I knew I was okay to leave East Tennessee after going to the annual Mother’s Day bike rally at Boozy Creek. I moved to Tennessee in 2007 and in the first couple months drove all around the area getting familiar and making photos. About the second week out driving, I saw a man on a beast of a bike- all skulls and antlers- he was a vision. I followed him trying to get a photo but several red lights conspired against me and I lost him.
Over the years, I would think I had seen a glimpse of him in passing. He was my white whale. In the mean time, I was able to find the monkey lady (long story) and countless others by asking around but he was a no-go.
Fast forward to 2013. I had decided to move on from East Tennessee. I love it there, but living in a more rural area was getting harder- less jobs and less resources. I had always heard about the Mother’s Day event at Boozy Creek. It was a thing of mystery to me. I had heard how crazy it got. One of my close friends who grew up there, looked at me and straight-faced told me I need to stay away from Boozy Creek. “People got stabbed there.” “It was no place for me.”
I decided to take the trek out anyway on this muddy Mother’s Day. I followed a windy wet road to where a campground/ drag strip opened up. I parked in a muddy large lot with my little tiny Prius and headed over the road to the gate. With my camera out, I started to do a lap around the area to get oriented. The very first thing that caught my eye was the beast of the bike I had been looking for since 2007. A man hollered down from the porch- “that’s his bike” with a side nod of his head. I jogged over to the man with the big white beard in the rocking chair excitedly rambling about how long I had been looking for him. I poured out a piece of my soul.
After my verbal explosion, I looked up at both men and the bearded man said “come again?”. The man who had originally shouted at me laughed and said- “oh, he’s as deaf as a doornail. You really have to shout.” He then shouts to his friend, “get on the bike for her.” The bearded man smiled and dutifully sat on his beast for me. I don’t think he heard a single word of my appreciation at finding him, but I think we shared a moment. I had found him and could leave East Tennessee without regret. And I had made it to Boozy Creek and left without getting stabbed.
Originally written for Accent Magazine