The nearly bike run.

Quote of the day, before we start again.  My mate Mac, the owner of the place I stay has just come out with a classic during one of our evening chats at the bar.

"I have only three brain cells and they aren't getting along."  It may lose a little in translation here but we found it funny, in fact we had a right belly laugh at it.

I bleieve I have mentioned before that I had somewhat inadvertently fallen into company with a bunch of bikers here in Negros.  I like motorbikes and used to ride them when I was a whole lot younger but I would never describe myself as being a biker.  I enjoy poodling about on my little 125 Suzuki here which is good for about 100km. tops and is a pleasant little ride but I was a little surprised when I was invited to join in an annual charity run with a load of big bikes going up to Bayawan about 100km. distant.

The object of the exercise, apart from a lot of bikers getting together for a run, was to distribute charitable donations to underpriveleged children.  This year, there was a truckload of slippers (local term, we would say flipflops or thongs) but previously they have built a new schoolroom, given out school supplies etc.  I know bikers all over the world do similar things, Christmas runs and so on.  I told the guys who invited me, members of the Outsiders M.C. originally based in Austria and now worldwide that I only had a hired 125 but that was deemed to be no problem.  If I could keep up an average of about 80kph I was fine.  I knew I could do that on what I had previously ridden a little and knew was a decent road.  These guys describe themselves as 1% which designtates them as proper hardcore bikers, yet I have found them to be really decent blokes.

The whole thing started on the Friday night with registration at the Honeycomb Inn which is down on the Boulevard in Dumaguete.  I turned up, ordered a beer and sat down to see what would happen.  There were various tables of the different clubs, which would be unheard of in Europe where there would have been riot, battle and sudden death if two differnet clubs had turned up in the same location by accident.  Not so here.

I was sitting taking in the scene and wondering where I had to register when Don, whom I had met before,  caught my eye and called me over to the Outsiders table.  Bid welcome, I sat down with them and another beer was called for.  I was told it was all paid for and not to put my hand in my pocket.  I like to pay my way and get embarrassed otherwise but I really wasn't going to argue.

I know it will sound odd to people who have never been around bikers but, whilst I have no doubt they can look after themselves, if you observe a few rules of basic etiquette they are good people to be around and very peacable.  I was told, not asked, that I was riding with them on the morrow and filled my details on their sheet.  So that was decided, I was an official guest.  I did tell you, strange things happen to me.

There was live entertainment provided and as various other clubs turned up off ferries, the numbers swelled until a decent sized crowd was assembled.  Don had somehow or another found out that I had some small musical talent and insisted that I provide some alternative to the Pinoy pop stuff being provided.  However technically correct it was, Jessie G's Price Tag wasn't really doing it.  Again, arguing wasn't going to be an option although I really didn't fancy my chances.  Arrangements were made with the guitarist and I was ushered onstage.

OK, picture the scene here.  You will have to picture it as I really had more things on my mind than taking photos.  I have maybe 150 fully patched bikers, their girls and assorted others in front of me.  Unbeknownst to me, I also had the local Governor (a right big cheese politically, for UK readers think between MP and Cabinet Minister) and the Mayor sitting in the audience as well.  I just launched into Whisky in the Jar which Don had requested and prayed that the band would follow me.  I think I have mentioned before how good Pinoy musicians are and they dropped in almost immediately.  I doubt if any of them have even heard of Thin Lizzy, never mind the myriad other trad. musos that had done it before them.  Got through that one and tried to make some sort of dignified exit but it wasn't happening.  It was "suggested" I play another one, so I did.  I genuinely cannot remember what it was but my previous suggests it may have been Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd.  That is about par for the course in such circumstances, always a safe bet, three chord riff and good for bikers as well.

Beyond all expectations, I received a generous round of applause and was hustled offstage by some guy (they were probably glad to get rid of me) to meet the aforementioned dignitaries.  A short and courteous introduction followed which they undoubtedly don't remember but at least my face is known here now which actually means a bit in these parts.  Not obviously, that I intend to do anything contentious.

The only vaguely sour note was an African American (I believe that is the current PC phrase) who turned up on the biggest trike I have ever seen with three young Filipinas on the back and seemed Hellbent on impressing them.  I will not name his club as I do not want to cause any bad feeling here but he struck me as being the only person in the company I would not have wanted to have a beer with.  He will figure later in the story.

I took a fairly early night as it was a 0800 meet the next day for the ride.  Up on time and back to the meet, I parked little Suzi round the corner.  Well, I didn't want her getting an inferiority complex.  There were some absolutely fantastic bikes on display.  Have a look.

Look at this beauty.
I had arrived pretty early and was enjoying my coffee when the Outsiders turned up.  Again, I was invited to their table, told who the road captain was, where the pitstop was (Siaton, if you are want to look it up on Google Maps) and where the final meet was if anyone got seperated.

The guys assemble.
Eventually, the time came for the off and everybody mounted up.  I slid round the corner to add my paltry 10 decibels to the most unbelievable noise that was generated.  Most of the bikes here have specialist pipes and the general throat was really something to hear, it was magnificent.  The whole thing was so well organised and I was surprised to see a public works truck from Bayawan with it's crew of about six uniformed guys, orange lights and everything getting ready to join as support.  Some of the clubs also brought pickup trucks for the supporters that weren't two-up on bikes and to recover bikes etc. 

For obvious reasons, I had decided to stick near the rear and took up position.  Due to the political influence of the people organising, not least a bloke called General Tiboy (phonetic) whose history I am not even going to go into here but believe me is a serious, card-carrying hardman and a lovely bloke, the route out of town was easy.  There were police on every junction, stopping the traffic and allowing us passage.  I had a couple of the support wagons behind me and thought that if I could at least outrun them, I wouldn't disgrace myself.  I was told that the previous year there had been about 400 bikes.  This was nothing on that scale for reasons I won't go into but there were the guts of 100 big bikes at least and the odd idiot like me.

Leaving town and opening the throttle a bit was such a wonderful experience.  OK, we weren't riding really hard, that wasn't the idea.  Suzi was obviously not in the same league but at about the 80kph promised she was well able to cope without flogging her.  We didn't have closed roads so there was the occasional redline moment trying to pass a cane truck or Ceres Liner bus.  For once, I think they were afraid of us!

For those of you who have never been involved with bikes, and I have only been to the smallest degree, it is hard to explain the unmitigated joy of riding in a pack in glorious sunshine on a decent road amongst people you count friends.  Certainly on Negros, it is not the hardman, "pick a fight if someone looks at me" attitude that bikers elsewhere sometimes adopt.  Everyone was hugely courteous as regards riding and if we had a holdup Don or one of the other guys on larger bikes would take to the offside and wave us through if the visibility along the road was not good.  We held together well with the support trucks behind us wailing sirens and basically warning anyone that they didn't want to pass perhaps a miles worth of large motorcycles.

About four or five km. short of Siaton, the pitstop , and havng negotiated a lovely set of bends, I entered a straight and everything seemed to slow down.  OK, so what was the problem?  Lots of bikes riding really slowly and obviously a problem.  A lot of the guys rode on slowly and some stopped.  I saw a scene on the nearside I can only describe as carnage.  Two guys lying at the side of the road, two beautiful bikes being picked up by friendly riders and the previously mentioned American on the trike only seemingly concerned about the damage to his machine and apparently oblivious to the injuries to his fellow riders which he had inflicted.  The two downed riders were Bjorn and Petter, a couple of the Outsiders I was riding with.  I have a little medical training although I had no kit, and it seemed both were in a bit of trouble.  They were being tended apparently competently by others so I did the sensible and stayed out of the way.

Later on, I was able to piece together what had happened.  Bjorn's bike had been playing up and so he pulled up well onto the hard shoulder.  Petter, being his mate, pulled up in front to assist.  The trike driver, who I subsequently discovered had had three major smashes on big runs either could not control his machine or was not paying attention (remember the three girls on the back?) and ploughed into them.  He had to leave the road to do this.

A quick triage look from the outside showed that Bjorn was by far the worse injured.  He had a huge gash down the inside of his calf which later required 59 stitches.  You could actually see the white bone of the back of his shin through the wound.  We got him onto the back of the recovery truck, which was far quicker than waiting for a local ambulance and off he went to Silliman Medical Centre back in Dumaguete.  I had a bit of a look at Petter who had an ankle that swole up to the size of a balloon when he took his boot off.  He had done that before I got there or I would have advised against but it was done.  He insisted on riding back to Duma after one of the guys had test ridden his bike up the road a bit and it turned out the ankle was actually broken although not, thankfully, a major break.

Remnants of a dangerous machine.
Here is the machine that caused all the trouble although it is unfair to blame it on the trike.  The owner took off to the nearest town to get a new wheel, taking two of his "girls" and leaving the other one to mind the machine at the side of the road.  If I ever see this machine again, it will be too soon.

So what to do?  Don and a few of the guys said I should ride on and catch up the pack but I decided to stay with them.  I didn't know too many of the other riders, I was a guest on a ridiculously small machine and besides I was a with them, wasn't I?  Loyalty must still count for something.  Whilst waiting for the recovery truck, Alan (not a fully patched member) and myself were dispatched to get some supplies from Siaton.  That is our job as non-patched members / hangarounds / random acquaintances. Trust us to get stuck on the only piece of road in the Philippines wthout a sari-sari (small store).

We went and got the necessaries and sat down to wait, as you can see.

Outsiders waiting outside.
From left to right here, Don (who is coincidentally the Secretary for all the Asian branches of the Outsiders, Ralf, Lee, Al and Uwe.  These are all really nice gentlemen and I use the word in the proper sense, I meet them frequently and we always have a good time.  What was that about judging books by covers?  I know the expresiion about not bringing your maiden aunts springs to mind here but I tell you, your maiden aunts would be hosted by some properly decent guys.  I hope I haven't shot their reputation here.  Sorry.

A sick bike getting loaded on.
The truck duly turned up, we loaded Bjorn's bike on and had a bit of a confab.  We could have ridden on to Bayawan where we would have arrived just about in time to turn round and come home and obviously I would have struggled to keep up although that was never a consideration.  The guys turned around and rode back to Duma to check on the two injured riders and I made the best speed I could, eventually catching up with them just coming out from the Medical Centre with a report that Bjorn had had the serious number of stitches I mentioned above.  I could not believe he was not going to be kept overnight at least but in a country where everything costs and medical facilities are sketchy at best, it was his choice.

The evening do that night, complete with (free) buffet and (free) drink was a slightly subdued affair for obvious reasons and there was a bit of tension in the air between some of the clubs despite the generally cordial relations.  I was ordered onstage on the basis of my musical noodlings the previous night and had the singular pleasure of playing Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild" for a huge bunch of bikers.  Strangely, given the wonderful standard of local musicianship, they didn't seem to be able to get round a fairly standard 12 bar in E but we muddled through, relying (in my case) rather more on volume than talent.  Then again, I have been doing that for years.

So that was the bike ride I never quite completed, a really good day out as long as it lasted and a memory that will last wth me for a very long time.  I am sorry I didn't get to the main event in Bayawan but perhaps next time.

This makes for a piece in itself, so I'll finish and publish this now and then start a new chapter.

Stay tuned.

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