Sept. 15, 2004 – Rawlins, Wyoming
It’s really hard to fit all your worldly possessions you’re going to need for the next two and a half months into one plastic crate.
Some people prefer to bring giant duffel bags on tour, most of which are shoved underneath the 7-by-10-foot bed area in the back of the Shoo Shoo, but with all the beer and other drinks that are spilled off the 2 RV tables in the middle of the bus on a regular basis, we’ve taken to putting all our stuff in plastic bins under the front bench.
A few days ago, we spent a good 5 hours in a room in someone’s house with all our crap spread out everywhere, trying to decide what all would fit in the crate that we absolutely needed. It ended up like a Fight Club list of clothing and supplies: one pair pants, one pair shorts, one short-sleeved shirt, one long-sleeved shirt, one jacket, one clown outfit, etc.
This writer also have a toolbox full of toiletries, clown makeup, sparse jewelry, contact lens care, and other essentials. Packing for tour is always a challenge, made all the sweeter this time by Koit’s idea for a new game: Thrift Scoring Across America.
The game is pretty self-explanatory. While the Bike Rodeo kids are allergic to malls and mainstream shopping (other than coffee, tools, and auto parts), we fiend on thrift stores and junkyards when we tour. The first thing we do, after settling in, pulling the bikes we want to ride around off the top of the bus, and making a plan to promote the show we’re about to do, is to find a thrift store or three.
Koit and I have decided to collect a new wardrobe while we cross the States (as if we don’t have enough thrift clothes already), mailing stuff home if we have to in order to make room in the crate for our new threads.
The rules are to keep a written track of what we buy and for how much and in what town, and to only buy items we don’t think we could exit the store without regretting leaving behind. Me, I’m asking the universe for a black bomber jacket with a fur-lined hood, and for matching majorette outfits for me and the other klown-girls to alter and Franken-ify as our ‘formalwear.’
We quite like being part of a generation (or subculture, whichever) which takes pride in living off free stuff, discarded stuff, and other people’s stuff. Almost as a knee-jerk subconscious reaction to the blatant, rampant, non-participatory consumerism which keeps our giant and varied country the richest and most powerful in the world, some of us have turned instead to thrifting clothes and household items, dumpstering food, living in old buildings in neglected urban and rural settings, seeing the beauty in ancient landmarks and machines, re-working discarded treasures people used to love, and generally reacting favorably to things that are broken and falling down.
We take pride in the cheap, the customized, and the original rather than the pricey, the uniform, and the depersonalized. We like to fix, to penny-pinch, to MacGyver, to reap detritus for less than we should. It’s the opposite of the consumerism — call it cockroachism — and for this, in case of apocalypse, we might be the last to survive. The ones the Gap Kids will turn to when the fecal matter comes into contact with the rotating wind machine.
Sometimes it gets to us — irregular showering, less-than-perfect hygiene resources, lack of health care, no fancy clothes or food, et cetera. But for every time the bus gets fetid because we’ve been traveling for four days straight without the benefit of showers or hotel rooms or any other mod con, there’s some beautiful reminder we’re not lashed to a salary and health insurance plan, trapped like a cow, fattening in a pen/cubicle until finally succumbing to our predators. (Yes, this is cliche territory, but sometimes cliches are cliches because they’re common truths worth pointing out?)
The predators — the Man/Men at the top of our commercially-driven society’s hierarchy — are of like mind as the veal in the pens, more concerned with grabbing than sharing… but they’re bigger, more cunning, and more adept at survival (in the realm of capitalism) than the veal are. Poor things, all of them.
We enjoy capitalism. It allows us to choose which kind of toilet paper or potato chips or magazines or apples we might buy in the grocery store. But we also enjoy being able to find ways around living entirely within the system, or living on its fringes, or whatever it is that we in the Bike Rodeo are individually and collectively doing.
For us “one percenters” — and by that we mean the Hell’s Angels term for anyone who’s chosen to exist outside the proscribed roles of Our Great Society, be they cowboys or artists or hippies or pot farmers or train-hoppers — we are the highest on our particular food chain, with nobody to answer to, suck up to, get checks from, or otherwise impress.
(No predators except the cops, for those who mess up or have criminal records, and the drug-addicted thieves, who take what isn’t theirs from people who don’t deserve getting stolen from in order to answer to their own master/predator, which is a chemical and not even a person, which makes drug addicts the saddest people of all… along with TV addicts, psychological invalids who only wait for death, and money freaks, who spend all their time grifting and hustling for something one shouldn’t really care about too much. But we digress.)
Cyclecide Bike Rodeo are proud, fully functional, and self-sufficient members of anti-society, bringing smiles to kids’ faces even as we let their parents break their bones on our alter-cycles and pedal-powered circus rides.
Plus, there’s the whole thing where we tout the benefits of human-powered vehicular motion and interactive transportation. We make all our bikes and rides out of “pre-cycled” bikes our wonderfully disposable society throws away. Blah blah blah. Preach preach preach. Like Jarico says, “In the beginning, it’s just a pile of bikes, and in the end… it’s just a pile of bikes.”
Sure, none of us make any money at all while we’re on tour. We hustle in the off months to scrounge up enough cash to see America with the rest of our dear friends in an entirely original and entertaining way. Jarico, meanwhile, spends all his non-tour time setting up shows, working odd jobs, collecting bills (or not) from his roommates, building rides with the crew, and generally worrying his head off about where our next meal / gig / new ride money is coming from.
But when we’re on tour, we’re all so happy. Everything is worth it. Anyone who’s ever wanted to take off and see America with their best friends — or run away with the circus — would likely agree with us that our lifestyle is the bee’s knees.
The point is, after stopping for lunch in Rawlins, we went to a thrift store and spent an hour trolling for treasure. Even though the place had a lot of moderately cool things, Koit and I didn’t find nothin’ we couldn’t leave the store without (another rule). Linda, however, thrift-scored bigtime. Guess what she bought.
A bike! ($5)
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