You know the scenario: There’s a guy on a big hog tooling down Airline Drive and he’s wearing a T-shirt sporting the message on the back: “If you can read this it means the bitch fell off.”
Whoa, hold on there, ace. Has this guy never heard of a kinder, gentler nation where we don’t even call a flat tire in a Monsoon a problem any longer? Instead, we call such a biker misfortune an “issue.”
Nobody speaks more eloquently to the new and improved image of today’s motorcycle (or motorbike) than Robert Dauzat and Wanda Lantz.
Dauzat still has more than a hint of his Avoyelles Parish roots left, and his lady, Lantz, is proud to call herself “a Yat from the Wank,” as in the Westbank, Marrero to be sure. The couple strengthens their commitment to each other just about each weekend as they hop aboard their tricked out Honda Gold Wing ‘motorbike’ and head down the open road.
Oh yeah. “Harley Davidsons are called motorcycles. Everything else is called a motorbike,” says Lantz, her voice dripping with pride.
“It’s like the occasional dog you see,” Lantz says over a mimosa and a plate of bacon and eggs at Daisy Duke’s eatery. “The dog’s head is hanging out the window of the car, his tongue is hanging out absorbing all that fresh air. That’s what being on our motorbike is all about. It’s like being in another world. There’s nothing in the world like it.”
Dauzat, ever the practical man, chimes in, “Not many people can say they’re going on a 2,600-mile road trip and spend only $148 on gas. Compare that to my truck where we went 775 miles and spent $225. Forty-eight miles to the gallon; try doing that in a car or truck.”
On any trip on their 1998 Honda Gold Wing, Dauzat keeps a log on the nuts and bolts of the bike and the trip while Lantz serves as navigator, mapping out trips and routes, keeping tabs on every twist and turn in the road in her own notebook. Between bites she rattles off names of some of the more challenging roads the pair have encountered, like the “dragon tail” and the “pigtail.”
Lantz admits Dauzat has the less envious job because up front he has to keep a close eye on everything happening in front of him. And while he’s doing that, she says, she’s soaking in the sights – and aromas.
“We can pass a farmhouse on a back road, and I can smell the bacon cooking in that house,” she says. “I stay wide awake, but I’ve got to admit I do sleep on the back of the bike now and then. I always sit straight up, and when I doze my head goes forward. And when my helmet hits the back of Dauzat’s helmet he knows I’m sleeping. We work as a team. There are 100 little things like that that we work together on. Like if I lean one way, Dauzat will lean the other way to compensate.”
And whether it’s a one-bike week trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or Gulf Shores, Alabama or traveling in a formation of five to seven bikes, nothing is left to chance. This isn’t Marlon Brando leading a pack of roughly hewn bikers into some town for a weekend of raising hell. These folks travel in formation – “Like the Blue Angels on wheels,” Lantz says. There is a lead bike and a drag bike, front and rear and a formation in the middle. The captains of those wheeled ships are always in contact – the lead guy keeping the rest of the captains informed of what they can expect on the road: a pot hole here, road kill there, auto accident, slow downs, delays. Then there are the signal lights and the hand signals.
“We go to a lot of periodic training sessions,” Dauzat says. “It’s all about being safe on the road while you’re enjoying the ride. We don’t get out there and just zigzag all over the place.
Daisy Duke’s is jam-packed with people mostly wearing Saints jerseys and gobbling down food before kickoff. Not so Dauzat and Lantz, who met on the Internet and found true love on the highways of America. They chat as she finishes off her mimosa and eggs and Dauzat does the same with his breakfast, which is topped off by a bloody Mary.
On this grey Sunday morning, Dauzat and Lantz won’t be hitting the road. The only destination this weekend is the garage, where Dauzat will do some maintenance on the couple’s beloved Gold Wing, on which they’ve logged 53,000 miles since Dauzat bought it four years ago.
Meanwhile, Lantz is already planning next weekend’s trip.
“If I’m off the bike for too long, I start getting withdrawal pains,” she says.
To Wanda Lantz and Robert Dauzat, life on the road is always a lot nicer on two wheels.