We spent an afternoon packing our bikes for their train trip. We've always had a tradition of tallbikes having baskets and kickstands, so we just welded rods for panniers on the bottom frames. Really, though, tallbike camping is easy because there's so much space for your crap.
Taking apart an already-chopped bike is kind of fun. Usually they're put together once and that's it, any later problems are solved with more metal. Don't forget to include a beer for the reassembly. This was a one-way trip for our bikes, which is kind of funny because if there's one thing that Minneapolis doesn't need, it's tallbikes.When we reassembled our bikes at the train station, I found out that I had left my saddle in Portland. We have an old joke about this kind of situation involving a pickle. I found a mushroom-shaped piece of metal and a pipe that fit in the frame, kind of like a bar stool that always tries to point you in the direction you don't want to be facing, and taped some cardboard onto it to give my ass a chance. Some people asked me what that was all about, maybe thinking it was a Portland style or that I had special needs or something.
And then: we were in Minneapolis! Riding tallbikes in the home of the Black Label! We didn't have any phone numbers or any way to meet people, so we rode to the Hard Times Cafe and parked in front. Eventually Chester wandered over, and soon people who we could understand introduced themselves, and we had directions to where we would be staying and the bars where people could be found.
It was great to meet people and hang out with such a large group of mutant bikers in a strange city. Black Label and Scallywags chapters from around the country were there, as well as some Rat Patrollers and random mutant bikers. I poked around their pile looking for a saddle and thought, wow, I'm poking around in the Black Label pile, this is historic. I got woken up before dawn by Sam's rooster and thought, wow, I'm lying on the Black Label couch being woken up by the Black Label rooster, ten feet from my head.
I talked with some people about Amber Howard. Amber was a friend of the club who had died a few weeks earlier on her tallbike. Everybody was in a sad mood and still kind of shocked because of this, of course, but it had been decided that the ride should go on and that she should be remembered by people who would keep doing what she loved to do.
On our second night there, we were riding from a show to the bar, near the front of the pack. Thud and I saw Silken ride up the sidewalk ramp and go straight down. It wasn't the funny kind of crash, and he didn't get up. His eyes were half-open, just staring, and he wouldn't respond to yelled abuse. I called for an ambulance. People were riding up and seeing a downed rider. Nobody knew if he had broken his neck or smashed his skull or what, and it was hard to see this so soon after Amber's terrible crash.
The paramedics showed up and started doing stuff to Silken, and he moved his eyes a little. Some idiot who was filming a movie about the Black Label started nosing around the EMTs with his camera, and Bad Spidey had to get in his face and push him away. The EMTs cut off Silken's pants to see why there was a big wet spot, and fished a crumpled beer can out of his pocket. It had been full, and crushed by his fall.
I rode in the ambulance and said hi when they were wheeling him in. "What happened? Where are we?" He thought we were in New York, where we had been riding our bikes about a year ago.
Eventually I was let into his room and told him again what had happened. I heard a few conversations between nurses in the hall. "Jesus, not another one." A nurse came in and kind of sneaked a breathalyzer on him in the middle of some other tests. Neither of us had been drunk, so I wasn't surprised when I read the display over her shoulder - 0.03. She went into the hall where two people were waiting. "What'd he blow? No, that can't be right, do it again."
I left around 4 AM. Back at the Black Label house, I was shown Silken's bike. One of the welds on the tube connecting the forks was broken - he went down because he didn't have any steering. I always put a gusset near there now.
The hospital kept Silken for observation the next day, although he was basically OK. Spidey stayed with him, but Thud and I were able to go on the ride.
Marshalling up for it was the biggest collection of mutant bikes I'd seen in one place. There were about 150 riders on all kinds of bikes, mostly tallbikes with a few choppers. Sam rode a cargo hack and Per had a nice rickshaw with spare wheels and stuff in the front. There was also a tandem family hack and something that I can only describe as a train.The ride was basically an easygoing paradise from the start, 40 lazy miles on quiet roads and paths, hooting and hollering, stopping for beers or to play the "hat game" or to visit Doyle's grandmas or to help fix a breakdown or whatever. It ended with some actual hills which smelled like burning rubber from all the tallbikers stepping on their back wheels. The hills were good because we breezed through Stillwater, where someone was calming down a cop who was trying to tell him that "you can't just have a parade through town whenever you want". Then it was a bridge over the St. Croix and our destination. Once there it was a different kind of paradise. There was swimming, hijinks, eating, drinking, knife brandishing, dog chasing, marrying, hands stuck in the fire, and crawling through the gravel. People asked me me how Silken was doing every day. Jake borrowed my duct tape and used it to tape someone to a tree in some kind of internal disciplinary action that I was careful to not ask any questions about. The Scallywags cooked a huge meal for everybody, and I spent some time each night sitting round their fire, singing songs. I met new people and talked to others who I had met years ago.
On the way back, we learned that the locals had erected a monument to Big Bear and were worshipping it.
The ride was a great time, and we're glad to have enjoyed the hospitality shown to us by the Black Label Bike Club.
(Up to C.H.U.N.K. 666)