Does Harley ownership mean shaving your head (or other body parts)?

As stated earlier, I might soon buy a Harley, ending a more than 30-year tradition of owning only bikes that go, stop and handle well.

I’ll admit I’m now attracted to the imperfect machines. I love the thought of all that torque coupled with Lazy Boy ergonomics that should make my next 1,000-mile ride to the desert and back more enjoyable. Beside, I’m getting too old for my sports bike.

Biker man

There’s only one thing holding me up besides the hefty price tag. The bad-boy image associated with the Harley crowd is giving me pause.

To see if I could fit in with the men and women in black T-shirts and cut-off vests, I attended the 21st annual Tattoos & Blues festival in Santa Rosa.

As I pulled up I could see I’d come to the right place. Hogs lined the parking lot of the Flamingo Hotel and people with necks tats and ear gauges mingled among the chrome and flame paint.

I walked up as a leather-clad couple exited. I eavesdropped just long enough to catch a conversation about shaved body parts.

“It itches,” he said.

“How low did you take it?” she asked.

“It’s Telly Savales down there,” he replied.

I headed in, trying not to notice the two dudes in Hells Angels vests standing at the door. Apparently, the event was sponsored by the Sonoma County chapter.

Inside I inquired about the offering. Tattoos in one room and blues in another. There’s also a full bar, I was told.

Hmmm. I figured I could skip the body engraving but a little music and booze sounded good, so I started to walk in when the man extended a tattoo covered arm and stopped me.

“That’ll be $20,” he said.

“Oh, OK. Maybe I’ll come back later,” I stammered and did an about-face.

I walked outside in time to hear an Angel hawk a lugey in a planter. Two weathered women smoking cigarettes stopped talking as I walked by.

In the parking space beside my car were three bikers, unstrapping and getting ready to go in. I asked them how they liked their Road Kings. They liked them a lot.

One guy, perhaps sensing I was not yet of the “brotherhood,” pointed to a message on his tank painted in red cursive. It said “Just effing ride.”

“It doesn’t matter what you ride,” he said. “As long as you ride.”