Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Highway

I was eight years old, waiting impatiently to turn nine on that warm spring evening. I lay in my bed waiting for the hum of the big rigs cruising up and down the highway to lull me to sleep. On that night it didn’t happen, there was a different sound it was loud and rumbly. As hard as I tried to define it I could not and eventually I drifted off to sleep. I awoke early that April morning excited because today was my special day, as my Mom called it. More importantly I knew that my Mom would make today full of fun and surprises. While I hurriedly dressed, thinking only those happy birthday thoughts; a distant sound coming from the highway interrupted everything. I would describe it more like a roar rather than the usual steady hum I was used to. In a way it sounded a lot like a beehive but much louder. I was certain it wasn’t a truck and even at nine, I knew it didn’t sound like any car I’d ever heard no matter how bad it was running. I couldn’t place the roaring sound and my curiosity bloomed.

My Mom loaded my birthday cupcakes that she’d baked last night into the backseat, before we headed off to school. They looked great chocolate cake with vanilla frosting topped with brown and blue sprinkles; my two new favorite colors. Previously my favorite colors were sour apple green and bright yellow but my friends accused them of being girl colors; so I made an immediate change wanting like all boys my age to fit in. I could still hear that roar in a constant stream and I needed to know what it was. I asked my Mom if we could take the highway this morning, subtly adding that it was faster. Of course I knew she’d say yes because it was my birthday. Anticipation churned inside me, I had to know and my chance was only a few short blocks away.

We sat at the stop sign waiting for traffic to clear so we could turn left onto the highway. As we sat there a sight like none I had ever seen unfolded before me. The never ending roar was louder, as we sat there watching a river of motorcycles pass right in front of us. They were all shapes and sizes; some were covered in sparkling chrome while others were black and ominous. They were every color of the rainbow including sour green apple and bright, bright yellow. I was so excited by what I saw my heart was beating wildly in my chest. It wasn’t just the way they looked it was everything and that sound that roar like thunder and each sound was unique and different, yet somehow the same.

I never forgot that day; I can look back and see that scene unfold before me as if it were yesterday. That feeling never quite went away either. At eighteen much to my Mom’s disapproval I bought a half wrecked Sportster. It took me all summer to replace the dented and broken parts. When she finally roared to life I knew I was king of the world. That feeling lasted about twenty-five feet until I dumped it right there in my Mom’s front yard while she looked on from the porch. The closest thing I’d ever ridden to a motorcycle was my old K-Mart stingray knock off. Dusting off my jeans and my pride I realized I needed practice lots of it.

I’d had her for just about two years, we learned a lot together. I fell in love for the first time and had my heart broken while I owned her. I learned who my friends really were and who they weren’t. I guess you could say that I grew up and learned a lot about life, while cruising those highways and back roads near my home.

I learned all about our local sheriff roaring up and down the highways. That ole Sportster became part of the fabric of my life. I’ll never forget the day I sold her to some other fresh faced kid; it still puts a lump in my throat. I don’t know why but kept her original headlight. I keep it on a shelf in my garage; it’s the designated place of honor. She sits dead center next to a souvenir from every Harley I’ve ever owned.

You see from that very first moment on old Highway sixty-eight, I knew instinctively that they were more than motorcycles. They represented something much larger than that. To me and many others like me they represent a special freedom not everyone can handle or aspire to. Love them or hate them; I guarantee they will turn your head as they roll down the road. It may not make your heart beat faster the way it affects me and countless others but you will notice!

It seems unlikely to me, that after all these years, I’m still affected much in the same way that I was, when I was just a kid. It happens whenever I see a large pack roll down the highway. I’m lucky I became the road captain of our local chapter of “Bad Boys Anonymous M.C.”

Being road captain allows me to sit here atop my custom stretched Harley, listening to her rumbling 113 inch S & S motor, while enjoying the very best view of a really large pack. Naturally she’s adorned in nothing less than sour apple green and bright yellow, she’s also expensively wrapped in rivers of sparkling chrome. No that feeling has not changed for me, as I watch in awe as my pack cruises past me, all unique, yet the same, full of shared ideas and a love of the road. Every time no matter the month or the season, I always whisper to myself Happy Birthday!

Six Shooter Sally