A new year .. a new beginning. I guess we often think how things will be different this year .. yet even more often we end up realizing just how much things really stay the same. In the long run .. we end up mimicking the words of our ancestors .. as we all seem to refer to “the good ol’ days”. The truth is .. if you really want your life to “change” .. it’s pretty much as simple as getting off your butt and just doing it.
Apparently, my belief in the old adage that “the only things in life you ever regret are the chances you didn’t take” draws me to other “adventurers” like a magnet. Waking up early and looking forward to “discovery” becomes a passion .. a way of life driven by the quest. There are so many people out there waiting to be discovered .. each with a story of their own and each with incredible knowledge I crave to absorb. But what I also understand and respect, is the fact that being “alone” allows one to contemplate massive amounts of knowledge .. and to enjoy the solitude that resides solely within ourselves.
The truth is .. if you really want your life to “change” .. it’s pretty much as simple as getting off your butt and just doing it.
When I ride .. there is never a radio or cd, iPod or tape player. Our existence here is pretty much a total mind trip .. and when you spend hours on end thinking about how far we’ve evolved in just the last 100 years .. it gives me such a greater appreciation of the pioneers who struck out on their own .. essentially alone .. to settle the vast wilderness of the American West.
For those of us who ride the “iron horses” .. and head to Sturgis the first week of August .. it gives us countless hours to imagine what it must have been like for the “real” cowboys who wandered alone on their trusty steed .. and how difficult life must have been for them just to survive. I, for one, have had a great affinity toward the Native American Indians my entire life. The innate “spirituality” they possessed toward life’s co-existence with nature was beyond reproach. And though I have openly and outwardly expressed opinions regarding their prolonged abuse .. today is not the day I’m going to pull the soap box on you.
As I travel through the Black Hills .. the Badlands .. Sturgis .. Spearfish .. Deadwood .. Rushmore .. this entire area consumes me with the history to which I am drawn so strongly. I once spent weeks holed up in a log cabin in Cody, Wyoming, just roaming the countryside for hundreds of miles each day as my mind and energy seemed to be transported back in time. This seems to be the era to which I’m drawn .. as I do believe many other “iron horse riders” are also drawn. The alone time in the saddle provides us the opportunity to allow our imaginations to run as free as the blowing winds .. and to bond with the ancestors who gave their lives for the land they loved.
On one particular stay in Sturgis .. I heard the rumor about “No Panties Wednesday” in a nearby town called Hulett. At that time, it was a little “town” of less than 400. Rumor had it that thousands of riders would descend upon town for an “unadvertised” event that should prove to be one of those unforgettable moments in time. This was one of those “choices” I could make .. to prove once again that the joy of living was in the “doing” .. and I struck out just before dawn.
As I rolled into town .. barely two city blocks long .. I noticed a half dozen bikes in front of the Ponderosa Café. It was time for breakfast as the sun was rising .. and this place looked like one that time forgot .. and I just knew I’d love it. Sure enough .. they had a great breakfast buffet that I couldn’t refuse .. so I loaded up the tray. As I said .. there were about 6-8 other bikers who’d already sit down for breakfast .. and I headed for an empty table next to the wall. Sure enough .. I tripped over my own foot just as I approached the table and headed straight for the floor. As agile as a cat, I twisted my body and set the tray on the table as gentle as could be .. then crashed to the floor in a heap. Didn’t even spill the orange juice … I made a comment about “watching that last step” and the place broke out in a roar of laughter. Everyone commented on the fact that nothing spilled .. we were all amazed.
Over our chow .. we constantly heard the roar of bikes as the traffic picked up and the café began to fill. I made a lot of friends from all over the country in a short hour .. and now it was time to venture out. I could hardly believe my eyes when I hit the street! The town was nearly full .. both sides filled with bikes and more rolling in every second. Estimates were later made that day that about 80,000 bikes came to town. They were parked everywhere .. in fields around the town and lining the sides of the incoming roads. The little gas station had a perpetual line throughout the day .. and I couldn’t imagine how they didn’t run out of fuel. But some things are just meant to be.
The little fire station provided free barbeque to anyone who dared wait in the lengthy line (trust me, it was delicious!) .. there was a little church that set up an outdoor stage and provided great gospel rock with a smokin’ hot lead singer .. and they even had little ladies walking about town passing out cups of water .. as it was only 105 degrees that day! There were several vendors who’d set up along the street near the end of town .. and this just happened to be the place that I bought my White Mark Silver Fox helmet with buffalo horns attached. Best $365 bucks I could have ever spent .. as from the moment I put it on I became “the biker” everyone wanted a picture with .. even throughout Sturgis. I’d been known as “Indiana Joe” for a number of years .. but NOW I became the target of “memory seekers”. What a blast!
Of course .. there was this “no panties” thing .. and the nudity was a little more than the average Sturgis crowd. Obviously, there was no police to oversee anything .. yet the crowd remained as civil as the brotherhood of bikers could expect. The only real rowdiness was at the end of town where one of the richest ranchers had set up a little ring where any girl who would ride around topless on a small calf would be given $100. Cameras were clicking non-stop!
The most memorable moment for me, however .. was the minute I walked into “Rogues Gallery” at the end of the street. What used to be an old saddle shop was now the town’s museum .. and one of the world’s greatest “cowboy” artists just happened to be in his shop that day .. and I was lucky enough to meet him. Bob Coronato is his name .. and his story is more fascinating than I have space to share. But I want you to get to know him .. and share the gift he brings to the world.
The museum and gallery was absolutely incredible. I felt the “chicken skin” as his artistry brought goose bumps to my entire body. Just by being amongst the fascinating authentic Cowboy and Indian artifacts .. to see his incredible work .. put my energy on his same wavelength. The detail of his work is so life-like you want to touch it .. and somehow I felt a kinship to his appreciation of “days gone bye”. He had just hung a 10 foot painting of a cattle drive that took him a year to create .. and it’s titled “there’s nothing like the feel’n,… of a ride’n a fine horse through Wyoming country,… that’s still considered frontier!” Bob had been a part of that drive along the Belle Fourche River.
Bob’s mantra is “you have to live the life if you wanted to paint the life” .. and every one of his paintings and drawings is a personal experience. Of the cattle drive .. Bob said “I wanted to create a painting that summed up what it was to be a cowboy — the freedom, the landscape, the teamwork of a bunch of hands, and the sheer vastness of the workplace. This was, and is, a little piece of my American frontier. A great horse, a great rig, and a beautiful day like this is all you need to create a feeling you’ll never forget”.
I believe Bob’s talent will touch nerves you didn’t know existed .. and will transform your perception of “the old west”. Not only did he become what he dreamed of as a kid .. he found a way to transcend the legends who came before him. He preserves the visual images of our heritage to enlighten, educate, and enhance the fantasies of the very “cowboy” within each of us. I believe Bob is here to document history .. to preserve it forever in the minds of those lucky enough to “see” it through his eyes .. and as visually accurate as humanly possible.
And I find it kind of ironic that Bob’s thoughts are pretty much the same as what goes through my mind as I straddle my own “iron horse” .. and feel the spirits of those who have gone before me —
When you have the time .. visit Bob Coronato’s website and read his incredible story. Find one of the gallery’s that have his talent on display .. and take the time to visit one on a “destination ride”. Maybe if you’re lucky enough .. you’ll catch him and his wife, Lisa, hanging around the Rogues Gallery.
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …