Forget the Bryan Adams song. The Summer of ’69 wasn’t about learning to play a six-string;
It was the Summer of ’69, and for the Righteous Few Motorcycle Club, Wednesday night was Stag Night. Our regular meetings were held on Fridays, and we were one of the rare clubs that allowed our wives to sit in. Sundays were always club rides—a procession of 15 to 20 motorcycles sometimes followed by a carload or two of moms and kids headed to some race or field meet.
But on Wednesdays, no women were allowed. Only those who wanted to cut loose and ride hard showed up. Stag Night was no parade; it was all-out riding punctuated by hard drinking. I was not afraid: I was 25-years-old, strong, fast and invincible.
Usually, only four to eight bikes would show up. These were the “hard-chargers” in our club. It took stamina to do this in the middle of a work week, knowing you were going to get just 3 hours’ sleep. We rode lightweight British and Japanese twins—no heavyweight cruiser could keep up with this group!
We would meet at our clubhouse in Detroit to toss back a few beers, shake loose all thoughts of our workdays and decide where we would ride that night. Because only inner-city landlords would rent to an M.C.,Wednesday-night rides were always in the city.
And so off we went in a roar of open megaphones! The fact that I was Road Captain meant nothing on Stag Night. Many times I would stop for a traffic light, glance in my mirror and see no one. Instead of following me, they would line up next to me—a row of bikes, eight-abreast, pointed down a main artery. Glancing at each other quickly, we’d bring the engines up to fever pitch, watching for the green light like drag racers...
Eight maniacs would launch in a cacophony of straight-pipes, burning tires and airborne front wheels. Overtaking cars, our speed was so much greater than theirs that they never saw or heard us coming. The shockwave we created as we passed was like an explosion! No doubt, this caused much surprise and anger at “that pack of assholes on those damn motorcycles.” We deserved that opinion; we were assholes ignoring all the rules of society and sanity!
Sometimes we would head toward Belle Isle, a park set in the middle of the Detroit River. The 7-mile road around the island was devoid of traffic signals and, this late at night, police—in other words, the perfect racetrack. We called it “Rat Racing.” One guy would take the lead and then it was on, strung out like some internal-combustion daisy-chain, a train with an engine in every car. This was wide-open, 10/10ths riding, sparks shooting off footpegs, leaning at absurd angles and sliding the rear tire in every turn.
We got airborne over small rises in the pavement, and when we chopped the throttles, fire would shoot out of our exhausts in a pyrotechnic display made all the more impressive by the midnight darkness. It was like someone firing cannons at you in a tunnel while traveling 70 mph.
Satiated, we returned to the city streets, stopping at one or two other motorcycle clubs. A beer in an M.C. was only 25 cents at a time when bars charged a dollar. You could leave the house with $5, fill your gas tank,paint the town bright-red and still come home with change in your pocket.
By now it was 2:00 a.m. and we all headed for home, splitting off on separate trajectories until finally I was alone again. I slowed down to let the adrenaline recede. Killing the engine, I coasted up the driveway so as not to piss off the neighbors. Slipping into my house and into bed, I tried not to disturb my wife. Of course, she was awake. She gave me a kiss and asked, “Have fun?”
“You bet,” I replied. “Goodnight.” MC