Steel Wheels

The Tao Of Motorcycling


November 2013

Nine-eleven Uptown John and Harley-Davidson

On 9-11, in 2013, I was in Napa Valley on a Harley-Davidson rolling to Will Call for my ticket to see the reigning master of Americana music. That night, John Hiatt and his Combo played Uptown Theatre, a historic theater in a historic town on a historic date.

Napa is very old-fashioned but it’s also a gateway to the American palate of advanced agriculture, great wine & food, fine art…and music. The Town is a diverse ramshackle El Norte community of church-goers — at mass that week, the priest had us all pray for a 49ers victory — together with farm-workers, winemakers, and elderly hippies all under assault by upscale B&Bs, exorbitant real estate, and tasters in long black cars with tinted windows. Napa has a split personality and Uptown Theatre personifies that perfectly.

theater entrance

The Theatre is a time portal transporting you to an 1890s where musicians sing into microphones and play electric guitars under cool lights for an eccentric audience swirling Duckhorn Merlot in a misty noire. It’s like a Fellini movie without the sex. Still, Uptown has it all: decor, vibe, great wine, and vintage fans. Looking through the curved glass of Duckhorn, I noticed a shimmering visage of beautiful silver-gray. When I was young, I never thought gray would look so fine. But it does. Uptown is a place to be around old people and not feel old.

When I think back on it now, the night is rendered in a strange sepia patina. Hiatt’s music is partly responsible but it’s more than that. I remember riding away after the show wondering about a lot of things to the rumble of the Harley. The air was thick with Americana.

The Dark Knight at Uptown Theatre Napa

At Uptown Theatre September 11th 2013

Won’t Back Down

It doesn’t register until you hit the road: every man-made thing you can see, touch, smell, eat, or ride spent time in a truck…

On Interstate 10 between Houston and LA gigantic well-behaved containers line up and lumber slowly along in both directions. Easy prey for the Pterodactyl Overlords of the Southwest all trucks run at 55 mph. You’ll see cars but not trucks pulled-over for speeding. The loss of time being ticketed is too costly so truckers are religious—until nightfall. At night drones are called home. At night truckers make up for lost time. At night interstates become a Wild Wild West of blitzing Transformers streaking across dotted lanes ’til dawn. At night truckers are The Midnight Rambler and they Won’t. Back. Down.

Truck on CA1
Stayin’ alive at 55 on the Pacific Coast Highway – September 7th 2013

Trucks passing each other West of Fort Stockton

big red truck gaining
Dodging a Midnight Rambler at dawn just west of Fort Stockton

The Ride To Forever – September 2013

Hallowed Ground

In 1974 The Candyman poisoned his young son on Halloween with a cyanide-laced Pixie Stick in Galena Park, Texas in a diabolical scheme to collect on a life insurance policy and along with his boy killed our strangest and funnest tradition…

13 years after the death of Halloween a pint-size little girl was posed standing in a freshly-carved jack-o-lantern on a front porch along Harvard Street and with one-click Halloween began to rise from the dead. Neighbors came by with their kids to get in on the show which soon transmogrified into spontaneous trick-or-treating as a joke. The next year brought scarecrow-stuffing parties complete with hay bales…then pumpkin-carving totems…and within a few years hundreds of trick-or-treaters were coming by for “Harvard Of The Living Dead.” And we all thought that was really something…

But every year now whether pouring rain or darkest night thousands trick or treat on Harvard Street in The Heights—one of the few places left in the Galaxy where people of all ages celebrate Halloween con mucho gusto. There’s nothing like it. Long may it run.

Mee-chell and her Mom

young guns

witches of Harvard

scary man and kids

kitty kat


the crowded yard

dawn of the dead

star wars storm trooper

jack-o-lantern haze

webHarvard Street Halloween in The Heights – 2013 

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