by JK Solo Hoover
Editor’s note: Although Gallup Journey does not condone or encourage the actions or behaviors depicted below, we appreciate the story and wanted to share it.
[Authors note: All names and nicknames below have been changed and/or deleted to protect the semi-innocent. All, however, is true. And since the individuals depicted herein are local business leaders, skilled tradesmen, and educators, each is covertly wearing, under starched collars, a large RP skull-emblazoned T-shirt.]
Once upon a time in the West, there existed a fabled and, perhaps infamous, group of motorcyclists known as the Road Pirates. Based primarily in Gallup and New Mexico at large, they were not your stereotypical gang of outlaw lawbreakers, other than bending speed limits into the triple digits on a regular basis. They rode superbikes, irritatingly described as “crotch rockets” by the citizenry. Many would agree that, at least unofficially, they held the mantle of pride as the best, fastest group of bikers in the state. They had the trophies and track time records to prove it. Basic cruising speed, in the wide open, was 100 mph.
“It feels slow after awhile.” -UFO (Road Pirate founding member)
It was also proven on the open highways by the way they ‘ate alive’ anything in their path of road-devouring travel.
“Those Road Pirate guys, they really burn it.” -Gallup City official
They did these acts not as “stunts,” so shamelessly portrayed in the sensationalized media, but as agents of skill who simply rode their beasts on racetracks and in the vast country of Enchantment as they were meant to be ridden. Riding 150-plus-horsepower machines as originally conceived, akin to Indy Cars in power to weight ratio, looking with scorn upon the squids who’d usually be seen only in the urban environment: helmetless, popping wheelies, cavorting about, immaturely profiling. Oh, and sober, too, were the Road Pirates, well prepared and experienced for the undertaking. (High-speed mistakes are entirely unforgiving.)
“Those dudes, we see ’em down in the mountains all in a group taking a break. Then they get on their bikes and pass everybody!” -A Harley HOG Club member
It all began in the mid-1990s when the Road Pirates came into being. Young men devoted to superbike riding at a high level of skill, both in real track competition and highway burning, informally recruited by the biker grapevine. Women were allowed, but none subscribed. An elite group devoted to speed and performance; one had to earn a Road Pirate skull logo posted on the tail of the bike.
Captain Nemo, the reclusive leader of the RPs put it to words succinctly with the club motto, “Speed Limits? We don’t care about no stinking speed limits.”
The Coronado Trail, rising from the Arizona desert floor to the forested crest of Blue Vista mountain country, was their prime domain. The Road Pirates figuratively owned that road that few have traveled; treacherous even for a slow moving cage of four wheels, but nirvana for adept sport riders with more than 2,000 curves in the first 50 miles of the ascent. No guard rails, blind corners of all speed levels and necessitating usage of all gears inherent in a modern superbike race machine.
Highly challenging, dangerous, demanding the utmost of practiced skill, awareness, and courage. All in all, a 600-mile round trip, returning to Gallup with few impediments in the entire full-day journey such as police patrols, traffic, stoplights, cities, or boredom.
“We’d try to catch them down there, but we’d probably crash and die trying.” -Arizona Highway patrolman
Fool hardy some say. Perhaps, for even the stoutest of riders fell prey to age, or physical decline, common sense, or the most debilitative affliction of all – marriage and family life. Ah, God blesses the women for saving us from ourselves. Well, maybe.
Each of the Road Pirates today still own machines of two wheels. Few, though, ride much at all anymore except for the most hard core, the original leaders of the group, charter founding members, per se. And they ride slower, or on slower machines, and rarely frequent the race tracks any longer. With that, the group has dwindled, lost interest, fallen apart. It’s sad but life, as we all find to be true, moves on and all must change.
Steve McQueen was asked years ago as he sat in winter solitude, gazing at his souped-up Triumph in his Malibu garage, “What are you doing?” The actor/racer said, “Just waiting.”
Spring is here once more, and the open road beckons to each of us in its own fashion. It’s time to say, “Let’s ride!” and rise up again from that desert like the Phoenix.
Hail the Road Pirates! Riders of Renown.