The monthly Squeaks dinner. While I’ve ridden to a couple of them. this is the first time I’ve actually ridden with my classmates. I ride up to the corner, to wait in the church parking lot for them. I worry that the churchgoers will think they are being invaded by hoodlums when, in fact, we’re all dull middle-aged professional folks. I wait just a few minutes in the cool late afternoon air, admiring the waning sun on the pastures across the street. I love living out here. I wave at the old thresher driver when I turn onto the main road. I slow to watch the little goats grazing on Harrison Shoals Road. I gape at the expanses of pasture on the neighboring horse farms. It’s such a nice little bucolic oasis from the madness of Atlanta.
I hear a rumble in the distance, and here they come, headlamps bobbing like huge fireflies as they round the curve. Two Harleys, a muscular Victory, and a Suzuki Boulevard cruiser. Wow, those big V-twins sound wonderful! My polite SV650 sounds like a sewing machine by comparison. Lance (the Boulevard owner) says later, “shoot, I can’t even hear mine to shift!”
Billy, the lead Harley rider, shields his eyes as he rolls up, in response to my obscenely yellow jacket (Olympia Ladies Airglide in hi-viz yellow); I’m pretty sure it can be seen from space. The MSF class harped on safety and visibility, but perhaps I’ve gone too far (Olivia Newton-John: “Let’s get visible, visible…”). If anyone hits me in this outfit, they’re either blind or aiming at me.
We roll out of the parking lot and down the two-lane road. I’ve ridden alone, and with my gentleman friend, but not in a group. To my relief, it just works — we fall into place with comfortable gaps, the chorus of exhaust notes echoing off the trees. I’m grinning. We curl around the tight curve at the end of Miller Bottom Road and stop at the light. There’s a single motorcyclist on the other side of the intersection and, when the light changes, he waves us through, delaying his own turn so the car behind him has to wait, too, to allow us to make our left turn as a group. Nice gesture.
Not so nice a gesture a few miles up the road, when a truck pulls in behind the second bike, nearly running Greg’s Victory off the road. Hard to think it wasn’t intentional, and when our lane briefly becomes two, the rest of us roar past and close ranks. Lance, bringing up the rear on the Boulevard, waves a single gloved finger at the driver.
The rest of the ride is quick and smooth in the dusk, a fingernail moon offering little light. We turn into the restaurant parking lot — it’s closed. A barbecue joint closed on a Tuesday night? What?! We settle on a Mexican place a few blocks up the road. We curve into the parking lot and back our bikes into parking spaces in unison. How quiet it is when all the kill switches are hit.
The Mexican place is fairly ordinary — I wouldn’t go back. But it’s nice to see everyone and talk at last. They admire the 12 stitches on my cheek, the result of skin cancer removal a few days before. A biker chick should have a scar, right? This is healing pretty nicely, and I can pull my helmet off and on painlessly if I compress the cheek pad with my finger. So there probably won’t be much of a scar, thanks to the dermatologist’s neat work. But for now, I fancy that the black embroidery looks rakish, especially with my flame-themed do-rag. Hoo boy, the rebel consultant!
It’s just shy of a year since we all took our MSF class together, so it was sort of an informal anniversary. It was quite coincidental that we ended up in the same class, and I don’t know that we’d have kept up with each other, but for Melinda’s efforts. One of the other students, Kathy, suggested we exchange e-mail addresses. We haven’t seen Kathy since (she lives up in north Georgia), but Melinda sent an e-mail soon after class inviting us to meet for dinner. At that dinner, we began to discover that we all live close together (what are the chances?), and four of the group are quite steeped in the history and politics of our general area. That first dinner was like old home week for people who didn’t know each other, if that makes any sense. Since then, we’ve met every month — I’ve missed a couple of dinners because of travel, but still keep up. The guys have ridden together a bit, but this was my first chance to ride with the group.
I’ve ridden at night a couple of times before, and I confess I haven’t enjoyed it. So I wasn’t looking forward to going home in the dark. Gotta do it, though. Part of the deal. Don’t be a sissy. Maybe I have a bit of night blindness–I don’t like driving out of town after dark, either, so it’s not bike-specific.
But when we fire up the bikes and begin to roll out of the restaurant parking lot after dinner, I’m not thinking about that. I’m admiring the music of combustion, and the cold night air feels good through my jacket (which does not actually glow in the dark. I’m sort of surprised.) It’s invigorating to smoothly lean in the night; there’s enough tracer light from the bikes ahead of me that I have no trouble telling where the road goes. I feel safe in the group, and it’s a great feeling to run under the anemic moonlight.
Lance and Greg peel off to head north, while I follow Billy and Melinda on their throaty Harleys. We part ways at Rosebud Road (don’t you love the street names here?). They go right, I go left past the huge tree farm. I take one last swooping left turn into my isolated neighborhood and the evening’s over.