“What are you rebelling against, Johnny?”
–The Wild One, 1953
Doug LaMalfa and I are Facebook friends, but I take it with a grain of salt. It’s not like we know each other, unless he remembers the time I called him up back in 2009 to ask about the $25,000 in state taxpayer funds he spent repairing his $29,000 Ford Mustang. The rightward-leaning Republican was 2nd District Assemblyman back then, and at the time, California’s legislators enjoyed exceedingly generous travel perks, some of which were rescinded after my award-winning investigate piece, “Beyond Driven,” appeared in the Sacramento News & Review.
In 2013, LaMalfa was elected to serve in the know-nothing, do-nothing Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives, where he has rarely failed to toe the party line, from taking the science out of government decision-making to declaring Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu president of the United States. Apparently, someone in the party has ordered the rank-and-file to troll constituents via social media, and for some odd reason no doubt deeply rooted in masochism, I “friended” LaMalfa on Facebook.
Most of my new friend’s posts (I realize it’s a staffer writing them, but let’s pretend) seem specifically designed to infuriate me and the latest was no exception:
“The National Park Service has proposed significant fee hikes on Lassen Volcanic National Park, arguing these increased fees are essential to cover the cost of expanding other National Parks across America, and paying for backlogged management of existing parks. Vehicle entry would increase from $10 to $25, foot entry would increase from $5 to $12, and motorcycle entry would increase from $5 to $20.
“How will these fee increases impact you and your family? Please share in the comment section below.”
Now the thing that popped my cork, besides the feigned interest in my opinion, may not be so obvious to you, unless you’re a motorcyclist. Apparently, the good people who run the National Park Service, as well as their enablers in Congress, have decided to jack up motorcycle entrance fee at Lassen Volcanic National Park by 400 percent, from $5 to $20.
As a long-time motorcyclist, I’m so insulted that for the first time in my life I’m ending a sentence with two exclamation marks!!
We motorcyclists have been treated like second class citizens long enough. It’s been more than six decades since Marlon Brando, playing Johnny Strabler, leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club, destroyed the fictional town of Carbonville, CA. in The Wild One. Based very loosely on a beer-bust-gone-bad in Hollister, the film sparked the myth of motorcyclists as barbarian horde that rides like a dark shadow over us till this day, in the form of absurd hit television series such as “Sons of Anarchy.”
To be sure, black-leather clad motorcycle gangs prowl our highways and byways, but today it’s far more likely to be a group of doctors or lawyers on that roaring squadron of Harleys than machine-gun toting Hell’s Angels.
Now, I’d like to think that someone at the National Park Service did the math and realized that charging a group of 10 motorcyclists $20 per head to enter Lassen Park is far more lucrative than charging one van filled with a dozen screaming brats $25. That sort of economic ruthlessness I can understand, if not support. The problem of course is that as soon as motorcyclists figure out they’re getting ripped off, they’ll stop going, and the deterioration of what is one of California’s best-kept secrets will hasten apace.
But I’m fairly certain economics has nothing to do with the Park Service’s proposed fee hike on motorcyclists, and everything to do with the cloud cast above all motorcyclists by the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club. I’ve been touring California by motorcycle for 30 years and can recall signs warning “No Motorcyclists” at campgrounds up and down the state well into the 1990s. Everywhere we go, our undeserved reputation as barroom brawlers and wired-out meth dealers proceeds us, even after all these years.
So when my new Facebook friend Doug LaMalfa asked me “How will these fee increases impact you and your family? Please share in the comment section below,” naturally I lost it.
“You sign this, and I’ll make sure you never get a vote from a Harley-Davidson rider again,” I typed furiously, waving an imaginary angry finger in my mind. “ $20 for motorcycles, which use up less space than a van load of children, is ridiculous. This is what your austerity is bringing us, Mr. LaMalfa.”
It was only after I read the fine print that I realized LaMalfa wouldn’t be signing anything and that the Park Service’s proposed fee hike was probably a fate accompli. The link he attached was from a November Park Service bulletin announcing that public comment section was now open. Apparently, it’s still open, but I can’t help feeling it’s a done deal, and that LaMalfa’s post was simply a cynical ploy to reinforce the Republican Party ideal that anything the federal government does must suck.
It’s certainly true in this case, Mr. LaMalfa. But don’t go getting the idea that we’re really friends.
The Park’s Notice: