The Florabama Lounge. It ain't fancy.
I am not what you’d call a “loner.” At least, I do not call myself one. In fact, I have disdain for people who identify themselves as such, mostly because I think it’s a poor rationalization by a social misfit with a personality so unpleasant that others can’t stand to be around him. Usually it’s their own damn fault.
Come to think of it, I do like to fly alone, like to live alone, like to be alone. And I like to ride my motorcycle alone. Even as I type those words I realize how it makes me sound: Like a social misfit with a personality so unpleasant that others can’t stand to be around me. I'm not anti-social...or at least I try not to be. Having said that, I usually eschew group activities, like group motorcycle rides. I really don't like them. "Simple" stops for gas turn into torturous, protracted affairs. I like to just gas and go!
In an effort to be more sociable, the other day I agreed to go on a motorcycle ride with three acquaintances who also ride. The weather here in northwest Florida is turning nice, and I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t been able to take the Harley out much. So I agreed to the invitation, even if it meant violating my Prime Directive. (Thankfully, the third person backed out at the last minute.)
The first guy is Colin. He rides a Suzuki Hayabusa, which is a “crotch-rocket” with a monster motor. A real hotrod. Suzuki introduced it in 1999 to counter the other musclebikes from Honda and Kawasaki. I don’t know what year Colin’s bike is; suffice to say it’s not brand-new. It looks rough.
Colin’s Hayabusa is highly modified. It’s got an elongated swingarm, which lengthens the bike and reduces its tendency to pop wheelies under hard acceleration. He’s also installed what is probably the world’s loudest, most obnoxious exhaust system. While these changes are neato at the dragstrip, they make the bike rather ill-suited to general street riding. Consequently, Colin is always blasting away from us in sudden, blinding bursts of acceleration. We catch up with him at the next traffic light.
Then there’s Elton, who rides what is probably the world’s rattiest and ugliest Honda Goldwing. Soichiro Honda would weep uncontrollably in his grave if he knew. It’s probably ten or so years old (they all look the same). The metal bits are horribly corroded, the seat is torn, the paint is faded and the plastic windshield is frosted over like a bathroom shower door. Personally I would be ashamed to ride the thing, because it looks like he never takes care of it (he doesn’t). It’s got a good, loud stereo though!
Colin's white Suzuki Hayabusa and Elton's Blue Honda Goldwing.
They look good until you get up close.
They look good until you get up close.
My 2005 Sportster is getting old now, and although I keep it shiny and clean, it’s starting to show its age. It’s accumulated a few dings here and there, and the front forks are severely pitted from all their exposure to the elements (like the hood of an old car that’s spent a lot of time on the Interstate). Even a good polishing isn’t going to help these babies. Replacement is the only answer. Fortunately, they’re not terribly expensive. Point being, most Harley purists would recoil in horror if they saw my bike. Their bikes usually look showroom-new, like they’ve never been ridden. Mine looks, well, ridden. Ridden hard. It ought to, with 25,000 miles on the odometer. But even mine looks like an award-winner compared to Colin's and Elton's.
My pride and joy.
We all met up early at Colin’s house and rode along the beach, across the coast to the Florabama Lounge. It’s a unique place right on the state line (you can guess which two states, I’m sure). It used to be out in the middle of nowhere. But in the last 20 years tall condos have sprung up all around it, leaving the club a curious enigma nearly lost in a sea of high-rises. I guess the owner is just too stubborn to sell out.
Colin is big, burly, (shaved) bald, and kind of obnoxious. Multiple tattooes…you know the type - “love” on the knuckles of one hand and “hate” on the knuckles of the other. He doesn’t play well with others and doesn’t really get along with people. Among those we work with, he’s not well-liked. He knows it and doesn’t care. He’d rather talk about himself and his accomplishments than anything else in the world. In his mid-40’s, he's had a number of "careers." He admits to being married three times and having seven kids total. None of the divorces were ever his fault though (insert eye-roll here).
Tall, lanky Elton is another talker. Nice enough guy, but he never shuts up. I mean never. More often than not he's talking about homself. I originally thought Elton was older than me. He must “track” older than he is, because he mentioned in the conversation that he just turned 52. I would have thought 60, at least.
Turned out I was the old man of the group. Whoa. Yet I felt like the youngest. I still feel (and often act) like a damn teenager, even though the image in the mirror says otherwise. Oh, and I only thought I liked to hear myself talk – as anyone who knows me can testify. But I’m a rank amateur compared to Colin and Elton.
In a perverse sort of way, I like being around people who’d rather talk about themselves. They usually never ask me about my life or background, which I’d prefer not to talk about anyway. So all I have to do is listen. Not that I’m an obsessively private person, but I just don’t feel the need to tell people all about Bob. You wanna know? Hey, read the blog.
The ride out to the Florabama and back was fairly pleasant, actually. Colin did his typical drag-racer thing, while Elton and I putt-putted along like a couple of old geezers. We sat out on the back porch that overlooks the beach on what turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day: not a cloud in the sky, and warm but not too warm for the leather jacket. It’s amazing how great a good fish sandwich, some chili-cheese fries and some ice-cold beer taste on such a glorious day. Makes you forget how unhealthy it all is. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become a very in-the-moment kind of guy. Didn’t use to be.
I go on rides like these to reinforce my preference for riding…and being…alone. Colin and Elton are all hot to make these rides a weekly, or at least a regular thing. Me, ehhh…I’m not so sure. When it comes to motorcycles and riding, I'm kind of a one-man-show.
Maybe I am kind of anti-social.