By Forest Riggs
My, how time flies! It seems like just yesterday that the Island was in the midst of an unending heat wave that kept all but the devoted sun-and-sand lovers inside. With the first weekend in November came the chill of a late fall, and sweaters, coats, and sweatshirts became the fashion. Heaters were glowing in the Victorians and cups of hot chocolate were being sipped around sweets-filled breakfast tables and cozy evening gatherings. Though given the Island’s climatic history, the cold weather does not last for too long but rather comes and goes until March or April, so Galveston folks must strike while the iron is hot, so to speak.
With the first weekend in November also comes the return of the bikers! Vroom, vroom!
When we were kids in rural East Texas and were being particularly “hard to handle,” my mother would shout at us, “If you don’t straighten up and act right, I’m gonna take you down to the highway by the mailbox and the Banditos will get you!” This, of course, was in the 1960s when the Banditos were a notorious gang of “bad dudes” on motorcycles terrorizing Texas. I honestly feel this is when my “Biker Fantasies” began.
The annual Lone Star Rally brings thousands of bikers from all across the United States and even Canada and Mexico. For four days the Island welcomes a Southern version of the notorious August bike rally that takes place in Sturgis, South Dakota. Like the Sturgis gathering, bikers come out in droves, riding the latest creations and unique chopped-up-and-down versions of every type and brand of motorcycle that is manufactured in the USA and abroad. Many are odd compilations and personally created bikes and trikes from garages and cycle builders all across the country. It is not uncommon to see a “farewell” ride for a long term and/or devoted biker, as he or she, in casket, it is pulled up the Strand or along the Seawall, in a beautifully trimmed “hearse trailer” behind and equally beautiful bike, usually driven by a close friend or partner.
The Rally brings with it all sorts of people from leather-clad bikers to barely clad, hot gals that perform the role of camp followers. A stroll among the motley crowd is sure to satisfy the appetites of all, from voyeurs to Bible thumpers, looking for lost souls to save.
Bikers are not bad characters. That is a complete misconception. These days they are doctors, lawyers, architects, and teachers. Of course, they are usually the ones with the “cleaner look” and wife or girlfriend wrapped behind them or following on her matching bike. Bikers spend more on their bikes and the upkeep that some folks spend on a house, and certainly more than your average luxury car. It is a beautiful sight to see them all lined in a row in front of a restaurant or along the Strand and neighboring streets.
When I owned and operated by Bed & Breakfast, The Island Jewel, some of my best guests were bikers! They are adept at taking care of and respecting other’s property. The biker lifestyle, of course, contains its share of hard-working guys and gals, mechanics, lone wolves, ne’er-do-wells, and a mix of rough-looking types — all making for a colorful tapestry.
For a gay man, it is paradise. If leather, tight T-shirts and bulging jeans are the desire, it is everywhere. Swarthy hot men, oozing testosterone with thick thighs and masculinity, are straddling “hogs” and squeezing their throttles to give the onlookers a thrill. Occasionally there is a side glance or quick eye-to-eye stare that reveals perhaps some interest in the “pinker” side of things. Don’t think the thrill is just for gay men; there are plenty of fine biker gals and “bitches” perched atop a leather seat with t*ts in the wind and ample rear-end on display for all. On a rare occasion, a T-shirt or two might be lifted to reveal a fine set of well-developed mammary glands! The entire four days is a true smorgasbord of flesh, muscle, leather, and fantasies. Every good gay man picks out “his guy” and watches from the sidelines as he rides by, revving his engine and staring back behind dark sunglasses.
Having attended at least 14 of these rallies and always making observations, I find it is very rare that you would see two men on a single bike. It’s just not done in the Biker World etiquette. Given accepted statistics, however, there are certainly gay bikers among the throng. Bi-sexuality, now very “popular”, might result in a shadowy tryst or two during the rally. The biker world is such a macho thing, it would be hard to be out and part of a group or gang (unless of course, it is a group or gang of gay bikers which, in the South, is very rare).
Once again, the lesbians have the gay men beat; they can ride double, with their legs and arms wrapped around the driver, breasts pressed firmly against their gal, and hair flying in the wind. They can even have lesbian biker groups and get no flak — everybody loves Dykes on Bikes. Don’t for a minute kid yourself: At the Rally, you can see tiny little gals and lipstick lesbians manhandling huge bikes. They know just what to do with things between their legs. Years ago, Lyda Ann Thomas, the beloved Mayor of Galveston and friend to all, would don white leather and high boots, and straddle her Harley to proudly welcome all visitors to Galveston’s Lone Star Rally. Lyda Ann on her bike would set the tone for the four-day rally.
Vendors come out like gnats. Everywhere you turn, there is a tent or trailer hawking everything from leather goods, pin-striping, wheels, parts, art, T-shirts, and fantasy garments to Swisher Sweet cigars, beer and food, bike sounds systems, and even condoms! No matter what your taste might be, there is a tent or booth for you, including lots of food items, drinks, and cold beer all along the bike-lined streets. Locals and guests turn out in throngs to watch the “parade” of bikes up and down through the Strand district and along the Seawall.
It is noisy and it is crazy, but it is fun. Some residents complain of the loud bikes and revving engines in otherwise quiet neighborhoods, especially at night. No matter what, it offers Galvetrazians another opportunity to show off and share their island with visitors that just might return sometime.
As for me, I like standing out by my mailbox on Church Street, wearing my best-torn slip with a Swisher Sweet dangling from my hungry lips, waiting for that wayward biker or swarthy, bandana-clad Bandito to come riding along.
A resident of Galveston where he can be found wasting bait and searching for the meaning of life, Forest Riggs recently completed a collection of short stories about his beloved island and is working on a novel.