I was recently yelled at by a crotchety old coot standing outside his Silver Spring home who I foolishly thought was trying to initiate a friendly conversation. Perhaps a walk down memory lane about my 31 year old classic motorcycle. When he waved me down after I made a wrong turn down 'his' street that shall remain nameless I happily stopped and turned off my engine.
"Hi!" I said.
"What are you doing?!" He yelled. "You've got no business here! This isn't a race track!"
I tried to think back....I was cruising at about 15-20 mph on a sunny Sunday after attending a festival at my church. Thought I'd try a shortcut home. Racetrack?
There is that old stereotype of people on two wheels being outlaws, rebels and criminals. Thanks, 'Wild Bunch' and 'Mad Max'. These two classic films both depicted bikers early on as members of a roving gang of miscreants that traveled the small towns of America robbing five-and-dimes and blowing up gas stations. Chains and pipes? Check. Lock up your daughters. The drug 'crank'? Well it is so called from being hidden in the crankcase of a bike.
The recent revitalization of the Harley brand image has continued the tradition of draping bikers in leather with 'bad' looking helmets, braids, full-sleeve ink and pipes so loud they set off car alarms and make small children cry. What's that you say? I can't hear you. Those loud pipes are saving lives, but my left ear drum is ruptured. Really. Dont get me wrong, I would love to have a nice Harley. No bad blood here, people. My accountant and attorney are both really devoted Harley riders and look great on the weekends in their leather outfits.
What we see as more of a pseudo-threat today are urban cycle riders that are often untrained, uninsured, and unlicensed and ride high-powered sport bikes. They may roam in small groups, cutting across six lanes at a time at 100+ mph looking for a good time. You can recognize them by their fake neon mohawks and now ubiquitous chrome or flat black NAZI storm trooper helmets.
In 2011 there are really few vagrant criminal motorcycle gangs roaming the main streets of America (at least what is left of them in the wake of strip malls and Hooters). The fundamental core of these groups were disenchanted and detached WWII vets that knew how to turn a wrench. They were later joined by men returning from Vietnam. I wonder if veterans of today's military campaigns will find solace in motorcycles? I hope so, as long as they ride safe and don't terrorize the good people of strip mall, USA.
As far as the old coot goes, he can rest assured I might return to 'his' street again to ride home from church in my scary church clothes going the speed limit, a tax payer on a public road, looking to cause mayhem everywhere!