It started off as a regular Sunday. I woke up late. Tried to eat. Puttered around the house and then hopped on my motorcycle and rode to church. I didn’t go into the sanctuary, not because I didn’t want to. No, I didn’t go in because the last time I was there, sitting in those theatre seats, my back started to hurt. Hurt as if there were a hundred pairs of boots kicking me in the in my lower back. When you have that kind of pain, it is very hard to concentrate on anything. So this time I sat in the lobby, near the speakers which were broadcasting the sermon. Nobody bothered me and I could move and shift into any position I needed to.
After church, an impromptu lunch with my family and then as we walked out to our vehicles, my wife asks if I’m going home. I said yup. She then asks if I was going to take the long way. Our daughter chimed in and said most sarcastically “Uh, yeah, he is.” I just smiled, put my helmet on and fired up my bike.
Twenty-five minutes later I stopped at a local park to have a cigar and use the facilities. It wasn’t long before two other bikers showed up and parked next to me. After twenty minutes of conversation about our respective rides and a beverage (my poison was a Red Bull, theirs drinks were hidden in paper bags) they invited me to ride with them to the state line. I agreed. After all, it was a beautiful day and I had nowhere to be.
We pulled out in formation, I was bringing up the rear. We rode as if hell hounds were on our trail. Speed limits were ignored, curves were navigated with total disregard to safety and only slowed down when traffic got in the way. It was a good ride. Cares and stress melted away with each passing second and the deep rumble of our engines muted out any negativity my inner voice usually is spouting at the top of his lungs.
We reached our destination, took a nice break sitting on a picnic bench and just spoke about nothing and everything. Other riders were out enjoying the day, solo riders, clubs and guys like us who had met serendipitously on the road and decided to join up. We poked fun of the foreign bikes, questioned the sanity of their style of riding and in general lost ourselves in the camaraderie of our mutual ideas.
When we left, once again, I was bringing up the rear, we passed by more bikers out enjoying the day. We always made sure to acknowledge them regardless of what they were riding. After all, they are riders too. We sped down back roads and eventually ended up on an interstate. The four wheel traffic was against us. Cars and trucks in the passing lane were going slower than those in the thru lane. Our leader took some risks, signaled each lane change with his hands and turn signal and navigated us through all obstacles.
The second rider eventually turned off to head home, I took his place and followed the man who seemed to know where he was going. Miles later, we ended up taking another break at a little dive bar where the juke box hadn’t been turned on in days, the pool tables were rigged for free play and all the televisions were muted. There were only eleven people in the bar and that included us, the bartender and the cook. It was also a bar where one could smoke inside of. We sat at a large table, had some drinks and talked. Our conversation only interrupted by the bartender and patrons who would come over and introduce themselves to me.
This experience stirred within me something I had thought had been lost. You see, back in Wisconsin, this was the type of bar I would go to. A place where nobody wanted to listen to music or the news, a place where just being around like minded people and getting to know them was more important that the latest pop song.
A place where it didn’t matter your race, religion or creed. All that mattered was if you wanted to know people without prejudice and hate. This place seemed to be a carbon copy of those long forgotten rooms.
I met a woman who is in the midst of battling cancer. Her shirt a blazing pink with the words “I’m gonna beat this shit” in stark contrasting black letters. Her bandana, covering up the loss of her hair was also pink and she looked like the type of person who’d sooner kick your ass than give you the time of day but once you talked to her, you realized she is a sweet, loving and tender person.
At the bar, an old man wearing a Viet-Nam military ball cap, sat nursing a beer. He came over, sat down, introduced himself and bought us drinks. We talked about his service in South East Asia and all the shit he was now going through with the VA because of his failing health and the effects of Agent Orange on his body. He was an old biker. Said he started riding when he got home from the war, but now, his health issues prevented him from riding his bike or driving his car. He’s fought for America and now is fighting for himself and he can’t even enjoy the wind on his face.
The bartender, a young girl with two kids and a world of problems I’m not comfortable with sharing here, seemed as if her life were built on nothing but bad luck and bad decisions. Yet she was happy to be working and knew every customer by name. She also made sure everyone had the drinks they wanted and knew who was drinking what. My water glass never got empty. The beers of my fellow table mates were always replaced before they were empty as well.
As the daylight waned, I knew it was time for me to leave. The patrons didn’t seem as if they wanted to leave and when I said my good-byes several people came out to see my ride and wish me safe travels. I was hugged by men and women whom I’d only known for an hour and it felt like I was being hugged by long lost family members.
Yes, this place is a dive, it’s a biker bar and a place where all sorts of hell raising goes on. But you know, they opened up their hearts and minds to me as if it were the most natural thing in the world. These men and women, most of whom you’d never even give a second glance to in life seem to be the salt of the earth and the backbone of America. They are good people with real problems and live life by accepting the gritty, raw and unattractive nature of it. They don’t make excuses, they don’t want what isn’t theirs and they respect people who respect them.
You meet the coolest people on a Harley when you’re on the road and when you open yourself up to life. Then again, I suppose you could say that is true for most situations. If you keep yourself open to people, real people, honest people you find out you have more in common with them than you think.
I can’t wait to go riding again. Matter of fact… I think I’ll go right now.
Have a great week.