Every few years, I head high up into the Rocky Mountains, ostensibly to go hunting for a few days with some old friends, but also, to visit with distant family from my enlisted days. Usually, these treks involve a protracted series of flights to Denver, Colorado or Cody, Wyoming, then a few hours one way or the other to get to our primary stop.
This year, despite COVID, we managed to all get there, and this time, it was a tiny dot on a map in southern Wyoming, far back in the mountains surrounding the Medicine Bow.
So what does that have to do with bikes?
So far, absolutely nothing. But after a few fruitless days, we came down off an apparently “Elk-less” mountain to have a real dinner in what passed for a town and get some supplies for the cabin. As we pulled up to the lone restaurant, I noticed three bikes parked in front of the otherwise empty parking lot. Between the bikes and the door, though, a bandana laid on the ground, obviously dropped by one of the riders – the last one, most likely – on their way inside.
Now, I’ll admit, if this bandana didn’t look new, I would have left that bastard laying there and simply mentioned it to the guys when I walked in. As it laid there in the parking lot, it didn’t look too funky, so I absently picked it up and joined my own buddies inside. What struck me about it was how it felt.
Heavier, maybe? Like it wasn’t the throwaway you bought at the store, but rather, one that actually had some thought put into how you might build a bandana. (If that’s even a thing?)
It was easy to pick out the bikers when we got inside – they were the only ones in the joint besides us, so I walked over with the bandana to hand it to them.
“Believe one of you boys dropped this…”
The tallest of them – named Robert, I soon found out – stood up. “Damn! I just bought that! Thanks, friend.”
I handed it to the man and as I did, I saw something I didn’t expect.
A tag on the bandana.
Now, if you’re like me, you’ve got a drawer full of bandanas, balaclavas, and even face masks, but I have never – and I mean never – seen a tag sewn on a bandana.
I nodded at Robert, “Seemed like this one is a little nicer than the ones from the box store…”
He laughed, “Yeah, it’s a ZAN. I’ve been wearing them for awhile and forgot I tucked this in my kit. Must’ve fallen out when I dug out my wallet.”
I made a mental note about the manufacturer, because a company that cared enough to make a good bandana might be one that could make a lot of durable goodies. (I was right…) The guys seemed cool enough, so I introduced myself.
Brent, Brad, and the aforementioned Robert all seemed like nice guys, and they allowed they were on a week long road trip that would loop through Wyoming and Idaho and return them back into Nebraska in another five days. They had good gear, a good travel plan (don’t these guys always?) and had been riding together since the early nineties. Like so many of us, they were regular guys who simply liked to ride and had known each other for years. One had been in the trades, the other two were lost in middle management careers.
In other words, run of the mill bikers.
We’ve all seen these three guys, in our own watering holes and clubs for years. Well spoken, careful, a good, solid rider who is never going to have a problem with the bike because he knows how to maintain it and how to handle it. The kind of guy that thinks about every purchase he makes, and selectively chooses the best, not because he’s got an ego, but because he doesn’t tolerate anything that doesn’t work properly.
Good guys, and it was nice to meet some other brothers on the road. One thing that stuck with me, though, was that damned bandana and the name ZAN Headgear.
I looked it up, and sure enough, they’ve been designing and building motorcycle facemasks, biker bandanas, balaclavas and all sort of stuff for your lid for a long time, and their focus is on quality and materials.
Now, it might seem silly, but the notion that stuck with me since that chance meeting in a parking lot in Saratoga, Wyoming is this: why wouldn’t we insist that anything – in fact, everything we purchase be designed and built to a higher standard?
Why are we surprised when something so simple as a bandana feels better than a cheap one? Or, even better for the world we’re all living in today – why wouldn’t we expect something we put on our face to be made a little better?
So while I haven’t thrown out all my old masks and beanies, I have ordered a couple, and you know what? I’m looking forward to a little more style than I used to have.