Walk into the smoke-filled Sidewinders bar in Pine on any given Sunday, and there among dusty, welder boots and black-leather vests covered with patches, among the military tattoos and light beer, you'll find Hollywood and Vine.
Ed "Hollywood" Holyoak has been riding motorcycles since he was 9 years old when he got a 125cc bike and learned the dirt roads of the Southern California 40-acre avocado grove of his youth.
"A cat named Winn Curtis taught me," said Hollywood as he took a drag off a GPC cigarette. "He lived on the next ranch."
Vine, his wife of four years, perches on a barstool nearby. Her form-fitting, black-leather vest reveals sculpted, tan shoulders the color of Sedona soil. When she speaks of biking, her eyes, unblinking, focus on her husband.
Vine, neé Becca, took up biking shortly after their wedding.
"You feel free," she said. "You feel like a bird. You don't feel tied down."
Hollywood and Vine gather every Sunday with dozens of other bikers from the local chapters of the Modified Motorcycle Association (MMA) and American Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education (ABATE).
"We're a motorcycle rights organization," said ABATE president Bill Hensler. "We work together on a lot of different issues."
For many on the outside of the motorcycle world, most have a vision of bikers as characters out of Hunter S. Thompson's book "Hell's Angels." But a lot has changed in the 40 years since Thompson wrote his story of the biker gang from Northern California -- whose American, desperado subculture was marked by violence, drugs and graft.
Over the decades these outlaw clubs have drifted from the fringes to the mainstream.
"Hippies cut off their hair, rejoined society, started making money and then they wanted back into the playground," said Bodhi, an MMA member. "The new status to get back onto the playground was the motorcycle."
Thus, a new incarnation of bikers who give back instead of take.
On Sunday morning, before the group met at Sidewinders, members of MMA spent hours cleaning a strip of the Beeline near the Highway 188 junction. The group adopted the stretch four months ago.
It's all part of the group's commitment to community service.
"We have fund-raisers constantly," said Hollywood, MMA's sergeant at arms. "We're going to create a task force for graffiti so we can get a handle on that before it gets out of control."
ABATE and MMA raise money for children's organizations, such as the Special Olympics. MMA also administers a downed-biker fund that provides financial support for motorcyclists injured on the road, and both organizations offer biker safety and driver awareness education.
The politics of the road are based on one platform -- fierce independence.
"I believe in motorcycle rights," Hollywood said. "When the legislature gets together, they try to take stuff away from us that we fought really hard to keep. I want to make sure as a group, as a whole, that everybody in here will stand up and say right now that we don't want to wear a helmet.
"One of the reasons I live in Arizona is so I can carry a firearm, because I have my rights, my right to bear arms. That doesn't have to do much with motorcycle rides, but they go hand in hand."
These motorcycle associations also monitor Environmental Protection Agency laws.
Hollywood said the EPA recently passed a law that limits the builders of motorcycles to a one-time engine exemption -- from now on, all engines must pass EPA specifications.
"(The EPA) runs our stats with big rigs, tractors, farm equipment and that kind of stuff and they also consider off-road equipment, all of the jet skis, the motorboats," Hollywood said. "All of that gets stuck onto motorcycles so that makes us look like we produce a lot more pollution. In reality we don't."
MMA and ABATE fight legislation that stifles noise emissions as well.
"I believe the loud pipes save lives," Hollywood said. "I've made eye contact with people who have turned left in front of me and broken bones in my body and crashed my motorcycle."
And that's why bikers hang together -- for the safety and the fellowship.
For Hollywood, who met, fell in love with and proposed to Vine at the Country Kitchen -- where she worked as a waitress -- motorcycles are a way of life.
And on the road, they ride: she on a 1,100 Honda Shadow ACE with a violet and black gas tank bordered with kelly-green vines, and he on an American Cloud Edition Honda.
"The emotions we share," Hollywood said. "Even when we're on the road and we can't talk, we have body language and facial expressions and then we get somewhere, and we can say, ‘Hey, remember that place?'"
The members of MMA and ABATE caution drivers to stay alert and watch out for bikers.
Those interested in joining either club (you don't even have to be a biker) should contact Carol Gianndrea, MMA membership director at (928) 476-6434 or Billy Hensler of ABATE, (928) 474-6851 or visit: rimcountry.mma-az.org or www.abateofaz.org.
-- To reach Felicia Megdal call 474-5251 ext. 116 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.