"Where are we going?"
"Show N' Tail!" Greg Nelson belts out as the rest of the crew flails out the window serenading groups of young girls with "Show us your ...." Well, you can fill in the blank.
What happens next is, well, easier described then explained. Nelly's manning the wheel; Bisch, Scotty Roberts, Weddington and the Mikker - apparently certain they're safe in Greg's hands - continue their revelry in the back. He races insanely through a series of changing lights, gunning full-bore through four-lane, two-way downtown Panama City Beach Spring Break traffic, barely glancing at this mirrors. (Please understand that this is a 30-foot deluxe Cruise America Chevy Flyer trailing a 22-foot Tigi.)
There is plenty of cross traffic, yet no one inside the RV says a word until we hammer past the desired location and Nelly pulls a U-ey from the far right-hand lane to the far left-hand lane and gets stuck. He's driven for a total of three minutes on this whole 5-day adventure, yet he's managed to stop traffic for miles in both directions and get us in the worst predicament of the trip. Nelly throws the vehicle in park, gets out of the captain's chair and grins.
"I'm done. Scotty, you're up." Interesting way to begin, but it seems fitting, at least for this place - Panama City Beach. Yeah, Spring Break. I figure, what better way to get to know someone than amid 10,000 other lewd, lascivious, drunk men trying to meet girls. So, I follow along politely as Nelly and the boys slam their beverages and load up the RV for an after-hours jaunt to the Show N' Tail lounge.
By the time we all filter into the place (after a brief Hail Mary and power shot of tequila ... you know, for courage), Nelly and company are standing by the stage. Huddling with the guys is a lovely young woman in a get-up that resembles a few strands of twine wrapped around flesh-colored core.
Nelly motions me over. We choose a small cocktail table stage-side and order two waters. Hey! It is 4 a.m. and this is official business.
"What's up?" he says, and the first thing you notice about Greg Nelson is that unlike most of the top riders, he clears 6 feet. He's dressed for the sun and the sand - white and blue SMP shirt, cord shorts, Pure Juice sandals, stubble, bed head - a little out of place among this rowdy group of Wrangler-wearing, alligator boot-stomping men, but not overtly conspicuous either. The second thing you discern is that you are instantly at ease. Nelson is low-key, free of attitude (really) and positive. Talk to folks who know him and they will say he reminds them of someone - somebody they went to school with, a friend, their brother. Sounds like a nice enough guy, right?
What I know of Greg consists of two years of telephone conversations and gossip, and let's just say that that wasn't an accurate depiction of the guy. In fact, I'll be honest. I thought Greg Nelson was a cocky, self-absorbed, anti-establishment punk. But, in the summer of 1996, when Nelson traded in his O'Brien even-up for a start-up longshot project called DoubleUP, people started to rethink the guy. That and the fact that after being on the circuit for the past six years, he's as popular as ever. So, that's how I got here, into this warehouse of choreographed sleaze. A little baffled about where to begin, but since we're looking intently at naked girls, I figure we could start with his recent break-up.
"So, you're a free man. How's it feel?"
"Pretty good." He grins mischievously. "Really good actually. I didn't realize how much I missed out on."
"It couldn't have been all that bad. You were hooked for three years."
"Nah. Having girlfriend is OK," he shrugs. "But this is rad. I'm ready to just have fun for a while, you know? What about you?"
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
"Reeeaaaaalllllyyyyyyyyyy ....." Nelly leans in.
I lean closer. "Yeah, really. Why? You have someone in mind?" I like where this is going.
Of course at that moment, the lights dim, music pumps up, and the announcer introduces yet another in a string a jack-booted babes. Nelly sits up in his chair, eyes glued to the stage. Obviously the naked chick wrapping herself around the pole like red stripe on a candy cane is more interesting than anything yours truly could currently offer. Oh well. I decide to continue this "interview" later.