That was the scream from the driver of our four-passenger mini-bike – a homemade job with a mammoth seat mounted on top of a lawnmower motor – each time we neared an intersection or a squirrel dared to dart out in front of us. We were the brakes, three riders on back hanging onto each other, legs hanging centipede style. When he’d holler, we’d slam our feet down on the pavement until our shoes started smoking from the friction. Nothing like the smell and sensation of smoldering rubber soles. The best pads for optimum brake performance were the smooth-bottomed dress shoes we wore to church. Our parents wondered how we could be burning through so many soles.
From the time we were toddlers on trykes, cards clipped to the spokes with clothespins, we loved the sounds of the ride. We grew, graduating to two wheels, and our skill at making deep motor noises grew too. We were cool and knew that everyone else wanted to be like us, just like we wanted to be like Sausage. A classic in our town. A four hundred pounder who draped like saddle bags off his seat, faded tattoos of snakes on his arms, high handlebars where he hung like a gorilla, skull and crossbones helmet, pointing to turn with a fat finger over his head. Sometimes, he even wore tights and a matching cape.
Of course we idolized him, practicing the finger point on our Sting Rays and popping wheelies just because we could. And sticking an arm down in greeting to any rider we came upon.
There was nothing like the freedom of the open road; even if that meant the streets and alleys of our neighborhood. We wore all kinds of dorky helmets: baseball, football, super hero, and strange horned plastic Viking crowns; things like that on your head only made you cooler. We imagined ourselves true free spirits, soaring across vast expanses of the Southwest at sunset, a pack of very tough, leather-skinned hombres, riding so hard, so long we chewed up and spit out the bugs that hit our teeth. We rode when we wanted, where we wanted – until our mothers called us in for dinner or a bath.
Most of us never got to the big time – owning a hog. We rode mopeds and motorcross bikes, where the engines didn’t boom and bellow but whined like high-pitched toys. But the vision of a sun-drenched ride in the wind never faded; that dream was burned too deep into us.
No matter how you arrive in the southern Rockies, hope you have a great ride.
— Joe Haukebo, Publisher
This article appeared on page 10 of the 2007 print edition of HighCountry.