mail concerned a bill a Virginia delegate had proposed, then withdrawn after complaints about the restrictions it would have imposed—a temporary success for us motorheads. The piece of legislation was, on the surface, about the use of antique license plates; however, it also contained an attack on the use of antique vehicles. And folks, in the proposed law, the word “vehicles” would have included motorcycles, not just cars. The proposed legislation would have limited the driving range of antique vehicles to fifty miles from the owner’s residence. It would have also banned their use for general transportation or work. So, that means no going to the store with your old bike or car, and forget about riding it to work on a fine spring day. You could only ride or drive it “for participation in club activities, exhibits, tours, parades, and similar events.” And be sure to stay within fifty miles of your house while you’re at it. However, it did not state how you figure that mileage. Is it as the crow flies or as the cop would drive it? Sounds to me like house arrest for your old scoot or muscle car. Once the use is so restricted, what is the value of such a vehicle?
This feels like a nasty trend when you consider the recent EPA rules regarding motorcycles (see my January column in this publication). On one hand, new custom and factory bikes are being highly restricted, and on the other, old bikes are being restrained from use. Every vehicle from 1979 forward is covered under the Clean Air Act. Vehicles made prior to that date were grandfathered, to be allowed usage under the old rules that applied when they were sold. Consider that in most states, a vehicle must be at least 25 years old to be an antique. Which means that vehicles that are eligible to be classified as antiques are in fact the same ones that predate the 1979 Clean Air Act. With this new trend, the grandfathered vehicles are on their way to being ungrandfathered. How long will it take before someone decides that you must do expensive retrofits to your 1979 to 2006 vehicle if you want to use its for its intended purpose? It all seems patently unfair.
People have transportation needs; they invest in vehicles to meet those needs, and driving or riding pleasure is a valid need. In fact, it is a right of all Americans. We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, some folks want to limit those rights of yours to protect a tree or a caribou. Those folks are well organized and vocal and have the ears of our elected officials, so bills like the one in Virginia get on the agenda. We as riders, motorheads, and just plain citizens who enjoy our God-given rights need to get organized and speak up before it is too late. It is hard to believe that our way of life could be taken away, but it can be, by small steps, until we are squeezed out.
One person I know who is bright, intelligent, kind, and gentle—not at all the kind of person that you would think of as a civil rights violator—told me something surprising recently. He thinks that we should get rid of short-range jet airline service because it is bad for the environment. When pressed about how it would adversely affect a lot of people, he revealed that he thought air travel was bad—people should take the train. He cared not one bit that there simply is not train service to replace the airlines. People’s time or travel needs don’t matter; he just wants clean air. Since he doesn’t need to travel, it doesn’t bother him at all to restrict your need to travel. Can you guess what he thinks about motorcycles? If your elected officials only hear his voice, you better buy some sneakers ‘cause you will be doing a lot of walking. Oh, and forget about getting a horse—riding one violates its animal rights.
Biker-Style Cheese Grits
2 tablespoons margarine
1 fresh red jalapeno pepper, stemmed and minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cups water
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper
? cup quick grits
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
In a 1-quart saucepan, melt the margarine. Add the jalapeno pepper and onion, reduce the heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is tender but not brown. Add the water and increase the heat to high. Stir in the garlic, cumin, and salt and black pepper to taste. When the water comes to a rolling boil, slowly add the quick grits, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cheddar cheese and serve immediately.
Makes about 4 servings
Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2006. Recipe reprinted with permission from “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire” published by Whitehorse Press, Center Conway, New Hampshire copyright Bill Hufnagle 1995, 2004. Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire” and has authored three cookbooks. Check out www.bikerbilly.com where you can acquire autographed books and also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule.