28.08.2013 - 28.08.2013
“Hey do you have a motorcycle?”, says a homeless guy hanging out around the bus stop.
He was admiring the red motorcycle helmet hanging from my backpack.
I think about it.
“...Yes” I said.
“Cool” he says.
I give him a nod and smile that says “don’t you know it”, if I had a cigarette I would have flicked it and put it out like rebel Sandy in Grease.
It wasn't 100% true but I enjoyed looking like a badass biker chick, by badass I mean glamorous 50s movie star on a vespa in Rome, and by that I mean, idiot on a hired motor scooter.
The homeless guy was right, I did technically have a motorcycle, and I was waiting for the bus like a schmuck. After a days adventure I had decided it was a smarter idea to leave it parked in the city with the others and take the bus back to where I was staying, across the water on the other side of the city. The bike would be safe and so would I, but I could see my lonely, parked bike from the bus stop and I could not see the bus. The reason, I found out the next night when I was waiting for it again thanks to some gangsters loitering nearby, was that “girl it don’t come along here, yo’ need to take the 40 or the 27 or the 32 from 3rd street”
Inner city parking was the safest idea but it was also proving to be the most inconvenient. So I left the bus stop, got back on my scooter, revved it up and after a slow start turning immediately onto the wrong side of the street because there was no traffic or American members of my gang to follow, I zipped off on my own, screaming down an inner city road on a motorscooter on a dark Saturday night.
You know those times when you are travelling and you kind of take a minute to realise where you are and how crazy that is. So there I was, alone, on the other side of the world and the other side of the road with zero skills in riding bikes, hurtling down a main city road, in the dark, on a motorscooter. It was clearly a risky move and I couldn't help but think as I was going along that I really didn't want to come off this thing and have to explain to the insurance company, or worse, my mum, that I was scooting alone at 11pm at night along a major road in Seattle. I had no idea where I was going, I was following my nose compass, it’s Washington law to wear goggles when riding so I had my sunglasses on, but had to keep pulling them down on my nose like a librarian because I couldn't see through them in the dark. I didn't even have a jacket on but I was going full throttle down the road along the water’s edge and out of the city. I had taken the bus that morning so knew the vague direction and have a lot of unwarranted confidence in my natural sense of direction. After a few wrong turns, a few illegal turns, I zipped out of Seattle over the bridge toward my hostel. I managed, somehow, to find my way and arrived unscathed. I pull up, struggled with my kickstand as I had all day which, I'm not gonna lie, took a little sheen off the cool, edgy look I was going for, and walked in to my hostel, helmet under my arms in the same manner that impressed the homeless guy. I felt very Grease 2, ‘who’s that guy, where did he come from?’ No one gave me a second look.
I was making my way up the west coast of the USA to Canada, through the lovely Portland to Seattle. It was in Seattle, the home of Starbucks and Nirvana that all this came about. It is because while I was in Seattle I joined The Screamin’ Eagles, Seattle’s fiercest motorcycle crew. We took on the mean city streets on two wheels, stealing from the rich, giving to the poor. Live fast. Die young. Badassmutherfuckers.
It was also, less that and more three people who hired scooters and went sightseeing and pretended to be in a biker gang.
I wasn't confident to hire a car and drive on the other side of the road but I took no convincing to do the same thing on two wheels with less metal around me. So we hired scooters.
“Have you ridden a bike before” the owner asks as I sit on the bike.
“Ah… yeah, like a bicycle”
For some reason that was decent enough experience, and he rattled off a lot instructions. gas. brake. honk. gas. gas. gas.
“You think you got it”? he asked.
I did a few turns around the alley way and was obviously fully qualified to take it on the roads of one of America’s biggest cities.
With unwarranted confidence, I started it up and we took off, cruising through the city, along the water’s edge, dodging tourists around the market towards our first stop, the city’s meanest biker bar, and by biker bar I obviously mean Target. We parked our three scooters next to each other in the underground car park and went looking at dresses in Target. Baaaaaaadassss.
Our gang was fierce. We gave ourselves new gang names, rode in an eagle formation and kicked out our feet as wings.
My gang members were two girls from Wisconsin who I had met in Portland a few days before. It's not every day that you meet great people at a hostel, but when Porkchop took a fall and ripped the knee out of her jeans (and was renamed Bloody Porkchop) and returned from Walgreens with a green bandana tied around her knee in the ultimate commitment to the sport of gang make-believe, I knew I had met some great people and perfect fellow gang members for an imaginary motorcycle gang.
We took in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market where people throw fish. We stopped for lunch at a craft brewery, because Washington loves craft breweries and sampled a local cherry cider. Back on the bikes, I’d forgotten most everything that I had listened to, but nevertheless, took off through the city again and slowly out of town over a massive bridge. My bike was only 49cc so at full-throttle up a bridge I put putt-putted so slowly cars were going around me. We got out of the city into the wilderness, parked the bikes and embarked on a hike through a nature reserve to the sea and admired Washington's famous natural beauty. City sights, check. Nature sights, check. We zipped back in to the city and across town, riding in our gang until the sun set and we could barely see any more.
Our gang returned our rentals the next day, we had ridden 50 miles and put $1.30 of petrol in to return it, I over filled mine because I didn't listen the day before regarding the filling instructions. I also couldn't use the gas pump because when it asked for my zip code I obviously just put in 90210 which seemed like a foolproof option.
We hung up our helmets and shut off the ignition on our biker careers and continued on foot, a gang on street patrol. It was only a natural progression that The Screamin’ Eagles would then evolve into an all-girl punk band. After some music history and technical training on the interactive floor of the very cool EMP Museum in Seattle (singing into a voice filter, mixing records, learning the intro to The Kinks on keyboard) The Bleeding Porkchops (in honour of our injured gang member Porkchop) were formed and I became the lead guitarist as we recorded a video clip to Joan Jett’s I Love Rock and Roll. We clearly did not need to ever hear the audio or see the video again which was available for purchase, but I got a ticket stub and a guitar pick to remember the glory days of The Bleeding Pork Chops as we were forced to disband a day later when my journey continued north to Canada, and my lead singer and drummer returned back east.
The Pacific Northwest is full of beautiful natural wonders; wilderness, mountains and an epic coastline. It has great, energetic cities with eco-friendly, music loving, foodie, coffee drinking, craft brewing hipsters who go hiking or cycling for fun. It's a great part of America to travel, once you take out the fierce bike gangs and punk bands who threaten the serenity.
Bleed green. The Screamin’ Eagles 4eva.