A Harley-Davidson executive once said, "99 percent of those who ride motorcycles in America are decent, law abiding citizens who happen to enjoy riding with the wind in their face."
Outlaw bikers picked up on that real quick: "We're the one percent, the ones that don't give a damn about the other 99 percent," they said and they meant it.
As a police reporter for a Daytona Beach newspaper I'm assigned to cover outlaw bikers on the beachside during Motorcycle Week. I head straight for the Boot Hill Saloon, a favorite watering hole for outlaw bikers.
Daytona Beach police ban the wearing of "colors" on the street during Bike Week, but bikers wear colors inside biker bars. Colors are leather vests with club insignia on the back. So prized are colors that an outlaw biker would rather die than let somebody take away his treasured identity.
A dozen or so bikers wearing East Coast Motorcycle gang (ECMF) colors are playing pool in the back room at the Boot Hill Saloon when I walk in with my notebook, ballpoint pen, and "straight" appearance.
I walk up to a biker with the name "Crazy Horse" on the front of his vest: "I'm a newspaper reporter writing a story about you guys."
The sound of balls clicking on the pool tables stops. I can hear sweat breaking through the pores of my skin, and it's February.
"Crazy Horse" points with his cue stick: "Talk to him."
The object of the point is "Cochise," president of the ECMF gang. He's six feet, 200 pounds, with jet black hair and a neatly trimmed Fu-Manchu, and he's very much in charge.
Pointing at me while looking around at his followers, Cochise asks, "THIS wants to write about me?" The guys laugh at their leader's joke.
I laugh too. "Sure, why not?" I ask Cochise. My mouth is bone dry.
Cochise nods, then lays down the only rule: "Ask me anything you want Mister Newspaperman but screw with me just once, and your reporter-ass is mine."
"No problem," say I with a forced smile. Of course there is a problem I seriously doubt my own sanity.
Cochise says he'll talk with me "at the party." I say I'll follow in my red Volkswagen (marked) company car.
"You ride with me," Cochise says, hoisting me, bodily, onto the back of his chopper. I leave behind my company car with its two-way radio and my only link with the civilized world as I know it. [more to follow]