Sale Of The Sausage Creature

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What price Hunter S. Thompson?

In this case, it’s $2,650, reserve not met yet, on eBay. I should buy it. As a twentysomething I really wanted one. The problem, of course, is that this is the Hunter S. Thompson bike. I have a complicated relationship with Mr. Thompson, simplified somewhat by the fact that he is dead. For about a decade, since I was just writing for my own amusement on various car forums/fora, people have been making vague gestures in our mutual direction, usually with an implication that I was modeling myself on him or some such thing.

In truth, I modeled myself as a car writer after Setright and Baxter. I didn’t read HST and still haven’t read him very much. The older I get, the less I like him, for reasons I’ll discuss later in the week. But for now, here’s the “Song Of The Sausage Creature”, by the man himself.

There are some things nobody needs in this world, and a bright-red, hunch-back, warp-speed 900cc cafe racer is one of them – but I want one anyway, and on some days I actually believe I need one. That is why they are dangerous.

Everybody has fast motorcycles these days. Some people go 150 miles an hour on two-lane blacktop roads, but not often. There are too many oncoming trucks and too many radar cops and too many stupid animals in the way. You have to be a little crazy to ride these super-torque high-speed crotch rockets anywhere except a racetrack – and even there, they will scare the whimpering shit out of you… There is, after all, not a pig’s eye worth of difference between going head-on into a Peterbilt or sideways into the bleachers. On some days you get what you want, and on others, you get what you need.

When Cycle World called me to ask if I would road-test the new Harley Road King, I got uppity and said I’d rather have a Ducati superbike. It seemed like a chic decision at the time, and my friends on the superbike circuit got very excited. “Hot damn,” they said. “We will take it to the track and blow the bastards away.”

“Balls,” I said. “Never mind the track. The track is for punks. We are Road People. We are Cafe Racers.”

The Cafe Racer is a different breed, and we have our own situations. Pure speed in sixth gear on a 5000-foot straightaway is one thing, but pure speed in third gear on a gravel-strewn downhill ess-turn is quite another.

But we like it. A thoroughbred Cafe Racer will ride all night through a fog storm in freeway traffic to put himself into what somebody told him was the ugliest and tightest decreasing-radius turn since Genghis Khan invented the corkscrew.

Cafe Racing is mainly a matter of taste. It is an atavistic mentality, a peculiar mix of low style, high speed, pure dumbness, and overweening commitment to the Cafe Life and all its dangerous pleasures… I am a Cafe Racer myself, on some days – and it is one of my finest addictions.

I am not without scars on my brain and my body, but I can live with them. I still feel a shudder in my spine every time I see a picture of a Vincent Black Shadow, or when I walk into a public restroom and hear crippled men whispering about the terrifying Kawasaki Triple… I have visions of compound femur-fractures and large black men in white hospital suits holding me down on a gurney while a nurse called “Bess” sews the flaps of my scalp together with a stitching drill.

Ho, ho. Thank God for these flashbacks. The brain is such a wonderful instrument (until God sinks his teeth into it). Some people hear Tiny Tim singing when they go under, and some others hear the song of the Sausage Creature.

When the Ducati turned up in my driveway, nobody knew what to do with it. I was in New York, covering a polo tournament, and people had threatened my life. My lawyer said I should give myself up and enroll in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Other people said it had something to do with the polo crowd.

The motorcycle business was the last straw. It had to be the work of my enemies, or people who wanted to hurt me. It was the vilest kind of bait, and they knew I would go for it.

Of course. You want to cripple the bastard? Send him a 130-mph cafe-racer. And include some license plates, he’ll think it’s a streetbike. He’s queer for anything fast.

Which is true. I have been a connoisseur of fast motorcycles all my life. I bought a brand-new 650 BSA Lightning when it was billed as “the fastest motorcycle ever tested by Hot Rod magazine.” I have ridden a 500-pound Vincent through traffic on the Ventura Freeway with burning oil on my legs and run the Kawa 750 Triple through Beverly Hills at night with a head full of acid… I have ridden with Sonny Barger and smoked weed in biker bars with Jack Nicholson, Grace Slick, Ron Zigler and my infamous old friend, Ken Kesey, a legendary Cafe Racer.

Some people will tell you that slow is good – and it may be, on some days – but I am here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba….

So when I got back from New York and found a fiery red rocket-style bike in my garage, I realized I was back in the road-testing business.

The brand-new Ducati 900 Campione del Mundo Desmodue Supersport double-barreled magnum Cafe Racer filled me with feelings of lust every time I looked at it. Others felt the same way. My garage quickly became a magnet for drooling superbike groupies. They quarreled and bitched at each other about who would be the first to help me evaluate my new toy… And I did, of course, need a certain spectrum of opinions, besides my own, to properly judge this motorcycle. The Woody Creek Perverse Environmental Testing Facility is a long way from Daytona or even top-fuel challenge-sprints on the Pacific Coast Highway, where teams of big-bore Kawasakis and Yamahas are said to race head-on against each other in death-defying games of “chicken” at 100 miles an hour….

No. Not everybody who buys a high-dollar torque-brute yearns to go out in a ball of fire on a public street in L.A. Some of us are decent people who want to stay out of the emergency room, but still blast through neo-gridlock traffic in residential districts whenever we feel like it… For that we need Fine Machinery.

Which we had – no doubt about that. The Ducati people in New Jersey had opted, for some reasons of their own, to send me the 900ss-sp for testing – rather than their 916 crazy-fast, state-of-the-art superbike track-racer. It was far too fast, they said – and prohibitively expensive – to farm out for testing to a gang of half-mad Colorado cowboys who think they’re world-class Cafe Racers.

The Ducati 900 is a finely engineered machine. My neighbors called it beautiful and admired its racing lines. The nasty little bugger looked like it was going 90 miles an hour when it was standing still in my garage.

Taking it on the road, though, was a genuinely terrifying experience. I had no sense of speed until I was going 90 and coming up fast on a bunch of pickup trucks going into a wet curve along the river. I went for both brakes, but only the front one worked, and I almost went end over end. I was out of control staring at the tailpipe of a U.S. Mail truck, still stabbing frantically at my rear brake pedal, which I just couldn’t find… I am too tall for these new-age roadracers; they are not built for any rider taller than five-nine, and the rearset brake pedal was not where I thought it would be. Mid-size Italian pimps who like to race from one cafe to another on the boulevards of Rome in a flat-line prone position might like this, but I do not.

I was hunched over the tank like a person diving into a pool that got emptied yesterday. Whacko! Bashed on the concrete bottom, flesh ripped off, a Sausage Creature with no teeth, fucked-up for the rest of its life.

We all love Torque, and some of us have taken it straight over the high side from time to time – and there is always Pain in that… But there is also Fun, the deadly element, and Fun is what you get when you screw this monster on. BOOM! Instant take-off, no screeching or squawking around like a fool with your teeth clamping down on our tongue and your mind completely empty of everything but fear.

No. This bugger digs right in and shoots you straight down the pipe, for good or ill.

On my first take-off, I hit second gear and went through the speed limit on a two-lane blacktop highway full of ranch traffic. By the time I went up to third, I was going 75 and the tach was barely above 4000 rpm….

And that’s when it got its second wind. From 4000 to 6000 in third will take you from 75 mph to 95 in two seconds – and after that, Bubba, you still have fourth, fifth, and sixth. Ho, ho.

I never got to sixth gear, and I didn’t get deep into fifth. This is a shameful admission for a full-bore Cafe Racer, but let me tell you something, old sport: This motorcycle is simply too goddamn fast to ride at speed in any kind of normal road traffic unless you’re ready to go straight down the centerline with your nuts on fire and a silent scream in your throat.

When aimed in the right direction at high speed, though, it has unnatural capabilities. This I unwittingly discovered as I made my approach to a sharp turn across some railroad tracks, saw that I was going way too fast and that my only chance was to veer right and screw it on totally, in a desperate attempt to leapfrog the curve by going airborne.

It was a bold and reckless move, but it was necessary. And it worked: I felt like Evel Knievel as I soared across the tracks with the rain in my eyes and my jaws clamped together in fear. I tried to spit down on the tracks as I passed them, but my mouth was too dry… I landed hard on the edge of the road and lost my grip for a moment as the Ducati began fishtailing crazily into oncoming traffic. For two or three seconds I came face to face with the Sausage Creature….

But somehow the brute straightened out. I passed a schoolbus on the right and got the bike under control long enough to gear down and pull off into an abandoned gravel driveway where I stopped and turned off the engine. My hands had seized up like claws and the rest of my body was numb. I felt nauseous and I cried for my mama, but nobody heard, then I went into a trance for 30 or 40 seconds until I was finally able to light a cigarette and calm down enough to ride home. I was too hysterical to shift gears, so I went the whole way in first at 40 miles an hour.

Whoops! What am I saying? Tall stories, ho, ho… We are motorcycle people; we walk tall and we laugh at whatever’s funny. We shit on the chests of the Weird….

But when we ride very fast motorcycles, we ride with immaculate sanity. We might abuse a substance here and there, but only when it’s right. The final measure of any rider’s skill is the inverse ratio of his preferred Traveling Speed to the number of bad scars on his body. It is that simple: If you ride fast and crash, you are a bad rider. And if you are a bad rider, you should not ride motorcycles.

The emergence of the superbike has heightened this equation drastically. Motorcycle technology has made such a great leap forward. Take the Ducati. You want optimum cruising speed on this bugger? Try 90mph in fifth at 5500 rpm – and just then, you see a bull moose in the middle of the road. WHACKO. Meet the Sausage Creature.

Or maybe not: The Ducati 900 is so finely engineered and balanced and torqued that you *can* do 90 mph in fifth through a 35-mph zone and get away with it. The bike is not just fast – it is *extremely* quick and responsive, and it *will* do amazing things… It is like riding a Vincent Black Shadow, which would outrun an F-86 jet fighter on the take-off runway, but at the end, the F-86 would go airborne and the Vincent would not, and there was no point in trying to turn it. WHAMO! The Sausage Creature strikes again.

There is a fundamental difference, however, between the old Vincents and the new breed of superbikes. If you rode the Black Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost certainly die. That is why there are not many life members of the Vincent Black Shadow Society. The Vincent was like a bullet that went straight; the Ducati is like the magic bullet in Dallas that went sideways and hit JFK and the Governor of Texas at the same time.

It was impossible. But so was my terrifying sideways leap across the railroad tracks on the 900sp. The bike did it easily with the grace of a fleeing tomcat. The landing was so easy I remember thinking, goddamnit, if I had screwed it on a little more I could have gone a lot farther.

Maybe this is the new Cafe Racer macho. My bike is so much faster than yours that I dare you to ride it, you lame little turd. Do you have the balls to ride this BOTTOMLESS PIT OF TORQUE?

That is the attitude of the new-age superbike freak, and I am one of them. On some days they are about the most fun you can have with your clothes on. The Vincent just killed you a lot faster than a superbike will. A fool couldn’t ride the Vincent Black Shadow more than once, but a fool can ride a Ducati 900 many times, and it will always be a bloodcurdling kind of fun. That is the Curse of Speed which has plagued me all my life. I am a slave to it. On my tombstone they will carve, “IT NEVER GOT FAST ENOUGH FOR ME.”

hstssc

21 Replies to “Sale Of The Sausage Creature”

  1. AvatarDomestic Hearse

    Hunter S had demons, deep in his soul. Like the swine cast off the cliff by Jesus, Hunter S lived his life secretly wishing to take the plunge with them. You, in comparison, merely have a devil on your shoulder. Not the same thing.

    Therefore, this bike should inspire within you nothing but Fear and Loathing. Having just come through a bone-crusher of an accident and painful rehab, there’s no reason to relive that episode. Unless, of course, you’re like the parade of patients that come through my wife’s (the good doctor) door, reliving the same black scenes of their lives over and over again, hoping for happy outcomes which never materialize.

    Risk is already in abundance in your life as a racer and instructor. You’ve a son, and an Accord; the devil gets weaker every passing day.

    He already used this instrument of self-destruction earlier this year when, in a suburb of Chicago, he lured a non-licensed squid onto a friend’s Ducati, whereupon the noob rode it at 90 mph through a red light, up onto the corner, nearly severing a little girl’s foot. (Said little girl is seeing the good doctor for recurring nightmares, spasms of PTSD.)

    So give the devil his due. Let him keep his bike and give it to another. Likely, it’ll be a squid who’ll plaster a KCCO sticker on it. Sausage Creature in the making. Let’s just hope he only maims himself.

    Reply
  2. Avatarjdh

    If I recall correctly, you have a motorcycle – an older Honda. Do you ride it?

    If you pull the pin on buying this one, It will probably be a blast if you take it to track days. But you might want to keep it off the street for a while. Riding a street bike safely requires a certain paranoia. No one will see you, and a certain percentage of the people that do see you will actively wish you harm. Couple those facts with your relative inexperience/current skills in riding a motorcycle and a natural-born hoon mentality could lead to a number of Hunter-esque moments. Good fodder for future columns, but while you got decent mileage out of the Snow Crash, I doubt you want to relive it.

    But I bet you will enjoy yourself immensely if you take it to the track, particularly if you get top notch instruction. And I would daresay that it might make you an even better driver in an race car.

    Note that while the 900 is the cool Hunter bike, it is somewhat obsolete. I don’t know how it would stack up to current machinery in the suspension/handling arena, but I expect there may be some deficiencies. And after your first shop visit, you will fondly recollect the relative affordability of your Porsche mechanic.

    Reply
    • AvatarScott

      Note that while the 900 is the cool Hunter bike, it is somewhat obsolete. I don’t know how it would stack up to current machinery in the suspension/handling arena, but I expect there may be some deficiencies.

      I have a triumph 675 and it goes 65-70 in first gear (in 3 seconds) + anti-lock brakes and adjustable suspension… and it’s relatively Slow. A lot of the new ones have traction control too.

      Reply
  3. Avatar-Nate

    For better or worse , You Jack , remain unique .

    I remember reading that HST article when first it was published and the backlash it got , mostly from (IMO) the poseur crowd who don’t actually like Motocycles nor riding fast .

    Me , I’ve survived a fatal Moto accident so now I ride *much* slower and am quite happy to be alive much less still able to ride .

    I’d have thought that Duc would *instantly* zoom past the absurdly low reserve .

    -Nate

    Reply
  4. Avatarmnm4ever

    I am no writer that is for sure, and all I can do is recognize writing that I enjoy reading. I enjoy reading pretty much anything you have written, even on topics I have absolutely zero interest in like guitars and overly expensive watches. IMO your writing is nothing like HST. I couldn’t read through this entire thing without falling over the phrases, backtracking, trying to make sense of it. It reads like it was written by a guy from the 60s who was tripping on acid and trying really hard to make himself seem witty and impressive and smarter than everyone else. Which I guess it was.

    Reply
  5. AvatarTomko

    Hunter has sadly left us. But he knew when his time was up and denied the Reaper his reward.

    Pass on this Duc, and do the same thing Jack.

    As a casual observer of humanity I would postulate that any woman who allows such a device under her man is a woman who is, as they say, leaving her options open.

    Reply
  6. Avatargalactagog

    I think Hunter S Thompson is wildly overrated. Everything he writes is basically bragging about his own dick. Not that I have read much but that’s the impression I get

    This was no exception

    Reply
    • AvatarTomko

      Hunter wrote about his experiences to an America that was so repressed with fear that it didn’t even want to wonder what it would be like to drive outside the lines. It was for those who dared to live vicariously through his tales of non-conformist and 1% behaviour.

      America is still repressed with fear today, but the salve of readily available porn and pop culture has been more effective than bible thumping religion and the draft ever were.

      Don’t believe me? Then get a passport, learn another language and leave the country for a while and you’ll see that the fear and repression all starts to lift from your psyche in a few weeks.

      In the meantime we have Jack to tell us about the exploitss that we’re too scared to do ourselves.

      Reply
    • Avatarjdh

      “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” was an outstanding counterculture take on the 1972 presidential election. But it helps to have lived through it.
      “Hells Angels” was a pretty good demystification of the motorcycle gang.
      “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was a hysterical depiction of the ultimate road trip. Once again, it helps to have lived through that era.

      Most everything else he wrote afterward seems to have been recycled outtakes from the above three books.

      Reply
  7. AvatarGert Frobe Body Double

    Jack, I nearly became a sausage creature just last week on the gnarled roads of Southeast Ohio.

    Having ridden about 200 miles of twisted triple digit Ohio rollercoaster (during an 8000 mile cross continent trip), I turned into my hotel in Hagerstown Maryland. Much to my surprise, as I leaned over into the 10mph right hand curve leading up to the lobby, my forks refused to turn right and keep the bike under me and my 660lb+luggage sport tourer fell instantaneously onto my foot. After righting it, I discovered to my horror that there was something impinging on the fork preventing it from turning right, and that it was a hard stop, ruling out all the things I thought it might be (cable caught or wrapped around something possibly, or extended fender loose and hitting fairing). It was dark out, so I parked my bike and checked in and visions of sausage creatures squirmed in my head. What if I had been countersteering into a 70mph left on the 555, down a steep hill, with no guard rail etc…

    The next morning I get out and the problem is obvious. Down between the triple clamps, one of the bolts that holds on the front fairing/headlight/windshield has shaken off its nut (probably on those fucking brick streets in Marietta) and had worked its way a full inch and a half out of its hole. It’s not letting the fork point right more than 10% of its normal range of motion. I work the bolt back into its hole and head across town to Lowes, buy a little sack of nylon nuts and another 12mm wrench and get everything squared away before heading to DC for the day.

    Believe me, I spent about 15% of my riding time for the next few days either visually or manually inspecting that fucking bolt. Lo and behold, in Montreal when I’m looking my bike over before the ride to Sault Ste. Marie, I find that the other fucking bolt above it that does the same thing has shaken off its nut too.

    Luckily there were 4 nuts in the sack.

    That was yesterday morning.

    Reply
    • AvatarGert Frobe Body Double

      Oh and I guess the legally responsible party would be Canadian Kawasaki Motors Inc. Those fuckers.

      This is an ’08 Concours 1400. I’m totally fine by the way, although I got rained on for 8.5 hours in a row yesterday.

      Reply
    • JackJack Post author

      That’s flat fucking terrifying and it never occurred to me that the Concours hadn’t been debugged out of those sorts of problems at least twenty years ago.

      Glad you’re okay.

      Reply
  8. AvatarMike

    Both bold and disturbed. The words flow like unfiltered brainwaves, with every contradiction honestly explored. There’s no apology seeking. No self consciousness. Everything is just coming out right now , delivered straight and dirty.

    Finishing this, I have the strangest feeling. This makes me empathize with a pathological insanity. NEVER FAST ENOUGH.

    Who lives like this anymore? Who still rolls with the Fuck You If You Disagree attitude?

    There’s something addicting about reading this. How many of us are meek, whether we admit or not, just trying to convince ourselves we live vivaciously? HST talks about fear… not some feeble fear of a little disagreement, or the fear being liked… but crippling, terrifying fear. Is fast enough when you’re fast dead? If you have the stones to find out if there is truth in that, maybe then you are truly living, and not just existing.

    This is the first thing I’ve ever read by HST. Interested to see your next piece on this.

    Reply
    • AvatarTomko

      I’m old enough to remember what things were like before our society became a matriarchy.

      The attitude you speak of was more prevalent then.

      We’ve become kindler and gentler, a thousand points of light et al.

      But we’ve also lost our edge.

      Reply
  9. AvatarWiredChuck

    I had a 1995 Dicati 900SS/SP. When it ran like god and Ducati brothers intended, there was nothing else like it. Nothing I’ve ridden or driven offered the same visceral connection to a machine. It was Heaven.

    Alas, it also was Italian, which meant I was never quite sure something arcane and expensive wouldn’t go south on an epic ride, leaving me stranded while a buddy rode home and got his truck. Plus, some of the engineering was just stupid. Like, for example, casting the side stand boss into the engine case. I whacked the side stand, snapped the boss and had to have the damn thing welded.

    My rather, who owned a 916, once told me, “Italian motorcycles are like Italian women: beautiful to look at, wonderful to ride but very high maintenance.” Truer words were never spoken.

    I’ve since moved on to more reliable motorcycles that are faster and cheaper to run. They’ll run circles around the 900 SS, but not one of them stirs the soul like the that 900 did.

    Reply
    • AvatarTomko

      “My rather (sic) who owned a 916, once told me, “Italian motorcycles are like Italian women: beautiful to look at, wonderful to ride but very high maintenance.” Truer words were never spoken.”

      This was likely written on the third stone tablet that Moses had to leave behind because his hands were already full with the first two.

      Reply

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