Get Your Kicks
Our route was chosen a couple weeks before leaving. We would take the third largest highway in the US (Interstate 40) most of the way since it overlays and parallels large stretches of US Route 66. Sure, it was a bit of a cliché taking the famous Route 66, but it embodied Americana in so many ways. The guys were set on taking Route 66 and I was just along for the ride. The first leg of the trip we left Riverside en route to Flagstaff, Arizona to camp for the night. The goal was to stay in as many dirt-cheap, fleabag motels as possible to kind of up the grittiness ante. On the second day, we ended up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, since Jonathan’s mother lived there, hitting Roswell, New Mexico along the way. Our third stop was Midland, Texas (a few hundred miles northwest of Austin, and childhood home of George W. Bush), for a quick nightcap in order to be fresh for day four where we’d roll in to Austin early enough to get a feel of the city’s magic. I wasn’t only interested in Austin for the ROT Rally, albeit we were pretty damn excited for the rally’s shenanigans, but Austin is world famous for its music scene (Austin City Limits, South By Southwest). And of course there’s some of the best barbecue on the planet within the city limits and surrounding areas. Since the boys weren’t in a huge hurry and wanted to take a leisurely pace, a few hundred miles a day suited them just fine. Me too.
The ROT Rally took place June 9-12, 2011, and is the biggest rally in Texas and one of the largest in the US. ROT is the purest form of freedom. Nothing is off limits and the “naked parade” I’d heard about is definitely not a myth. Bikers like to have fun and there’s plenty of it on hand throughout the four-day party.
I pulled into the ROT’s main headquarters, the Travis County Expo Center on Friday afternoon, just in time for the annual parade ride to the Texas Capitol. I had to ditch the boys on the last leg of the trip from Midland to Austin since I had prior engagements at ROT. The Vic’s 5.8-gallon tank, and approximate 200-mile range, would cut down gas stops. When I arrived at the Travis County Expo Center, I was just in time for the annual 12-mile bike parade to the Texas capital located in downtown Austin. I followed the parade as thousands upon thousands of bikers made their way down Congress Ave., ultimately parking their rides on Sixth Street. Jonathan and Zach pulled into town as the parade was about to get underway and they met me downtown to see the riders coming in. After the parade ceased, we checked out the famous Antone’s Nightclub, where Stevie Ray Vaughan used to play. Being in the presence of his soul’s greatness was pure magic. We hit some other bars up and down Fifth and Sixth Streets until finally calling it a night. So far we loved Austin and the ROT Rally.
Saturday, we headed over to the fairgrounds to see how the partiers were recovering and to check out some of the vendors located outside the Thunderdome. Jonathan and Zach meandered the grounds at their own pace, I stopped at Revolution Performance, RC Components, and Custom Chrome to check out some cool parts and talk with friends. I made my way inside the Thunderdome convention hall where Sinister Industries, Primer Customs, and Southern Metal Choppers displayed custom works of rolling art. There were many activities taking place inside the hall throughout the weekend, but the grounds are a bit thin in regards to vendor presence. Surrounding the halls, groups of tents and luxury RVs set up shop for the weekend. It became clear that the bikers at this rally came here to do one thing: party. Ain’t nothing wrong with that! After the sun had set, I was told I had to stick around for the shenanigans in the campground area. “It’s the craziest shit you’ve ever seen in your life,” was the general consensus. I met back up with the guys, and we headed towards the noise and bright lights. We slowly began to realize that the general consensus was right; this was wild. Maybe the closest thing to anarchy as I’ve ever seen.
Naked ROT patrons paraded around on Harleys, ATVs, UTVs, golf carts, and cheaply constructed parade float contraptions to show off the parts God gave ’em and collect some uh…beads, I guess. Multiple stripper poles were set up throughout the parade route; what I like to imagine as third-grade English teachers during the day became exotic dancers by night. Jonathan and Zach were in total awe, as was I. It was the pinnacle of the trip, the climactic point, and three guys who barely knew each other became brothers forever that evening.
Sunday morning came as our heads pounded and stomachs turned, but it was time for us to part ways. Jonathan and Zach were to continue on their adventure, ultimately making their way to Chicago over the next few days. We’d developed a nice groove and now I was to return home. We said our good-byes, and they rode off toward Shreveport, Louisiana. I headed back to the fairgrounds to take one last lap and say bon voyage to Austin. I made sure to stop at Cooper’s Bar-B-Que in Llano for the best barbecue I’d ever experienced in my life. Over the next few days, Jonathan and Zach stayed in touch to give me updates on their whereabouts, etc. They’d blossomed into full-fledged bikers over the course of a week. I think it’s safe to say they’re hooked for life. Can’t say I blame them.