The chrome years

Cool nights, golden sunshine, black leather and rumbling tailpipes. Love it or leave it, Labor Day Weekend is once again upon us. And that means Durango will trade in its flip flops for steel toes, Carhartt's for chaps and fleece for fringe.

And much in the same way the Animas River divides our fair town, so does this annual cavalcade. First, there are those locals with sensitive ears and, shall we say, more reserved demeanors, who prefer to spend the weekend in other, less hectic venues. They lock up their houses and quietly leave town until the roar has subsided. Then there are those with latent longings for chrome and speed who use the occasion to strap on the biker boots, rev up their motors and let down their hair, only to resurface days later with raging cases of raccoon eyes and throttle thumb.

Of course this breakdown is simplistic. To take the river analogy one step further, there are those of us caught in the middle, the islands in the stream, to borrow a line from that really bad country song. We are the ones who, for various reasons, stick around for rally weekend. And though we may not know our heads from our kickstands, we find ourselves immersed in a sort of detached curiosity. While not direct participants in the weekend's activities, we can at least identify with the universal appeal of cruising the countryside, feeling the wind in our faces and being one with the open road. Some of us have even dabbled in the business of motorized two-wheel travel in the past. My own short yet illustrious career as a biker chick happened in the ninth grade when my boyfriend had a Honda scooter, effectively making us the most popular couple in the freshman class until the following year when everyone got their driver's licenses.

However, somewhere between mortgages, kids, work and growing up, many of us have left behind the dream of a roaring, silver steed for something more practical, like a silver Subaru. But when the bikers roar through town, we can at least unabashedly spectate. Sure, it may be occasionally difficult to engage in a conversation in our own front yards let alone anywhere in the downtown vicinity but we use the break from idle chit chat to check out the exotic and wild breed known as the biker, a far cry from our typical tourist fare.

I've heard the whole thing about how they really are all well-to-do dentists and lawyers and accountants. Whatever. Show me one accountant with ink other than that in his ledger. And dentists? Do you have any idea how much flak you're going to take flossing in front of all the other bad asses? No way. The bikers I've come across have been the real thing hella nice folk but not anyone I'd let pull my teeth.

So, needless to say, when I received a call from my mother informing me that my father, who is not quite old enough for Social Security but too old for a mid-life crisis, had bought a motorcycle, I began to rethink my theory. Never mind this was the man who told me at 17 that I would never be allowed to ride a motorcycle while we shared the same genes and followed it up with an indignant snort of laughter or that this was the man who had driven sensible, automatic transmission American-made sedans since I'd known him. The fact was, there was now an official biker in the family who also happened to be a member of one of the aforementioned professions. He worked 9-to-5, mowed the lawn on weekends and shaved regularly and apparently harbored a formerly unrequited love for motorcycles.

"What kind is it?" I asked my mother, still trying to process the information.

"It's a Harley Davidson," she said.

"What kind of Harley Davidson?" I returned, desperate for details.

"A Goldwing," she replied.

A motorcycle expert I am not, but I've been around enough to know a Goldwing originates from the other side of the Pacific. Merely uttering "Harley" and "Goldwing" in the same breath is sacrilege in certain circles, possibly punishable by a severe pummeling. But I decided to let the misnomer slide in pursuit of more important information. In a bizarre father-daughter roll reversal, I began the rapid-fire succession of questions: "Does he even know how to ride one of those things? How did he get it home from the store? Does he at least wear a helmet? I hope he's not going on any busy streets with that thing."

No, he did not drive it home from the store. A big silver truck dropped it off in the driveway last week. Yes, he wears a helmet and is going to take riding lessons. And so far, he has only navigated the mean streets of the immediate neighborhood.

"He took it up the road the other day and stalled out in front of the Buckley's house. He had to push it down the hill to get it started," she said with a mix of dread and amusement. And then the focus shifted. "I hope he gets arm rests. My friend Robin said it's just awful going on long rides without the arm rests in the back. Your father says they're too expensive."

Now my mom, too? What next? Matching tattoos and weekend excursions to Sturgis? Bellying up at Orio's in his-and-hers leathers? I could see it now: Terry and Sue making their way down Main Avenue during the rally parade, right behind the guy with the blow-up doll.

And then I realized, that would be pretty cool hilariously funny, potentially embarrassing, but cool. While other people's parents would be logging miles to the bingo parlor, mine would be logging miles on the open road. What better way to spend one's golden years than on the back of a Goldwing (or whatever it was, never did ascertain that)? While my siblings and I may age a little every time my parents head out, riding can only serve to keep my parents young.

So, if you ever happen to see a "Harley Goldwing" with Minnesota plates and no armrests on the back, pass with care. Oh, and make sure they're wearing their helmets.

Missy Votel




News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index