What the hey? Do-rags and patch-heavy leather vests? Earrings? Keys and bike fobs hanging from belt chains? And many with tattoos, beards, and goatees for gosh sakes. What happened to these lovely people?
Some serious morphing from school principals, cops, lawyers, printing company owners, surgeons, ministers, commercial artists, cigar store owners, brick masons, and on and on into (gasp) bikers doesn't just happen by accident.
No! Bill Harley and his pals, Art and Walter Davidson, must've had twinkles in their eyes when they attached the first pint-sized gasoline engine to a bicycle 110 years ago. But as excited as they may have been in their early marketing success, they couldn't possibly have envisioned the vast network of Harley-Davidson dealers and dealer-sponsored H.O.G. chapters that exist nationally and around the world today.
On any balmy weekend or evening of the year, normal citizens transform themselves into brothers and sisters of the road. And a large number of them are well past the midcentury mark of their lives, some even into their eighties.
Why do they take up this dangerous hobby, many ask. As the patch says: "if you have to ask, you wouldn't understand." Some have been riding most of their lives. Others made it number one on their bucket lists when they retired. Still others like me rode small bikes or scooters to work in our younger years when we had only one family car and dreamed of the day when we could hit the road again on more noble steeds.
Every time we straddle our machines alone or in a group, we get a surge of positive endorphins. It's always fun when our costumed crowd walks into an eating establishment and invokes one of three looks from the patrons: fear, disgust, or envy. I try to fake a thin smile that says I'm nice but watch yourself. When stopped at traffic lights or in gas stations, we often receive a thumbs-up or positive comments from cagers (car drivers) in the lane next to us.
But this is not merely a self-indulgent pastime. Much charitable good is performed regularly by bikers nationwide. The Patriot Guard Riders escort and protect military funerals on a regular basis while seasonal toy runs for children occur in every state. Bikers tend to be very patriotic and charitable as individuals, and we don't suffer the unpatriotic and uncharitable lightly.
In our genre of motorcycle riders, safety and practice leading to skills is a given. Helmets, obedience to traffic laws, and ongoing training is standard. We hold no affection for "sport bike" demons slashing their way through freeway traffic at supersonic speeds, clearing car fenders by inches. Nor do we have any patience with folks texting or engrossed in phone calls while we share the road with them.
When we pass a fellow biker and throw down the deuce, a two-fingered greeting, we have one thought for them that we tell each other when we part ways: "Be safe!"
While maintaining a multi-decade career in architectural illustration, Ed Crumley began writing, first poetry, then as a movie critic for Movie Morality Ministeries. He also wrote human interest pieces for the Christian Pulse. His novel, The Host—A novel of life and death on the high desert is available from Trafford Publishing plus Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. Visit his website at: www.edcrumley.com.