Opinion: Have a joyous May Day

Happy May Day.

There was a time in my 20s, when celebrating May Day was a big event on my yearly calendar. Our motorcycle club, The Tribes, gathered on Yosemite Avenue at the Arbor Nook tavern for a run to the festival in Los Banos.

We rode north to State Route 152 and made a pit-stop at the Wagon Wheel. This quaint little roadhouse near Avenue 8 in Chowchilla was where the beer flowed freely, and the fist fights took place in the parking lot.

After a few adult beverages, the boys and girls mounted their Iron Horses for the next leg of the adventure. We pulled onto the Main Street of Los Banos a while later and parked on the street, rear tires to the curb. There were Harley Davidsons as far as the eye could see. Mixed in were some choppers crafted from rice rockets, Hondas, Kawasaki and such or the European scooters Triumphs and BMWs but they were only tossed in here and there. They didn’t matter much. The Harleys were king.

Another fun run was the annual Cantaloupe Festivals in Firebaugh. My mother-in-law, Ann Nix, always called them the cantaloupe races.

Biker celebrations included barbecues and raffles with quarts of expensive high-octane alcohol as the prizes. Tickets included kegs of beer and gallons of wine. The ol’ ladies brought side dishes.

Once my best friend Robin Beban and I made 15-gallons of potato salad. It is a good thing she likes potato salad; I can’t stand it. If I don’t know how something is supposed to taste, I’m worthless trying to make it. I’ve never seen a recipe for 15 gallons, so we got twenty pounds of potatoes, two dozen eggs, onions, mayo, mustard and pickles and did our best. We also threw in things from her pantry, such as wheat germ and whatever spices she had on hand. The biker crowd ate every bite.

I have seen people post fond memories about the annual Bass Lake run on July 4th by the Hells Angles on Facebook. It was so much fun. Madera County Sheriff Ed Bates called for all hands-on deck and there were only a few problems.

Each campground had its own deputy or two keeping an eye on the group. I never saw any major confrontations.

I remember several parties hosted by the Hells Angels when all the clubs gathered in San Jose. The purpose was to form an alliance to keep the squabbling between bike clubs to a minimum.

I will never forget how exciting it was to meet Sonny Barger at one of those parties and see the hundreds of Hells Angles.

We all flew our club’s colors, they were The Tribes MC. The back of mine read “Property of Indian.” The women‘s libber in me rebelled against the verbiage, but it was the way the game was played.

A girl without property or little sister patches on her jacket could be in big trouble.

I met Barger again after he got out of prison at a bike rally at the Madera Fairgrounds. I immediately remembered the protocol, to speak politely and ask permission before taking photos. I mentioned the party and the alliance. He said he remembered those events, but not me specifically. I wasn’t surprised. He was a rockstar and met a lot of silly girls back then!

The summer before Fred and I got together, I had played cowgirl and found that cowboys and bikers were very similar. The clothes were only slightly different, but cowboys and bikers were all pretty much the same, big flirts.

The summer of 1975 was my cowgirl phase. We went to the state championship rodeo in Salinas. Our hosts, Ronnie and Ellen Goodrich, were so much fun. I worked as Ron’s girl Friday and Ellen’s babysitter for their children, Wesley and Seth. It was between my freshman and sophomore year in college.

I had a great time at the expense of my liver.

My girlfriends and I stayed in a hotel next to the rodeo grounds and never once made it to watch any of the competitions.

We started the day with bloody marys and progressed from there. It was a four-day weekend I will never forget.

Remembering the Wagon Wheel roadhouse, the last time I enjoyed its ambience the late Kenny Rogers recorded the video Slow Dance More from the roof of the building. RIP to the Gambler!

Long days and pleasant nights have a great weekend.

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Readers may contact Tami Jo Nix by emailing tamijonix@gmail.com or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.