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Hunter S. Thompson And The Song Of The Sausage Creature

The Song Of The Sausage CreatureIt’s just as important to keep close tabs on the past of the automotive fringe as it is to chase the new limit of strange. Nobody set up camp more firmly on the borderlands of vehicular oddity than our beloved Hunter S. Thompson. We bring you his “Song Of The Sausage Creature”, uncut in full glory.

For your entertainment, reproduced without permission, “Song of the
Sausage Creature” by Hunter S. Thompson:

There are some things nobody needs in this world, and a bright red,
hunchback, warp-speed 900cc cafe racer is one of them — but I want
one anyway, and on some days I actually believe I need one. That is
why they are dangerous.

Everybody has fast motorcycles these days. Some people go 150
miles an hour on two-lane blacktop roads, but not often. There are too
many oncoming trucks and too many radar cops and too many stupid
animals in the way. You have to be a little crazy to ride these
super-torque high-speed crotch rockets anywhere except a racetrack –
and even there, they will scare the whimpering shit out of you…. There
is, after all, not a pig’s eye worth of difference between going head-on
into a Peterbilt or sideways into the bleachers. On some days you get
what you want, and on other, you get what you need.

When Cycle World called me to ask if I would road-test the new
Harley Road King, I got uppity and said I’d rather have a Ducati superbike.
It seemed like a chic decision at the time, and my friends on the superbike
circuit got very excited. “Hot damn,” they said, “We will take it to the
track and blow the bastards away.”

“Balls,” I said. “Never mind the track. The track is for punks. We
are Road People. We are Cafe Racers.”

The Cafe Racer is a different breed, and we have our own situations.
Pure speed in sixth gear on a 5,000-foot straightaway is one thing, but
pure speed in third gear on a gravel-strewn downhill ess turn is quite
another.

But we like it. A thoroughbred Cafe Racer will ride all night through
a fog storm in freeway traffic to put himself into what somebody told him
was the ugliest and tightest decreasing-radius turn since Genghis Khan
invented the corkscrew.

Cafe Racing is mainly a matter of taste. It is an atavistic mentality,
a peculiar mix of low style, high speed, pure dumbness, and overweening
commitment to the Cafe Life and all its dangerous pleasures…. I am a
Cafe Racer myself, on some days — and many nights for that matter — and
it is one of my finest addictions….

I am not without scars on my brain and my body, but I can live with
them. I still feel a shudder in my spine every time I see a Vincent Black
Shadow, or when I walk into a public restroom and hear crippled men
whispering about the terrifying Kawasaki Triple…. I have visions of
compound femur-fractures and large black men in white hospital suits
holding me down on a gurney while a nurse called “Bess” sews the
flaps of my scalp together with a stitching drill.

Ho, ho. Thank God for these flashbacks. The brain is such a wonderful
instrument (until God sinks his teeth into it). Some people hear Tiny Tim
singing when they go under, and others hear the song of the Sausage
Creature.

When the Ducati turned up in my driveway, nobody knew what to do
with it. I was in New York, covering a polo tournament, and people had
threatened my life. My lawyer said I should give myself up and enroll in
the Federal Witness Protection Program. Other people said it had
something to do with the polo crowd.

The motorcycle business was the last straw. It had to be the work of
my enemies, or people who wanted to hurt me. It was the vilest kind of
bait, and they knew I would go for it.

Of course. You want to cripple the bastard? Send him a 130-mph
cafe racer. And include some license plates, so he’ll think it’s a
streetbike. He’s queer for anything fast.

Which is true. I have been a connoisseur of fast motorcycles all my
life. I bought a brand-new 650 BSA Lightning when it was billed as “the
fastest motorcycle ever tested by Hot Rod magazine.” I have ridden a
500-pound Vincent through traffic on the Ventura Freeway with burning
oil on my legs and run the Kawa 750 triple through Beverly Hills at night
with a head full of acid…. I have ridden with Sonny Barger and smoked
weed in biker bars with Jack Nicholson, Grace Slick, Ron Zigler, and
my infamous old friend, Ken Kesey, a legendary Cafe Racer.

Some people will tell you that slow is good — and it may be, on some
days — but I am here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed
this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon
will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why
God made fast motorcycles, Bubba….

So when I got back from New York and found a fiery red rocket-style
bike in my garage, I realized I was back in the road-testing business.

The brand-new Ducati 900 Campione del Mundo Desmodue
Supersport double-barreled magnum Cafe Racer filled me with feelings
of lust every time I looked at it. Others felt the same way. My garage
quickly became a magnet for drooling superbike groupies. They
quarreled and bitched at each other about who would be first to help
me evaluate my new toy…. And I did, of course, need a certain
spectrum of opinions, besides my own, to properly judge this
motorcycle. The Woody Creek Perverse Environmental Testing
Facility is a long way from Daytona or even top-fuel challenge sprints
on the Pacific Coast Highway, where teams of big-bore Kawasakis
and Yamahas are said to race head-on against each other in
death-defying games of “chicken” at 100 miles an hour….

No. Not everybody who buys a high-dollar torque-brute yearns to go
out in a ball of fire on a public street in L.A. Some of us are decent
people who want to stay out of the emergency room, but still blast
through neo-gridlock traffic in residential districts whenever we feel
like it…. For that we need fine Machinery.

Which we had — no doubt about that. The Ducati people in New
Jersey had opted, for reasons of their own, to send me the 900SP for
testing — rather than their 916 crazy-fast, state-of-the-art superbike
track racer. It was far too fast, they said — and prohibitively expensive
– to farm out for testing to a gang of half-mad Colorado cowboys who
think they’re world-class Cafe Racers.

The Ducati 900 is a finely engineered machine. My neighbors
called it beautiful and admired its racing lines. The nasty little bugger
looked like it was going 90 miles an hour when it was standing still in
my garage.

Taking it on the road, though, was a genuinely terrifying experience.
I had no sense of speed until I was going 90 and coming up fast on a
bunch of pickup trucks going into a wet curve along the river. I went for
both brakes, but only the front one worked, and I almost went end over
end. I was out of control staring at the tailpipe of a U.S. Mail truck,
still stabbing frantically at my rear brake pedal, which I just couldn’t
find…. I am too tall for these New Age roadracers; they are not built
for any rider taller than five-nine, and the rearset brake pedal was not
where I thought it would be. Midsize Italian pimps who like to race
from one cafe to another on the boulevards of Rome in a flat-line
prone position might like this, but I do not.

I was hunched over the tank like a person diving into a pool that
got emptied yesterday. Whacko! Bashed into the concrete bottom,
flesh ripped off, a Sausage Creature with no teeth, f-cked-up for the
rest of its life.

We all love Torque, and some of us have taken it straight over the
high side from time to time — and there is always Pain in that…. But
there is also Fun, in the deadly element, and Fun is what you get when
you screw this monster on. BOOM! Instant takeoff, no screeching or
squawking around like a fool with your teeth clamping down on your
tongue and your mind completely empty of everything but fear.

No. This bugger digs right in and shoots you straight down the pipe,
for good or ill.

On my first takeoff, I hit second gear and went through the speed limit
on a two-lane blacktop highway full of ranch traffic. By the time I went up
to third, I was going 75 and the tach was barely above 4,000 rpm….

And that’s when it got its second wind. From 4,000 to 6,000 in third
will take you from 75 to 95 in two seconds — and after that, Bubba, you
still have fourth, fifth, and sixth. Ho, ho.

I never got into sixth, and I didn’t get deep into fifth. This is a
shameful admission for a full-bore Cafe Racer, but let me tell you
something, old sport: This motorcycle is simply too goddamn fast to
ride at speed in any kind of normal road traffic unless you’re ready to
go straight down the centerline with your nuts on fire and a silent
scream in your throat.

When aimed in the right direciton at high speed, though, it has
unnatural capabilities. This I unwittingly discovered as I made my
approach to a sharp turn across some railroad tracks, saw that
I was going way too fast and that my only chance was to veer right
and screw it on totally, in a desparate attempt to leapfrog the curve
by going airborne.

It was a bold and reckless move, but it was necessary. And it
worked: I felt like Evil Knievel as I soared across the tracks with
the rain in my eyes and my jaws clamped together in fear. I tried
to spit down on the tracks as I passed them, but my mouth was too
dry…. I landed hard on the edge of the road and lost my grip for
a moment as the Ducati began fishtailing crazily into oncoming
traffic. For two or three seconds I came face to face with the
Sausage Creature….

But somehow the brute straightened out. I passed a school bus
on the right and then got the bike under control long enough to gear
down and pull off into an abandoned gravel driveway where I stopped
and turned off the engine. My hands had seized up like claws and
the rest of my body was numb. I felt nauseous and I cried for my
mama, but nobody heard, then I went into a trance for 30 or 40
seconds until I was finally able to light a cigarette and calm down
enough to ride home. I was too hysterical to shift gears, so I went
the whole way in first at 40 miles an hour.

Whoops! What am I saying? Tall stories, ho, ho…. We are
motorcycle people; we walk tall and we laugh at whatever’s funny.
We shit on the chests of the Weird….

But when we ride very fast motorcycles, we ride with immaculate
sanity. We might abuse a substance here and there, but only when
it’s right. The final measure of any rider’s skill is the inverse ratio
of his preferred Traveling Speed to the number of bad scars on his
body. It is that simple: If you ride fast and crash, you are a bad rider.
If you go slow and crash, you are a bad rider. And if you are a bad
rider, you should not ride motorcycles.

The emergence of the superbike has heightened this equation
drastically. Motorcycle technology has made such a great leap
forward. Take the Ducati. You want optimum cruising speed on
this bugger? Try 90 mph in fifth at 5,500 rpm — and just then, you
see a bull moose in the middle of the road. WHACKO. Meet the
Sausage Creature.

Or maybe not: The Ducati 900 is so finely engineered and
balanced and torqued that you can do 90 mph in fifth through a
35-mph zone and get away with it. The bike is not just fast — it is
extremely quick and responsive, and it will do amazing things….
It is a little like riding the original Vincent Black Shadow, which would
outrun an F-86 jet fighter on the takeoff runway, but at the end, the
F-86 would go airborne and the Vincent would not, and there was
no point in trying to turn it. WHAMO! The Sausage Creature strikes
again.

There is a fundamental difference, however, between the old
Vincents and the new bred of superbikes. If you rode the Black
Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost
certainly die. That is why there are not many life members of the
Vincent Black Shadow Society. The Vincent was like a bullet that
went straight; the Ducati is like the magic bullet that went sideways
and hit JFK and the Governor of Texas at the same time. It was
impossible. But so was my terrifying sideways leap across railroad
tracks on the 900SP. The bike did it easily with the grace of a
fleeing tomcat. The landing was so easy I remember thinking,
goddamnit, if I had screwed it on a little more I could have gone
a lot further.

Maybe this is the new Cafe Racer macho. My bike is so much
faster than yours that I dare you to ride it, you lame little turd. Do you
have the balls to ride this BOTTOMLESS PIT OF TORQUE?

That is the attitude of the New Age superbike freak, and I am one
of them. On some days they are about the most fun you can have
with your clothes on. The Vincent just killed you a lot faster than
a superbike will. A fool couldn’t ride the Vincent Black Shadow
more than once, but a fool can ride a Ducati 900 many times, and
it will always be bloodcurdling kind of fun. That is the Curse of Speed
which has plagued me all my life. I am a slave to it. On my tombstone
they will carve, “IT NEVER GOT FAST ENOUGH FOR ME.”

R.I.P, Hunter.

Currently there are "39 comments" on this Article:

  1. ptmeyer84 says:

    Very nice, Diddles. Reminds me why I drive motorized vehicles with 4 wheels instead of 2.

    • MadKaw says:

      Hmm…it just makes me pine for slightly warmer weather so I can get back out on 2 wheels!

    • Aw, come on. Usually you just slide for a few hundred feet. I'd go so far to say a superbike, with the rider wearing modern gear, is safer than a Suzuki Sammy or a fox body Mustang.

      But that's not saying a whole lot.

      • rocketrodeo says:

        Modern gear is great; it's saved my ass three times now. You're fine just as long as you don't hit something solid. Then all bets are off.

        You know what scares the crap out of me these days? Those three-strand cable fences that are going up in medians everywhere. My default out–the plan just in case everything goes pear-shaped in front of you–used to be the median. Not so much any more. Now it looks like a good way to get julienned.

  2. KAdams1476 says:

    There's only ever been one Hunter and his type shall never be duplicated. Big bore handguns, fine scotch, drugs, motorcycles, all manner of crazy things, and this while he was in his late 50's. I can only imagine how wild he was in his younger days. "We can't stop here, this is bat country."

  3. JeepyJayhawk says:

    A great read, it makes me terrified of the bike without ever having seen one in person. But I think I will take my terror on four wheels.

    Way to hoon, Mr. Thompson.

    • skitter says:

      I do not have a motorcycle, not so much out of terror, but because that is how I would f***ing ride one. Cheating Death and thinking only that I could be doing it faster.

      • It's kind of a process for everyone. Some people start out scared, last two seasons on their new cruiser, and give up without ever experiencing the fun.

        On the other hand, people like us start out immortal, figure out VERY quickly that that's just not the case (in my case it was when I glanced down at my feet on the interstate and it occurred to me just how much like a belt sander the surface really was) and settle into a pattern of careful riding punctuated by screaming stupidity. It's really a fine time.

        • rocketrodeo says:

          Yeah, a 12-ft wide belt sander running at 90mph. It's amazing how many riders never realize this until they find out the hard way. I got lucky and had good mentors. But yes, a process, very zen-like. The longer I ride the more I realize how little I know about it. I wish I was as daring and confident a rider as I was fifteen years ago.

  4. Kogashiwa says:

    I'm not gonna lie, this article is a major part of the reason I want a Ducati, and a Supersport in particular.

    Should happen this spring assuming I can sell the CBR600.

    • Number_Six says:

      The 900SS is incredibly uncomfortable, not remotely as fast as the CBR600, and leaks oil like the Exxon Valdez. But I wholeheartedly support your choice.

    • Ambersand says:

      Good choice – we've had quite a few Duc's in the garage over the years. All different and vaguely temperamental. Most notably, the 851 was the most high maintenance of all…the S4R was an uncomfortable grump and nirvana was finally found with the Hypermotard – comfortable, quick out of the hole and not a lot of maintenance needed to keep her running.

      All I can say is DO IT. DO IT NOW. DO IT.

  5. MadKaw says:

    Awesome post…..love Hunter, love bikes, and I've never seen this essay before – it made for a great read!

    And speaking of which, I highly recommend Hunter's book "Hell's Angels – A Strange and Terrible Saga" – another excellent read.

  6. dmilligan says:

    Thanks for posting this story, it's one I missed somehow. I miss the dear Doctor greatly.

  7. I now realize I've committed a serial high travesty by having not ever read anything by Hunter S. That was a simply ravishing good read.

    (In my defense, his legend is obviously familiar. He was also the archetype for the "Spider Jerusalem" character in the Vertigo series "Transmetropolitan").

    To Amazon, stat!

    • dmilligan says:

      Yes, especially the part in Transmetropolitan where Spider fires an RPG out the drivers window of a car while leaving the passenger window rolled up. Pure Hunter there.

  8. nofrillls says:

    Oh, God be with Gonzo (sob/sniff).

  9. CptSevere says:

    Reading this Hunter Thompson thing makes me realize why I love his stuff, and makes me want another bike. I've been reading Hunter S. Thompson since I was a kid, and have ridden motorcycles since before I ever heard of him. I have met people who have met him (degrees of separation?) and have done almost the same stupid silly shit on bikes, namely on my Norton Commando during my twenties, that was my own personal Vincent Black Shadow. This insane bastard's gonzo scribblings made me love the sick shit that we took as everyday insanity during the SLC Punk days that I lived through twenty five years ago. He lived through some of the craziest madness of the late twentieth century, and told us about it in no uncertain terms. Hunter S. Thompson is one of my personal Gods. Anything wrong with that?

  10. rocketrodeo says:

    Since I first saw it, I have thought that this essay is perhaps the purest distillation of HST's Gonzo style. Otherwise, read FALILV and you've read his best. Prolific but extremely uneven quality; he went back to the same well far too many times, and by the mid-1980s gonzo was very, very stale. Still, Thompson was the best writer of American political invective since H.L. Mencken. A true original. He Stomped on the Terra.

    I never met the man personally, and he was a no show the one time I was to see him speak, but I do know people who rode with him on occasion. I have been on two wheels for a little less than 30 years and a little more than 400,000 miles. Romantic and mythic as he made it out to be, there is still precious little about the motorcycling experience that I can relate to HST's writings. You simply cannot accumulate those kinds of miles riding the way he, by all accounts, actually did. I have lost quite a few acquaintances, as well as a few good friends, along the way, and I have gotten to be a very discerning judge of riding buddies. I would not have enjoyed riding with him.

  11. Barcode says:

    Hunter was a goddan genius.

  12. Barcode says:

    goddamn*

  13. Tripl3fast says:

    Respect. There may never be another like him. I pray for the generation that has that honor. Thanks for the post. Great start for the weekend. ____Vincent Black Shadow.

  14. Nater says:

    Always worth a re-read. Effin good storyteller, that man.

  15. BrianTheHoon says:

    HST is a personal hero (thus the avatar). I've done a lot of reading over the years but there are few authors whose books I've read more than once. I know I've read Hell's Angels twice, Campaign Trail 4 times and I've frankly lost count how many times I've read my dog-eared copy of Las Vegas.

    There a reason I named my son Hunter S. (Steven is his middle name, after my best friend). He's 14 now. I think it's time that I assign his namesake's work as his summer reading.

    RIP good Dr. Gonzo. I miss the shit out of you.

  16. I’m glad to see someone else who likes Sonny with a chance as much as I do, Nico is my favorite character on the show. Thanks for this post, I enjoyed reading it!

  17. Where have I been? I just discovered your website on Bing. Good article! Thanks for taking the energy to share this.

  18. Hedgehog says:

    I looked this article up for a re-read because my local bike shop has a 2006 749 for sale with only 606 miles on the clock.
    I see that bike and I think of Richard Thompson’s “Red Molly”. “Red hair and black leather, my favorite colour scheme.” , except this girl is sitting in the corner nursing a pint while splitting her lithium tabs with the edge of a flick knife. She’s probably going to kill me but that doesn’t stop the wanting. 606 miles?!? Perhaps she scared the last fella so bad he soiled himself. It’s not her fault, she deserves love and wants to be thrashed, and besides, she might not kill me.
    I’ve stopped by to visit her three times in the last week. I’ve tried explaining to a co-worker the effect brought on by coiled up Italian bikes, all muscle and ready to kill, and Cafe madness. If I buy her my wife will kill me in my sleep. Perhaps I can talk him into buying her. And then…

  19. [...] some classic Hunter S. Thompson writing I first saw this years ago in a Cycle World magazine: Hunter S. Thompson And The Song Of The Sausage Creature : Hooniverse [...]

  20. Good insightful read. I never thought that it was this simple after all. I had spent a good deal of my time surfing the web for someone to explain this subject clearly to me and managed to do that. Kudos to you! Keep it up.

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  22. [...] to an inexperienced, still-in-the-cage guy, they can't handle. Sheesh! See also: Squid, Poser, Sausage Creature Reply With Quote   + Reply to Thread « Previous Thread | [...]

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