I was browsing the interwebs looking for information on how bikers deal with tolls on I-95 or any other toll road, for that matter. I knew there must be an easier way to handle tolls other than pulling over and counting out money. For starters, with my helmet on, I can’t hear much of anything. With my bike running, they wouldn’t hear much of anything so any verbal communication with a toll person would be difficult at best. Besides, it’s not like I can just reach into the console of my bike and count out cash. I don’t have a console. What I have are gloves that make fine manual dexterity a challenge. I really wanted some simpler way to pay my dues. As I planned the ride for that summer, part of me wanted to avoid toll roads and take backroads; I enjoy backroads far more anyway. It's a long(-ish) trip so I'd really wanted to get there and back to maximize the time I could spent at my destination. It just seems like it was gonna be a pain in the arse. But I figured I'd get out there and look for sage words of advice from the well-traveled internet minions. Surely, someone had the answer and the thoughtfulness to post it online.
The problem with the interwebs.. well.. one of them.. is that there are way too many rabbit holes to fall into and I quickly found myself looking at a discussion about “biker nicknames” or road names. Just like there are plenty of people who think that buying a bike makes them bikers and that joining a motorcycle club is the next stop after riding off the showroom floor, there are plenty of people who think that getting a nickname or road name makes them more of a biker.
I understand the draw. When I was but a sprout, I too was impressed with those who had nicknames. "They call me Jack". But your name is Frank, isn't it? "Yeah, but Jack is my nickname. It's what everybody calls me." Ooohhh. I want one of those! Maybe it stems from the fact that many of us are unhappy with our own names. Not that there's anything wrong with them in most cases. But we're used to them. We've heard them all our lives and they're mundane. Not like.. "Jack". Unfortunately, no one ever offered me a nickname. I've forever been "Chris" and occasionally "Christopher".. but that usually means I'm on my way to the proverbial doghouse. That's not to say I haven't been called names (sometimes by loved ones) but I've never been given a name. "Honey", "Dad" and "Grampa" may be far more important names but they're not like "Jack" or "Speedy" or "Bear".
So where do road names come from? Generally, a road name should be something that's drawn from a characteristic you have, a habit or a reference to some incident on the road. Of course, if you don't get on the road much, that probably won't be an option and you shouldn’t really have a road name anyway. The best road names are usually backed up by the best stories of how the name came to be. “We just picked one” really isn't a great story and the road name is not likely to be a great one either.
With few exceptions (though they exist), a road name should be on the shorter side.. maybe two to three syllables. Easy to say. Or at least something that rolls of the tongue. One good test might be to drjnk heavily and see if you can still say it three times without getting fristracted... frestated.. fustat... angry! If your self-designated road name is “The Exhalted Archduke of Acceleration”, no one's going to call you that. Ever. And it'll be next to impossible to fit on a vest patch. You might as well change it to 'Pompous'. Or at least shorten it to 'Duke'.
I saw a lot of people posting to the Internet for help in deciding what their biker nickname should be. Bad news. [side note.. 'Bad News' wouldn’t be a bad road name but it would have to fit you. Perhaps you’re a horrible klutz or things just go wrong for you. You could be Bad News. Or.. perhaps.. Schleprock] But I digress. You can't pick your own. Well. I suppose you can but it's just wrong. It's like picking out your own nickname as a kid. It's just.. unnatural and is usually a little overstated.. fake (something you seriously don't want to be as a biker). “Hi.. my name's Timmy but my nickname is Cool Guy. Everybody calls me.. Cool Guy”. Yeah. Sure they do, Timmy. It doesn't take long to figure out that Timmy isn't Cool Guy. It doesn't take long to guess that Timmy gave himself the nickname. If we all got to pick our own, we'd all have something edgy like Spyder.. or Killer.. Crusher.. or Cool Guy.
So who gets to give you a road name? My understanding is that most MCs (and some RCs) will give you one when you join or patch in. For clubs with longer probationary periods, they have time to get to know you and perhaps build those road stories to draw a name from. With a shorter courtship, road names seem to be more cursory and even arbitrary. For a very long time, people's birth names were given as a declaration of who they might become. The repeated speaking of a name over a person would shape their life in much the same way that telling a child he's a loser all his life will too often bring it to be. Names have power. And the best names are given with affection and even love. All these things give a nickname or road name it's value.
But how do you get the name to 'stick'?The likelihood of it sticking is higher if it actually fits. I know a couple of guys with road names. The names fit them so well, I don't even know their real names unless I go look them up. I know some others who.. I think.. have road names but I'm not sure. I know them as Timmy.
I was on a ride with a great friend of mine and his exhaust came loose from his engine head when a nut came off. We found a parts store and bought the nut. By the next stop, both nuts.. the bike’s, not his.. were gone and the front exhaust pipe was hanging. We replaced the nuts again and bought some red Loctite. My friend put the header back on and tightened down the nuts... making sure to slather the bolts with Loctite. They were NOT falling off again! At the same time, we realized the bracket toward the back was cracked and the pipes had shifted. In doing so, we hadn't really seated the header all the way in and had some room to tighten the bolts further. Did I mention that part about LOTS of Loctite? That stuff sets up fast! To make a long story short, the bike made it to our destination (very loudly and lacking some power) and back home where he could fix it right. He doesn't like the name because he's still angry that he screwed up. But stuff happens and everything went fine. It was an excellent adventure. I don't think that road names are supposed to seriously berate the recipient and, if we weren't able to laugh the incident off, I wouldn't have suggested it. Why would you want someone’s road name, who is supposed to be a friend or brother, to be a constant reminder of insult to them? I still call him 'Loctite' every now and then. He just laughs now. I think he's softening to it. Who knows? It might stick.
There are a couple ways to help your road name become part of your identity.
Road names don't really matter unless they're gained the right way and they’re not automatic.. just like wearing leather doesn't make you a biker. It’s not like picking your own CB radio handle, which also struck me as really awkward at the time. There's more to it than that if it's going to be real. Some people may never get one. But, given time and the right circumstances, you’ll have a badge of honor that's distinctly yours.. as natural as the name on your birth certificate. Maybe more so. If nothing else, names like "Honey", "Dad" and "Grampa" aren't so bad either. At least you have to earn them.
Oh.. and to answer the burning question... Ez-Pass. I got an Ez-Pass to put on the bike for the tolls.
Ride safe out there!