Biketoberfest’s Great Day!
Sometimes our life travels allow us to cross paths with remarkable people. A meeting which, in spite of its brevity, changes a part of us, either improving us or our outlook on life. People who unexpectedly open our eyes to whole aspects of the human condition we either never grasped or forgot about along our life journey. This was one of those moments.
A New Friend
She stepped from the house. Greetings are exchanged as nervous glances are cast at the chopper’s low form and the passenger pad’s Spartan accommodations. The previously stated concern about its lack of a sissy bar is written across her face. Swallowing hard, farewells to her host are proffered and she mounts the bike with a style and grace belying her claimed inexperience with choppers of this ilk.
Not wanting to scare her (yet) I gently accelerate from the curb. Merging into traffic I feel her legs clamp down on my waist as the baritone rumble of the pipes echo off adjacent buildings. In the heart of Daytona Beach I turn south with a mind to motor along the beach a bit.
Refusing to be completely tame I crack the throttle and the engine’s considerable power thrust us to cruising speed. Her arms grip me with excited energy. Linked together we fall into a comfortable synchronicity; man, woman and chopper streaming as one down Florida’s beachfront Highway A1A.
After placing a few miles between us and the bustle of Biketoberfest’s heaviest crowds we happen upon a diner with a reasonable line, or queue as my new British rider calls it. Checked in we wait outside for our table, mimosas in hand (a little hair-o-the dog for us both).
We fall into comfortable conversation; along the way finding more in common than anticipated by either. She tells me she is a writer and blogger. “You’re a writer?” I asked, digging for my business card. Misunderstanding my dismay she says, “Yeah, University educated and all!” in a tone that said ‘Not a wall flower here!’ Ignoring her protestations I finally produced the card. Knowing this is a large coincidence I hand it to her sure that merely saying ‘I’m an author too!’ would engender doubts about the veracity of that assertion.
Initially united only by our common love of the biker universe and the BikerorNot.com social network we’re now amazed to learn the other is a writer. She a blogger and an author of short stories; me a blogger and science fiction novelist. And (drumroll please) we’re both full-time world travelers. What are the odds?
Our table is ready. We take our seats. Breakfast is delicious and the conversation continues effortlessly, albeit at the quicker pace of excited discovery. Diner sounds abound. ‘Order up!’ calls echo, pencils scratch at dog-eared tablets. Aprons swish, coffees splash, cups clank, and silverware chimes. The restaurant’s bustling cacophony fades into the background as we trade stories of travel and writing. Eventually looking down we’re surprised to find our plates already empty. I gaze around; the diner’s clamor rushes back to the forefront.
Back to the chopper, time to work our way north. Ormond Beach’s Broken Spoke Saloon is our final destination but there’s time for a few stops along the way. Merging into traffic I accelerate hard and hear a squeal of pleasure.
I like Nene. She’s good people.
Through a break in the buildings she points out the beauty of the beach. Realizing I haven’t stopped to smell those particular roses during my stay in Daytona I look for a place to stop along said beach. As if on cue a beachfront park materializes on our right. Pulling in we park, stroll along the boardwalk, and find a place to watch the ocean and chat.
I’m intrigued by her, by her mannerisms, her worldly experience, and her passion for life. A barely contained sweltering desire to explore the human condition burns through her chaste eyes.
The bonds of friendship form as two people from radically differing backgrounds find rich common ground.
This day is turning out better than anticipated.
Back to the chopper. She asks if I have a name for my bike. ‘Big Bird,’ I say. She burst into laughter and in her British accent says, ‘It’s perfect!’
Picture time? Yes. With that I take my first picture of my new friend with her new friend, Big Bird. She’s overly self-conscious, deciding she hates the pics. I think she looks great and tell her as much.
Ready for our Hollywood moment?
Yes! She mounts the bike and off we go. A few short minutes later we make the left onto Main Street, joining the parade of bikes. Heads turn, she thinks it’s because of the bike, I think it’s her (of course the bike doesn’t hurt either). Pictures snap, flashes pop, and thumbs are raised. No time to stop … hell, nowhere to stop.
With Main’s madness falling to rear we roar over the bridge back to the mainland. Was that an island?
Next stop Ormond Beach … I thought. On the way we end up stuck in traffic directly in front of a motorcycle shop whose proprietor, in a bit of serendipitous synchronicity, got me out of a mechanical jam the previous day.
Spotted we are beckoned; not wanting to tempt karma I acquiesce and cut across two lanes of stationary traffic. (The bead of sweat on my brow and knowing a cold keg of beer was tucked in the corner of his garage had absolutely no bearing on my decision … yeah right!)
Chance, Biketona’s owner and self-proclaimed one-man-show, is living the life I considered while building my chopper. In his shop he works on and builds custom choppers. To help make ends meet he sells biker apparel and biker paraphernalia. In his spare time he heads a bluesy rock band that can be seen throughout the Daytona area.
I forgot to mention, in addition to being a biker enthusiast Nene is a lover of music: Jazz, Blues, and Rock; A Capela to Garage Bands… This is turning into quite a serendipitous day. She falls into easy conversation with Chance, admires and is admired by his band, and buys an Ace of Spades Zippo lighter.
Seeing the joy she gets from this acquisistion, her excitement at the way it feels, even its smell I think back on our day’s discussions and have an epiphany. My admiration for her grows as I grasp how deeply she cherishes the magic of life. She loves the essence of it; as if she sees the integral beauty of each molecule of a thing. Whether that thing be a crooning A Capela voice or the underlying constituent smells of gasoline, leather, and oil that make up the biker experience. She values it all, not taking any aspect for granted.
Her fresh perspective wipes the fog of complacency from my life lens.
I like Nene, I’m better for having met her.
We bid farewell to Chance and friends and head to the Broken Spoke Saloon. We have a morning (and now early afternoon) long goal of arriving in time to register Big Bird in the Bike Show. Arriving with mere minutes to spare we register. I drop off the bike for a final detailing; she buys us some beer. We walk, talk, and laugh.
‘So where are you headed next on your great backpacking adventure?’ ‘I’m planning on heading to New Orleans Thursday.’ she says.
And the hits just keep on comin’.
Amazed I tell her I’m heading to Bourbon Street tomorrow on my way back to Houston. ‘You should ride along.’ Casting a doubtful look at my radical chopper she says, ‘On that … with my giant backpack?’
‘No I have a fifth-wheel toyhauler.’ Comprehending (after a bit of American to English translation) she stands back and gives me the ‘is he a serial killer?’ appraising lookover. Her serial-killer detector apparently returning a negative she smiled and said, ‘Maybe.’
Big Bird, dressed to kill, is in position, awaiting the judging.
A mechanical bull? Want to? No. You? No. A couple of cocktails later we’ve both ridden it, laughed about it, and bonded over it. The Biker or Not website’s Meet & Greet is happening twenty feet from Big Bird’s perch. Nene and I are both members. Previously two-dimensional online personalities morph into living breath three-dimensional bikers. Virtual friends become real, stories are swapped, and laughs are exchanged.
Nene and I are talking with such natural ease I almost miss them calling my name: Big Bird has taken first place. There’s a trophy, lots of pictures and handshakes. People pat me on the back commenting on how happy I must be.
It’s been a great day!