Family Values

In 2002, Mark Singer visited the Independence Motorcycle Rally in Hollister, California (where between eighty and a hundred thousand bikers and gawkers descend every July 4th weekend) to prepare an article for the New Yorker. He chatted with Ellen Brown, executive director of the rally:

"At other rallies, they have outhouse races," she explained, "where the gal sits on the can, which is on skids, while her partner pulls her with his bike, but we don't go in for that sort of thing. No wet-T-shirt contests, either. We favor family-oriented competitions."

Singer was amused to discover that among the "family-oriented competitions" was the "weenie bite" -- in which teams made up of a male biker and his female rider pass through a wood-framed portal "from which a thickly mustarded hot dog dangles vertically, at eye level, on a string: Big trophy to whoever -- no hands allowed -- snatches the biggest bite with her teeth."

[The champion biter? Sandy Williams, a slender grandmother who had already started training her two-year-old granddaughter for the weenie bite. Among the other competitions: a tattoo contest, a beauty pageant, and an arm-wrestling tournament.]

[Why did Singer drive a car to the rally? "The only time in my life I attempted to operate a two-wheeled motorized vehicle -- a Vespa, slightly larger than a child's stroller -- I was less than five seconds into a test drive, wearing shorts, when I crashed into two parked cars, an experience I relive every time I admire the conversation-piece scar on my right thigh."]

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