“Maybe we should do some serious drugs, or kill a bottle of Wild Turkey before we meet him?” asked my riding buddy, Demented Dave.
“Nah, let’s take him on sober.” I replied.
The day before, I stood at the BMW of Denver parts counter while the manager was trying to handle a well-oiled customer on the telephone. The conversation was loud enough to overhear the verbally abusive rant. The parts manager finally shouted for the owner to come deal with the surly customer.
I queried the trembling parts manager as he handed the telephone to the shop owner, “Who is giving you that tongue lashing?”
“Hunter S. Thompson, and he won’t listen to reason. He wants a new battery for his BMW motorcycle tomorrow, fully charged and delivered to his place up near Aspen. It’s too late in the day to get him a charged battery. If we deliver it tomorrow, it’ll be dry and uncharged.”
The shop owner was patiently saying “Yes, Mr. Thompson. I agree, Mr. Thompson,” and “Of course, Mr. Thompson.” All while Thompson could be overheard yelling, “It’s a fucking BMW, it shouldn’t need a fucking battery just because it sat outside all fucking winter. It froze, cracked and the water ran out of it just like the Germans cracked outside Moscow and fucking ran back to Berlin.”
I took pity on the shop owner, motioned for him to cover the phone, and told him if he could fill and charge a battery overnight, I would deliver it to Thompson by 2 p.m. the next day, a four-hour ride from Denver.
Thompson was phonically appeased by the proffered delivery proposal, and my name given as the delivery agent. The battery was filled and connected to a charger. I would collect it when the shop opened the next morning and have a leisurely ride to Woody Creek, near Aspen.
I phoned Demented Dave and asked if he would like to go along, mentioning I planned to pilot my recently restored red and white 1947 Indian Chief. We conjured that the gonzo journalist biker would be impressed by the Indian, possibly enough to share some LSD-laced motorcycling or journalistic stories. Rather than ride his sea-foam-blue 1948 Indian Chief, Demented Dave opted for his 1988 BMW K75S—a reliable backup, to ensure on-time delivery of the battery.
We drove through Thompson’s front gate, past “NO TRESSPASSING” signs riddled with bullet holes, and parked in front of the house. Thompson’s assistant immediately came out the front door. I informed her we were delivering the new battery for Thompson’s BMW. She said Thompson was sleeping, then pointed to the front steps, where we could leave the battery.
I was placing the battery on the top step when Dr. Gonzo weaved out the open door. In one hand was a bottle of alcohol, in the other a small cannon. He slurred loudly at us, “You fucking ignorant, can’t read the fucking no trespassing sign? Get out of here you autograph-scrounging bike trash.”
While he was ranting, the handgun was waving like a deflating balloon, passing Demented Dave as he ducked behind the useless plastic windscreen on his BMW.
“We’re delivering your new battery. The one for your BMW!” I yelled, trying to equal the decibel level and tone of Dr. Gonzo’s rant.
A light seemed to go on inside Thompson’s head. He stopped waving the gun, squinted at me, then the battery, and said, “That better be a fucking Nazi battery, I don’t want no Japanese junk in my bike.”
I slowly backed away from the porch toward my parked motorcycle. Intending to keep the firearm pointed downward, I tried to sooth the assailant, “Yes sir, Mr. Thompson, it’s 100% German. Fully charged and ready to go, just as you ordered yesterday from BMW of Denver.”
Demented Dave had already started his BMW and was turning around as I tried to kick-start the Indian. It didn’t fire. I frantically tried again as Thompson stumbled down the porch steps toward me. Attempt two failed. I eyed the level of the gun as Thompson approached, now within 10 feet.
Kick three lit the Chief. Rather than back up before turning around, like Demented Dave, I pushed the hand shifter into first gear and did a slow U-turn around Thompson.
He slurred, “Nice Harley.”
Riding away from Dr. Gonzo’s waving gun, my back muscles clenched against the expected bullet. I waited an eternity for the explosive sound of an errant shot. Nothing happened, other than screaming into my helmet, “Fucking drunken whacko! Fuck, fuck, fuck!”
Demented Dave stopped on the side of the road after we cleared Thompson’s firing range. He shouted, “We should have taken drugs!”
“Nah, maybe he was just having a bad hair day.” I replied.
“Bad hair? He didn’t have any hair. Did you see his eyes? They looked like he’d stuck his tongue in an electric socket; two fried egg yolks covered in Tabasco sauce. The only way to relate to a guy amped up on whatever juice he’s drinking is to be on serious drugs. We should have taken drugs.”
I reflected on meeting Dr. Gonzo on the ride back to Denver. He lived up to his legend, whether genuine or improvised. I laughed, because that was Thompson’s platform, filling the void between the realms of fiction and non-fiction with his writing style. The lingering question is whether Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the gonzo wordsmith, was merely playing me by calling my Indian a Harley?
I met Dr. Gonzo again, not long after, while at the J-Bar men’s room urinal at Hotel Jerome, in Aspen. Thompson staggered in, unzipped, and started pissing into the hand-washing basin, steadying himself with the other hand. He looked at me and slurred, “Do I know you?” as he continued his business, by then on his shoes, the wall behind the sink, and his steadying hand.
I replied, “I’m officer Greg, off duty,” then zipped up and scurried away from errant airborne urine while Dr. Gonzo dwelled on my response. I quickly paid my bar bill and left before he stumbled out of the men’s room.
Editor notes: Excerpt from ADVENTURE MOTORCYCLIST: FRAZIER SHRUGGED. First publication, including art—2014, CityBike Magazine. Original article was re-written for the book and edited for this reprint.