It must have been sometime back in the late spring of 1998 when I was required to attend a week-long Supervisory Leadership and Sensitivity Training class in Memphis, Tennessee. It was then when I experienced first-handedly, the irritable effects of Government (US Fish & Wildlife Service) Leadership Training classes, ‘Upper Class’ resort hotels,…… and their lack of on-site laundry facilities…
Having loaded down my Harley with my sleeping bag, air mattress, raingear, and a couple changes of clothes, I left our house in (then) Mission Texas several days before the training began. This allowed me time to attend a local Bike Rally in Houston Texas a few days before heading through Louisiana and then up through Mississippi (with an over-night stop in Jackson) before pulling into Memphis for training.
For those of you who have never spent days at a time on a Harley (or any bike for that matter) you may not realize the adverse effects road grime may have on not only a bike, but also on the rider! Bikes and riders do get down-right road grime gritty and bug splattin’ shitty during a good ride, but after a few miles you get kind of use to it and the feel of the open road takes over and more than compensates for it all.
Having already spent five days on the road, and four nights in a tent, and ‘NO’ times in a shower, I had truly become one with nature. Any time I’d stop for gas on the road and enter the quick stop stores for a bottle of water and a candy bar, people would certainly move away and allow me the privilege of checking out quickly with the cashier.
Upon my arrival at the Hotel that the training was to be held at I immediately realized that I had truly entered what I honestly believed to be the ‘Twilight Zone’…
The instant I rode up to the front doors of that fancy-ass hotel on my 1995 Harley Davidson FLHTP, these two dudes dressed in British Revolutionary War Long Red Coats, White Santa Claus Gloves, and Abraham Lincoln Top Hats come bebopping out and start to grab at the gear on my bike. After a brief (verbal) lesson on biker ‘Rules of the Road’ with the Number One rule being… “Never ever touch another bikers bike or personal possessions without first getting approval from said biker!”, they immediately retreated to the safety of their little outside guard shack and resumed their jobs at (apparently) protecting the hotels shiny four wheeled carts from falling into the hands of someone that wasn’t wearing those white Santa Claus gloves.
Once checked into my room, the horrors of the Twilight Zone continued…. Five days without a shower or a fresh change of socks, skivvies, jeans, and tee shirt found me looking somewhat forward to a nice hot shower. With the feel of warm water running down the crack of my Iron Butt Saddle Sore ass, I grab the bar of hotel supplied soap and begin to lather up when I begin to realize that the entire shower stall began to smell like ‘Peaches’…… Hell, even the shampoo and conditioner smelled like peaches! DAMN! Peach perfumed soap, shampoo, and conditioner! All I could think of was that I hope I don’t run into any other bikers until this damn nauseous peach odor wears off!
Wearing a fresh pair of socks, skivvies, jeans, and tee shirt, I decided that since I only had one other clean set of clothes to wear for the week that I had better begin searching around that hotel and find out where the laundry room was at so that I could wash that set and have it ready to wear when I go to leave on Friday. Well…… the nightmare continued. After spending a little time trying to find the laundry facility on my own, all while packing around a bundled up pile of five day road grimed clothes under arm (thinking that maybe it would help ‘mask’ that gayish scent of peach perfume), and getting some odd looks from other hotel guests that I would pass by during my search, I finally decided to break the ‘Man Code’ and actually ‘ask’ a person at the front desk for ‘directions’ to the laundry room. Their reply….
“We have no on-site laundry facilities for our hotel guest’s sir, however we do provide laundry services, all you need to do is leave you garments here at the front desk and we’ll have them back to you in a couple days.” NOTE: Now that I think back, their use of the word “Garments” in relation to what I had rolled up under my arm should have been an indication of what I might expect.
When training began on Monday morning, it was obvious to me that the other thirty or so supervisors who were attending this training were defiantly overdressed! With the formal day one introductions complete, the trainer asked the group what we thought of the accommodations. I couldn’t help but to mention my thoughts on having to lather up with peach perfumed soap when a person sitting at my table openly commented that he ‘loved’ the peach perfumed soaps. I suppose it was at that point, when I turned to him and made mention of the soap being a little too “Queerish for my lifestyle”. It was that comment that provided the instructor an immediate and perfect Segway into one of the training topics for the week – ‘Sensitivity’ Training.
With the week of horrors finally coming to an end (or so I thought) at noon on Friday, I decided to again dawn a new clean pair of socks, skivvies, jeans, and tee shirt, and with my professionally cleaned clothes having been delivered personally to my room the day before, I’d be all set for the next leg of my road trip – a day long ride from Memphis to my cabin in Southern Illinois to spend a few days with my dad shooting guns and just goofing off.
I should have known early on that day that something just wasn’t right. Having already checked out of my room and sitting in the morning sessions before the training ended, I began noticing an uncomfortable feeling from my legs all the way up to my neck. I certainly didn’t hang around long at all once the training ended around noon, and within minutes I was in the saddle again hitting the open road! Again, that irritable feeling of something rubbing against the skin on my legs at the top of my socks, the same feeling around my waist, and even more of that feeling around my neck. Trust me, trying to ride a Harley one handed while picking and scratching at several irritable areas on your body is certainly NOT enjoyable!
After getting about forty-five miles outside of Memphis, I decided that I needed to stop at a gas station and find out what the hell was irritating me so damn much. I pulled into the next gas station, a Shell station that had an outside restroom facility. I pulled my Harley right up to the door of that concrete outhouse, stormed inside, slammed the door and commenced removing those professionally laundered clothes. I immediately realized that those professional laundry people put staples with little scratchy-ass tags on every single piece of clothing they get! The tops of each of my socks had one, the waistband on my skivvies had one on the back, the waistband of my jeans had one inside the front by the top button, and there was one on the back-collar area (that inside back tag area) of my genuine Harley Davidson tee shirt! So here I am, standing stark ass naked in a service station outside restroom with my boots and a pile of clothes stacked up at my feet while I’m digging out these damn staples using my four inch blade Buck Knife when the damn door swings open and I see this lady standing there with a bit of a shocked expression on her face with a kid at her side and all she says is “Hurry up, let’s get outta here!”.
Occasionally, I get a grin on my face just thinking about that whole experience and wondering what the hell went through that gal and her kids minds the minute she opened that damn restroom door……. Could it be that maybe she was thinking that SHE was about to enter the ‘Twilight Zone’? herself?…. All I know is that after I put my clothes back on, gassed up the Harley, and grabbed a bottle of water and a candy bar, I was back in the saddle being smacked with some good ‘ol road grime again all the while furthering myself from the “Twilight Zone” hotel horrors and Government Sensitivity training sessions of Memphis Tennessee!
Yup, I sure as hell would like to someday hear that gal’s side of the story – especially now that it’s been about twenty years!